Signature Stats: Tackling Efficiency, LBs

Mike Renner looks at Tackling Efficency, another of PFF's Signature Stats, with a focus on the top and bottom performances by linebackers so far in 2013.

| 4 years ago

Signature Stats: Tackling Efficiency, LBs

2013-WK08-TKLE-LBsAs 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.

Top 15

Rk Player Team Tackle Efficiency Tackles Assists Misses
1  Arthur Moats BUF (42 w/no misses) 32 10 0
2  Brandon Spikes NE 30.0 48 10 2
3  Jerod Mayo NE 24.5 38 9 2
4  Pat Angerer IND 24.0 35 11 2
5  Daryl Smith BLT 19.5 49 25 4
6  Vontaze Burfict CIN 18.5 83 22 6
7  Paul Posluszny JAX 17.5 83 16 6
8  Akeem Jordan KC 17.0 35 13 3
9  Paul Worrilow ATL 16.0 32 13 3
10  D’Qwell Jackson CLV 15.3 51 6 4
11  NaVorro Bowman SF 14.8 71 12 6
12  Wesley Woodyard DEN 14.8 42 13 4
13  James Laurinaitis SL 14.8 54 15 5
14  Erin Henderson MIN 14.3 66 14 6
15  Karlos Dansby ARZ 14.3 74 6 6

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.

Bottom 15

Rk Player Team Tackle Efficiency Tackles Assists Misses
52  A.J. Hawk GB 6.9 43 16 10
53  Thomas Davis CAR 6.8 69 12 14
54  Daryl Washington ARZ 6.8 30 5 6
55  Derrick O. Johnson KC 6.7 62 6 12
56  Chad Greenway MIN 6.6 63 16 14
57  Curtis Lofton NO 6.5 57 20 14
58  Philip Wheeler MIA 6.3 55 14 13
59  Kevin Burnett OAK 6.0 51 14 13
60  Mason Foster TB 5.8 48 9 12
61  Moise Fokou TEN 5.4 29 6 8
62  Mychal Kendricks PHI 5.4 54 12 15
63  London Fletcher WAS 5.3 42 14 13
64  Lance Briggs CHI 4.9 52 7 15
65  Akeem Ayers TEN 4.4 29 5 10
66  Colin McCarthy TEN 4.3 32 4 11

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.

Other Notables

–  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.


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.

  • Joe

    I’m not sure why you didn’t make the tackling efficiency=successful tackles/attempted tackles and write it as a precentage. The way you have it now, a single missed tackle disproportionately affects the results. For example, the difference between Angerger at #4 and Worrilow at #9 is essentially 1 missed tackle, not a statistically significant difference. Yet, you’ve managed to turn this into an 8 point difference, half of Worrilow’s total “efficiency,” instead of what it should look like, 96% vs. 94% (i.e., essentially the same). Plus, you run into problems when someone has zero missed tackles, and you’re just left writing the total number of tackles instead of putting “infinity” in the box.

  • Chris

    Well put. I was wondering the exact same thing.


    Wow. Joe is a genius…really makes much more sense

  • JJ

    Surreal. There used to be a time when Lance Briggs and London Fletcher rarely missed tackles.

    • Geo McDowell

      When? Where’s your source for this alleged stat?

      • JJ

        1. When they were younger. 2. Find it yourself.

      • Yeshua Ben Yosef

        Haha I’m assuming you don’t know London Fletcher, but he’s 6th in all-time tackles, 1st in all-time assists, and holds the record for most consecutive games played (254).