INDIANAPOLIS — Pressure the quarterback, stop the run.
If you’re an outside linebacker/edge defender in the National Football League, those, in a nutshell, are your primary responsibilities.
And, of course, the best ones do these two seemingly simple tasks down after down, week after week.
Jabaal Sheard provided that for the Indianapolis Colts in 2017.
In his first season with the team, Sheard was a dependable playmaker for a defensive unit otherwise besieged by injuries and inconsistent play. On the stat sheet, he finished third on the team in tackles (52), led the Colts in sacks (5.5), tackles for loss (eight) and quarterback hits (14) and added three passes defensed and two forced fumbles.
But Pro Football Focus tends to go beyond the simple boxscore, and it believes Sheard not only was the Colts’ overall best performer in 2017 — he was one of the best players in the entire National Football League.
PFF this week released its annual “Top 101 Players” list, which has Sheard ranked as the 41st-best player in the league.
It’s the second time Sheard has made the PFF 101 list in his career; he was the 59th-ranked performer back in 2015 when he was a member of the New England Patriots.
You can see the entire PFF 101 list from 2017 by clicking here, but here’s what analyst Sam Monson had to write about Sheard’s performance with the Colts specifically:
*41. Jabaal Sheard, Edge, Indianapolis Colts
Top 101 appearances: 2
The Colts’ defense was far from good this season but it did have a couple of standout performers, even if injuries took their toll on that small group over the year. Jabaal Sheard was their best player and one of their most durable, racking up 900 snaps and a pretty monstrous 67 total pressures. Sheard also graded well against the run, with 38 total defensive stops to his name. The only caveat to his grade is that by far his best game came against the league’s worst offensive line in Week 9 against the Texans.*
*PFF Elite Stat: Sheard was 13th in total pressures (66) and fourth in total run stops (30) among edge defenders.
Sheard in 2017 earned a total grade of 91.3 on the season from PFF, which is considered “elite” on their scale and was ninth among all edge defenders.
For what it’s worth, cornerback Rashaan Melvin (85.7), defensive linemen Johnathan Hankins (85.0) and Al Woods (84.1) and safety Matthias Farley (82.5) rounded out the Top 5-rated Colts by PFF in 2017: