Commentators like to throw around the word ‘run-stuffer’ a lot when talking about defensive tackles. Sometimes big-bodied linemen get that label based on size alone instead of actual production. That is why today I’ll be looking at which tackles are actually making plays in the run game, and which are just eating up space.
To evaluate this we will be looking at one of our Signature Stats for defensive players, Run Stop Percentage. The percentage is simply calculated by taking the total number of stops and dividing it by the number of run snaps played. We define stops as any play that constitutes a ‘failure’ for the offense. For example, a 2-yard run on first down would be considered an offensive failure because it doesn’t really improve their position. A 1-yard run on 4th-and-inches that results in a first down, on the other hand, wouldn’t be considered a failure because the offense greatly improved their position.
Run Stop Percentage is a unique Signature Stat because it has meaning for every single position on defense, and you can find them all listed in the PFF Premium section. Defensive tackle, though, is a position where run defense is at a premium. A team can still stop the run with below average corners and safeties, but a sub-par defensive tackle can ruin a run defense.
Now, on to the statistics.
3-4 vs. 4-3
In these statistics we are lumping nose tackles along with defensive tackles. They obviously are not the same position and each position will have different responsibilities depending on the team and the scheme. Of the qualifying tackles, 16 were from 3-4 teams and 61 from 4-3′s. Here is how they compared on average:
Although the sample size is very limited it would appear as though nose tackles are in on more tackles and have higher Run Stop Percentages. The reason may be very similar to why middle linebackers have higher Run Stop Percentages and make more tackles. Since a nose tackle lines up in the middle, he’s able to make plays to both sides effectively. A defensive tackle can be taken out of a play if it is run away from him. So when looking at the stats, this is something to keep in mind.
Run Stop Percentage vs. PFF Run Grade
Even though Run Stop Percentage is probably the most indicative statistic of performance against the run, it doesn’t always equal the PFF run grade. There are a couple of reasons for this. The first reason is that a play can be impacted without making a tackle. Gerald McCoy is a player this can be said about. His run grade is sixth among defensive tackles yet he has only made 10 stops and is 80th in Run Stop Percentage. He routinely holds the point of attack, though, and rarely gives up running lanes.
The second reason is that good run defense isn’t always about making plays, sometimes it is about not giving up plays. The best example of this is probably Henry Melton. He has the second-highest Run Stop Percentage yet a negative PFF run grade. Melton loves to get upfield and is fantastic at it. This shows through in his pass rushing and run stop statistics. He loves to get upfield so much that he’ll sometimes get pushed easily out of a hole, which is a no-no.