Tackling Technique

Submitted by maizedandconfused on November 1st, 2010 at 9:01 AM

[FA Edit: Bumped ahead of coaching kerfluffle due to value.]

So for the past few weeks, we all have noticed the abysmal performances by our defense. There has been lots of ideas tossed around, from GERG being a Defensive Jenius to poor coaching to bad luck/loss of concentration on a few critical plays. One thing that has struck me has been the absolutely atrocious tackling, namely our inability to make one.

Time and again, we have the ball player wrapped up, and then 3 yards later they have picked up the 1st down on 3rd and forever. I thought it was about time to look at tackling, both who is making/missing them and why.

About the analysis:

1. I regarded made tackles as anytime a player made contact with the ballcarrier and that ballcarrier ended up down by contact using solid tackling technique. I did not look at technique of made tackles, as after 1/2 of tape review most of the tackles that were made were of good technique.

2. I classified OOB as out-of-bounds tackles, which could have been a solid tackle out of bounds or a bump out (couldn't find a reasonable way to quantify the difference so they are tackles, but not quite).

3. I designated missed tackles as failing to make a tackle in space, taking an extremely bad angle on a tackle that should have been made, or simply just getting the hit but not bringing down the ballcarrier.

4. Bad Form takes into account any missed tackle that used any of the following:

  •        Head on the upfield side
  •        Arm/Jersey tackling
  •        Any hit at or above the numbers
  •        Getting "shook" in open field due to not breaking down or overpursuit.

The difference here is missed tackles in my mind sometimes come from being literally overpowered or stiff-armed, not a technique avenue. If the UM defender made the hit with the head on the right side and attempted to wrap up but the ballcarrier just slipped through, I counted this as a missed tackle only. 

I reviewed the "every defensive snap" from the MSU and Iowa games and the results are as follows:

MSU Total Plays 57 4 TDs  
Player Tackles OOB Missed Tackles Bad Form
Roh 3 0 2 1
Banks 1 0 2 2
Sagesse 0 0 1 1
Martin 6   1 1
RVB 1      
Demens 1      
Mouton 7.5   3 1
Gordon 4 4.5 1 6 4
Gordon 15 4.5   1 1
Rogers 0 1 2 2
Kovacs 4.5 1 2  
Ezeh 4 1 3 3
Floyd 7 3 3 2
Talbott 1.5   2 2
Black 0.5   1  
Totals 46 7 29 20

So. MSU only, we cant tackle at all. 

Iowa Total Plays 46 5TDs  


Made tackles OOB Missed Tackles Bad Form
Roh 1      
Banks 2.5 1 0  
Martin 1      
RVB 2 1    
Demens 5 2 1  
Mouton 4.5   4 3
Gordon 4 3   2 2
Gordon 15 1.5      
Rogers   1 1 1
Kovacs 7   1  
Ezeh 0.5   1 1
Floyd 4.5 2 4 3
Talbott 1      
Black     1  
Johnson 1      

Totals                  33                    7                    18                        11


  Plays Missed Tackles/Bad Form Missed Tackles/Play Missed Tackles by Bad Form/Play
MSU 57 29/20 0.51 0.35
Iowa 46 18/11 0.39 0.24
Total 103 47/31 0.46 0.30

For Comparison:

Versus our Offense:

  Tackles Missed/Bad Form Missed Tackle/PLay Missed Tackle from Bad Form/Play
MSU-D 48 11/4 0.23 0.08
Iowa D 66 15/8 0.23 0.12

The numbers in this case really demonstrate how bad we actually are at tackling, and that it is a technique thing.

Solid to great defenses, while they might miss tackles, don't do so using bad technique.

Upon watching again, specifically focusing on tackling, the difference between our D and a Big Ten D is that ours seems to lack that killer instict, getting the ballcarrier to the ground regardless. We don't attack downhill, and we consistently have the head of our tacklers on the wrong side to impede forward progress. This could also be a good reason that we haven't seen a ton of fumbles this year as well, as the most common cause of a fumble is a good ol' helmet on the ball.

While the issue might stem from second-guessing assignments and being a half-second late to the hole, the number of times we went high and behind the ballcarrier in these games its simply shocking. Technique is something you can coach, and something you can keep coaching week in and week out.



November 1st, 2010 at 12:17 AM ^

This reminds me of UZR for baseball, or some of those defensive fielding statistics. You are trying to quantify what your mind is telling you, that tackling is a problem. For this to work, you need some basis for comparison. How well does a good defensive team tackle? What numbers do TCU's players put up? What did we do under Lloyd Carr? I see where you are going with this and thank you for the effort, but I think it's a long journey ahead of you.

EDIT: And another point, how do we know it's poor tackling and not a lack of penetration? In other words, if the first contact is behind the LOS, we can afford some missed tackles. If it's 5 yards past the LOS we're in real trouble. I think the DL getting blown off the ball W/O Martin playing was the problem.

P.S. It's "genius" with a g, I was just trying to have a little fun. When I googled "Jenius" the 2nd hit was "Jenius the amazing guinea pig." On 2nd thought, maybe that's what you intended to say about Gerg.


November 1st, 2010 at 12:52 AM ^

Thanks for the critique, 

Added other teams defense vs. our offense (cant tell you about TCU because I dont have video for them, but IM guessing the numbers for MSU and Iowa are about ballpark for good defenses

The depth of the first hit was never really the issue with Michigan. Invariably, if the impact was made behind the line the player went down. 
Almost every missed tackle was somewhere on the edge, and very rarely was it in the backfield. 

Secondly, you can just watch video of the two teams to realize we aren't near physical enough tackling wise compared to the rest of the B10. 


October 31st, 2010 at 11:22 PM ^

Hello, is there anybody in there?  Nod if you can hear me.  Is there anyone home?  Come on now.  I hear you're feeling down.  I can ease your pain.  Get you on your feet again.  Relax.  I just need some information first...

A Chart!


November 1st, 2010 at 10:41 AM ^

This analysis goes right to the heart of a lot of the suck on defense.  We have to lead the Big 10 in yards after contact and that goes a long way to stopping third downs.  It's really tough to identify who is more the blame, coaches or players, but identifying the problem is half the battle (G.I JOE!!!). 


November 1st, 2010 at 11:04 AM ^

like overall, we are missing twice as many tackles as the good defenses of sparty and Iowa, and almost 3x more missed tackles due to bad form. I think we all knew this, but it is interested to see an actual breakdown of it. I still don't understand how Obi seems to have regressed over the years. It would be interesting to see how this compares to another young defense (ala USC with their secondary) and see if the tackles are mainly issues of young guys who didn't have good coaching in HS or if it's truely something that's not taught well on this team.


November 1st, 2010 at 12:37 PM ^

Great work, but maybe it was anger with the defense.  I didin't see many missed tackles.  I saw a bunch of soft zones where the guy was given the first down and we made the tackle afterwards.

The bigger problem on the running game was that no one was getting off blocks.  But maybe I was drinking too much.

I look forward to your analysis of PSU.  However, its interesting that opponents don't have many missed tackles, is that better defenses or poor running backs?


November 2nd, 2010 at 5:59 PM ^

The problem with those soft zones is that we do miss a TON of tackles out in space. This could be one of the most striking differences, in that our defense consistently, due to poor coverage, has to tackle in space without any impediment on the offensive ball carriers options with regard to faking/juking. There are multiple times where tackles are missed, but they force the BC either outside or inside, into another tackle. 

I am looking forward to reviewing the tape from PSU as well.