After our first installment looking at the tackling inefficiency of the cornerbacks of the league, PFF’s Sam Monson turns his attention towards the safeties….
A safety, by his very nature, must be the last line of defense. He must be a reliable tackler because if he misses one, the chances are that it will lead to a big play being given up. Teams need not only a ball hawk in the secondary, but also a guy who can bring his man to the ground to save a big play. Following on from Part 1 of our TIR analysis, we’re looking this time at which safeties have been able to get their man to the ground when they attempted a tackle. A quick reminder of how the formula works:
(Number of Missed Tackles/[Number of Missed Tackles + Number of Solo Tackles]) x 100 = TIR
Another reminder that this article is not to say who is the best or the poorest tacklers in the NFL at the safety position, it is just to show what happened when they attempted a tackle — how efficient they were in getting their man to the ground once they attempted a solo tackle. For more detailed analysis we always suggest taking a look at how we grade a player’s performance via our player pages — or players by position pages.
The Dolphins’ Yeremiah Bell was peerless with his tackling efficiency, with just one miss in 91 solo tackle attempts to finish with the lowest TIR of any defensive back (1.10). Miami clearly recognized Bell as a solid performer against the run, and they used him as an in-the-box safety, often playing with a three-safety package that allowed Bell to near the line of scrimmage and make tackles, while Gibril Wilson and another safety patrolled the secondary behind.
Another player used primarily as an in-the-box strong safety is the Cardinals’ Adrian Wilson. Wilson was similarly efficient with his tackling, also missing just the one, but on 56 attempts compared. This left Wilson with a TIR of 1.79, good for second in the league.
Not all in-the-box safeties were as impressive with their tackling efficiency as Bell and Wilson though. Carolina’s Chris Harris missed 11 of his 58 solo attempts to earn a TIR of 19.97 and a spot in the 10 poorest ratings. Louis Delmas was a real bright spot for the Detroit Lions and made some spectacular hits from his safety spot, but they didn’t come without the cost of some missed tackles. He generated a TIR of 16.25 and finished with the 19th-poorest mark.
But what about a couple of big-name safeties who aren’t known for their tackling? The Rams’ O.J. Atogwe isn’t seen as much of a run-support safety — indeed his strongest attribute might be his excellent ball skills — but he showed surprisingly well in tackling efficiency, with a TIR of just 5.08, bettered by just eight other safeties, only two of whom attempted more tackles. He remains tendered by the Rams at the lowest level as they continue to try and work a long-term extension for him, and is therefore available for no compensation if a team signs him to an offer that the Rams choose not to match. Given his ball skills and a surprising tackling efficiency last season, it will be interesting to see if another team comes sniffing around.
Ed Reed is another player with a reputation of not being a reliable tackler, despite his obvious talents in coverage. But Reed missed only five of the 50 solo tackles he attempted on the season, to finish with a TIR of 10.00 that ranks him in the middle of the pack, alongside the Packers’ Nick Collins.
Much has been made recently about the play of Kerry Rhodes and his tackling. Although this list doesn’t pretend to account for occasions where a player simply shies away from the tackling attempt, it shows that when Rhodes attempted a tackle, the new Cardinals safety was reasonably efficient at making it stick. His TIR of 9.09 was good enough to rank him inside the best 25 safeties on the season, and it was markedly better than former teammate Jim Leonhard, who’s TIR of 19.05 was seventh-worst in the list. Many Jets fans will point out that Leonhard played much of the year with a broken thumb, and a protective cast on his hand, and while this is true (three of his misses can be attributed to his first game playing with that cast), more than half of his misses came when he was fully healthy before any injury. And only two came after that first game back with the cast on his hand.
The volume of players pulling out, as well as the fact that the 2009 Pro Bowl could not feature anyone playing the following week in the Super Bowl, led to some interesting names winding up as Pro Bowlers. The Saints’ Roman Harper found himself named a 2009 Pro Bowler for his performance as an in-the-box safety to complement Darren Sharper‘s roaming play at free safety. Despite making 90 solo tackle attempts — only one fewer than the Dolphins’ Yeremiah Bell — Harper missed on 10 of them to end up with a TIR of 11.11, which put him 35 spots lower than Bell.
His fellow Pro-Bowl safety and teammate, Sharper, attempted 30 fewer solo tackles (60), but missed the same number (10), resulting in a TIR of 16.67. Only 15 players recorded a poorer TIR on the season than Sharper.
Tampa Bay fared very badly in this study, with Sabby Piscitelli and Tanard Jackson ranking inside the bottom three. No safety missed more tackles than Piscitelli’s 20, and he is saved from the top spot only by Detroit’s Marvin White, who notched 15 misses on 52 solo attempts. His TIR of 28.85 was five points higher than Piscitelli’s 23.53, but both players will need to answer an awful lot of questions about their tackling performance if they hope to contribute in 2010.
The New York Giants also saw a pair of players rank in the top 10 poorest TIRs, with Aaron Rouse earning a score of 20.83 and Michael Johnson coming in at 18.97. Rouse’s score and poor performance in coverage was enough for the team to issue his marching orders this offseason and make free agent Antrel Rolle the league’s highest-paid safety. Worryingly for any Giant fans hoping Rolle will provide an upgrade in tackling, he finished the season just one spot better off than Johnson, with a TIR of 19.92.
The NFC seemed to find itself at both extremes of the rankings, with seven out of 10 of both the poorest and best TIRs belonging to NFC players. Several individual teams proved to be as polarizing in the rankings as the conference was in reality, with one player showing very well, and another showing poorly. Washington’s Reed Doughty finished inside the top 10 TIRs with a score of 5.63, but his teammate in the defensive backfield, LaRon Landry, produced a TIR of 14.61 by missing 13 of his 89 solo attempts.
The final mention, though, goes to the Atlanta Falcons, who managed to produce a pair of starting safeties with single-digit TIRs. Thomas DeCoud finished with the seventh-best rating (4.62) and Erik Coleman also ranked inside the best 25 with a score of 8.33
Highest TIR (Safeties)
|Marvin White||Detroit Lions||37||15||28.85|
|Sabby Piscitelli||Tampa Bay Buccanneers||65||20||23.53|
|Tanard Jackson||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||57||17||22.97|
|Michael Griffin||Tennessee Titans||53||14||20.90|
|Aaron Rouse||New York Giants||38||10||20.83|
|Jim Leonhard||New York Jets||51||12||19.05|
|Chris Harris||Carolina Panthers||47||11||18.97|
|Michael Johnson||New York Giants||47||11||18.97|
|Antrel Rolle||Arizona Cardinals||60||14||18.92|
|Sean Considine||Jacksonville Jaguars||26||6||18.75|
Lowest TIR (Safeties)
|Yeremiah Bell||Miami Dolphins||90||1||1.10|
|Adrian Wilson||Arizona Cardinals||55||1||1.79|
|Danieal Manning||Chicago Bears||56||2||3.45|
|Macho Harris||Philadelphia Eagles||28||1||3.45|
|Eugene Wilson||Houston Texans||25||1||3.85|
|Thomas DeCoud||Atlanta Falcons||62||3||4.62|
|Ken Hamlin||Dallas Cowboys||39||2||4.88|
|O.J. Atogwe||St. Louis Rams||56||3||5.08|
|Reed Doughty||Washington Redskins||67||4||5.63|
|Mark Roman||San Francisco 49ers||44||3||6.38|
For a full list of where the safeties ranked, feel free to request this information at forum, via Facebook or twitter, or get in touch with the writer here with any other queries or points. Stay tuned for the next installment of the TIR.