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Summarizing the Dolphins' tackling woes

3/11/2010

In pouring over ProFootballFocus.com researcher Sam Monson's data on missed tackles, what stood out most of all was the abysmal season the Miami Dolphins had in that area.

We knew the Dolphins had trouble tackling, but to see where their players ranked was disconcerting.

They were near the bottom at cornerback and inside linebacker and had an erratic safety.

Tackle data is subjective. The NFL declines to acknowledge tackles as an official stat. The league does list unofficial numbers on NFL.com, but teams generally keep track of their own when coaches break down game film. Team figures are what I quote when writing a story.

It should be pointed out that tallying missed tackles is even more subjective, but when criteria is applied uniformly, then I believe there is value in seeing how players compare.

The Dolphins were atrocious, and the misses certainly contributed to the Dolphins' decision to fire defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni. Inside linebackers coach George Edwards (now Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator) and outside linebackers coach Jim Reid (now University of Virginia's defensive coordinator) also left.

Here are Miami's lowlights from Monson's spreadsheet on a stat called "tackle inefficiency rating," which factors solo tackles and missed tackles:

  • Inside linebackers Channing Crowder and the recently released Akin Ayodele ranked 114th and 106th, respectively, in TIR among 117 graded linebackers (inside and outside).

  • Rookies Sean Smith and Vontae Davis ranked 82nd and 54th, respectively, in TIR among 88 graded cornerbacks.

  • Free safety Gibril Wilson, cut the same day as Ayodele, had a mediocre TIR. But Wilson missed seven tackles through the first six games. His miscues were glaring in Miami's 2-4 start.

Dolphins coach Tony Sparano sounded exasperated after a particularly poor tackling performance in a critical loss to the Houston Texans in Week 16.

"What I'm surprised of -- and this is my fault; this is what I'm disappointed in me for -- is that I take great pride in the fact that we work our team hard enough, and that our team gets better as the season goes on," Sparano said. "We didn't get better in that phase. We didn't get better fundamentally. We didn't tackle well enough."