Taking Deeper Look at Missed Tackles

Are the Packers a bad tackling team or are they one of many teams struggling to tackle following an abbreviated training camp?
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – By our unofficial count, the Green Bay Packers missed 10 tackles against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday night. Pro Football Focus counted eight.

“Oh, we had more than that. We had 13 at a minimum,” coach Matt LaFleur corrected on Monday. “There were a couple others where they don’t get credited for missed tackles, but we had some guys that took some bad angles that weren’t in position to make a tackle. So,there were definitely some concerns there, no doubt about it.”

Whatever the number, the Packers tackled horribly and were lucky to escape New Orleans with a third consecutive victory. LaFleur counted five misses on Alvin Kamara’s long touchdown, a highlight-reel play for the Saints and a blooper-reel play for the Packers. Some, such as Will Redmond’s attempt to drop Kamara for a loss, were garden-variety misses. Some, such as Ty Summers’ miss on Kamara, in which his head was on the wrong side, were poor fundamentals. Some, such as Jaire Alexander’s shoulder shot, were embarrassingly lazy.

“You know he’s a great back,” LaFleur said. “The majority of the missed tackles were attributed to him making us miss. I think he’s a great player but, ultimately, that doesn’t matter. You’ve got to find a way to get that guy on the ground and, certainly, we’ll address different ways we feel like we can improve in that area, and it starts with our drill work and we have to carry that over to the team periods of practice and then that’s got to transition to game day.”

All of this begs this question: Are the Packers a bad tackling team or are they one of many teams struggling to tackle following an abbreviated training camp and lack of preseason?

The data from Pro Football Focus shows two things.

First, Green Bay’s missed-tackle count of 23 is smack dab in the middle of the pack. Chicago is by far the best with only eight misses; the New York Jets, with 42 misses, make these Packers look like Vince Lombardi’s Glory Years powerhouses by comparison.

Second, the tackling is actually vastly better than it was at the start of last season, when they missed 32 tackles in the first three games. That defense shows tackling can improve. The Packers missed just 12 in Games 4-6 and finished slightly better than the league average with 7.18 misses per game during the regular season. It was the same story in 2018. In Mike Pettine’s first season as defensive coordinator, his squad missed 35 tackles in Games 1-3 and 16 in Games 4-6 en route to a season average of 7.56.

Improvement should be the expectation. For better or worse, teams simply don’t tackle in training camp. Would tackling in the regular season be better if teams tackled at practice? Sure. But would the defense be better if the star cornerback or linebacker suffered a season-ending injury during a tackling drill in August? Therefore, as defenders get used to seeing game speed on Sundays, the tackling tends to get better.

LaFleur won’t count on improvement coming naturally. His team drills it every day on the practice field and will continue to do in preparation for Monday night’s game against the Atlanta Falcons.

“You have to take everything into consideration,” LaFleur said. “We have to look at what we’re asking our guys to do and make sure that we’re trying to put them in the best position possible. That’s something we work every day is tackling. We have to make sure we’re doing a great job of all 11 giving that great effort, straining for each other, getting multiple players at the ball, so that it’s not one-on-one tackling in space. Because if you give a guy like Kamara one-on-one opps, he’s going to hurt you sometimes, and that came true this past game. We will continue to work on those fundamentals and we need to see improvement.”

History says that will be the case.

Missed Tackles Through Week 3 (from PFF)

1. N.Y. Jets: 42

2. Kansas City: 36

3. Las Vegas: 35

4. L.A. Rams 31:

5. Carolina: 30

6. Baltimore: 28

7. Houston: 28

8. Cincinnati: 27

9. Minnesota: 27

10. N.Y. Giants: 27

11. Philadelphia: 27

12. Detroit: 26

13. L.A. Chargers: 26

14. Washington: 25

15. Miami: 24

16. Pittsburgh: 24

17. Atlanta: 23

18. Green Bay: 23

19. Tennessee: 23

20. Buffalo: 22

21. Indianapolis: 22

22. Arizona: 21

23. Cleveland: 21

24. Denver: 21

25. New Orleans: 19

26. San Francisco: 19

27. Dallas: 18

28. Tampa Bay: 16

29. Jacksonville: 15

30. New England: 15

31. Seattle: 15

32. Chicago: 8