Patrick Willis vs. Ray Lewis: Who Wins?

Colan Lamont@clamontsportAnalyst IIJuly 23, 2012

NFL fans who are up to date will know that Patrick Willis has been the best inside linebacker in the league for the last three or four years.

Then there are the nostalgic bunch who still proclaim that Ray Lewis is the be all and end all of NFL linebackers.

Lewis is definitely past his prime and it's true his production has dropped considerably, but his leadership and emotion is part of what makes the Baltimore Ravens a dangerous team.

Anyway, I decided to delve into both of their career stats thus far into their NFL careers in order to see just who comes out on top.

Ray Lewis entered the league in the 1996/97 season whereas Willis joined the stars in the 2007/08 season.

Lewis had a great rookie season in which he contributed 110 tackles with nine for a loss, 2.5 sacks and one interception.

Willis had a rookie year in which he had 174 tackles, also nine for a loss and four sacks.

Lewis's sophomore year saw him put up really incredible stats; 184 tackles with 27 being for a loss, four sacks and one interception.

If you average out the major statistics of both Lewis and Willis over their first five years in the league, how similar they are may surprise you.

Lewis had 720 tackles, 104 for a loss, 16 sacks and seven interceptions, zero defensive touchdowns and two forced fumbles.

Willis produced 692 tackles, 94 for a loss, 17 sacks, five interceptions, two defensive touchdowns and 12 forced fumbles.

So Lewis slightly leads in the main tackling statistics whilst Willis shows up as more of a playmaker who can make game-changing plays.

It's important to note that Willis has saw his tackling statistics drop since his rookie year mainly because he played alongside quality linebackers like Takeo Spikes and NaVorro Bowman.

The great 2011/12 season of Bowman and missing some games meant that Willis failed to reach 100 total tackles for the first time in his career.

In comparison, Lewis has only failed to reach 100 tackles three times in his 16 year tenure with the Ravens.

As you can see, the stats are eerily similar but another similarity is just how few games both players have missed.

Throughout their first five years in the league, Lewis averaged 15.2 games and Willis the same.


In terms off height/weight measurements, both are 6'1" with Lewis 10 lbs heavier at 250 lbs.

In terms of situational stats, I decided to compare the fifth seasons of their careers because I couldn't find older Lewis stats that were quite as detailed.

Both players had more tackles during the second half of games and both had their highest average tackle total in the second quarter.

The only big difference I can see is that Willis performed better at home games whilst Lewis did better on the road.

Both players did miss game time last year though, so the stats could be skewed a little.

The Ravens and 49ers have only played once with both Willis and Lewis on the field since 2007.

In that matchup, Lewis had six tackles and Willis had 12 in a close 9-7 win for Baltimore.

It's pretty obvious that Lewis and Willis have had pretty similar careers so far in terms of the stats, both constantly being among the league leaders since they entered the league.

Willis is the most athletic linebacker in the NFL whereas Lewis is more well known for his thumping hits and leadership.

I can only hope that Willis has the longevity of Lewis, but I really believe that Willis is the more gifted player in terms of natural ability.

Willis has superior speed and playmaking ability, but he is more of a silent leader whist Lewis is well known to be the ultra-motivator and the emotional leader of his team.

I think both players will go down as top five inside linebackers of all time when they call it quits—Willis in a long time of course.

But, although they are very different players, it's interesting to see just how similar their stats were after their first five years in the NFL.