From Mike Patton at Yahoo.
Monson has the tenacity to perform the homework and brings home some great analysis
We’ve combined 3-4 outside linebackers with 4-3 defensive ends to produce a list of ‘edge rushers’ and run the missed tackle numbers for them all. What we find is the biggest spread in performance yet, ranging from the near-perfect to the worryingly poor.
As a reminder, Tackling Efficiency is a simple ratio of missed tackles to number of attempts: Solo tackles + Assists + Misses / Missed Tackles = TE. As with the other studies, we imposed a threshold of 1,200 snaps for a player to meet before they were included in the list. This eliminated all rookies and provided a healthy sample size or more than a full season’s worth of play over the past three years.
The Active Outside
No edge rusher has made more tackles over the past three years than the Cowboys’ Anthony Spencer. The Dallas defender gets criticized for failing to deliver big sack numbers opposite DeMarcus Ware, but a closer look reveals Spencer does bring pressure, and is an extremely active and effective player against the run. Over the past three seasons he has notched 162 solo tackles and 23 assists and earned a +35.2PFF grade for his work in the run game. Spencer may never be the player Dallas fans want him to be, but it would be a mistake to write him off as inadequate; he is a solid performer in all areas of the game.
Close behind Spencer is Pittsburgh’s James Harrison, who has recorded 155 solo and 29 assisted tackles over the same period. Harrison is a player that has a legitimate case to be called the best outside linebacker in football, bringing a devastating pass rush along with prolific tackling. These two players are some way clear of the chasing pack in terms of their volume of tackling alone.
Here is where the angry Dallas fans do have something they can rightly complain about, because in addition to leading the edge rushers in tackles made over the past three seasons, Spencer has also led them in missed tackles over that period with 18. To be fair to him, he is tied for the lead with the Patriots’ Rob Ninkovich, who has missed the same number with a little more than half of Spencer’s tackle count.
Clark Haggans, a player that always looked a little light for the position, is next in line with 17 misses, one ahead of the Jets’ Calvin Pace. Next follows a trio of players with 15 missed tackles: Tamba Hali, Clay Matthews and Brian Orakpo prove that missing tackles won’t hold you back from becoming an elite playmaker if you can do everything else pretty well.
The Good and Bad of the TE Ratio
Now we get down to the important part–the players who have managed the best and worst ratios when it comes to missed tackles.
At the top we find Alex Brown, who despite not playing in 2011, was good enough in the two seasons prior to miss just a single tackle on 68 attempts. He is followed by Elvis Dumervil, who is, it turns out, a very reliable tackler in addition to being a speedy pass-rusher. Dumervil has also only missed one tackle, although with fewer opportunities than Brown, with 61 attempts.
Derrick Harvey might be seen as a significant draft bust, but he also has just the lone missed tackle to his name over the past three seasons from his 59 attempts. Those three players have a significant gap at the top of the table, with the next man up having a ratio of one miss for every 31.8 attempts (Spencer Johnson).
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The player with the most misses, Ninkovich, also holds the worst ratio among edge rushers with a miss every 6.9 attempts. That’s not quite Asante Samuel territory, but for a linebacker like him it’s a pretty poor ratio, especially given how many of them came against Tim Tebow and the Broncos’ option offense. One of Ninkovich’s former teammates, Tully Banta-Cain is next up with a miss every 7.5 attempts andDwight Freeney is close behind with a miss every 7.8 attempts.
People have accused PFF of being a little too hard on Jason Pierre-Paul after the season he had, but we can’t deny there was negative in that season as well. A double-digit total of missed tackles left him with a ratio of a miss every 8.1 attempts and landed him in the Bottom 5 league-wide. As we have discussed before, missed tackles don’t preclude you from great play, but they’re always going to drag your performance down somewhat, and it’s an area we would look for JPP to improve on as he goes forwards.
John Abraham and Lamarr Woodley are another pair of big name pass rushers with poor ratios that find themselves in the Bottom 10 (along with Matthews and Chris Clemons) while Julius Peppers only narrowly escapes that unwanted distinction.
PREDICTION: We win the division but not easily
The Saints will embark on the 2012 season without Sean Payton, who has won 62 regular season games in six seasons as coach. (Getty Images)
With NFL training camps just around the corner, we’re taking a team-by-team look at how the offseason played out and what you can expect in 2012. Click here to read them all.
We’ve all heard plenty about the Saints this offseason, but let’s go back to a happier time in New Orleans, before Gregg Williams became the NFL’s Public Enemy No. 1 and the organization’s 2012 was thrown into utter disarray. It wasn’t that long ago, but it feels like it was.
Much was made of Drew Brees paying for the team’s players to hold their own minicamps in the midst of the lockout. Whether the sessions made a difference is up for debate (Green Bay, who didn’t hold player-only camps, did just fine at 15-1), but the team did have a dominant 2011, including an eight-game winning streak to end the regular season, a run that increased to nine after the Saints beat the Lions in the playoffs’ wild card round.
But after that win over the Lions, the Saints took to the road to face the 49ers, and that’s when the fun stopped. New Orleans was battered physically throughout their 36-32 loss to San Francisco, and embarrassed late when the defense couldn’t hold a lead in crunch time, allowing Alex Smith and Vernon Davis to have their way and win on a last-second touchdown that left the entire French Quarter crying in its beer.
In the run-up to that game, pundits wondered whether the Saints, who went 8-0 at home in the regular season, could win in a tricky road environment like San Francisco’s. It’s tough to say how much the elements played a part in that loss (the Saints did pile up 472 yards of offense), but it’s clear that they’re a much stronger team at home. A 13-3 record in most years would have been enough to secure the No. 1 seed, or at least a first-round bye. But in a year in which the Packers and 49ers excelled, the Saints were stuck going the long way to the Super Bowl. Their goal this year is clear: win enough games to stay in the Superdome throughout the entirety of the playoffs. With the Super Bowl taking place in New Orleans this season, the team surely realizes it might not have to travel this postseason. But getting to the playoffs will be hard enough as it is, given what’s happened since that 49ers loss.
2011 Record: 13-3 (first in NFC South; lost to 49ers in divisional round)
Key Additions: DT Brodrick Bunkley, G Ben Grubbs, LB Curtis Lofton, LB David Hawthorne, LB Chris Chamberlain
Key Subtractions: WR Robert Meachem, G Carl Nicks, CB Tracy Porter, LB Jo-Lonn Dunbar, DT Shaun Rogers
Team Strengths: QB, RB, TE, LB
Team Weaknesses: WR, DL
Three Things to Watch:
1. How will the team handle the bounty fallout?: Never before have we seen discipline like that levied against the Saints for their alleged bounty program. And while the parties involved are still putting up a good fight, it’s unlikely to change anything; the team will still miss Sean Payton and Jonathan Vilma for the season, along with Mickey Loomis, Will Smith and Joe Vitt for significant stretches.
In the wake of the punishment, the team has adopted an us-against-the-world mentality. That’s easy to do in the summer, but will they keep that fire all season long missing Payton, one of the most passionate coaches in the league? It’s tough to gauge, because of the unprecedented nature of the situation, but we can take an educated guess.
In the Saints’ favor is a core roster that has spent a lot of time together over the last few years, making them better equipped to handle the adversity. And despite losing Payton, the team still has some talented, experienced coaches on the staff, be it Vitt (after he serves his own suspension, of course), offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael or defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. Then there’s Drew Brees, who will definitely play this year despite his contract impasse. You’ve heard that Brees is an extension of Payton, and that’s no exaggeration. The QB is a coach himself on the field, and brings the same intensity of Payton.
The doom and gloom predictions from some won’t fully come to fruition. There will be moments where it’s obvious that Payton is missed, particularly early in the season when Vitt is gone and the team tries to figure out where the new leadership will come from and what the gameday hierarchy will look like (think certain game-planning aspects, timeouts, challenges, etc.), but it’s hard to see the Saints going from 13-3 to under .500, despite the historic sanctions.
2. How will the arrival of Steve Spagnuolo impact the defense?: Gregg Williams was a savior in 2009, the missing Super Bowl piece. How things have changed. Williams left the Saints before the bounty scandal came to light, because his defense proved inconsistent and ultimately ineffective in 2010 and 2011, including horrible playoff showings against the Seahawks and 49ers in consecutive years. All eyes will now be on new coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s 11 men, what they do and how they do it when on the field. Every tackle, every injury to an opposing player will be scrutinized. Out of this mess, Spagnuolo has to get more production from his unit while at the same time instilling a radical culture change.
The biggest challenge on the field will come with getting more from a woeful pass rush that didn’t get much help. New Brodrick Bunkley will provide a stouter inside pass rush while at the same time plugging the run better than the Shaun Rogers/Aubrayo Franklin tandem from last year, and the team is expecting bigger things from converted linebacker Martez Wilson and Junior Galette in that area. The team’s other glaring weakness on defense, linebacker, has been addressed with wholesale changes. Vilma, of course, will miss the season, but he’s been on the decline with chronic knee problems recurring last year, and was possibly on the way out anyway. Curtis Lofton on the inside, and David Hawthorne and Chris Chamberlain flanking him, represent a major, major upgrade over what the team trotted out last season.
Getting more help from the front 7 will take the load off of a secondary that is actually underrated, but was often left hanging out to dry.
3. Will the passing game be as explosive as in recent history?: It seems a bit weird to question Brees and the Saints’ air attack, as it’s finished in the top 5 in the league every season since Payton and Brees arrived in 2006, including first-place showings in 2006, 2008 and 2011. But it was clear something was different, even last year as Brees was eclipsing Dan Marino’s single-season passing mark and the team toppled franchise marks.
In the past, the Saints were generous with how they spread the ball out, but it appeared last year as if teams slowly started to figure out how to defend the multi-option attack, and as a result Brees often became reliant last year on Jimmy Graham and Darren Sproles. While those aren’t bad options to have at your disposal, it meant that the team couldn’t dictate things as much as they’ve been used to in the past. You also can’t underrate Robert Meachem’s departure; with more key free agents than any other team this offseason, the Saints couldn’t keep everyone, and they opted to bring back Marques Colston over Meachem at receiver. That seems like the wise choice, as Colston has been one of Brees’ preferred targets and a top receiver since being drafted in 2006, but Colston’s health is increasingly becoming an issue, and the team doesn’t have a receiver with a complete No. 1 skillset otherwise with Meachem gone. Lance Moore is an excellent hands guy, and Devery Henderson has his moments, but that’s about it. Adrian Arrington has yet to prove he is capable of handling a bigger role, and while rookie Nick Toon is promising, he probably won’t get much work this year. The team might have kept the wrong wideout for the future. Plus, while Brees could probably practice this offense in his sleep, you have to at least wonder what kind of effect his ongoing absence will have on the chemistry with his receivers, especially without Payton’s prowess on the sideline.
The Saints’ passing game should still be one of the league’s best, definitely top 10 and probably top 5 again. But don’t expect another record-breaking performance, which the Saints may need if the defense can’t find its footing under Spagnuolo soon enough.
Outlook: Again, it’s hard to see the wheels completely falling off the Saints this year; there’s still way too much talent and familiarity within the organization. But in a year in which the rest of the NFC South should all be better, don’t expect the Saints to run away with the division. I still expect them to win it, but it’ll be a season-long fight with the Falcons, and maybe the Bucs, to get there. Given what the Saints are facing this season, that’s still pretty impressive.
– By Tom Mantzouranis
Borrowing the popular idea from the NFL Network, our Saints coverage team came up with our ranking of the top 25 players on the Saints’ roster heading into the 2012 season. The idea is to make these rankings as current as possible – essentially deciding who would be the best players on the field if they lined up for a game today. Therefore, past accomplishments and potential are both factored in.
Obviously that led to some tough decisions, and obviously that will lead to plenty of second guessing. And we’d love to hear it. Feel free to vote on the rankings and add your comments below as we unveil the list daily leading up to the start of training camp.
NO. 18 P THOMAS MORSTEAD
Age: 26. Year: 4. Ht., Wt. 6-4, 225.
SAINTS COLUMNIST MIKE TRIPLETT’S TAKE:
A punter? At 18th overall? Absolutely.
In fact, Morstead could be even higher on this list since he is one of a small handful of Saints who has consistently performed among the elite players at his position throughout the NFL. He was the first alternate for the Pro Bowl last year and will almost certainly earn a trip to Hawaii in the near future.
Morstead’s booming leg has been a huge asset on both punts and kickoffs. His net average of 43.1 yards per punt ranked second in the NFL last year. And he broke the NFL record for touchbacks in a season on kickoffs with 68. Obviously it helped that the league moved kickoffs up by five yards last year – and it helped that the Saints scored so much – but Morstead was still 15 touchbacks ahead of anyone else in the NFL.
SPECIAL TEAMS COORDINATOR GREG MCMAHON’S TAKE:
“He can kick touchbacks, which is good. He’s kicked 68, which is an NFL record. He’s an elite punter. His strength is his ability certainly, but also his work ethic and his ‘come early, stay late, get better’ (attitude). He just feels like he’ll be better this year than he was last year. He’s a tremendous talent for us and he’s a good worker.”
What’s your take on Morstead’s ranking? Too high? Too low? Just right? Give us your take in the comment stream below.
Florio pokes some more holes in the Ommish’s logic.
Stephanie Stradley, lawyer and sports writers, takes up some more Saints related questions.