2011 Run Stop Percentage: Linebackers

| March 29, 2012

If there’s one thing that irritates me more than anything, it’s people quoting tackle numbers at me as if a high tackle count automatically makes a player great.

It doesn’t.

There are a number of things that need to be taken into consideration when looking at the tackle stat, and being the type of people we are at Pro Football Focus, we go through them. The outcome? Well, we’ve got a stat that does a far better job of giving you an idea of which players are the most impactful run defenders in the league.

Yes, it’s our Run Stop Percentage Signature Stat, and for this piece we’re examining all linebackers (except those who play outside in a 3-4) who were in run defense for at least 200 snaps. That gives us 82 to dissect with some stats you won’t see anywhere else.

 

What’s in a Tackle?

Where better to start than looking at our tackle numbers? You’ll notice these are always different to the official ones as we have the rather easier job of jotting them down retrospectively. As for the player who leads the way, it’s none other than D’Qwell Jackson who recorded 19 more tackles than any other linebacker in run defense. Astonishing. In years gone by, the 74 tackles (not including assists) that London Fletcher managed would have led the way, but he could only manage the second spot in 2011, one ahead of Derrick Johnson in third.

Here are the Top 10 tacklers in run defense from 2011:

 

Rank
Name
Team
Tackles
1D'Qwell JacksonCLV94
2London FletcherWAS75
3Derrick O. JohnsonKC74
4James LaurinaitisSL70
5Pat AngererIND68
6Donald ButlerSD65
7Chad GreenwayMIN64
8tRay LewisBLT60
8tJames AndersonCAR60
10tCurtis LoftonATL59
10tNick BarnettBUF59

 

So What?

But there’s an inherit problem in comparing the number of tackles each player made: some players are on the field more often than others. Until we came along there really was no way of looking at how many tackles a player made relative to how many snaps he played. Fortunately, we record every player on every play, and as a result we can tell you that no player in the NFL had a higher percentage of his plays in the run game end with him making a tackle than Desmond Bishop. He picked up a tackle on a rather remarkable 21.71% of all plays he was in on in run defense. That was significantly better than the man in second place (Donald Butler), who himself had a decent sized gap to third place (where Ray Lewis is firmly situated).

 

Rank
Name
Team
Run Snaps
Tackles
Tackle %
1Desmond BishopGB2585621.71%
2Donald ButlerSD3286519.82%
3Ray LewisBLT3226018.63%
4NaVorro BowmanSF3155818.41%
5D'Qwell JacksonCLV5119418.40%
6London FletcherWAS4087518.38%
7Joe MaysDEN3225818.01%
8Curtis LoftonATL3435917.20%
9Brian CushingHST3305616.97%
10Dan ConnorCAR2814716.73%

 

But Tackling Numbers are Limited, Right?

While Tackles Per Snap is a more meaningful number than simple tackles, it still doesn’t address one fatal problem with the tackle number: it doesn’t tell you where it happened and whether or not it represented a win for the defense. For this you need to look at the Defensive Stop stat that measures where a tackle was made relative to the down and distance. D’Qwell Jackson is at the top much as he was in the tackle stat, but it’s worth noting that while he had 20 more tackles than Derrick Johnson, he only managed two more stops.

 

Rank
Name
Team
Run Snaps
Tackles
Stops
1D'Qwell JacksonCLV5119452
2Derrick O. JohnsonKC4767450
3Joe MaysDEN3225846
4Brian CushingHST3305646
5NaVorro BowmanSF3155845
6Ray LewisBLT3226044
7E.J. HendersonMIN3695844
8Curtis LoftonATL3435943
9Daryl SmithJAX4045143
10Lance BriggsCHI3624941
11London FletcherWAS4087541

 

Which Brings Us to the Run Stop % …

To fully appreciate the how many stops a defender has made, you need to once again look at how much they’re on the field. That’s what brought the Run Stop Percentage Signature Stat to life; that desire to measure how often defenders were responsible for offensive failures relative to how often they were on the field. It’s through this stat we see that the Denver Broncos may have scored themselves a bargain with the re-signing of Joe Mays, as their middle linebacker led the league with a stop percentage of 14.29%. He was joined at the top by NaVorro Bowman who had an identical number as both men frequently left their mark on running backs.

Mays was one of a number of linebackers who were/ are free agents to fare well. Curtis Lofton was ranked sixth overall, a massive 42 spots ahead of a man he is likely to replace in Jonathan Vilma. The Henderson brothers also both impressed, with E.J. Henderson just edging out his brother Erin Henderson as they finished eighth and ninth, respectively. Cowboys fans will also be happy to note that Dan Connor excelled in this area (not a surprise to anyone who has watched him) with a 12th place finish. With Stephen Tulloch in 19th, this was certainly a year for teams to get linebackers who could make an impact in run D.

 

Rank
Name
Team
Run Snaps
Tackles
Stops
Stop %
1Joe MaysDEN322584614.29%
2NaVorro BowmanSF315584514.29%
3Brian CushingHST330564613.94%
4Ray LewisBLT322604413.66%
5Perry RileyWAS207302612.56%
6Curtis LoftonATL343594312.54%
7Donald ButlerSD328654012.20%
8E.J. HendersonMIN369584411.92%
9Erin HendersonMIN267433111.61%
10Karlos DansbyMIA317483611.36%
11Lance BriggsCHI362494111.33%
12Dan ConnorCAR281473111.03%
13Rey MaualugaCIN318493511.01%
14Colin McCarthyTEN200322211.00%
15Desmond BishopGB258562810.85%
16Daryl SmithJAX404514310.64%
17Sean LeeDAL282453010.64%
18Sean WeatherspoonATL341433610.56%
19Stephen TullochDET379574010.55%
20Derrick O. JohnsonKC476745010.50%

 

Of course, there’s more to playing linebacker and contributing in run defense than making tackles and defensive stops–you need to be able to stand-up blockers, blow-up fullbacks, and re-direct runners–but it doesn’t hurt if you can make those plays that result in a defensive win. The Run Stop Percentage does as good a job as any at showing who is really getting it done.

 

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  • snowman88

    are u guys going to show the edge rushers stop percentage???

  • elkman8102

    You would think Urlacher would show up on at least one of these lists.

  • tunesmith

    Joe Mays also had a lot of missed tackles, one of the worst MT rates on the team, from what I remember. I wonder if this can be taken into account? If a linebacker decides to just commit early on every play, it would make sense that they’d have an increase of stuffs and of missed tackles. Boom/bust. But at what point is it better to sacrifice your stop rate a bit in the name of limiting breakaways?

    • Neil Hornsby

      …..and that’s the whole point really. This is just another metric (albeit a far better one than tackles) to look at linebackers (or other defenders). You are 100% correct in that these need to be taken in conjunction with missed tackles, coverage responsibilities etc.

  • FreedomRide

    Eagles fans who have been crowing about the DeMeco Ryans trade, do you see him anywhere among the run stoppers?

    ‘Meco’s glory days are far behind him.