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Falcons Were One Of The Worst Tackling Teams. Will The Issues Be Fixed ?


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In past years, we've posted the broken tackle numbers for offense before those for defense. This year, we're flipping things around. Why, you may ask? Because with the return of these 2013 stat reports also comes the return of special elite Football Outsiders stars in Madden 25 Ultimate Team. We'll reveal those players at the end of this article. Offensive numbers will run in a separate article later this week.

Broken tackle stats are subjective, obviously, but there were over two dozen charters involved, so no team's numbers could be overly slanted because of the bias of a single specific charter. In fact, this year for the first time, there was actually a negative correlation between broken tackles on offense and broken tackles on defense for the same team, suggesting that we didn't end up with certain teams ranked very high or low on both sides of the ball because of specific charters who tended to mark broken tackles more or less often than the rest of the charters. Another interesting note about broken tackles in 2013 is that for the first time, our charters marked more broken tackles this season than in the season before. We marked 2,139 broken tackles this year, which was about 150 more broken tackles than we marked in 2012 and the highest number since our first year of marking broken tackles back in 2009. It's unlikely that broken tackle numbers leaguewide really jumped that much; it's more likely that we missed some in 2012, and we may go back to 2012 in the next few weeks to see if there might be broken tackles we missed.

We know that there are other groups on the Web who track broken tackles, and because of the subjectivity, their numbers won't be exactly the same as ours. Given the mistakes that are easy to make when marking players off of television tape, a difference of one or two broken tackles isn't a big deal. But looking at the players with the most and fewest broken tackles does a good job of showing us which defenders were able to wrap up and which ones got run over or faked out by a great lateral move.

We can also look at broken tackle rate. For each defender we compared broken tackles to the total of broken tackles and solo tackles. A quick note about how we figured the number of solo tackles: first, we removed special teams tackles and looked only at defensive plays. Second, we decided not to include assists, because a missed assist is not usually something we would mark as a missed tackle opportunity -- after all, another defender is getting a successful tackle at the exact same time. However, when the play-by-play lists two defenders separated by a semicolon rather than a colon, then technically they both get assists and neither of them gets a solo tackle in the NFL numbers. However, for broken tackle purposes, we still counted the first player listed with a tackle.

Here are all the players that our game charters recorded with 10 or more broken tackles in 2013:

Once again, there's a huge amount of year-to-year turnover when it comes to players with more than 10 broken tackles. In part, this is because pretty much any NFL stat where most players are in single digits will see a lot of variation from year to year. The effect is extra strong in 2013 because so many of the players who had a lot of broken tackles in 2013 were either rookies or players who played very little in 2012 such as Brandon Meriweather, Brandian Ross, and Shiloh Keo. Still, four of the seven players who had at least a dozen broken tackles in 2012 had at least nine in 2013. Nate Allen of the Eagles is the player not listed above, going from 12 broken tackles to nine in 2013. Ed Reed went from 15 to six, although this was in part due to fewer snaps. The biggest improvements in broken tackles belonged to Michael Griffin, who went from a league-leading 18 broken tackles to just seven despite making the same number of total tackles, and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who went from 12 to just five. Maybe getting out of Philadelphia just naturally makes you a better tackler. (You can see the top numbers from 2012 here.)

As you'll see later on, the players with the most broken tackles in 2013 happened to play for the defenses with the most broken tackles in 2013. Somehow, when Washington played Chicago in Week 7, Meriweather and Conte made it through with just three combined broken tackles. If you look closely, you'll see that all four starting Washington defensive backs had double-digit broken tackles last season. It was not a good season for the Washington defense, especially if Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan couldn't get to the quarterback quickly.

Now let's look at the highest and lowest broken tackle rates. First, here are the best and worst rates for linebackers, with a minimum of 40 tackles:

Meriweather was a regular starter last year for the first time since 2010 and, well, the guy takes a lot of chances. That leads to a lot of broken tackles. A lot of the defensive backs with a high number of broken tackles were, like Meriweather, players who weren't regular starters the year before. Then again, the same is true for a lot of the defensive backs with very low broken tackle rates, including the one guy who had no broken tackles with at least 40 tackles, Kansas City rookie nickelback Marcus Cooper.

Defensive linemen don't make anywhere near as many plays as linebackers and defensive backs, so we end up with a lot of linemen who have just one or two broken tackles. However, this year there were actually a good number of linemen with more than just a couple of broken tackles -- a lot of the jump between the number of broken tackles we marked in 2012 and the number we marked in 2013 came with broken tackles charged to linemen. Jonathan Babineaux of the Falcons led all defensive linemen with nine broken tackles after being second among linemen with five in 2012. Here's a list of all defensive linemen with at least five broken tackles:

New York Jets nose tackle Damon "Big Snacks" Harrison had the most tackles among the linemen with zero broken tackles (50), followed by Dontari Poe (47) and Babineaux's teammate Corey Peters (40). DeMarcus Ware was another notable lineman listed with zero broken tackles; he had seven the year before, which would have led defensive linemen in 2012 except that Ware was technically an outside linebacker that year.

Finally, we've got the list of broken tackles by all 32 defenses. Washington had the most broken tackles in the league by far, followed by Chicago. I noted earlier the problems with the Washington defensive backs. With Chicago, breaking things down into run vs. pass really hammers home the problems of the Chicago run defense in 2013. The Bears had 64 broken tackles on runs, compared to just 28 on receptions and three which were quarterbacks avoiding sacks behind the line of scrimmage. Chicago and Washington (56) were the only two defenses with more than 40 broken tackles on running plays; meanwhile, 22 different defenses had more broken tackles on receptions than the Bears did. Miami had the most broken tackles where quarterbacks avoided sacks (11), which makes a lot of sense when Cameron Wake has eight.

Buffalo once again had the lowest rate of plays with broken tackles, although as I said before, the Bills didn't have the fewest broken tackles in the league. That title went to Kansas City at 45, followed by the Patriots, Saints, and Bills. That Kansas City number is a little shocking considering how many shaky-tackling defenders Andy Reid employed in Philadelphia. But it wasn't anywhere near as shocking as what happened to the Eagles with Reid gone. Chip Kelly's new regime changed a lot of things about the Eagles; one of the changes that may not have been as noticeable is that the Eagles suddenly figured out how to tackle. The Eagles were near the bottom of the league in broken tackles after leading the league in both 2011 and 2012.

Broken Tackles by Team, 2013 Defenses

Defense Plays Plays w BT Total BT Pct Plays

w BT

WAS 970 85 104 8.8%

CHI 1015 77 95 7.6%

ATL 998 72 83 7.2%

STL 1012 73 80 7.2%

BAL 1020 65 76 6.4%

MIN 1119 70 86 6.3%

TEN 1015 63 72 6.2%

CAR 969 60 72 6.2%

OAK 1019 63 77 6.2%

SD 956 59 64 6.2%

MIA 1090 66 74 6.1%

TB 1009 61 66 6.0%

HOU 965 57 74 5.9%

SEA 990 58 61 5.9%

GB 1008 56 61 5.6%

DAL 1085 59 65 5.4%

Broken Tackles by Team, 2013 Defenses

Defense Plays Plays w BT Total BT Pct Plays

w BT

ARI 1037 56 64 5.4%

JAC 1076 58 65 5.4%

DET 969 52 60 5.4%

CLE 1093 58 68 5.3%

CIN 1038 54 61 5.2%

IND 1021 53 59 5.2%

NYJ 1041 54 64 5.2%

PIT 1031 53 64 5.1%

SF 1015 52 57 5.1%

NYG 1076 55 62 5.1%

PHI 1148 57 66 5.0%

NO 939 45 48 4.8%

DEN 1074 47 51 4.4%

NE 1114 45 46 4.0%

KC 1065 42 45 3.9%

BUF 1080 42 49 3.9%

http://www.footballoutsiders.com/stat-analysis/2014/2013-broken-tackles-defense

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in terms of better tackling......I think its very reasonable to think that we have gotten better players, but it still remains to be seen if they actually perform better....I'm not looking for us to go from last to first......if we can get to middle of the pack.....ranked around 12th to 15th on defense I think we will see marked improvement in the overall performance of the team.

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in terms of better tackling......I think its very reasonable to think that we have gotten better players, but it still remains to be seen if they actually perform better....I'm not looking for us to go from last to first......if we can get to middle of the pack.....ranked around 12th to 15th on defense I think we will see marked improvement in the overall performance of the team.

Agree fully

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Not to worry. Smith says where are working on it....

ESPN NFC South Blog-McClure-Falcons Tackling Issues

Falcons tackling issue with new drills

By Vaughn McClure

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- In reviewing last year's defensive woes, Atlanta Falcons coach Mike Smith knew tackling had to be a primary focus going into the 2014 season.

Since there is no live contact allowed during offseason workouts and only 14 padded practices allowed during the regular season, the Falcons needed to improvise. So Smith and the coaching staff introduced the players to a variety of new tackling drills.

"Well, we weren't a very good tackling team last year,'' Smith said bluntly. "That was apparent. So one of our focuses in the offseason was 'How can we improve our tackling without taking guys to the ground?' And we've come up with a myriad of drills ... gosh, probably 10.

"It's very hard to simulate tackling. And we want to simulate the finish of the tackle. And when you simulate the finish, that's when you're taking guys to the ground, and you can't do that. So we're using dummies to do it.''

Smith avoided explaining each and every new drill, but the one called "The Finish'' was introduced to the public during rookie minicamp. Players dived at a tackling dummy attached to a mat to protect their fall. Smith bellowed "violent'' in the background as the players approached the dummy. Their tackling technique was immediately critiqued, sometimes resulting in a do-over. And the coaches encouraged the players to squeeze the dummy tightly to simulate finishing the play.

"We wanted to simulate the finish of rolling your hips through the tackle,'' Smith said. "Running through the tackle.''

The rookies seem eager to prove they could handle the drill. But how have the veterans reacted to an emphasis on such basics?

"I think they're taking to it very well, simply because they know the biggest element on the defensive side of the ball, the skill that you have to master, is getting the offensive players on the ground,'' Smith said. "And we weren't as efficient as we needed to be.

"There's a couple of ways that you can approach it: You can go out there and tackle live bodies, and we know that's not feasible in the NFL. So you've got to create drills that are as realistic as possible so it will carry over when they're out there playing in games.''

Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan would be the first to say his defensive players needed to refine their tackling skills. Part of the reason the Falcons were dead last in the league on third down and ranked second to last in stopping the run was their inability to bring players to the ground consistently. Part of the issue was resolved with the release of safety Thomas DeCoud and cornerback Asante Samuel. But they were far from the only culprits.

"The three areas that I thought were really critical were our leverage on the ball carrier, and that's an easy thing to work on every play you have in practice,'' Nolan started. "The second thing was, we needed to come to balance. Sometimes guys would just run and just take a shot as opposed to coming to a good position and then trying to tackle the guy. You just fly at him, it's a hit or miss: a big hit or a big miss.

"The third thing was just hanging on. ... This is not 100 percent, but I would say your long-armed guys, big-hand guys, they typically don't miss too many tackles when they've got somebody in the grasp because they just have the ability, like a wrestler. ... Whereas your short-armed guys, a lot of times, it's more often that they'll break a tackle on those guys. So if you are a short-armed guy, you've got to know when you wrap up, you've really got to hang on the best you can. Outside of that, it's just player versus player.''

Nolan singled out linebacker Paul Worrilow, the team's leading tackler last season, for his instinctive play and intelligence. But Nolan said even Worrilow missed his share of tackles.

Worrilow agreed.

"I've still got to learn with that,'' Worrilow said. "I had a good amount [of missed tackles]. My pursuit angles, not breaking down. The tackles that stand out are the ones you miss.''

Safety William Moore, known for going in for the big shot, had his share of miscues as well.

"To miss all those tackles -- I'm speaking about me, individually, because I missed a lot of tackles last season,'' Moore said. "I'm not making excuses, but there were some tackles that I wasn't used to. You've got a running back running wide open and running up on you.

"But we have running backs here [in practice] that can run up there and give you a look with their body movement. But you're not contacting them, which is 80 percent of the whole tackle.''

As Moore implied, the limitations in terms of contact indeed hold the Falcons and every other team back in terms of actually polishing up their tackling skills. But they'll have to make do with the drills and hope it carries over into the regular season.

"Again, you're not truly playing the game of football when you're not tackling,'' Smith said. "That's the element that's been taken out. Some people are of the opinion that the art of tackling has diminished over the years. I don't know if it can be directly related to the number of padded practices. I have my theories on it, and one of those theories is these guys are bigger and stronger and you can't physically do that, even in a practice setting, very often.''

As long as the Falcons can do it with consistency on game day, they'll be much better off defensively in 2014.

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Here we go T & E this is a topic I'm really passionate about and have been for a number of years.

For me if the Falcons are really to improve in this area they have to go back to the very basic's of putting a guy on the deck.

If I were the Falcons I'd be visiting down our part of the world and bring in a Rugby League defensive coach as tackling is a big part of that game.

Correct tackling technique people keep talking about wrapping I call BS there are a few steps you gotta go through before wrapping a guy up.

This is what fans have got to realize first off its about shoulder and head positioning target area is also key.

The problem with alot of NFL LBers & DB's is they try to tackle to high against bigger guys and get either pushed off or end up arm grabbing instead of the above IDing a target area and leading with there head and shoulder at the given target area then wrapping up.

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Teach, for the life of me, I can't understand a lot of your logic. You are one of Matt's most vocal critics. On several occasions you mention him being an inferior QB and our 4-12 season being a direct result of his play.

But this post shows that the defense has consistently missed tackles. We all know that the defense has never been very good to begin with. Our passing offense however, you know...the unit Matt plays and has a direct influence on, is always top 10. But he shoulders the blame?

Tackling sucks....

Coverage sucks....

Pass Rush sucks....

It's Matt's fault. That's you logic 99% of the time. Yet this post is evidence the blame should go elsewhere.blink.png

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Teach, for the life of me, I can't understand a lot of your logic. You are one of Matt's most vocal critics. On several occasions you mention him being an inferior QB and our 4-12 season being a direct result of his play.

But this post shows that the defense has consistently missed tackles. We all know that the defense has never been very good to begin with. Our passing offense however, you know...the unit Matt plays and has a direct influence on, is always top 10. But he shoulders the blame?

Tackling sucks....

Coverage sucks....

Pass Rush sucks....

It's Matt's fault. That's you logic 99% of the time. Yet this post is evidence the blame should go elsewhere.blink.png

That's what being a objective fan is about . Matt Ryan is not fully to blame but he is not above being criticized. The defense was a mess but should that take away from Ryan careless turnovers at times

Why absolve anyone from blame when as a whole team failed. Last year was a mess from basically every standpoint of the Falcons

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That's what being a objective fan is about . Matt Ryan is not fully to blame but he is not above being criticized. The defense was a mess but should that take away from Ryan careless turnovers at times

Why absolve anyone from blame when as a whole team failed. Last year was a mess from basically every standpoint of the Falcons

sure when you're behind a garbage o line no run game no. 3 receiver forced to be no. 1 it was a **** storm of bad luck of course it was 20thirteen.
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That's what being a objective fan is about . Matt Ryan is not fully to blame but he is not above being criticized. The defense was a mess but should that take away from Ryan careless turnovers at times

Why absolve anyone from blame when as a whole team failed. Last year was a mess from basically every standpoint of the Falcons

I'm not absolving anything. Matt Ryan averages some of the fewest turnovers in the league. This defense misses some of the most tackles in the league. So we blame Matt.

Careless with turnovers??? He only had 17? Check Flacco's INTs. Check Eli's INTs. 17 (which by the way is the MOST IN HIS CAREER) isn't alot. But still you blame Matt. That's not being objective buddy! Newsflash, YOU'RE RARELY OBJECTIVE!

Matt is not without blame, but to point the blame on Matt without acknowledging the fact that his defense has NEVER been worth much is ridiculous. Matt is arguably the best player on the team, and you talk about you like you should the defense that does nothing.

Edited by MD-FalconFan13
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