- Coley Harvey, ESPN Staff Writer
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More than half the season remains, but Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict already has 74 tackles. Most defensive players wish they could have that many stops in a single season, let alone after seven games.
But there Burfict is, already on pace to blow right past the 127 tackles he had in 16 games as a rookie last season. If he keeps up his current pace of roughly 10.5 tackles a game, Burfict will end the year with 159. That's a mind-blowing stat.
That said, numbers are numbers -- particularly the ones concerning tackles -- and Burfict tries his hardest to avoid seeing them.
"I don't really look at the tackle stats," he said. "For me to make tackles it's because of the other 10 players doing their job. Some of the leaders on this team, Reggie [Nelson] are always talking to me about my tackles. I'm like, 'It's not even about that. Did we win this week?' That's the question I ask him."
Burfict said another reason he tries to avoid reading tackle statistics too closely is because they fluctuate depending upon whom you ask. His coaches might credit him with more than the official NFL scoring sheet. Sometimes, they might award him with less. Determining tackles has not yet proven to be an exact science.
Whether he hits 127 again or jumps to 159, Burfict has been a true tackling machine, and he's played well.
We start of this Thursday edition of the Morning Stripes by taking a look at just how well he has been performing:
In the words of the headline to this NFL.com story by Marcas Grant, Burfict has been "beasting." All the above talk about his tackle production, and the way he has kept certain pass-catching tight ends and running backs in check in recent weeks leads to this sudden rise of attention around the physical defender. His emotional, passionate, chip-on-the-shoulder style of play probably merits the "beast" label, as well. Check out this blurb on one of the top defensive players for fantasy football general managers.
Burfict will play a big role this weekend for a Bengals' defense that will be facing a New York Jets offense that is run by rookie quarterback Geno Smith. Although Smith has had his struggles, he's also dominated headlines of late because of his apparent ability to lead game-winning drives. He's done that four times this season, becoming the fourth quarterback since the 1970 merger to lead a game-winning drive in his first four career wins, according to Elias. As Bengals.com's Geoff Hobson notes, rookie quarterbacks have had their way with Cincinnati in recent seasons. Since 2008, the Bengals are 7-8 against rookie signal-callers. They'll be looking to reach .500 against Smith.
We'll close out Morning Stripes by looking at how quarterback Andy Dalton has been silencing his critics of late. This comes from the Cincinnati Enquirer's Joe Reedy. It features a comparison between Dalton's blistering performance this October and his not-so-stellar one last October. We'll have our own look at Dalton's changed course later in the day on the Bengals blog.
Finally, we turn to the Jets, where ESPNNewYork.com's Jane McManus has this story on New York's newly-signed backup quarterback, David Garrard. Despite not being on a team, the 35-year-old had been staying in shape this summer by playing flag football with his wife, who quarterbacks a women's team in Florida called the Iron Maidens. Garrard believes the running and cutting kept him in shape enough to make a return to the NFL. While he was mainly brought in to mentor Smith, Garrard is confident he can play if the opportunity presents itself.