Fans Square off: Johnson vs. Woodyard
The time-honored tradition of homers arguing over their players will continue today.
"My guy is better than your guy."
Fans have been doing it in bars for years. We're trying to settle the debates once and for all. We've already battled over Champ Bailey and Brandon Flowers. We've thrown down over Demaryius Thomas and Dwayne Bowe. We clashed over Von Miller and Justin Houston. Now it's time for the inside linebackers: Derrick Johnson and Wesley Woodyard.
And here to argue for the bad guys, as always, is Luc Polglaze, Broncos fan but overall awesome human being. Luc, what's a Wesley Woodyard?
Lucas (Team Broncos)
If you don't know what a Wesley Woodyard is, then I'm sorry, because your life has no meaning.
Woodyard is a 6th year LB who is only just hitting his potential. And he flashed incredible potential last year.
He played in 16 games, starting 6, as an undrafted free agent.
He's a stand-up guy. He's been named a team captain each year of his career.
He's versatile. He's a great special teams player - that's where he saw most of his action early in his career. However, he locked down the WLB position and has been playing there. With Von Miller out suspended, Nate Irving has been moved to SLB and now Woodyard will be playing MLB.
Oh, and did I mention that he had a league-best season last year? He posted 117 tackles, 5.5 sacks and 3 interceptions.
He's only the 12th player in the last 30 years to put up 100 tackles, 5 sacks and 3 interceptions. He also added 9 TFLs, 6 PDs and a FF.
Tell me, what is a Derrick Johnson?
Seth (Team Chiefs)
Sorry, I had to revive myself there. What's a Derrick Johnson? As if you don't remember him helping Jamaal Charles destroy your playoff hopes by returning TWO interceptions for touchdowns in 2009. But fine, I'll play.
Derrick Johnson is a force of nature. He is a mythological beast. Forget Pro Bowls (yeah, he's got 'em). Forget stats (sure, he's got great ones). Forget game-winning plays (yep, more than a few). Forget all that.
Because all you need to understand Derrick Johnson is to sit and watch one Chiefs game. Any Chiefs game. It doesn't matter if they're getting killed on the scoreboard (which, let's face it, has been the case more than a few times). It doesn't matter if the rest of the defense is getting lit up like Times Square on New Years Eve. Any Chiefs game you watch, Derrick Johnson (let's just call him "DJ" from here on out. He's earned it) will make at least 5 plays that makes you go, "how in the name of God did he DO that?"
It was summed up best by a fellow Chiefs fan who was observing training camp one year. He wrote a wonderful article discussing the Chiefs' run blocking and whether it was up to snuff. He said the real problem was that he couldn't tell whether the run blocking was any good, because (and I quote) "... then Derrick Johnson would materialize out of thin air or pop out of the ground and make the tackle for no gain."
That's Derrick Johnson. It sure does sound like Woodyward had himself a cute little statistical year there. But is he player that makes opposing teams say, "welp, we're gonna have at least a half dozen plays where we'll get stuffed today, that's for sure?"
Nope. But DJ is. And has been for several years now. Or wait... is this another player who has had only one great season that you're trying to pass off as elite?
Lucas (Team Broncos)
Or wait...is DJ another of those 6 Pro Bowlers from a 2-14 team?
Because Wesley Woodyard had a phenomenal year. He had 1001 snaps despite missing a full game due to injury.
On defense, among the linebackers, he had only 85 snaps less than Von Miller, the best player on the defense. That's second most. He had about 400 snaps more than the next greatest.
Let's talk about Derrick Johnson. Drafted 15th overall in 2005. He's done well for a first round pick. However, as you will recall, Woodyard went undrafted. Let's have a look at their career stats.
DJ's started 109 games and had 764 tackles, an average of about 7 tackles per game.
However, Wesley Woodyard has started 39 games and notched 350 tackles. That's 9 tackles per game.
Let's compare them last season.
DJ: 125 tackles. WW: 117. Edge DJ
DJ: 2 sacks. WW: 5.5. Edge WW
DJ: 3 FFs. WW: 1 FF. Edge DJ
DJ: 0 FR. WW: 1 FR. Edge WW
DJ: 0 INTs. WW: 3 INTs (Brees, Schaub, Rivers). Edge WW
DJ: 4 PDs. WW: 6 PDs. Edge WW
Well, let's see. Not much of an edge in tackles or FFs for DJ, but in most of the categories, Woodyard dominates DJ. He has much better pass defense stats as well as well as when rushing the passer. Woodyard is a far more well-rounded and superior player. And get this - the guy's 6'0", 233. That's light for a LB.
Plus, can DJ do this?
Seth (Team Chiefs)
See, this is what happens when you reeeeeeaaaaaach for reasons to like one player over another. "Career tackles per game?" Seriously? I refuse to acknowledge that you made that attempt, so I'll get to the rest of your arguments.
Let's talk about tackles. A great stat. Of course, not all tackles are created equal. For example, when a player makes a solo tackle on a runner a yard or two past the line of scrimmage, that's a great deal more impressive (and important, and relevant, and awesome) than helping 3 other players tackle the runner 7 yards down the field. So let's look at both aspects of that first.
You post their tackle numbers and claim that they're close. Except the problem is, you used total tackles. Which means any time Woodyard or DJ dove on top of the pile they got a stat. Pardon me for being underwhelmed with that accomplishment. Of course, you're a smart, savvy football mind (this is what's known as buttering up an opponent). So why did you talk about total tackles and not the "everyone knows it's much more important" stat of SOLO tackles?
Well, I'd better go check to see if you're trying to pull a fast one here and... hey wait, what's THIS???? Wesley Woodyard's "solo tackle" stat is way, way lower than his "assisted tackles" number! Ol' WW sits at 73 solo tackles. But still, that's a respectable number, right? I mean, it's not like DJ is just gonna take that number and slap it around like... oh.
110. That. Is. A. Big. Number.
That means 37 more times than Woodyard, DJ brought down the ball carrier alone. 37 more times, DJ made the play by himself, without needing help from all his buddies. 37 times DJ got the one hitter in a fair fight, while Woodyard waited for all his buddies to jump in (am I the only person who watches tons of fights on YouTube? I can't be).
Are you still going to argue that there's "not much of an edge" there? Of course, you're not, because you don't want to look insane. Yep, WW does have the clear edge when it comes to pass coverage. But DJ has just as much an edge when it comes to tackles. Too bad we're not arguing about cornerbacks right now, amirite?
There's another couple of numbers I'd love for you to take a look at, since we're talking numbers. 72 and 48.
What are those numbers, you ask? Well, those are the number of "stops" our players had last season. What's a stop? A stop is, to steal the direct definition of the site that tracks them (PFF), a "solo defensive tackle which constitutes an offensive failure, including sacks."
So basically, a stop is a play where the defensive player, by himself, caused the other team's play to completely FAIL. A sack. A stuff. A gain of only a yard or two. That's a "stop." And remember, you've gotta do it on your own or it doesn't get recorded. It is the ultimate "this guy hurt opposing offenses" stat.
I don't really need to tell you who absolutely CRUSHED it in that category, do I? Well, since you asked... Derrick Johnson. Who was tied with one other player for the absolute most stops in the NFL last year. That other player? J.J. Watt. Those two sat all by themselves at the top of the league in number of plays they single-handedly stopped opposing offenses. All by themselves. No one else, only one or two players even close. And with Wesley Woodyard far, far, far behind.
That was a pretty sweet dance, though. I'll give WW that.
Lucas (Team Broncos)
Alright, let's talk stops. I'd love to.
I'd like to throw a few more stats at you. These are Stop %. Stop % factors in the eligible plays involving the players and shows you how the players performed. If Player A has 50 stops and Player B has only 10, that seems pretty lopsided. But if A played 500 snaps and B only played 20, you'd look at things differently.
Total Stop %: DJ 63%. WW 61%. (For the record, pick up your jaw, but JJ Watt had a 98% Stop % on eligible plays)
Well, those are fairly even. They are effectively the same.
But wait! There's more!
Run Stop %: DJ 73%. WW 69%.
Again, those are fairly similar. Again, DJ has a slight edge, but it's not a run-away contest.
I think you know where I'm going here.
Pass Stop %: DJ 39% (39%!). WW: 51%.
Wow! That's quite a breakaway! Woodyard has quite a bit of a lead there. The fact is, in football, increasingly in a passing league, LBs are responsible for both playing the pass and the run. It's equally important to their game to have good cover skills and good skills against the run. Not to mention he got pressure on the QB 11.3% of his pass rushes, good enough for 15th in the NFL.
I'm not saying DJ isn't a good player. But a player like Woodyard that's posted stats as incredible as these, he should at least make a Pro Bowl! He has not made a Pro Bowl. Chew on that. DJ had a good year last year, but it wasn't an all-time great year.
Seth (Team Chiefs)
So on one hand, we're talking about how many snaps Woodyard was in, and on the other hand we're saying he had fewer "eligible" plays to get stops? Ptsshhh.
At the end of the day, Woodyard was on the field for just as many snaps as DJ and made fewer plays. You can try and hem and haw and say, "yeah, well, those plays he wasn't, uh, you know, eligible to make a stop." Say WHAT? Eligible? What in the name of all things holy is that supposed to mean? Your example would only make sense if WW only played about half the snaps DJ did. But, as you so kindly pointed out earlier, that's not the case. He played just as much as DJ. He just didn't make as many plays.
The man was on the field. He was eligible to make a stop. I don't care what direction the play went, what kind of blocking there was, whatever. You're on the field, you're eligible to make a stop. That's nothing but a blatant attempt to make excuses for the fact that DJ impacted opposing offenses so much more often than Woodyard when they were on the field.
And yep, WW wins out in coverage. For sure. If I need a guy to sub in at CB, I'll definitely take Woodyard over DJ. But if I want a guy who can lead the NFL in stopping the other team, it's Derrick Johnson.
Give me your final shot!
Lucas (Team Broncos)
Wesley Woodyard has always played with a fire and chip on his shoulder. Coming in as an undrafted player has lit a fire under him. He's playing like one of the best in the league...and he absolutely is. He's involved in the community. I've heard stories of him going around the parking lot after scrimmages thanking people for coming. He's humble. He's quick and he's ferocious. He doesn't avoid the blockers. He might be the best player in the NFL that you haven't heard of. Seriously. This guy has performed so well for coming from so little. He is now a starting, dominating LB on a team that is a Super Bowl favorite.
Seth (Team Chiefs)
Man, Wesley sounds like a guy I'd want dating my sister. And hey, don't get me wrong, the man can play ball.
But he's not DJ. He's just not. Maybe he'll get there one day. But again, DJ is a RB-eating, block-shedding, QB-haunting, team-leading nightmare whose ability to stop opposing offenses is only mirrored by a guy who I'm almost certain is part yeti. It's DJ. It's always been DJ.
Thanks, as always, Lucas. I think we can all agree on one thing... teams are lucky to have DJ and WW on their side. Until next time.
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