In theory, these mammoth linemen will be the most efficient tacklers; they work in small spaces and rarely give a ball carrier the opportunity to make them miss in space.
As a reminder, the Tackling Efficiency metric is as simple as things get: it’s a ratio of missed tackles to attempts. We take Solo tackles + Assists + Misses / Missed Tackles = TE.
The Perfect Pair
Life on the defensive interior is a little different from the rest of the defense, and because of this we have stepped down the number of qualifying snaps needed to make this list. Some players are regular members of the rotation but will only play 300-to-400 snaps a year, so we have set a minimum qualifying number of snaps at 900 to make the study.
This list is led by a pair of interior defenders that haven’t missed any tackles over the past three seasons. In the case of Pat Williams, he didn’t have much of a chance to miss any in 2011 as he wasn’t playing, but over the two seasons before that he failed to miss a tackle in 67 attempts, which puts him out ahead of the pack. He is joined in the realm of the perfect ratio by Adam Carriker who may never live up to his lofty draft status, but is at least a reliable tackler. Carriker has attempted 54 tackles over the past three seasons and has yet to come up empty handed.
That pair are closely followed by a group of players that still have excellent ratios–missing just a single tackle–and a couple of prolific tacklers for the interior who have high marks in the rating despite missing more than one.
Racking Up Tackles
While Pat Williams and Adam Carriker may have avoided missing any tackles, their tackle figures pale into insignificance next to the players leading the way at the top of that list. No interior defender comes close to the number of tackles of the Browns’ Athyba Rubin who has notched 148 solo and 42 assists over the past three seasons. 18 players have played more snaps than Rubin, some almost 800 more, but none have come close to the number of tackles he has been able to make.
Glenn Dorsey from the Chiefs is next up with 160 combined tackles over that period, but that falls 30 short of Rubin, and Calais Campbell narrowly edges Justin Smith with 150 total tackles.
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Not everybody was as reliable a tackler as you would expect for defensive interior linemen. Though two guys failed to miss a single tackle, seven players managed to miss 10 or more over the same span. Leading the way in misses was the Patriots’ mammoth defensive tackle, Vince Wilfork with 15. Wilfork is one of the more prolific tacklers, so his ratio is not among the worst, but it’s still a mark he will be disappointed with and see as plays that got away from him.
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Five of the other double-digit players feature among the worst ratios on the list, however, with Cullen Jenkins missing one in every seven tackles he attempted, Terrance Knighton one in every 7.9, and Amobi Okoye, Kevin Williams and Alan Branch all in close attendance behind. The worst ratio amongst interior rushers however came from Chicago’s Henry Melton, who only narrowly made the cutoff, but has missed one in every 5.3 tackles he has attempted in that time span. That’s a mark that is threatening the ineptitude of players like Asante Samuel. Granted Melton is dealing with tougher tackles up the gut, but it’s still a ratio that is unacceptable for a top-level player and he needs to improve that dramatically if that is what he is to become.
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The Best Ratios
We saw earlier that Williams and Carriker head this list, but the top of the list is populated by some excellent tackling efficiency. Casey Hampton has had a well-earned reputation as a run-stuffing monster for the Steelers, and the big nose tackle has missed just a single tackle over the past 1454 snaps, or one in every 74 attempts. Kendall Langford and Justin Bannan make the sharp end of the list despite each missing a pair of tackles; such was their frequency of attempts. Tyson Jackson from the Chiefs makes this yet another study where the pair of DEs for Kansas City shows well against the run, whatever failings they may have as pass rushers.
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