In a previous article we saw stats on offense from season one of the Elite Football League of India (EFLI). Having taken a look at who the best players were on offense, right from the best passer to the best receiver to the best rusher, it is now time to turn our attention to stats on defense.
The offense’s job is to try and get the ball into the opposition’s end zone in order to score points. The defense’s primary job is to prevent that from happening.
As they say, gaining yards is everything in American football, and the role of the defense is to stop their opponents from advancing with the ball and gaining yards. Now this can be done in two ways; either the defense can stop the attack at the source, at the line of scrimmage, by stopping it right there or by stealing the ball from the offense during the course of a play.
Any team’s defense primarily comprises three sets of players -
1. Linemen – These are the guys who take their positions in front of the offensive line to square off against them. Depending on the type of play, their job is to ensure that there are no gaps for the opposition’s Running Back to rush into or if it is a pass being played, to put pressure on the Quarter Back and force a turnover.
2. Line Backers – While the linemen’s play depends on the opposition’s strategy, the Line Backers’ roles differ according to the defense’s strategy. A Line Backer will help in either stopping the rushing play of the offense or will be deployed further back to help cut out the passes from the offense’s Quarter Back.
3. Defensive Backs – These guys stand behind the Line Backers. The Backs are predominantly trusted upon to cut out the passes from the Quarter Back. However, just like the other two sets of players, they can obviously be used to pressurize the Quarter Back or track other runners.
Now that the defense has been explained a bit, it’s time to look at the top defensive players from the first season of EFLI.
When a pass is cut out by gaining possession of the football either using the hands or the legs, it is referred to as an interception. During a play, when the pass goes into the hands of the defense, the play changes and the defending team gets to play offense from the position where the turnover was forced.
The Line Backers are the ones who usually perform these interceptions, though of course, the linemen and the Backs will also enjoy chances.
As far as statistics go, only the interception of a forward pass is considered an interception. For instances when the pass is lateral and it is intercepted, it is called a fumble.
Jitendra Mishra of the Pune Marathas was amongst the best interceptors in season one. He plays Defensive Back for the champions and in recognition of his efforts, Jitendra won the the Most Oustanding Defensive Back award in the inaugural season. Not only was he the best player at his position, but he was also a rock in defense and was one of the key cogs in his team’s title run. He also received the Defensive Player of the Year award for this fine showing. Overall the Marathas had a great team defense, boasting one of the best records in the league and Jitendra was the team’s defensive leader.
Navaneeth “Chamber” Shanta is known more for his high-powered offense as was seen in the offensive stats where he regularly featured amongst the top guys. But he wasn’t too bad on defense either, sharing the same number of interceptions as Jitendra in season one for his Bangalore Warhawks team.
As explained in the offense related article, the ball can be advanced by either passing it or rushing with it. Generally it is the Quarter Back who throws the ball, although other players too do it at times. The defense exerts pressure on these throwers in order to force a turnover. So when an offensive player is tackled, even before he can complete passing the ball, or if the player goes out of bounds before releasing the pass, that is called a sack.
This generally happens when the defense manages to get past the offensive line and reach the Quarter Back before he can throw the ball or if the Quarter Back takes too long on the ball and is unable to hand it off to another player. He thus lands up in trouble due to increased defensive pressure.
A sack is not just a defensive play, as points can be earned too from it. Following a sack, if the defensive team gains possession of the ball either at or behind the line of scrimmage, then it gains two points thanks to a safety being awarded. This play was seen recently in this year’s Super Bowl as well as the Seattle Seahawks forced a sack in the opening play of the game.
Of course, not all the time will a single player be able to force a sack all by himself, so when he does it with others he will be credited with a half-sack.
Waqar Javaid from the Pakistan Wolfpak was a star Wide Receiver for the Pakistan team. Him and Shenal Dias made a very potent combination. Apart from providing good avenues for offense, he also was very good in forcing turnovers off sacks and finished with the most number of sacks in season one of EFLI.
Coming to the tackle – it can be either offensive or defensive.
We will focus on the defensive here. Anytime a defensive player manages to stop the advancement of the ball by the offense, he does so by effecting a tackle. The tackle stalls the progress either by bringing the player to the ground and thus forcing the ball loose or forcing the player out of bounds and thus effecting a turnover. In such cases, the ball is said to be ‘dead’. When a player who is not in possession of the ball is tackled, to prevent him from receiving the ball or contributing to the forward play, it is called a block.
One of the features of the two foreign teams – from Sri Lanka and Pakistan – was their mean defense. They did a really good job on the defensive plays and once again, the two players on top of the tackles list belong to those teams.
Ashean Karthelis and Waqar Javaid again, both ended up as the joint top tacklers in season one of the EFLI. Ashean is a former rugby player who turned out for the Sri Lankan team and had a great season with the Lions.
Waqar Javaid, apart from impressing in the sacks department did well as a defensive tackle too making two important tackles.
With that we come to the end of this two part series on offensive and defensive stats. Watch out for more such articles that will help you understand EFLI better.
Stats courtesy: www.efli.com