Pernell McPhee missed the entire preseason with an irregularity in his knee, but was on the active roster to start the year, reportedly in the best shape of his life.
And yet, his contributions in the team’s Week 1 loss against the Atlanta Falcons were minimal. In fact, McPhee was absent from the box score on Sunday. Frankly, if that’s all you had to go off, you wouldn’t even know he suited up. He didn’t register a sack, tackle, pass defended, quarterback hit, or nearly any other counting stat you could exhume.
In fact, only one important number pops up regarding McPhee’s performance in the season opener: 4.
That’s the number of total snaps McPhee played against the Falcons. That would seem like a major red flag, but head coach John Fox isn’t worried. On Monday, Fox told the assembled media: “He’ll play a lot of good football for us this year and those reps will pick up.”
To be fair, the Bears pass rushers held their own against the Falcons, pressuring quarterback Matt Ryan on nearly a third of his pass attempts. However, they only registered two sacks, in part because Ryan made quick reads in order to get the ball out and into the hands of his receivers. Even still, the defense needs increased pass rush production if it wants to hang with another strong-armed quarterback in Tampa Bay’s Jameis Winston.
But here’s the thing about Winston – he hasn’t been bad when pressured.
According to data shared over the summer by Football Outsiders, Winston was one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks when pressured, and he was pressured often – feeling it on 31.7 percent of his dropbacks which put him comfortably in the top-10. Using Football Outsiders’ Defense-adjusted Value Over Average statistic as their guide, only Aaron Rodgers of the Packers and Tyrod Taylor of the Bills had a better DVOA ranking than Winston.
To be clear, every quarterback gets blitz, pressed, and pressured. Some handle it better than others, and Winston is one of those rare few who doesn’t completely unravel under pressure. However, it’s worth pointing out each of the 34 qualifying quarterbacks registered a negative number in this particular metric. Perhaps it’s better we define these performances as “not as bad as they could be” rather than “actually really good.”
Even still, it would behoove the Bears to bring down Winston so he isn’t able to thrash the Bears secondary. He has been sacked 62 times in his last 32 games, which comes out to just 1.9 sacks per game. The Bears’ defense probably need to bring that number up to have a fighting chance against the Buccaneers offense – and ideally, McPhee is a part of it.