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Tackling Efficiency (3 Years) Pff

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Three Years of Tackling Efficiency: Linebackers

July 5th, 2012 | Author: Sam Monson

3yeartackefflb-150x150.jpgOur three-year spin around the NFL through the lens of PFF’s unique statistics continues today with a look at tackling efficiency. We’re going to run through the entire defense over the next few days but we’ll be starting in the middle with the true tackling machines of the NFL–the linebackers.

For the purposes of this look we have combined inside linebackers in both 4-3 and 3-4 schemes, as well as 4-3 outside linebackers. The 3-4 outside linebackers will be looked at separately when we analyze the performance of edge-rushers.

As a reminder, Tackling Efficiency is as straight forward a formula as it gets, and is simply the ratio of missed tackles to tackle attempts: Solo Tackles + Assists + Misses / Missed Tackles = TE.

In order to qualify for the study we set a minimum threshold of 1,200 snaps. That eliminated all rookies, and required a player to put in a little over a full-season of defensive snaps in order to be featured.

Tackling Machines

Tackles are actually not an official statistic, though the NFL is happy to treat them as if they were–they are compiled by different officials and are often wildly inaccurate because NFL scorers have to get it right live, not after the fact with the benefit of replay and hindsight. We at PFF keep our own, more accurate, tackle statistics, and over the past three seasons no linebacker has recorded more than London Fletcher. The Washington Redskin is known as a tackling machine and though we differ with the league on the numbers, in this area we agree with the NFL’s ranking.

According to us, Fletcher is tied with the Detroit Lions’ Stephen Tulloch with 308 solo tackles over the past three years, although Fletcher has 81 assists compared to Tulloch’s 66. New Saint Curtis Lofton and Chad Greenway from the Vikings are the only other linebackers with over 300 solo tackles in that span.

Missed Tackles

Seven players have notched more than 30 missed tackles over the past three seasons and, predictably enough, three of them were in the group with 300+ solo tackles. Lofton (32), Fletcher (32) and Greenway (36) are joined by David Hawthorne (32), DeAndre Levy (37), Geno Hayes (38) and Lance Briggs (38) as the most prolific missed-tackle artists in the study, and all of those players ranked well outside the Top 10 in terms of efficiency.

The interesting thing about that group is that it encompasses both players who have played extremely well in the past few years and some who have played very poorly, demonstrating that missed tackles may be a contributing factor to a grade, but they will never torpedo a player’s rating on their own. Hawthorne and Greenway in particular have had seasons where they graded out among the elite at their position.

Tackling Efficiency – The Good and The Bad

Anybody that has been reading our Tackle Efficiency pieces over the past few seasons won’t be surprised to see the player that leads the way at the top, and some way out in front of anybody else: Takeo Spikes. In 285 total tackle attempts Spikes has missed just nine in the past three seasons, and four of those came this season in San Diego when he was carrying an injury. That is by far the best ratio of any qualifying player and comfortably distances his former teammate, Patrick Willis in second place. Willis has missed 14 tackles in the same period, althoguh he has also attempted more than Spikes and has played over 500 more snaps.

Paul Posluszny is an extremely underrated player and he makes the sharp end of this list, tying with Bradie James for third position with matching ratings of one miss every 23.5 attempts. Michael Boley, James Laurinaitis and Jerod Mayo are other big names who cracked the top 10.

Rank Player Snaps Tks *** MT Tackling Efficiency 1 Takeo Spikes 2362 232 44 9 31.7 2 Patrick Willis 2888 287 56 14 25.5 3 Bradie James 2245 199 49 11 23.5 3 Paul Posluszny 2758 273 64 15 23.5 5 Michael Boley 2596 195 28 10 23.3 6 James Laurinaitis 3254 299 47 16 22.6 7 Kirk Morrison 1827 179 22 10 21.1 8 Jerod Mayo 2716 245 59 16 20.0 9 Thomas Howard 2017 146 16 9 19.0 10 Stephen Nicholas 1636 132 21 9 18.0 11 D.J. Williams 3060 267 37 20 16.2 12 Desmond Bishop 1624 179 33 14 16.1 13 Mathias Kiwanuka 1788 113 20 9 15.8 14 Keith Brooking 2116 185 34 15 15.6 15 D'Qwell Jackson 1483 165 18 13 15.1

At the ugly end of the spectrum, Sean Weatherspoon posts the worst ratio among linebackers, missing a tackle for every 7.1 he attempted. The good news for Weatherspoon is that 15 of those misses came last season when he still earned a +16.2 grade against the run and a +18.3 overall mark, proving that he can be an excellent player despite the misses. If he can clean up those missed tackles going forward he could be something truly special. Following hot on his heels in the list are Hayes and Levy, both of whom have racked up misses and whose ratios are only marginally behind that of Weatherspoon’s.

Hayes’ teammate in Tampa, Quincy Black also notched his fair share of missed tackles, as the entire Buccaneers defense seemed to be engaged in a competition last season to see who could miss the most. Perennial letdown Ernie Sims also makes the bottom 10, adding to the reasons why he has never been able to translate his enviable athleticism into excellent play at the NFL level.

Rank Player Snaps Tks *** MT Tackling Efficiency 1 Sean Weatherspoon 1427 120 20 23 7.1 2 Geno Hayes 2563 208 28 38 7.2 3 DeAndre Levy 2430 209 28 37 7.4 4 Stephen Cooper 1599 110 17 19 7.7 5 Quincy Black 1833 157 21 26 7.8 6 Lofa Tatupu 1319 85 19 15 7.9 7 Julian Peterson 1910 110 29 20 8.0 7 Ben Leber 1267 82 9 13 8.0 9 Ernie Sims 1801 129 23 21 8.2 10 Channing Crowder 1226 80 7 12 8.3 10 Nick Roach 1296 100 17 16 8.3 12 Chris Gocong 2303 133 32 22 8.5 13 Keith Bulluck 1253 102 13 15 8.7 13 Will Witherspoon 2952 180 36 28 8.7 15 Rocky McIntosh 2335 186 40 29 8.8 15 Larry Foote 1528 134 22 20 8.8

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Somewhat lost in the big picture in respect to Spoon and misses... He gets to a lot of ball carriers that others don't, but is not in as good a position to make the stop... He slows them down or makes them make an extra move, but he gets a "miss" from it.

Don't believe that... then how do you account for those very positive stat numbers, way above norms, but with so many misses? The article even eludes to it, just didn't say it specifically.

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I honestly thought Spoon did much better this past year than he did his rookie year. I'm definitely nervous about the MLB spot. Just by the lack of response and previous conversations I think a lot of people take for granted how important tackling is even though it is or should be occurring every snap of the entire game.

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That's always been the biggest problem w/ spoon. He tends to go for the big hit and doesn't wrap up. His rookie year he was bad about it, last year I think he did a better job. IMO that big miss on forte last year forced him to concentrate on wrapping up.

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