Pro Football Focus analyzed their data based off their grading system and ranked the league's top defensive pass rushers, noting that 18 of their top 20 are either defensive ends or 3-4 outside linebackers. Michael Johnson, with 20 pressures and a 10.4 pass rush productivity score is one of those guys. Makes sense. Johnson has five quarterback sacks this season, only quarterback sack shy of tying a career high that he established last season.
However of the two players not classified as a defensive end or 3-4 outside backers, one is Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins. As if you totally didn't see that coming. Pro Football Focus writes about Atkins and J.J. Watt:
In the top 20 of these rankings, 18 of the players are either defensive ends or 3-4 outside linebackers. So a special bit of credit goes to both J.J. Watt and Geno Atkins with Watt in 10th overall and Atkins 12th. Watt lines up all across the defensive line and has dominated every lineman he’s come up against, picking up 22 quarterback disruptions on 149 pass rushes in addition to the excellent run defense and batted passes that round out his game. Atkins did a lot of his good work against Jacksonville but that shouldn’t take away just how good he is at penetrating up field. He’s 15 spots ahead of the next defensive tackle (Gerald McCoy) and good value for it.
According to their data, Atkins has posted 22 pressures on 148 snaps for a 12.2 pass rush productivity score this season. Atkins has generated at least one full quarterback sack in all but one game this season -- week two against the Cleveland Browns. And like Johnson, Atkins is 1.5 quarterback sacks away from tying a career-high 7.5 that he set in 2011.