As I’ve harped on before in previous Signature Stat articles, tackles are not an indication of performance for a linebacker. Knowing the number of tackles a player missed can be just as important, if not more so. Take this example, Chad Greenway and Daryl Smith are both listed as having 86 tackles in the official NFL stats. Similar production, right? Not exactly. Greenway’s whiffed on a whopping 14 tries while Smith has failed on just four. Which would you rather have? Tackles lack context, so this week we’ll give you a glimpse into one of PFF’s Signature Stats that helps provide that context for linebackers, Tackling Efficiency.
The formula for Tackling Efficiency is as follows:
Tackling Efficiency = Attempted Tackles / Missed Tackles
Think about it this way, Tackling Efficiency is the number of attempted tackles it takes for the linebacker, on average, to miss one tackle. That being said, not all missed tackles are created equal. Getting bowled over by a running back in the hole is not the same as sniffing out a screen and forcing a running back 3 yards backwards before being shaken off. Those distinctions are only made possible through our grades and no stat you’ll ever see from us will be as thorough as our grading.
Note: Only inside linebackers and 4-3 outside linebackers with at least 40 tackling attempts were included here.
|1||Arthur Moats||BUF||(42 w/no misses)||32||10||0|
Only one qualifying linebacker has yet to miss a tackle and that is Buffalo’s Arthur Moats. While he barely snuck in above our threshold, the fourth-year linebacker has impressed against the run in his limited base role. Even though Moats hasn’t missed a tackle, in my opinion the most impressive tackler this season has been Vontaze Burfict who currently sits sixth overall. The reason for that being Burfict’s work in the passing game. Our stats show that a linebacker is 28% more likely to miss a tackle in coverage than against the run. That hasn’t slowed down Burfict, though, as he’s racked up 49 tackles in coverage, the second-highest figure among linebackers, compared to just three missed tackles.
The most impressive team of tacklers has been, without a doubt, the Patriots. Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes, and Dont’a Hightower are all in the Top 20 and have combined for an unbelievable eight missed tackles in 160 opportunities. All told, 21 individual linebackers have missed more than eight tackles this season and, as you’ll see later, three Titans linebackers have missed at least eight.
|55||Derrick O. Johnson||KC||6.7||62||6||12|
What is going on down in Nashville? The Titans own three out of the worst five tacklers and their four qualifiers have 35 missed tackles in 190 chances. No other team comes close to their futility so far.
While Lance Briggs has been one of the best 4-3 outside linebackers for the past decade, his spot on this list shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. From 2008-2012 Briggs’ Tackling Efficiency was a middling 8.6 with a high of 12.2 (2012) and a low of 6.4 (2008). Daryl Washington and Derrick Johnson are very similar cases to Briggs. Both inside linebackers are among the best at their position in the league, but both are fairly average tacklers. Washington has never graded outside the Top 15 at inside linebacker since his rookie season in 2010 while Johnson has graded in the Top 5 each year over that same span. Even with that elite production, Washington has a Tackling Efficiency of just 9.3 since he came into the league and Johnson’s is at 10.2 since 2008.
- While Tennessee’s Colin McCarthy may be the worst tackling linebacker in football so far this season, he has been good at one thing, getting to the football. McCarthy has attempted a tackle once every 5.5 snaps, the highest rate among linebackers.
- The Jets’ David Harris has been a good tackler going forward this season, but not so much in space. All six of his missed tackles have come in coverage, the largest discrepancy among linebackers.
- A.J. Hawk has been just the opposite for Green Bay. He’s reportedly slimmed down and it’s led to a 5.5 Tackling Efficiency against the run and a 12.5 Tackling Efficiency against the pass.
- The average Tackling Efficiency among qualifiers is 9.3, but the average for outside linebackers is 8.4 compared to 9.9 for inside linebackers.
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