I was reading Big Matt’s great piece on the importance (or lack thereof) of the nose tackle position when I started wondering about how the NT effected other positions. I originally started looking up the numbers in this post for a response to Matt’s piece, but the more I dug into it the more it began to take on a life of its own. First off, when it comes to assessing a nose tackle it’s really all about the run defense. So I decided to look at the Chiefs production versus some of the top 3-4 rush defenses. Six of the top seven run defenses in the NFL run a base 3-4 defense (only Chicago broke up the clean sweep). The six 3-4 teams are the Steelers, Jets, Chargers, Ravens, 49ers, and Dolphins. Kansas City finished the season ranked 14th.
So after the break I’ve broken down several different things. First I compared Ron Edwards directly against the starting NTs of those other six teams in both size and stats. Then I looked at the tackle numbers of the ILBs and safeties on each of the teams to see how the guys behind the NTs were able to perform. The results are after the jump. Warning: this is one of my “stat nerd” posts.
First off, let’s see how Edwards physically stacks up with the NTs of the best rush defense 3-4 teams.
Pit. – Casey Hampton – 6-1, 325
NYJ – Sione Pouha – 6-3, 325
SD – Antonio Garay – 6-4, 320
Bal. – Kelly Gregg – 6-0, 320
SF – Aubrayo Franklin – 6-1, 317
Mia. – Paul Soliai – 6-4, 355
The average size of those six NTs is about 6-2 and 327 pounds.
Ron Edwards is listed as 6-3 and 315 pounds. So he is about an inch taller and a dozen pounds lighter. Also, keep in mind that an ideal NT isn’t very tall, which helps his leverage.
Next I looked at Edwards stats compared to those same six.
Hampton – 20 tackles, 1 sack
Pouha – 59 tackles, 2 sacks
Garay – 48 tackles, 5.5 sacks
Gregg – 38 tackles, 0 sacks
Franklin – 39 tackles, 0 sacks
Soliai – 39 tackles, 2 sacks
The average stats for these NTs come out to about 40.5 tackles and 1.75 sacks.
Last season Edwards had 26 tackles and 2 sacks.
Now, it is important to note that tackles are not really important when judging the most effective NT. It’s really about tying up blockers so that the ILBs are free to move to the ball on rushing plays.
So here is the thought that I had that drove this post. It seems to me that on a team with a good NT you should see a high percentage of tackles by the ILBs with less tackles by the safeties. My thinking is that if the NT is eating up blocks the ILBs should be free to make more tackles. On the other hand, if the NT isn’t eating up blockers then the ILBs would have to engage more blockers and the safeties would have a higher percentage of tackles.
So here’s what I did. I went through and added up the total tackles of the starting ILBs and safeties of all these teams. On teams where there were multiple starters during the season I looked up the game logs and tried to only add in the tackles where that player started so that each team would only have tackles for 16 starts at each position. Now, I could have missed a start here or there and tackle numbers will be slightly boosted if the starting player also plays special teams. Basically, I tried to be as accurate as possible, but this isn’t exactly a scientific study.
The one thing I did think was important was to not focus as much on the totals as the percentage of team tackles. For instance, the Steelers had 118 more team tackles then the Jets so if you were just looking at tackle numbers and not percentage of team tackles the results may not be as clear.
So here are the ILB tackle totals and the percentage of team tackles.
Pit. – 244 tackles, 22.4%
NYJ – 180 tackles, 18.5%
SD – 182 tackles, 18.3%
Bal. – 210 tackles, 20.0%
SF – 237 tackles, 21.9%
Mia. – 181 tackles, 18.0%
KC – 205 tackles, 19.5%
So based off those numbers and my theory that a good NT would lead to a high percentage of ILB tackles, these numbers would appear to prove that Hampton, Franklin, and Gregg were the top three NTs and that Edwards actually did as well or better at freeing up his ILBs then Pouha, Garay, and Soliai.
Now, I also said that I imagined that the numbers would show a lower percentage of tackles for the safeties of teams with a good NT because there wouldn’t be as many ball carriers getting through the ILBs. Let’s see if the safety numbers back up what the ILB totals showed us.
Pit. – 161 tackles, 14.8%
NYJ – 164 tackles, 16.9%
SD – 162 tackles, 16.3%
Bal. – 155 tackles, 14.8%
SF – 131 tackles, 12.1%
Mia. – 162 tackles, 16.2%
KC – 161 tackles, 15.3%
So the order may not be the exact same, but the three lowest percentages of safety tackles are also the three teams with the highest percentage of ILB tackles. The three highest percentages of safety tackles were the three lowest in the ILB totals and once again KC was smack dab in the middle. Now keep in mind that those three teams still finished above KC in rush defense and one of those three (the Jets) was the second best rush defense of all these teams. So clearly there are other factors involved. I still thought that these numbers were interesting. To me they show that Casey Hampton, Kelly Gregg, and Aubrayo Franklin are clearly good at occupying blockers. One of those (Franklin) happens to be a possible free agent. However, when looking at these numbers it also appears that Ron Edwards is doing an okay job, even when comparing him with the NTs of the top 3-4 rush defenses.
I hope all those numbers didn’t give you a head ache and at least some of you found these stats as interesting as I did.
As always, thanks for reading and GO CHIEFS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!