About a month ago, I posted an article called “Free agent CB Brandon Carr should be tops on Cowboys’ wish list.” I later compared him to Cortland Finnegan, arguing why I prefer Carr. To say I’m excited about the addition is an understatement.
Another player I desperately want, and one with whom the Cowboys are speaking, is former Panthers linebacker Dan Connor. Connor is on the small side at 230 pounds, and that’s particularly true for a 3-4 'backer. With the increased importance of pass defense and overall defensive quickness, though, I think Connor would be a tremendous addition to Rob Ryan’s defense.
I spent some time analyzing 2011 linebacker tackle rates:
Of the 50 linebackers who played at least 25 percent of their team’s snaps in 2011, only one (Donald Butler of San Diego) had a greater tackle rate than Connor.
Only 14 linebackers made a tackle on more than 10 percent of the snaps they played. Connor checked in at 11.74 percent. As a comparison, Sean Lee made a tackle on 9.33 percent of his snaps, Bradie James brought down the ball-carrier on 8.45 percent of snaps, and Keith Brooking came in at 8.31 percent.
By the way, there’s a pretty strong correlation between tackle rate and “consensus” linebacker ratings. Among the league’s leaders in tackle rate are D’Qwell Jackson, NaVorro Bowman, London Fletcher and Derrick Johnson.
Of course, Connor’s lackluster defensive teammates may have contributed to his total a bit, and 62.1 percent of Connor’s snaps came against the run. Still, I think he’s a play-making linebacker who can overcome his size to become a nice complement to Sean Lee inside.
He’s an automatic upgrade over James and Brooking, and could provide much-needed competition to second-year man Bruce Carter.