Packers Need To Make Those Tackles

Missed tackles could sink the Packers early against the Rams. 

Defense, particularly the run defense, has been a recurring theme in recent articles and comments about this upcoming game against the Rams.  Goff and the Rams' passing attack does not scare anyone, though their receivers are pretty good.  I thought I would take a quick look at an available statistic: missed tackles.   Bear in mind that the missed tackle statistic does not indicate everything there is to know about a player's run defense prowess.  Overrunning a play or missing an assignment does not show up necessarily as a missed tackle.  And just like the best defensive shortstop in baseball might not have the best fielding percentage, being able to get to a play even though it makes the defender's angle less than optimal might well be a factor.  All statistics are from Pro Football Reference with some grades from Pro Football Focus.  

 

Player Solo Tot. Missed 2020 % (Prev. Yrs)

Snaps/Tackle

PFF
Lowry 14 36 0 0.0% (7.8%; 13.7%) 16.69 57.3
Clark 28 42 2 4.5% (11.4%, 8.3%) 14.17 73.8
Lancaster 8 23 2 8.0% (6.3%; 0.0%) 15.3 64.8
Keke 12 21 3 12.5% (0.0%; N/A) 19.7 69.1
Harrison 3 9 1 10% (18.3%, 2.4%) 16.67 66.9
             
Adams 6 11 0 0.0% (8.3%, 0.0%) 11.82 63.1
Winn 2 6   N/A 6.83 68.9

Lowry has improved in each of his last three seasons in regard to missed tackles.  His zero percent missed tackle statistic might be part of the reason he still earns the second-most snaps on the defensive line.  4.5% is good for a nose tackle.  I  complained about Clark's run defense in 2019 but he has really tightened it up.  Clark has a high percentage of solo tackles, unlike the rest of the defensive line other than Keke.  Lancaster is very solid as to missed tackles.  Lancaster has recorded 26, 30 and 23 tackles in his three seasons, so he has 79 tackles in 83 opportunities, a 4.82% missed tackle career average.  Still, the line was 23rd in adjusted line yards and 18th in pass rush win rate. 

Snacks Harrison had a mediocre year in 2020 in a small sample size and a terrible year in Detroit in 2019.  Prior to that he was excellent.  In 2018, he had 1 tackle per 7.48 snaps.  For 2017 and 2016, it was 8.47 and 7.83, respectively.  The question is which Harrison will take the field for Green Bay.

For context, let's take a look at the Rams:

Player Solo Tot. Missed Snaps/Tackle PFF
M. Fox 21 27 0 0.0% 14.3 59.1
Brockers 21 51 0 0.0% 12.59 64.4
Donald 27 45 3 6.3% 19.22 94.5
Joseph NT 35 55 4 6.8% 7.49 80.6
             
Gaines 9 18 1 5.3% 11.16 65.0
Robinson 6 12 1 7.7% 9.25 45.6

Brockers was under 6.3% missed tackles in 2019 and 2018.  Donald posted percentages of 11.1 and 9.2 in 2019 and 2018, respectively.  NT Sebastian Joseph has had very good numbers, with a 6.4% missed tackle percentage and a tackle every 10.93 snaps as a rookie in 2019.  He improved in 2020.  Greg Gaines and A'Shawn Robinson rotate in.  Both are solid according to these numbers at run defense.   Just from these statistics, it looks like the Rams' defensive line is stout: it does not miss tackles.  Each lineman has a lot of solo tackles, and indeed, a lot of tackles, which is interesting; it could be the linemen have good range or it could be scheme-related.  The Rams' defensive linemen have 208 tackles while the Packers line has 148.  

I do not have a good explanation for the relatively low grades from Pro Football Focus on Brockers, Gaines and A'Shawn Robinson.  Gaines and Robinson both have just one hit on the quarterback (in 201 and 111 snaps, though), and just 3 and 1 tackles for loss, respectively.  Brockers has 10 QB hits and 5 tackles for loss, which does not seem to me to account for his relatively low PFF grade.

The snaps per tackle statistic looks interesting.  It appears that the Rams defensive linemen are noticeably better in this regard.  While it could show difficulty with shedding blocks, I suspect it is due to scheme, specifically only playing two true defensive linemen per play.  

While it all starts up front, the linebackers and defensive backs play important roles.  

 

Player Solo Tot Miss % Tackle/snaps - Pass Rate
Barnes 49 80 7 8.0% 5.26; 1 QB, 5 TFL; PR 118.4
Summers 27 39 4 9.3% 4.59; 0 QB/TFL; PR 121.1
Kirksey 46 77 9 10.5% 7.12; 2/2 QB/TFL; PR 109.7
Martin 17 24 3 11.1% 7.92; 1/3 QB/TFL; PR 109.2
           
Gary 19 35 1 2.8% 13.03; 11 QB, 5 TFL
Z. Smith 35 52 7 11.9% 16.5; 23 QB 12 TFL  N/A
P. Smith 29 42 6 12.5% 19.38; 11/7 QB/TFL PR 109.5
           
Garvin 2 5 0 0.0% 17.0
Ramsey 5 11 0 0.0% 6.82 
Burks 14 21 1 4.5% 4.57; 0/1 QB/TFL; PR 118

Those numbers for missed tackles for the inside linebackers are decent, which is better than I expected.  PFF hates the first three ILBs listed on the table, and gave them grades of 43.7, 44.8, 44.0.  Kamal Martin somehow received a 73.3 grade.  Barnes has 5 TFL but just one QB hit.  Kirksey has just 2 TFL and 2 QB hits.  Martin has just 1 QB hit and 3 tackles for loss.  All of the linebackers, inside or outside, have poor coverage numbers.   

To get some context, Roquan Smith (139 tackles, 1 tackle per 7.31 snaps), has missed 6.7% of his tackles, while Eric Kendricks (107 total, 1 tackle per 7.05 snaps) has missed 7.0%.  Kenny Young and Troy Reeder, the starters for the Rams, have missed tackle percentages of 5.5% (52 total) and 10.0% (81 tackles).  Their backups, Kiser and Hollins sport figures of 11.5% (77 tackles) and 3.4% (28 tackles).  One difference is all four ILBs on the Packers allowed passer ratings of 109.2 or better.  Roquan Smith (58.9 passer rating allowed), Eric Kendricks (60.0), Kenny Young (81.4) Reeder (90.8), and Micah Kiser (97.4) are better in coverage.  PFF hates Young (41.6 grade), while Troy Reeder has a mediocre 60.4 grade.

Zadarius Smith missed just 4.3% of his tackles when he played for Baltimore.  He did have 12 tackles for loss.  Per Sports Information Solutions (SIS), Zadarius finished 14th among OLBs in pressure rate.  Preston missed tackle percentages have fluctuated, with a 14.5% in 2018 in Washington, 8.2% last year, and 12.5% this year.  Zadarius Smith's pressure numbers are still very good though not nearly as good as last year (1 pressure per 17.44 snaps down to 1 per 24.51 snaps this year), while Preston Smith's pressure numbers plummeted (1 pressure every 25.59 down to 1 every 50.87 snaps).  Preston Smith finished last in the NFL with a pressure rate of 6.9%.  Gary greatly improved his tackling, moving from 12.5% missed in 2019 to 2.8% this season.  His pressure rate also improved tremendously, from 1 pressure every 48.8 snaps (5 total) to 1 pressure every 24 snaps.  Gary finished 10th in pressure rate, per SIS. 

Leonard Floyd has 31 solo and 51 total tackles, and misses 8.3% of them, and makes one tackle per 17.96 snaps.  Floyd has 11 tackles for loss.  Samson Ebukam has 24 solo and 31 total tackles, and misses 8.7% of them.  He makes one tackle per 11.71 snaps.  Even though Ebukam started 14 games, he played just 363 snaps, nor does he drop into coverage.  

The Packers' defensive backs have been decent in terms of missed tackles, except for King, who has a continuing problem with percentages of 15, 17.5 and 17.4 percent this year.  Alexander and Sullivan both missed 8.9% of their tackles.  Savage and Amos checked in at 10.1 and 10.8%, but in my subjective opinion they have both been better at coming up aggressively to limit gains.  Amos missed just 5.3% of his tackles in 2019 but I like what he is doing this year much better.  Greene missed 13.7% and Redmond missed 20%, up from 10% last year.  I do not have the numbers to break down Redmond by time spent playing deep versus playing the Raven Greene role.  Vernon Scott missed one of 14 tackles for a 7.1 percentage while allowing a passer rating of 72.9.  Henry Black did not miss any tackles (8 total tackles) but allowed 3 receptions on 3 targets for 2 touchdowns and a 158.3 passer rating.  Josh Jackson missed 6 of his 32 tackling opportunities, finishing with 26 total tackles.  He had an 18.8 missed tackle percentage (18.3% in 2018).  While playing just 103 snaps in 2019, he had a 8.3% mark.  He has allowed passer ratings of 106.1, 143.7 and 113.0 this year. 

The defense looks to be peaking in time for the playoffs.  Since week eleven, Amos and Savage have been PFF's highest graded safety duo.  Jaire Alexander is a rock and Chandon Sullivan has been a reasonably solid nickel cornerback.  The team needs Kevin King.  Even though King's passer rating allowed is a too high at 96.2, he is clearly the number two outside cornerback.  The defense looks much better with Barnes at Mike with Kirksey and Martin rotating in.  Gary seems to be blossoming right before our eyes.  Zadarius Smith is playing well, and there have been some signs of life from Preston Smith.  Fans are hoping that the addition of Damon Harrison to pair with Kenny Clark will allow the Packers to handle run-heavy teams without having to sell out too much. 

Let the playoffs begin!  

 

 

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Comments (13)

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

January 15, 2021 at 02:08 pm

I chose to use a photograph of Rashan Gary. Since the article is about missed tackles, the choices came down to Lowry, Clark, and Gary.

As someone whose first comment after the Packers drafted Gary was something like "what an awful pick - unless it works" I try to look at his numbers objectively. All the numbers that are traditional for old geezers suggest Gary is playing at a high level. PFF disagrees. Gary still is not a starter, though Preston plays a different role and Zadarius is pretty good. IDK. He really seems to be blossoming right now though I don't think he is ready to drop into coverage at present.

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Lare's picture

January 15, 2021 at 03:05 pm

IMO, the Packers defense has a problem with missed tackles. Not sure if that's due to lack of ability, lack of heart, lack of talent evaluation or lack of coaching.

If NFL defensive players don't tackle, they need to find a different job.

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fastmoving's picture

January 15, 2021 at 04:38 pm

Could be a lack of smart watching too......
but your right, lot of guys should had another job (or any job at all), but nobody from our D. We got just good guys and they still improve. What more you can ask for?

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PeteK's picture

January 15, 2021 at 05:08 pm

Lately, there has been more group tackling and support from our safeties which has improved our D.

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Coldworld's picture

January 15, 2021 at 06:46 pm

They tackle better when the D line is more effective. Let’s hope Pettine is taking a similar view as he did against Tennessee

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Leatherhead's picture

January 15, 2021 at 06:05 pm

I have a question. It appears that Donald got in on 45 tackles, Clark got 42, and Lowry got 36. Is that true? Because I’ll need to hear the “Lowry isn’t good “ group explain this.

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Coldworld's picture

January 15, 2021 at 06:51 pm

Being good is as much about getting the opportunity to attempt tackle at the line not by a LB or safety. Look at Winn’s tackle rate per snap. Small sample, but he got in the way far more effectively.

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PeteK's picture

January 15, 2021 at 06:53 pm

Just plugging the hole to make the RB slowdown or change direction is a good play for a D lineman. However, we have seen Lowry pushed back or get completely blocked far too many times. He might also be a victim of our over the cap dilemma for next season.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

January 16, 2021 at 06:05 am

The coaches are still playing Lowry ahead of other options. He has come on in the latter part of the season, registering several pressures in the last five games, including two sacks, and he averaged almost 4 tackles per game (19 tackles).

Stats are stats. It could be that teams ran at Lowry (and at Winn for that matter).

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Leatherhead's picture

January 16, 2021 at 09:07 am

Yes, the coaches are playing Lowry, just like Gutekunst extended Lowry. Is it possible that they understand something about Lowry that the self-appointed cognoscenti don’t?

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porupack's picture

January 16, 2021 at 05:41 am

Kudos for digging through the stats and making some sense of it. Admittedly, i got lost a bit between the metrics, but tackling effectiveness is likely, as you say a very difficult thing to quantify, let alone to then add at what yardage given up before the tackle, and then add the coverage. But, your work was cool, and helps me to be as one poster said above, "smart watching". haha. I'll get my spreadsheet out this afternoon....

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Guam's picture

January 16, 2021 at 08:38 am

Good stuff as usual TGR, thanks! The comparison between Keke and Lowery is interesting. It would appear Lowery is the better run defender, yet Keke has the much higher PFF rating. That would seem to indicate that PFF prefers pass rushing to run defense. Any feeling for that?

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sohankhan's picture

January 16, 2021 at 09:50 am

The Green Bay Packers come out of their bye week and hit the road to visit the Los Angeles Rams, who are the lone undefeated team in the NFL at 7-0. Here's a look at this series - past, present and future.

FOR FREE :https://kotvlive.blogspot.com/NFL/

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