Yesterday we took a look at the tackling prowess of linebackers over the past three seasons. Which players made the most, which missed the most, and which did far more of the latter than their opportunities should have caused.
Today we’re moving away from the line of scrimmage and looking at how defensive backs have fared over the same time span. We have combined cornerbacks and safeties to look at them together in this one study, and the qualifying cutoff is the same 1,200 snaps that it was for the linebackers. This eliminates all rookies from the study.
Tackling efficiency is a simple ratio of missed tackles to number of attempts: Solo tackles + Assists + Misses / Missed Tackles = TE.
The Active Crowd
Some defensive backs are far more physically active than others, and get themselves involved in the run game with their hitting far more regularly. No player has been involved in more tackles over the past three seasons than Antoine Bethea. Both Yeremiah Bell (261) and Tyvon Branch (258) have had more solo tackles than the 255 Bethea has notched, but he has added 56 assists over that period, taking his tally to a massive 311 total tackles in the 2009-2011 seasons. That’s a safety averaging more than 100 tackles per season, which is truly remarkable, and also quite the sign of the problems in the Colts’ defense during that span.
Branch falls one short of the 300 mark–continually used in the box for the Raiders, he also shows some remarkable ability to run down plays from behind–and Bell’s 294 was some way clear of the next most prolific tackle artist amongst defensive backs.
The Tampa Two
Most of the time referring to the Tampa-2 conjures up images of discipline, sound fundamentals, and quality play to force mistakes from the opposition, but not on this occasion. The Tampa Two to which I am referring are Ronde Barber and Tanard Jackson, who lead the pack with more missed tackles than any other defensive backs over the past three seasons. Barber has racked up a massive half-century of misses, but what is even more staggering is the 43 that Jackson has managed to total on fewer than half of Barber’s snaps.
You have to wonder exactly what the Buccaneers were practicing over the past few seasons, because it certainly wasn’t sound fundamentals and the basics, those fell to pieces under Raheem Morris.
Michael Griffin and Quentin Mikell are the next two in line, with 41 and 40 missed, respectively, then Antrel Rolle of the Giants with 37.
Tackling Efficiency – Good and Bad
The tackling efficiency for defensive backs displays a truly ridiculous gulf in ability between the incredibly sound tacklers, and those who would be better off just falling over in front of the ball carrier and hoping they tripped over them.
Leading the way at the top is Danieal Manning from Houston. Manning has missed just seven tackles–or, one in every 30.9 attempts–over the past three seasons, which is very nearly Takeo Spikes territory, and about as good as you could possibly expect from a defensive back. Manning isn’t alone at the top, however, because he’s joined there by cornerback Bradley Fletcher who has just four misses in the game time he has been able to see. That gives him a miss every 29.3 for the best mark amongst corners.
Kelly Jennings, Joe Haden, and Nathan Jones round out the Top 5 … the only five to have a ratio better than a miss every 20 attempts.
At the other end things get ugly, very ugly. In a rather fitting tie for last place Asante Samuel and Tanard Jackson have each missed a tackle for every 3.7 they attempted over the past three seasons. That is a shocking display of tackling, in particular for Jackson who is supposed to be a hard-hitting safety and able to bring down the ball carrier. Samuel is at least known to shy away from contact and make Deion Sanders type ‘business decisions’ when it comes to putting himself on the line, but it remains no better a display.
In third place is Nnamdi Asomugha, who has quietly been a terrible tackler for years now. This was never really noticed from his play in Oakland because he was targeted so infrequently, and only surfaced each year when we ran the numbers, but his new role in Philadelphia did nothing to dispel the trend. Asomugha has now missed 25 tackles over the past three seasons, which is one for every 4.6 he attempted in that time frame. He wants to be Philadelphia’s answer to Charles Woodson from the Packers, and if that’s the case it’s going to require more than a step up in coverage. Woodson’s ratio of missed tackles is better, putting him in the middle of the pack with a miss every 7.6 attempts.
Ronde Barber makes an appearance again at the ugly end, but at least the massive number of tackles he attempts in his active role has lowered his ratio away from Tanard Jackson territory. Barber’s ratio of a miss every 5.6 attempts is still terrible and far from the kind of secure tackling you need from a safety, which is what position he plans to now occupy for the Bucs.