Getting to the quarterback early and often

With the Seattle Seahawks' defense looking to apply greater pressure on early downs in particular, according to 710ESPN Seattle, I thought it might be interesting to check out 2011 sack totals by down.

Those more interested in looking at pictures than reading words can skip right to the charts. I won't hold it against them.

2011 Sacks: 1st, 2nd Downs

The Seahawks ranked 18th in sacks on first and second downs, collecting 21 of them. That was only two fewer than the San Francisco 49ers, a bit of a surprise. I'll be curious to see if the 49ers' totals spike with Aldon Smith becoming a starter after finishing last season with 14 sacks as a situational player.

Minnesota (33), Dallas (30), Philadelphia (29), Arizona (28) and Washington (28) ranked among the top five in sacks on first and second downs. Tampa Bay (13), Kansas City (15), Indianapolis (16) and Buffalo (16) were at the bottom.

Seattle ranked 25th in first-down sacks (eight) and seventh in second-down sacks (13). The Seahawks might count on free-agent addition Jason Jones to pump up the totals on early downs. But with a No. 21 ranking in third-down sacks (12), the Seahawks need help across the board. The team added Jones and first-round pick Bruce Irvin to remedy the problem.

The Cardinals led the NFL with 18 sacks on first down. I haven't had a chance to break down that total by player. A theory: while most teams running 3-4 defenses don't rely on their base ends for sacks, Arizona can count on Calais Campbell to find the quarterback. Campbell had a career-high eight sacks last season. Also, inside linebacker Daryl Washington set a career high with five. Defensive end Darnell Dockett had 3.5 after totaling 12 over the previous two seasons.

The first chart below shows sack totals by down for NFC West teams.

2011 NFC West Defenses: Sacks by Down

The final chart shows where the figures in the first chart rank among all NFL teams. I removed the column for fourth-down sacks. No team had more than three of them.

2011 NFC West Defenses: Where They Ranked in Sacks by Down