Signature Stats: Run Stop Percentage, ILBs

With a look at the league's middle/inside linebackers, Mike Renner marks out the notable performers per PFF's Run Stop Percentage Signature Stat.

| 4 years ago

Signature Stats: Run Stop Percentage, ILBs

2013-WK07-RunStopPCTIf you’re trying to make a case for how good a linebacker is and the first statistic you bring up is tackles, you’re doing it wrong. While the tackle statistic has many flaws there are two that stick about above all others.

The first is that it gives no indication of opportunity. Kiko Alonso has been on the field for over 2.75 times as many run snaps as Jasper Brinkley so comparing each player’s tackles is meaningless. It would be nearly impossible for Alonso to have fewer tackles. The second is that not all tackles are of equal value. A tackle for no gain and a tackle for a 10-yard gain both go into a box score as the exact same thing, when in terms of player performance they aren’t even close.

PFF’s Signature Stat Run Stop Percentage (RSP) tries to take away both of those limitations by recording only valuable tackles as stops and then taking those as a percentage of how many run snaps were played. What we define as a valuable tackle, or a stop, is any tackle that prevents the offense from gaining 40% of the required yardage on first down, 60% on second down, and 100% on third or fourth down.

Now that we’ve got it defined, let’s focus on the league’s middle/inside linebackers and have a look at the notable performers.

RkPlayerTeamRun SnapsStopsStop %
1Jasper BrinkleyARZ751621.3
2Brian CushingHST1552818.1
3Sean LeeDAL1502617.3
4Brandon SpikesNE1512617.2
5Luke KuechlyCAR1272116.5
6Paul PoslusznyJAX2173214.7
7Jerrell FreemanIND1381913.8
8Brad JonesGB761013.2
9Derrick O. JohnsonKC1441913.2
10Bobby WagnerSEA1211512.4

Houston had to be absolutely devastated this week when they found out they were losing Brian Cushing for the season yet again. One might think that Cushing’s 28 stops are a product of J.J. Watt and company keeping him free, but no Texans linebacker was able to come even close to Cushing’s production last season behind the same line. His presence will be sorely missed.

Like Cushing, Sean Lee has returned to his previous form after missing most of 2012. Lee’s 17.3 RSP is considerably better than his 12th-ranked 10.6 back in 2011 and also outpaces the 11.3 RSP he put up last season. The former Penn State linebacker looks to be right at home manning the middle again in a 4-3.

RkPlayerTeamRun SnapsStopsStop %
40London FletcherWAS148106.8
41Pat AngererIND7756.5
42Patrick WillisSF10876.5
43Mychal KendricksPHI158106.3
44Kelvin SheppardIND8156.2
45Donald ButlerSD8655.8
46Dannell EllerbeMIA9655.2
47Darryl SharptonHST10055
48A.J. HawkGB12564.8
49Daryl SmithBLT18363.3

On the opposite side of Cushing and Lee is Baltimore linebacker Daryl Smith. While Smith has looked like his old self in coverage after missing almost all of 2012, defending the run has been has been another story. The former Jaguar linebacker was graded as our second overall 4-3 outside linebacker back in 2011, but switching to 3-4 inside linebacker in his 10th season hasn’t come so naturally. He’s had only one positively-graded game against the run in seven weeks and is dead last in RSP.

Giving Dannell Ellerbe a seven-year, $35 million contract was one of the biggest gambles of the offseason and so far it has completely backfired on Miami. In Ellerbe’s breakout season last year, his RSP was still just 14th at 10.3. Now they’ve made him switch to a middle linebacker in a 4-3 and even with one of the best defensive lines in the league in front of him, his play has regressed. If there is a silver lining for Dolphins fans, though, it’s that Ellerbe actually graded out worse through his first five games last season and still finished graded as our 14th overall inside linebacker.

Other Notes:

•  Mychal Kendricks can’t blame missed tackles for his low RSP, of his position-leading 10 misses only two were against the run.

•  Per the example above, Jasper Brinkley has more run stops (16) than Kiko Alonso (15) despite playing in 133 fewer run snaps.

•  Of the 20 players with the most snaps in run defense, only five play for teams at .500 or above.

•  A.J. Hawk has seen the largest fall in production from last season to this — in 2012 he ranked fifth with an RSP of 11.8.

•  Six players are currently ahead of the best single season RSP we’ve recorded. That number was 14.4, set by Bobby Wagner as a rookie last season.



Follow Mike on Twitter: @PFF_MikeRenner


| Senior Analyst

Mike is a Senior Analyst at Pro Football Focus. His work has also been featured on The Washington Post, ESPN Insider, and 120 Sports.

  • Steve

    Mike, thanks for the insight. Does it make sense to consider the type of run plays that are being called? For instance, isn’t it possible that a given team is seeing more runs right up the middle versus runs off-tackle due to a weaker interior defensive line? Is it fair to assume the same accountability for the inside/middle linebacker on all run plays? I don’t have a sense if this is really a factor – just curious.

    • Alex

      Steve, I share your concern about simply equating the number of run snaps to the number of opportunities to make a stop, but I have a less cumbersome (I think) suggestion. As a first approximation, it stands to reason that if another player on the team makes a run stop, then other players on the team would not have an opportunity to make a stop on that play. Therefore, it might be better to subtract from the number of run snaps those plays where another defender made a run stop. Probably the largest effect this neglects is the situation in which the player in question misses a tackle and another defender is there to clean it up, but since missed tackles are also tracked, these plays can be added back in.

      • Mike Renner

        I do agree with this to a point. If a player makes a stop right on the borderline of the stop ‘range’ then the player in question likely already had his chance. Limiting the snaps that you take away to TFLs and tackles for no gain might be best. Next week I should be looking at RSP for safeties so if I have time I’ll try to run the new equation as well.

    • Mike Renner

      I do agree that run snaps doesn’t equal opportunities. For ILBs though there is just too much subjectivity to when a play should be considered a non-opportunity. Just because a ball is run wide or to a different gap than the ILB is responsible for doesn’t necessarily mean he didn’t have an opportunity to make a stop. I’ve seen plenty of brilliant reads by defenders who sniff out runs that maybe they weren’t best suited to make a play on. That’s not to say that some are put in much better situations than others, its just that agreeing on what plays to include and what not to include would add a level of undue subjectivity

      The only factor I could see having an impact would be another defender making the a TFL or tackle for no gain.

  • PFF_RolandB

    Ironically Jasper Brinkley didn’t get a single snap last week against Seattle, as he is stuck behind Karlos Dansby and Daryl Washington in Arizona’s 3-4 defense.

  • Sippin’ on

    I’ll never forget the day the Seahawks drafted Bobby Wagner and Mel Kiper Jr. ripped them for not taking Mychal Kendricks… Looks to have turned out quite well for the ‘Hawks. Just further evidence that Mel don’t know jack.

    • asdf

      Mel literally knows nothing. He’s all breadth in his knowledge. No depth. Mayock is the smartest analyst on the planet.

  • Al in Champaign

    Sippin on’ I’m not gonna say you’re making this up but Mychal Kendrick’s was taken the pick before Bobby Wagner, so, that didn’t happen

    • kyle

      The Seahawks actually traded back in the second round, to behind the Eagles. Kiper made it known that he felt the Seahawks should have remained at their original draft slot and taken Kendricks rather than select Bobby Wagner. He wasn’t making anything up, you just aren’t informed.