J.J. Watt may only have 9.5 sacks this year but he is leading the league in creating quarterback pressure. Greg Bedard from SI.com not only keeps track of sacks – he also grades them ( http://mmqb.si.com/2013/09/19/nfl-sacks-pressures/ ).
"One of the biggest indicators of success for NFL defensive coaches is the ability to affect the quarterback. Sure, that means sacks, which are an official NFL statistic. And quarterback hits, which are also tallied in press boxes. But affecting the quarterback, making him feel pressure, has several other factors, most of which aren't officially tallied."
The SI staff watches film to categorize sacks into 3 categories and award points subsequently:
Solo sack (1.25 points): self-explanatory. The player beats his man (or "men" for J.J.) and takes the QB down on his own
Assisted Sack (.75 points): If you had help bringing the quarterback down, it's going to cost you .25 off your "official" sack total under the "Pressure Points" scoring system
Easy Sack (.75 points): A sack caused by coverage (quarterback holding the ball longer than 3.3 seconds), going unblocked, the quarterback tripping, or a garbage time sack (when the offense is trailing by more than two scores with four minutes or less left on the clock)
Though the definitions are somewhat arbitrary and the scoring done by the film watcher is necessarily subjective, it's still a great tool in determining how much of an effect a defender has on the passing game. In addition to the sacks, Pressure Points are also assigned for hits (.5), hurries (.5), and drawing a holding penalty (.75). If the player pressured the quarterback into the arms of another defender (looking at your Brooks Reed) he will also receive .5 points.
And as we already knew by the eye-test, our very own Justin James Watt is the best in the business. As of week 13, his stat line read: 9 solo sacks, .5 assisted sacks, 4 sack assists, 0 drawn holding penalties (ARE YOU KIDDING ME!?!?), 25 hurries and 30 hits for a total of 41.14 pressure points. The next closest defenders are Gerald McCoy of Tampa Bay (38.25) and the Broncos' Elvis Dumerville (35.38). Watt pressures the quarterback on 10.4% of all passing plays.
But one man does not a pass rush make. Right? Well, yes, but it's interesting to note that the Texans pressure the quarterback 32.5% of passing plays, good for first in the league (in front of Seattle and Buffalo). Yet they're tied for 24th in the league in sacks at 27. Is there any conclusion to be drawn from these factotums other than J.J. Watt is exceptionally good at playing the sport of football, is single-handedly accounting for 1/3rd of his teams' sacks, and astoundingly has not been held on a single play this season?