If Speed Kills, Then Sacks at Least Maim and Torture
Last August, I posed this same question in this post. My projections for the 2009 Sack leaders were :
"Lomax will lead the team with 8.5 sacks and Atkins will be second with 7 sacks. Houston will contribute 6 as a back up."
But what had happened was that our defensive ends stayed hurt all year and production was abysmal. Lomax had half a sack, Atkins had zero sacks (unbelievable - though he did have 7.5 tackles for loss) and Houston had only 2.5 sacks. The team only registered 24 sacks - down from 42 in 2007. The leaders were:
Curran - 3
Irvin - 3
Wynn - 3
Houston - 2.5
Dobbs - 2.0
Ellerbe - 2.0
Last year I determined that it would be a puzzle to project how the sacks would turn out and it unfortunately was. It is a puzzle again this year, but I will make a bold attempt to predict who, if anyone, will give opposing QBs fits.
I think the clear preseason favorite would be Justin Houston. Especially if he wasn't going to miss the first two games. Demarcus Dobbs, Rod Battle and Marcus Washington will be the other ends getting the most reps. I want to put Geno Atkins in the mix again for 2009 now that he will have Jeff Owens back. Atkins went from 7.5 sacks in 2007 to zero in 2008. I think he will get back to his old ways this season. It is difficult to project which linebackers will have the most sacks but undoubtedly Curran, Gamble, Dewberry, Dent and Dowtin will have chances. So those are the candidates. Rod Battle had a strong Spring and preseason and appears to be at full strength to start the season. While working through injuries all season last year, Battle was only able to muster half a sack. This year will be different for him and the team.
Our annual sack production in recent years is as follows:
2008 Curran, Irvin, Wynn - 3 each (Team - 24)
2007 Marcus Howard - 11.5 (Team - 42)
2006 Charles Johnson - 9.5 (Team - 33)
2005 Quentin Moses - 11.5 (Team - 34)
2004 David Pollack - 12.5 (Team - 37)
2003 David Pollack - 7.5 (Team - 30)
2002 David Pollack - 14 (Team - 45)
Assuming we get back to at least an average year in the sack department, I believe 35 sacks is not unreasonable. However, we don't necessarily have a sack specialist like most of the leaders in years past. So, if we are to achieve these kind of numbers in 2009, it will be spread widely among many players. Accordingly, here are my projections:
Houston - 7
Battle - 5
Washington - 4
Atkins - 4
Dobbs - 4
Curran - 3
Dent - 3
And 5 more sacks coming from the field at large.
What do you think? Who will lead the way? Can we get back to 35 or more sacks in 2009?