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One of the key ingredients to a championship team is the ability to pressure the opposing quarterback. The New York Giants would not have two Super Bowl championships in the last five seasons without a terrific front four disrupting some of the game's best quarterbacks. Conversely, the Patriots just could not muster the pressure to prevent Eli Manning from calmly leading his team down the field for the winning touchdown in two Super Bowl losses.
The single best way to slow down today's passing-friendly offenses is to speed-up the decision-making of the quarterback and not to let him feel comfortable in the pocket. Al Davis was correct when he stated that the quarterback must go down early and go down hard. The NFL has changed, but harassing the quarterback being a key to a sound defense will never go out of style.
This is why every NFL team highly covets a dangerous pass rusher. The problem is they are about as hard to find as a top quarterback is. A study of the 2005-to-2009 NFL drafts reveals just how low percentage it is to select a quality pass rusher:
2005 NFL Draft: Four quality pass rushers (DeMarcus Ware (99.5 career sacks entering 2012), Trent Cole (68 career sacks entering 2012), Justin Tuck (45.5 career sacks entering 2012), Shawne Merriman (44.5 career sacks)) were found in this draft class. Ware and Merriman were 1st round selections, but Tuck (3rd round) and Cole (5th round) proved to be bargains. The highest profile mistakes were Erasmus James (1st round), David Pollack (1st round, sustained neck injury), Dan Cody (2nd round) and Darryl Blackstock (2nd round).
2006 NFL Draft: Three quality pass rushers (Tamba Hali (53.5 career sacks entering 2012), Mario Williams (53 career sacks entering 2012) and Elvis Dumervil (52.5 career sacks entering 2012) were found in this draft class. Hali and Williams were 1st round picks. Dumervil proved to be a 4th round steal by the Broncos. The biggest misses from a pass rushing standpoint were Bobby Carpenter (1st round) and Manny Lawson (1st round).