News & Analysis

Signature Stat Spotlight: Linebackers

PFF's in-depth charting and advanced stats look beyond the box score to identify key metrics otherwise overlooked across all positions in the NFL. This “Signature Stat Spotlight” series will walk readers through the varying advanced stats and metrics we track for every player at every position in every game.

Moving on to linebackers in our Signature Stat Spotlight series, we’ll discuss tackling efficiency (attempted tackles per miss), run-stop percentage, passer rating allowed, yards after the catch per reception allowed, pass-rush productivity among other advanced stats tied to linebackers in PFF’s Premium Stats 2.0.

[Editor’s Note: To dive into PFF’s grading system and Premium Stats 2.0, subscribe to PFF’s ELITE – Monthly or ELITE – Annual subscription.] 

PFF charts defensive stops on passing and running downs, which are recorded when a defender makes a tackle (includes sacks) and limits the offensive player from gaining 45% or less of the yards needed to move the chains on first down, 60% or less on second down or prevented from picking up the first down on third/fourth down. We then calculate the run-stop percentage (defensive stops recorded on running downs/run-defense snaps) from our stop charting for all defenders, including off-ball linebackers.

In addition to the above metrics, I’ll also dive into first contact percentage, forced incompletion percentage and PFF’s advanced positional charting that tracks where all defensive players, including off-ball linebackers, line up on every play.

Signature Stat Spotlight Series:  

QB | RBWR | TE | OLDL | LB | CBS

Tackling Efficiency

Los Angeles Rams off-ball linebacker Cory Littleton, who will enter free agency as an unrestricted free agent if not re-signed, missed just one tackle across his 126 tackle attempts in 2019. His 126.0 PFF tackling efficiency ranked first among the 51 NFL off-ball linebackers with at least 80 combined tackles attempts in 2019 (including the postseason). San Francisco 49ersDre Greenlaw ranked second and former Carolina Panthers off-ball linebacker Luke Kuechly ranked third at 25.0 and 23.3, respectively.

New England PatriotsJamie Collins missed 16 tackles across his 85 combined tackle attempts in 2019, giving him an NFL-low 5.3 PFF tackling efficiency. Colling and Philadelphia EaglesNathan Gerry were the only two off-ball linebackers with a PFF tackling efficiency below 6.0 in 2019.

Run Defense

Houston TexansZach Cunningham, in addition to leading the NFL in total combined stops, led all off-ball linebackers with 200-plus run-defense snaps in PFF run-stop percentage. He recorded a defensive stop on an NFL-high 14.1% of his run-defense snaps this past season. Cincinnati Bengals rookie Germaine Pratt was the only other qualifying off-ball linebacker with a run-stop percentage above 11% in 2019.

Detroit LionsChristian Jones recorded the lowest PFF run-stop percentage of any qualifying off-ball linebacker in 2019 at 3.1%. Jones, Greenlaw, Mychal Kendricks and Mark Barron all recorded PFF run-stop percentages below 4% this past season.

Coverage Defense

Among the 66 off-ball linebackers with at least 30 targets in coverage in 2019, Collins was the only one with a passer rating when targeted under 73.0. He allowed just 27 receptions from 34 targets for 205 yards, zero touchdowns and three interceptions this past season.

Player Targets Receptions Yards TDs INTs Passer Rating Allowed
Jamie Collins Sr. 34 27 205 0 3 55
Eric Kendricks 72 38 419 2 1 73.8
Darius Leonard 74 59 559 2 5 79
Kwon Alexander 35 28 211 0 1 79.9
Alexander Johnson 39 36 265 0 1 84.3

Oakland RaidersTahir Whitehead allowed a 150.5 passer rating when targeted in 2019, the highest figure of any off-ball linebacker with at least 30 targets.

So much of a linebacker’s role in coverage is limiting yards after the catch. Allowing a high completion percentage at off-ball linebacker is common; the difference-makers at the position limit production after the catch.

Soon-to-be unrestricted free agent Joe Schobert led all off-ball linebackers with 30-plus targets in 2019 in yards after the catch allowed per reception allowed at 3.71. He and Philadelphia EaglesNigel Bradham ranked first and second at 3.71 and 3.83, respectively.

To continue to learn more about PFF’s advanced stats, please stay tuned for the rest of our Signature Stat Spotlight Series. Or, better yet, subscribe to PFF’s ELITE subscription to dive into the numbers yourself throughout the offseason and into next season.

Signature Stat Spotlight Series:  

QB | RBWR | TE | OLDL | LB | CBS

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