It's no secret that pressuring the quarterback is the best way to stop offenses in today's pass-happy NFL. That doesn't mean teams need a lot of sacks to keep opposing QBs out of rhythm. Getting an occasional (and legal) hit on a quarterback can throw him off his game.
Pro Football Focus did a study on hits and their cumulative effect on QBs.
For example, when quarterbacks haven’t been sacked or hit yet in a game, they have an average Accuracy Percentage of 73.0%. The sample for this data is every passer in every regular season and playoff game over the last six years.
After every sack or hit the quarterback takes, their Accuracy Percentage decreases by an average of a half of a percent. While that might not seem like much, there also isn’t much difference between the best and worst quarterbacks in the league.
The Cincinnati Bengals were one of the best at this, hitting opposing QBs 68 times in 2013, 60 in 2012 and 67 in 2011. One player that was key in getting hits in '13 is now gone.
Michael Johnson registered 16 QB hits last year, but combined for just 14 in the previous two seasons.
As for Carlos Dunlap, who will be relied on more now with Johnson leaving, he leads the team with 46 QB hits over the past three seasons, despite missing six combined games in '11 and '12.
Geno Atkins is right behind him with 36, and he'd probably have more than Dunlap has a torn ACL not cost Geno seven games last year.
With Atkins likely to be ready for the start of the regular season, that will help account for the loss of Johnson, and the Bengals will once again be one of the best when ti comes to hitting opposing QBs.