Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

19 Mar 2013

Best and Worst Run Stop Rates 2012

by Rivers McCown

It's time to start the usual offseason series presenting various 2012 stats from the multitude of Football Outsiders spreadsheets. Today, let's look at Stop Rate for running plays.

Stop Rate is defined as the percentage of a players Plays that were Stops. Plays are any time a player shows up in the play-by-play on defense: tackles, assists, forced fumbles, etc. Stops are plays that stop the offense short of what FO considers a successful play: 45 percent of yards on first down, 60 percent on second down, and 100 percent on third or fourth down.

Obviously, Stop Rate isn't a perfect stat. It measures the plays that a player makes, not the plays he misses or the plays he doesn't even get a chance to miss because he is being properly blocked away from the ballcarrier. Still, it gives you a good idea of where players were making their plays and thus why certain defenses were good or bad at certain parts of the game in 2012.

The tables below are limited solely to running plays, including scrambles. We give Run Stop Rate as well as number of Plays and number of Defeats, plus yards per play, which is the average length of a run past the line of scrimmage when this player had a tackle or assist.

Best Run Stop Rates for LB, 2012 (min. 30 Plays)
Player Team Run
Stop Rate
Run
Plays
Run
Dft
Run
Yd/Play
Ahmad Brooks SF 94% 33 9 1.8
Von Miller DEN 87% 38 16 0.4
Anthony Spencer DAL 85% 65 12 2.4
DeMarcus Ware DAL 83% 36 8 1.8
James Harrison PIT 82% 51 7 2.2
Ryan Kerrigan WAS 78% 32 3 2.2
Erik Walden GB 77% 35 3 2.9
Courtney Upshaw BAL 76% 51 10 2.0
Brian Urlacher CHI 76% 38 13 1.9
Miles Burris OAK 76% 59 7 2.7
Worst Run Stop Rates for LB, 2012 (min. 30 Plays)
Player Team Run
Stop Rate
Run
Plays
Run
Dft
Run
Yd/Play
Ray Lewis BAL 45% 42 1 4.8
Paul Posluszny JAC 46% 95 6 4.9
London Fletcher WAS 47% 77 7 4.7
Dont'a Hightower NE 50% 32 6 3.7
Jameel McClain BAL 51% 55 4 5.4
Tamba Hali KC 53% 30 3 4.4
Bradie James HOU 53% 58 1 4.0
Vontaze Burfict CIN 54% 72 7 3.5
Paris Lenon ARI 54% 83 7 4.9
Sean Weatherspoon ATL 55% 53 10 4.1

You may think that playing 3-4 outside linebacker is a huge help as far as making the left side of this particular list. You may be right. There have been a few 4-3 outside linebackers and the occasional middle linebacker like Brian Urlacher over the past few seasons, but it definitely helps you collect negative plays if you're moving on the snap. Ryan Kerrigan finished first in run stop rate in 2011, so he's demonstrated some pretty solid ability at edge-setting while still collecting pressure and sacks. James Harrison has also been in the top ten in each of the past two seasons. These are only regular season totals, which explains Erik Walden.

Now let me take it to the other side of the list. Ray Lewis retired not a moment too soon, as he and Bradie James not only had terrible Stop Rates, but also contributed just one rushing defeat. One! Lewis, at least, missed time with injuries and had a bit of an excuse considering his advanced age. I pushed hard for James to make the All-Keep Chopping Wood team, but he lost out to Rolando McClain and Will Witherspoon. To have one run defeat in 58 plays -- so not only are you not generating value often, you're not even occasionally chancing into a negative play for your unit -- is pretty unprecedented for a linebacker. We currently have individual defensive statistics compiled all the way back to the 1996 season. The list of players who garnered zero or one run defeat in over 50 plays is very low and populated mostly by box safeties like Lawyer Milloy or Ken Hamlin. Takeo Spikes had one run defeat in 50 plays in 2006, and Ricardo McDonald had one run defeat in 53 plays in 1997. That is the illustrious company that Mr. James has usurped with his performance this season.

As someone who watched every Texans game this season, I have two things to add about James' performance. One is that a certain person we're about to run into may have vacuumed up some defeat opportunities he could have had. The second is that his run defense is, by any rational test of the eye, at least better than his pass defense. Shane Vereen thinks so, too.

Best Run Stop Rates for DL, 2012 (min. 30 Plays)
Player Team Run
Stop Rate
Run
Plays
Run
Dft
Run
Yd/Play
J.J. Watt HOU 98% 58 26 -0.2
Desmond Bryant OAK 90% 30 9 1.4
Geno Atkins CIN 86% 35 11 1.5
Jabaal Sheard CLE 85% 41 6 2.2
Dontari Poe KC 84% 38 6 2.3
Dwan Edwards CAR 84% 37 3 2.5
Darnell Dockett ARI 83% 30 7 2.4
Muhammad Wilkerson NYJ 82% 61 10 2.0
Vince Wilfork NE 81% 43 8 1.3
Greg Hardy CAR 81% 42 8 2.7
Worst Run Stop Rates for DL, 2012 (min. 30 Plays)
Player Team Run
Stop Rate
Run
Plays
Run
Dft
Run
Yd/Play
Justin Tuck NYG 60% 35 2 3.1
Arthur Jones BAL 61% 41 3 3.3
Sean Lissemore DAL 63% 32 2 3.8
Jeremy Mincey JAC 64% 36 8 2.5
Haloti Ngata BAL 65% 43 5 3.0
Elvis Dumervil DEN 66% 35 2 2.9
Chandler Jones NE 66% 35 7 2.5
Sedrick Ellis NO 66% 35 4 2.4
Ziggy Hood PIT 66% 38 7 3.5
Cameron Wake MIA 69% 32 8 2.8

If you read this site at all last year, you know that J.J. Watt had a historical season of footed ball. He obliterated the record for total defeats. He knocked down 17 passes (which is something I will write about soon) by our numbers, and chased the single-season sack record. What might have gotten lost in all that is that he was historically good in run defense, too.

26 run defeats ties Watt with Urlacher in 2002, one behind Zach Thomas' record 27 in 1998. Of course, Thomas had 99 plays and Urlacher had 101. Watt had 58. Watt's 98 percent run stop rate is the highest we have ever recorded (again, the records go back to 1996). Warren Sapp had a 97 percent run stop rate in 2006 (on 33 plays) and Keith Traylor had 97 percent in 2000 (on 32 plays). The common thread there is that the best run stop rate percentages in the league often don't have a whole lot of run plays and barely meet our 30-play qualifying threshold. Paul Soliai had a 100 percent run stop rate this year, but had just 25 run plays. Pat Williams, in 1999, had a 100 percent run stop rate on 29 plays. Watt had a ruthlessly efficient season while still being involved in a ton of plays. These weren't video game numbers; these were evil-scientist-in-a-lair numbers.

The Browns have paired Desmond Bryant with Jabaal Sheard in free agency, meaning they now have two of the top ten in this category. The Jets may not have many exciting pieces at this point, but Muhammad Wilkerson is absolutely in the "Best Non-Watt 3-4 Lineman" discussion. 61 run plays with a strong stop rate is an eye-popping number. If it is possible to be unheralded in New York, Wilkerson has accomplished it.

There really aren't that many defensive linemen who qualify for these lists when you set the minimum at 30, so it's probably best not to take too much out of, say, Cameron Wake being on the bottom-ten list. He's still plenty good and produced a solid amount of run defeats. Ditto Haloti Ngata, who battled through injuries for the entirety of last season.

Best Run Stop Rates for DB, 2012 (min. 20 Plays)
Player Team Run
Stop Rate
Run
Plays
Run
Dft
Run
Yd/Play
DeAngelo Hall WAS 65% 26 8 5.8
Antoine Winfield MIN 63% 43 7 3.1
Dunta Robinson ATL 61% 28 7 5.7
Da'Norris Searcy BUF 60% 25 5 5.7
Eric Weddle SD 59% 49 6 5.2
Ronde Barber TB 58% 36 11 5.5
Keenan Lewis PIT 57% 21 2 3.2
T.J. Ward CLE 56% 48 6 5.9
Mike Mitchell OAK 55% 20 11 4.9
Quintin Mikell STL 55% 42 4 4.7
Worst Run Stop Rates for DB, 2012 (min. 20 Plays)
Player Team Run
Stop Rate
Run
Plays
Run
Dft
Run
Yd/Play
Haruki Nakamura CAR 15% 26 1 11.9
Stevie Brown NYG 20% 30 2 11.3
Stephon Gilmore BUF 23% 22 1 7.5
Atari Bigby SD 23% 30 0 7.7
Josh Wilson WAS 25% 20 2 8.3
Chris Conte CHI 25% 28 2 10.3
Michael Griffin TEN 26% 47 4 9.3
Ed Reed BAL 26% 23 1 7.5
Usama Young CLE 27% 26 1 9.2
Devin McCourty NE 28% 29 4 8.9

What really jumps out about this list is that we might have to say nice things about DeAngelo Hall. (Checks FO constitution.) Ah, I see, we don't have to, but we can be nuanced and admit that while he was still awful in coverage last season, there was some decent sense that went into Jim Haslett's plan to play him more at safety. Hall was in the top-10 in run stop rate for defensive backs in 2011, as well. In fact, with the very successful move of Ronde Barber to safety last season (those instincts off the line were always evident), and the Chiefs talking about potentially moving Dunta Robinson to safety, you may see more of these conversions coming. Defensive backs who can play the run adequately can be valuable in the middle of the field even if they aren't terrific in man coverage. Or, in Hall's case, any coverage.

The bottom of this list is populated by the deep safety brigade: guys who spend most of the game 15-to-20 yards past the line of scrimmage trying to foil post and seam routes. Or, in the case of Haruki Nakamura, failing spectacularly at foiling post and seam routes. In case you were wondering, it's not totally uncommon for a deep safety to have a stop rate below 20 percent; Malcolm Jenkins was at 14 percent last year. It's really just an issue of how guys are used, although that doesn't explain how Stephon Gilmore had such a low stop rate playing cornerback in a lot of Cover-2.

We'll use our last paragraph to give a fond farewell to Adrian Wilson's dominant peak. Wilson had finished in the top ten in run stop rate for defensive backs every single season from 2004 to 2011, but lost his starting role in Arizona last season and slipped from the ranks. Wilson landed on his feet in New England, where the Patriots will take a chance on him and see if he can re-discover his old form at 34.

Posted by: Rivers McCown on 19 Mar 2013

27 comments, Last at 27 Mar 2013, 8:11pm by Mr Shush

Comments

1
by Sam McIlwaine (not verified) :: Tue, 03/19/2013 - 6:13pm

As a Chargers fan it is of no surprise to me that Weddle and Bigby are both in this article. Weddle is brilliant at nearly every facet of Defensive-back play. Bigby is the opposite. He is a limited box player who is horrendous in coverage and can't tackle in the box either as proven by these statistics

2
by are-tee :: Tue, 03/19/2013 - 6:25pm

"If it is possible to be unheralded in New York, Wilkerson has accomplished it."

I can assure you that Wilkerson did get a lot of praise from the local media in NY and was frequently mentioned as a Pro Bowl candidate.

3
by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Tue, 03/19/2013 - 7:03pm

A "play" in this case is a tackle, correct?

it seems like the stat would work better if it was actual "run plays on the field". It essentially punishes players for cleaning up after their teammates. Defensive backs are going to have low rates because a lot of their run tackles come after someone else whiffed. Basically, you're better off missing the guy entirely than tackling him beyond 3 or 4 yards.

I know this stuff isn't available in the standard play-by-play, but at this point, you guys are big enough that it shouldn't really be an excuse anymore.

5
by Jeremy Billones :: Wed, 03/20/2013 - 8:54am

"Defensive backs are going to have low rates because a lot of their run tackles come after someone else whiffed."

Which is why players are only compared to others at their position (and they note that 3-4 vs 4-3 has a significant effect on LB numbers).

10
by Tino (not verified) :: Wed, 03/20/2013 - 2:29pm

Yeah, I would be interested to see this re-calculated using "all rushing plays when this player was on the field" rather than "all rushing plays when this player's name was mentioned in the play-by-play". Neither is perfect, but I suspect the former might actually be a more accurate barometer of player performance (but it's just a guess).

The way this stat is being derived now, it seems to reward good tackling but ignores everything else (i.e. guys who are easily blocked, guys who are poor at pursuit, guys who are caught out of position).

13
by Aaron Schatz :: Wed, 03/20/2013 - 3:26pm

>At this point, you guys are big enough that it shouldn't really be an excuse anymore.

Out of curiosity, how many full-time employees do you think Football Outsiders has?

15
by Insancipitory :: Wed, 03/20/2013 - 4:06pm

Since you guys are kinda like the the facebook to espn's google, I'm guessing 417.86, implying that one of you is kinda short.

17
by Dean :: Wed, 03/20/2013 - 4:49pm

I think the correct answer is closer to 3 or 4. Aaron, whoever replaced Barnwell, his IT guy, and maybe an add to staff with the ESPN money?

19
by Karl Cuba :: Wed, 03/20/2013 - 6:11pm

Aaron, Danny, Rivers and maybe Vince so three or four. Of course that isn't counting the thousand monkeys on a thousand typewriters that cobble scramble together for you.

20
by Theo :: Wed, 03/20/2013 - 6:14pm

6?

4
by Joseph :: Tue, 03/19/2013 - 8:25pm

Interesting to me is that Winfield & Keenan Lewis had good stop rates as well as avg. yd/play given up. Or is that partly from scheme also?

6
by Will Allen :: Wed, 03/20/2013 - 8:56am

Winfield for his entire career, and actually going back to college, is the best tackling corner I've ever seen. He just stones people, with near-perfect technique.

8
by Mike B. In Va :: Wed, 03/20/2013 - 1:04pm

Yeah, I remember when he was in Buffalo being amazed at his tackling skills. He's like the Anti-Sanders.

7
by Led :: Wed, 03/20/2013 - 10:04am

That young fella J.J. Watt might develop into a pretty good player.

9
by Bobman :: Wed, 03/20/2013 - 1:28pm

How could the Colts' historically bad D of 2012 NOT have anybody in these bottom ten lists? I'll assume they have slots 11-13 locked-up in each of them. Nice to see that Erik Walden shows up somewhere other than a Milwaukee beat writer's and the Colts souting room's radar screens... unless of course all of his great plays were coincidentally against the Colts (which I've heard).

Man, Watt's season was just monstrous, and he's so young. How much better can he possibly do? As a Colt fan, I really don't want to know the answer, unless it's "none, none more black." Because clearly, his game goes to eleven. Maybe even higher.

14
by Aaron Schatz :: Wed, 03/20/2013 - 3:27pm

The Colts' D wasn't historically bad at all. It was just run-of-the-mill bad.

27
by Mr Shush :: Wed, 03/27/2013 - 8:11pm

Being realistic, there's a very good chance this was the best season Watt will ever have. I mean, there can't be much doubt he's an unbelievable player, but even the very greatest don't have many years like that. Conceivably, no-one has ever had a year like that. His true long-term level is probably closer to run-of-the-mill All Pro than insane unprecedented dominance.

Which still makes him a player I'm very, very happy to have on my team. Though God knows what they'll have to pay him when the time comes.

11
by RickD :: Wed, 03/20/2013 - 2:31pm

I think I've discovered a data entry error. You have JJ Watt listed with more than twice as many defeats as anyone else at his position.

Just trying to be helpful.

:)

12
by DisplacedPackerFan :: Wed, 03/20/2013 - 2:48pm

Even ignoring the post season I can not see how Erik Walden is being listed where he is isn't an error. Maybe all his spectacularly bad plays just made me forget anything good he did. Or maybe I just remembered too many plays that this doesn't cover because, as mentioned, stat sheets don't list "Walden, pushed 20 yards downfield."

16
by Johnny Socko (not verified) :: Wed, 03/20/2013 - 4:11pm

Yikes! Your description of Walden frightens this Colts fan. Ryan Grigson has described Walden as the guy who will "set the edge" of the Colts defense. Let's hope he doesn't set said edge 20 yards down the field.

21
by DisplacedPackerFan :: Wed, 03/20/2013 - 7:26pm

The other fun thing about Walden is that he is a roughing the passer penalty waiting to happen on the rare occasions he gets to the QB while playing opposite of Clay Matthews. He likes to tackle the QB at about neck level. He started games for the Packers because he didn't get hurt like every other linebacker they employ.

To be fair I'm probably too harsh on him too. He can get blown out and he'll set the edge too wide sometimes, but there were times that he did his job and the rest of the Packers didn't that made Walden look worse than he was. He is also fairly good at bringing the ball carrier down if he gets to them, something the Packers have had issues with the past couple of years. He did actually start to take snaps from Nick Perry before Perry was injured as, in part because he was better at setting the edge, and better in pass coverage. That was mostly due to Perry not transitioning from being a hand in the dirt player in college to a stand up player in the pros as well as they wanted. He also continually beat out 4 or 5 other guys for the top back-up/spot starter/situational downs player spot too.

Walden is a solid back-up. He can and does make a few plays here and there and maybe his conditioning will be better knowing he is entering a season as a starter, as he got worse as the season the went on. He'll get embarrassed at times, but then so do Clay Matthews and Aaron Rodgers. But I still don't think he is any better than a rotational guy.

18
by Vince Verhei :: Wed, 03/20/2013 - 5:10pm

I actually agree in a way with some readers, in that I think Total Run Stops is usually a better statistic than Stop Rate (though I think Stop Rate is useful for highlighting guys at the low end of the spectrum). But with that in mind, here are the top ten lists in total Run Stops by position:

Defensive line:

HOU J.J. Watt 57
NYJ Muhammad Wilkerson 50
SF Justin Smith 46
NYG Jason Pierre-Paul 41
SEA Brandon Mebane 41
ARI Calais Campbell 40
NO Cameron Jordan 40
NYG Linval Joseph 39
OAK Lamarr Houston 38
GB Ryan Pickett 37

Linebacker:

KC Derrick Johnson 66
SF Navorro Bowman 66
STL James Laurinaitis 64
CAR Luke Kuechly 63
GB A.J. Hawk 59
IND Jerrell Freeman 58
NE Jerod Mayo 58
MIA Karlos Dansby 57
DAL Anthony Spencer 55
NO Curtis Lofton 55

Defensive backs:

KC Eric Berry 36
PIT Ryan Clark 29
SD Eric Weddle 29
MIN Antoine Winfield 27
GB Morgan Burnett 27
CLE T.J. Ward 27
NYJ LaRon Landry 24
JAC Dawan Landry 24
STL Quintin Mikell 23
MIN Harrison Smith 22
MIA Chris Clemons 22
BUF Gibril Wilson 22

25
by Scott C :: Thu, 03/21/2013 - 7:01pm

If we knew how many plays a player was on the field for, and how many of those were running plays, there would be more interesting stop and defeat rate stats.

Total stops tells you a lot about a player's total time on the field, some teams have a rotation of players on the d-line or outside LBs that hides them from looking only at the top by count.

22
by Shameless (not verified) :: Thu, 03/21/2013 - 2:42am

As a bears fan it's really weird to see urlacher on this list. I don't have a problem with him not being resigned because it really didn't look like he played well last year to me. Thoughts as to why he would show up so well here?

23
by Steve in WI :: Thu, 03/21/2013 - 10:59am

This is a total guess, but maybe he still performed well against the run because he was able to get himself into the right area to make a tackle and his lessened ability to make lateral moves wasn't as much of a liability as it was against the pass? It also seems to me that while Urlacher last season was a shadow of his former Hall of Fame caliber self, he wasn't really bad either. I think if the Bears could have been sure that they would get the exact same level of play as last year but that he'd stay healthy, they'd have been more interested in re-signing him.

As a Bears fan, I'm not too upset to see him go in general and I didn't want them to overpay, but I have serious concerns about who's going to play linebacker for them next season. I'd have liked to see them figure out a way to keep Urlacher for one more year on that basis.

26
by LionInAZ :: Thu, 03/21/2013 - 10:24pm

What would you consider overpaying? The story I heard was that Urlacher opened with a bid for 2 years at $5.5 million per year, but that the Bears countered with 1 year/$2 million. Makes it sound like Emery wasn't even trying, considering that Ray Lewis made nearly $5 million his final season.

Tough to say. The Bears' scheme depended a lot on Urlacher's ability to drop back in coverage. If he can't do that so well any more, then his value is limited in that scheme. On the other hand, who knows what the Bears' defense scheme will look like next season? Seems to me that Urlacher might still have plenty of value in a more conventional MLB role even if his coverage skills have diminished.

24
by Tino (not verified) :: Thu, 03/21/2013 - 2:37pm

Keep in mind this status is basically asking "when a player makes a tackle, how often was it an effective tackle?", not "how often does a player make an effective tackle?".

It makes no measurement of any of the tackles he did NOT make. So it's pretty apparent that it can be an extremely misleading stat. E.g. a player whiffs on every tackle attempt made during a game except one, as long as that one tackle met the criteria for a "stop", he would have a 100% stop rate.

Or, the guy that chases down a running back for a 40 yard gain (but prevents an 80 yard touchdown), is essentially penalized for great pursuit, whereas his teammate who had the RB in his grasp in the backfield but whiffed is given a pass.