When the debate about the NFL's elite tacklers surfaces around the water cooler on Monday mornings, the names of Brian Urlacher, Von Miller, Ray Lewis and Patrick Willis are the most likely to be mentioned. And as talented as each of those players are, none of them was statistically considered the best tackler in pro football a year ago. In fact, that honor went to someone who is infrequently considered one of the NFL's best: New York Giants linebacker Michael Boley.
In an editorial that was recently published on Football Outsiders, Aaron Schatz ran down the statistical analysis of the premiere tacklers in the league during the 2011-2012 season. Sitting alone at the top was Boley, who collected 76 total tackles, allowing only one tackle to be broken all year (1.3%).
The 1.3% broken tackle rate by Boley led the league, with Indianapolis Colts linebacker Philip Wheeler and Denver Broncos safety Chris Harris tied at second with a rate of 1.6%.
"Michael Boley's one broken tackle in 2011 matches his one broken tackle in 2010. Yet you never really hear Boley's name mentioned when analysts talk about the best tacklers in football," Schatz wrote.
In addition to Boley, fellow linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka was near the top of the list at 2.9% (two broken tackles, 66 total tackles), as was cornerback Aaron Ross at 1.9% (one broken tackles, 51 total tackles). Ross, of course, is now with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
As a team, the Giants tied with the San Francisco 49ers for the league lead, allowing only 3.8% of their tackles to be broken. 40 players on Big Blue registered at least one tackle broken, which was second in the league to the 49ers (37 players). The Tampa Bay Buccaneers led the NFL allowing 9.0% of their tackles to be broken.
The Philadelphia Eagles were 31st in the NFL allowing 8.1% of their tackles to be broken, the Washington Redskins were 18th in the NFL allowing 5.3% of their tackles to be broken and the Dallas Cowboys were 12th in the NFL allowing 5.1% of their tackles to be broken.
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