Barrett Ruud the starting middle linebacker of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the past 3 season. Has been the target of some, including many vocal media pundits, fans and yes bloggers, who filled the internet with venom laced tirades claiming he’s not a down hill thumper or run-stuffer, but rather a chase and drag down tackler. Ruud who admitted to reading the bloggers who spew venom openly about how his tackle stats are misleading, as they happen 7-yards past the line of scrimmage, finally decided to take a stand and fire back. Telling St. Petersburg Times reporter Gary Shelton.
“I read the bloggers,” Ruud said, grinning. “I read that I make all of my tackles 7 yards downfield. But a lot of times, a tackle 7 yards downfield is a great tackle, because you can keep a guy from going 60 yards. When I evaluate the great linebackers of the NFL, I see a lot of guys making tackles 7 yards down the field. They’re making a great play when a guy looks like he’s about to break it outside.”
“Last year? I was … good. I wasn’t great, but I wasn’t bad.”
Ruud who the team has yet to offer a contract extension to, is right on target in his self analysis. But the fact this seemingly happens far too often is a reflection of a combination of things. First the subpar play upfront from the defensive line, is partly to blame. But Ruud can’t escape the harsh criticism that he isn’t the greatest at shedding blocks and will never be considered a down hill thumper.
But taking a closer look at Ruud’s ‘Tackle Factor” a term and metric coined by Brian Burke of Advanced NFL Stats.com, who explains the metric as follows: The ratio of a player’s proportion of his team’s tackles compared to what is expected at his position.
(I bet you know where I’m going with this.) What if we looked at the proportion of all 49ers tackles for which Patrick Willis was given credit? San Francisco logged a total of 832 tackles in the 2009 regular season, and Willis got credit for 114, a proportion of 13.7%. Willis is an ILB in a 3-4 scheme, and in 2009 the ILB position in all the NFL’s 3-4 schemes accounted for 21.5% of a team’s tackle total. Because there are two ILBs on the field at once, a single ILB could be expected to average half that, or 10.7% of a team’s total.
Willis’ 13.7% compares very well with his position’s expected tackle rate. His ratio of tackle percentage compared to the expected percentage for his position is 13.7/10.7, or 1.23. In other words, Patrick Willis has a ‘Tackle Factor’ of 1.23; he makes 23% more tackles than you’d expect from his position, which tells us a lot about his ability to shed blocks, get to a ball carrier, and make a tackle.
To compare Willis to other players we can follow the same process. Redskins MLB London Fletcher notched 95 of Washington’s 804 tackles in 15 games last season. Over a full season we could estimate he would have 16/15 * 95 = 101 ‘season-adjusted’ tackles. Fletcher’s adjusted share of the Redskin’s tackles would be 101/804, or 12.6%. The MLB position in a 4-3 defense averages 11.9% of a team’s tackles, making Fletcher’s Tackle Factor 1.06.
Burke who notes there are shortcomings with the metric. In his rankings, rated Ruud with .94 tackle factor. All in all Ruud produced 6% less tackles then expected out of a 4-3 middle linebacker. But based on the eye ball test, and games watched it was clearly evident that Ruud was far too often chasing tackles rather then meeting a runner in the hole and delivering a thunderous hit. Coupling the eye ball test with the tackle factor metric and its clear Ruud underachieved last year.