Watt vs. Garrett: Is there a difference in pass rush volume?
On the most recent episode of the Steelers Stat Geek podcast, I was tasked with finding if T.J. Watt and Myles Garrett played similar snaps in which they rushed the passer. With T.J. Watt being a 3–4 outside linebacker and Myles Garrett being a 4–3 defensive end, there have been times when Watt was tasked with dropping in the coverage. The ultimate question is if T.J. Watt has put up better numbers in terms of sacks in fewer the opportunities when it comes to snaps.
First, it should be noticed that both players have played six NFL seasons as they were drafted in the 2017 NFL draft. Additionally, each had a season in which they missed significant time when Myles Garrett missed six games due to suspension in 2019 and T.J. Watt missed seven games due to injury in 2022. In all, T.J. Watt has appeared in 87 regular season games while Myles Garrett has appeared in 84 games.
When it comes to snaps played, Myles Garrett has played 4,515 defensive snaps during the regular season in his six year career according to Pro Football Reference (PFR). As for T.J. Watt, he has logged 4,703 defensive snaps. So T.J. Watt has an advantage of three more games played and 188 defensive snaps.
But when looking at the snap breakdown according to Pro Football Focus (PFF), Myles Garrett has played 2,745 snaps where he rushed the passer while T.J. Watt has only played 2,451 snaps. The reason for the discrepancy is Garrett has only been credited with being in coverage for 74 snaps in his six year career where T.J. Watt has done so on 483 snaps. When looking at the percentage of snaps rushing the passer, Myles Garrett did so on 60.8% of his defensive snaps played and T.J. Watt was rushing the passer 52.1% of the time.
When looking at the number of times rushing the passer compared to games played, Myles Garrett was a pass rusher for 32.68 rushes per game on average where T.J. Watt was rushing the passer 28.17 plays per game. When seeing these two players are very close in career sacks as Garrett has 74.5 compared to Watt’s 77.5, it does appear T.J. Watt is slightly more efficient. For Garrett, he has achieved a sack per pass rush rate of 2.71% where T.J. Watt achieved a sack 3.16% of the time he has rushed the passer.
Of course, one must keep in mind with the number of times a player rushes the passer is not an official stat kept by the NFL and instead calculated by PFF as every play a defensive player is considered to be in run defense, pass rushing, or in coverage. While there could be the occasional discrepancy of exactly what a player is doing, more than likely if they are not actively pursuing the quarterback on a passing play they would be considered in coverage.
So is there a difference in how often the two players rush the passer? Yes there is. Is it a significant difference? Most likely it is not as much on a per-game basis but as their careers move on Myles Garrett has a significant advantage the amount of times he has been able to rush the passer.
For more information about the pass rushing numbers between T.J. Watt and Myles Garrett, check out the entire Steelers Stat Geek podcast in the player below: