Looking At The Arizona Cardinals Defense and Missed Tackles

A few days ago, I wrote a post outlining what Football Outsiders had analyzed regarding the amount of broken tackles given up by defensive players. Since I had a request of how the defense as a whole worked out, I looked up the info on Pro Football Focus (as I have a subscription there). Now the info there is probably a little different, as the statistic they track is "missed tackles,"  defined as "the number of defensive tackles missed." The stat used in the FO article was "broken tackles" this way:

We defined a "broken tackle" as one of two events: either the ballcarrier escapes from the grasp of the defender, or the defender is in good position for a tackle but the ballcarrier jukes him out of his shoes. If the ballcarrier sped by a slow defender who dived and missed, that didn't count as a broken tackle.

From what I saw, the numbers I could find between missed and broken tackles varied a little bit. I will use a combination of the FO stats for the team and then show the individual numbers for "missed" tackles.

According to FO, the Arizona defense had 95 total tackles broken for a percentage of 7.4 percent -- the third highest rate in the league. 

If we look at "missed" tackles, as a team, Arizona had 776 solo tackles, 107 assisted tackles and 105 missed tackles. If you add all three, that essentially gives us the total "tackle" opportunities. According to that, in 988 opportunities, the Arizona defense missed tackles 10.6 percent of the time. 

To compare, the Super Bowl champs had one more missed tackle with 106. However, their tackle opportunities were a little higher, with 1039. Their missed tackle percentage was 10.2 percent. The Pittsburgh Steelers' percentage of missed tackles was only 9.0 percent. 

According to PFF, the team's leader in missed tackles was Kerry Rhodes with 14. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie had 12, Adrian Wilson 11, Paris Lenon 10 and Greg Toler nine. Again, these stats apparently vary a bit from the FO "broken tackle" numbers, this can give us a bit of a picture. 

Here is a chart of all the players that logged at least 10 solo tackles on the season:

Player

Solo

Assist

Missed

Percentage

Paris Lenon

96

21

10

7.9

Kerry Rhodes

79

8

14

13.9

Greg Toler

79

6

9

9.4

Adrian Wilson

75

7

11

11.8

Daryl Washington

68

6

7

8.6

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie

45

2

12

20.3

Calais Campbell

44

4

3

5.9

Darnell Dockett

38

5

2

4.4

Michael Adams

36

6

5

10.6

Joey Porter

33

7

6

13.0

Clark Haggans

32

5

7

15.9

Dan Williams

31

7

0

0.0

Alan Branch

24

3

5

15.6

Rashad Johnson

24

4

3

9.7

Gerald Hayes

23

8

4

11.2

Bryan Robinson

15

5

0

0.0

Looking at this data, I'm not sure exactly how to interpret it. For example, Troy Polamalu, considered one of the best defensive players in the league, had a missed tackle rate of 15.2 percent. Clay Matthews was 8.8 percent. Charles Woodson was 12.0 percent.

One thing that we know from the eye test is that DRC is not good. The stats confirm that. Many here have said that Michael Adams was one of our surest tacklers. He still missed over 10 percent of his opportunities. 

Looking back at the team "broken tackle" numbers, sure tackling does not translate into wins. The six teams with the lowest percentage of broken tackles were the New England Patriots, Minnesota Vikings, Denver Broncos, Green Bay Packers, New York Jets and Pittsburgh Steelers. You would not be surprised that the Pats, Packers, Jets and Steelers were playoff teams, but add the Broncos and Vikings (trainwreck 2010 seasons) to that list and you no longer have a pattern.

So you tell me, sure tackling is nice, but certainly a tell-all in defensive stats. What do you think of this?

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