Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NFL Nation [Print without images]

Wednesday, June 15, 2011
NFC East tackle breakers

By Dan Graziano

Football Outsiders is analyzing broken tackles -- specifically, which offensive players break the most tackles. They admit it's subjective, based on their own film study and interpretations of what a "broken tackle" is, but they also say they had 12 different people charting it, so that's something.

Disclaimers out of the way, the NFC East players who fared the best in this study were LeSean McCoy of the Eagles and Ahmad Bradshaw of the Giants. Each was credited with 38 broken tackles, though McCoy got his in just 285 total touches as opposed to Bradshaw's 323. McCoy's "broken tackle rate" of 13.3 percent ranked 10th among NFL running backs (minimum 80 touches).

LeSean McCoy
LeSean McCoy had a broken tackle rate of 13.8 percent (38 broken tackles in 285 total touches), best among NFC East RBs.
I am not surprised to see McCoy and Bradshaw on this list, and I don't believe the Giants are either. Bradshaw is a force when he's not fumbling, and McCoy broke out as an electric all-around superstar out of the backfield in 2010, catching 78 balls to supplement his 207 carries. Everybody remembers the second Eagles-Giants game of the year for good reason, but I was at the first one, in Philly, and it was McCoy who broke that one open late.

Felix Jones of the Cowboys also does well here. He's credited with 30 broken tackles in 233 touches for a broken tackle rate of 12.9 percent, which sits him just outside that top 10. His backfield mate, Tashard Choice, was not as adept at breaking tackles. FO says Choice broke just two tackles in 83 touches for a broken tackle rate (2.4 percent) that ranked dead last among backs with at least 80 touches.

Some will say this means Jones needs to be "the starter" in Dallas, but I continue to insist it indicates that the backs in Dallas have different strengths and weaknesses and should be used and rotated accordingly. I think if Felix Jones could hold up as an every-down back for a full year, we'd have seen it by now. And I think the Dallas coaching staff should be thinking about ways to maximize all of its backs and their production on a game-to-game basis without worrying about irrelevant designations such as "starter." That's what I think. But they have yet to ask me.

The Giants' Mario Manningham broke nine tackles in 61 touches (14.8) percent to rank among the top 10 in this category for wide receivers. Manningham is an underrated part of a Giants WR group that works the way I keep saying those Dallas running backs should work -- in complementary fashion, each suited for his own particular plays and used accordingly. Manningham's 61 touches were probably more than the Giants planned to give him, but they had injury problems in the receiver corps, and he stepped forward to help pick up the slack during some of that time.

FO also did a team list. The Eagles as a team broke the second-most tackles in the league -- 92, just two behind league leader Tampa Bay. (Yeah, Tampa Bay. Remember, if they beat the Lions in Week 15 or whatever it was, they go to the playoffs and the Packers don't.) The Giants broke 80 tackles, which tied Jacksonville for third-most. The Cowboys' 73 broken tackles was tied with Buffalo for eighth-most. The Redskins' 62 were tied with Kansas City for 20th.

If you're wondering what it all means ... maybe not much. The team with the second-worst broken tackle rate (4.3 percent) was the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers. The only team worse was the New York Jets, who were an AFC finalist. The Jets broke a league-low 44 tackles in 1,078 touches.

One final note: "Tackles" is a fun word to say. Try it. Seriously. Just real quiet, so the guy in the next cubicle doesn't think you're nuts. "Tackles."