Aaron Schatz of ESPN Insider and David Gardner of ESPN Football Outsiders took a look at players who had the most missed/broken tackles during the 2009 NFL season. The Football Outsiders staff reviewed every game from last season to come up with this alarming stat.
The Insider and Outsiders classified broken tackles as “one of several events: 'Plays with Broken Tackle' is the number of plays with at least one broken tackle. Either the ball carrier escapes from the grasp of the defender, or the defender is in good position for a tackle but the ball carrier jukes him out of his shoes. If the ball carrier sped by a slow defender who dived and missed, that did not count as a broken tackle.’’ They also point out that it was also possible for there to be multiple broken tackles on one play.
With a 3-13 record, three members of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were among the worst tacklers in the NFL last year. Under the broken tackle definition, Tampa Bay safety Sabby Piscitelli led the league in broken tackles with 19. Teammate Ronde Barber finished second with 16. Tampa Bay safety Tanard Jackson, who missed the first four games of the 2009 NFL season wasn’t too far behind with 10.
On the offensive side, the Buccaneers only made opponents missed a grand total of 41 times. That number was worst in the league, trailing the Green Bay Packers with 44 and the Lions with 48. Meanwhile, the Carolina Panthers' offense lead the league with 117!
When the Buccaneer secondary wasn't too busy missing tackles, the safeties, Piscitelli, Jermaine Phillips and Jackson were often trying to trying to cover up the play of cornerbacks Elbert Mack and Barber.
With the addition of Sean Jones, third round pick Myron Lewis of Vanderbilt, and the return of E.J. Biggers from the IR, Piscitelli will likely lose his job to Jones, while the undersized Mack will be fighting for a roster spot. Barber, meanwhile, is heading into the final year of his contract.
Piscitelli is a former second round pick left over from the Jon Gruden era. However, Raheem Morris and staff do not have a vested interest in him, just like they did not have an interest in wide receiver Dexter Jackson, another former second round pick who was released after one season. Nevertheless, I believe the Bucs will hang on to Sabby for at least one more season to see if he has progressed.
If Barber and Piscitelli can rotate in and play nickel, that would take some of the pressure off the safeties and also keep Mack off the field. With the addition of Jones, Lewis, Biggers, Jackson and Talib, the pieces seem to be falling in place to have a young, aggressive, talented, ball-hawking, and sure-tackling secondary in Tampa for years to come.