Stat Analysis
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2018 Defeats

2018 Defeats
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by Vincent Verhei Our look back at 2018 data continues. Today we are going to focus on defeats, and what they can tell us about some of the best defenders in the league. We have lots of statistics to measure quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, even kickers, but our numbers for individual defensive players are a lot more limited. Defeats are one way to account for defenders who make frequent appearances on highlight reels. As a reminder, a defender is credited with a defeat any time he makes one of the following plays:

  • A tackle that results in a loss of yardage, including sacks.
  • Any play that results in a turnover, including tipped passes which are then intercepted.
  • Any tackle or tipped pass that leads to a stop on third or fourth down.

Your leader in defeats for 2018 is a defender who has been making life miserable for NFC South offenses for several years now.

Most Defeats, All Defenders, 2018
Player Team Pos Pass Dft Rush Dft Tot Dft
Luke Kuechly CAR LB 17 21 38
Darius Leonard IND LB 20 17 37
Aaron Donald LAR DL 21 15 36
Calais Campbell JAX ER 14 18 32
Demarcus Lawrence DAL ER 14 16 30
Lavonte David TB LB 15 15 30
Von Miller DEN ER 19 10 29
J.J. Watt HOU ER 17 11 28
Chris Jones KC DL 21 6 27
Danielle Hunter MIN ER 18 9 27
Jamal Adams NYJ SAF 16 11 27
Chandler Jones ARI ER 18 8 26
Cory Littleton LAR LB 20 6 26
T.J. Watt PIT ER 15 9 24
Cameron Jordan NO ER 15 9 24
Jabaal Sheard IND ER 13 11 24
Jadeveon Clowney HOU ER 10 14 24
Alec Ogletree NYG LB 16 8 24
Matt Milano BUF LB 11 13 24
Budda Baker ARI SAF 14 10 24

Luke Kuechly has made at least 23 defeats every year since he was drafted ninth overall in 2012, even when he missed six games in 2016. He has made the top ten four times in the past, but he has never led the league in this category until now. This is why he was a first-team All-Pro for the fifth time in his career. Kuechly's league-best 38 defeats in 2018 break down like so:

  • A league-high 18 tackles on run plays at or behind the line of scrimmage.
  • A league-high eight tackles on completions at or behind the line of scrimmage.
  • Four tackles on third-down completions that gained yards but still failed to pick up a first down.
  • Three tackles on third-down runs that gained yards but still failed to pick up a first down.
  • Two forced fumbles.
  • 2.0 sacks.
  • One interception.
  • One deflected pass on third down.

(Yes, that adds up to more than 38, because some plays fit more than one category -- in Kuechly's case, a tackle on a screen pass for a loss of 1 yard and a forced fumble.) Kuechly narrowly beats out another linebacker, Colts rookie sensation Darius Leonard, for the league lead in defeats. Leonard made more noise as a pass-rusher than Kuechly, with 7.0 sacks and four forced fumbles. He just missed becoming the first rookie to lead the league in defeats since Houston's Brian Cushing also had 37 in 2009. Aaron Donald of the Los Angeles Rams finished third in defeats, but he won his second-straight AP Defensive Player of the Year award. That's because his total of 36 defeats was exceptional for an interior lineman.

Most Defeats, Interior Linemen, 2018
Player Team Pass Dft Rush Dft Tot Dft
Aaron Donald LAR 21 15 36
Chris Jones KC 21 6 27
Jurrell Casey TEN 10 13 23
DeForest Buckner SF 15 7 22
Damon Harrison NYG/DET 3 18 21
Akiem Hicks CHI 12 9 21
Fletcher Cox PHI 17 3 20
Denico Autry IND 10 9 19
Grady Jarrett ATL 7 10 17
Larry Ogunjobi CLE 8 9 17
Stephon Tuitt PIT 8 8 16
Kawann Short CAR 5 11 16
Kyle Williams BUF 9 7 16
Jonathan Allen WAS 10 5 15
Dalvin Tomlinson NYG 0 15 15
Cameron Heyward PIT 10 5 15
Rodney Gunter ARI 6 9 15
Jarran Reed SEA 11 3 14
Robert Nkemdiche ARI 7 7 14
Leonard Williams NYJ 6 8 14
Sheldon Rankins NO 10 4 14
Kerry Wynn NYG 6 8 14
(Includes all 3-4 linemen and 4-3 defensive tackles.)

Donald had nine more defeats than any other interior lineman. Kansas City's Chris Jones was second at the position with 27, but he was closer to eighth-place Denico Autry than he was to Donald. Donald led the league with 20.5 sacks, and he and Jones tied for the lead with 21 pass defeats. Yes, it is odd to see two defensive linemen ahead of all the edge rushers and linebackers in this category, and it speaks to how great both players are at penetrating into the backfield. Damon Harrison, who played for both the Giants and Lions, led all interior linemen with 18 run defeats.

Most Defeats, Edge Rushers, 2018
Player Team Pass Dft Rush Dft Tot Dft
Calais Campbell JAX 14 18 32
Demarcus Lawrence DAL 14 16 30
Von Miller DEN 19 10 29
J.J. Watt HOU 17 11 28
Danielle Hunter MIN 18 9 27
Chandler Jones ARI 18 8 26
T.J. Watt PIT 15 9 24
Cameron Jordan NO 15 9 24
Jabaal Sheard IND 13 11 24
Jadeveon Clowney HOU 10 14 24
Myles Garrett CLE 17 6 23
Jerry Hughes BUF 11 12 23
Jason Pierre-Paul TB 15 7 22
Bradley Chubb DEN 15 7 22
Khalil Mack CHI 17 5 22
Carlos Dunlap CIN 11 10 21
Dee Ford KC 14 7 21
Frank Clark SEA 14 7 21
Ryan Kerrigan WAS 16 4 20
Cassius Marsh SF 9 11 20
Mario Addison CAR 13 7 20
(Includes 3-4 outsidelinebackers and 4-3 defensive ends.)

It was a disappointing year for the Jacksonville defense, which fell from first in DVOA in 2017 to sixth last season, but still an excellent campaign for veteran defensive end Calais Campbell. At age 32, Campbell set career highs with 72 total tackles and 20 tackles for loss, with 10.5 sacks. Campbell also led all edge rushers with 18 run defeats, but he was not the leader in pass defeats. That honor went to Denver's Von Miller, whose 19 pass defeats included 14.5 sacks. Dallas' Demarcus Lawrence is the other standout here -- he was second at the position behind Campbell in both run defeats (16) and total defeats (30), and his 14 pass defeats were nothing to sneeze at either.

Most Defeats, Linebackers, 2018
Player Team Pass Dft Rush Dft Tot Dft
Luke Kuechly CAR 17 21 38
Darius Leonard IND 20 17 37
Lavonte David TB 15 15 30
Cory Littleton LAR 20 6 26
Alec Ogletree NYG 16 8 24
Matt Milano BUF 11 13 24
Tremaine Edmunds BUF 18 5 23
Tahir Whitehead OAK 9 13 22
Mason Foster WAS 14 8 22
Bobby Wagner SEA 10 11 21
Telvin Smith JAX 10 11 21
Wesley Woodyard TEN 10 10 20
Jaylon Smith DAL 11 9 20
Avery Williamson NYJ 10 10 20
Demario Davis NO 15 5 20
Jayon Brown TEN 14 6 20
Jamie Collins CLE 6 14 20
Lorenzo Alexander BUF 13 7 20
Jarrad Davis DET 12 7 19
Blake Martinez GB 11 7 18
Fred Warner SF 9 9 18
Roquan Smith CHI 15 3 18
Zach Cunningham HOU 8 10 18
Thomas Davis CAR 10 8 18
Haason Reddick ARI 10 8 18

We've already discussed Kuechly and Leonard, so let's spend some time on Tampa Bay's Lavonte David, who finished third at the position in both run defeats (15) and total defeats (30) despite missing two games. It was the sixth time in David's seven seasons he has finished in the top five in the NFL in defeats (that's all players, not just linebackers); in his other season, 2017, he was tied for 18th despite missing three games. All this guy does, year in and year out, is make more disruptive plays than almost any other linebacker in football. Yet he has made just one Pro Bowl (2015) and one first-string All-Pro team (2013). Leonard and Cory Littleton of the Rams tied for the lead among linebackers with 20 pass defeats. Kuechly had the most run defeats at the position.

Most Defeats, Safeties, 2018
Player Team Pass Dft Rush Dft Tot Dft
Jamal Adams NYJ 16 11 27
Budda Baker ARI 14 10 24
John Johnson LAR 14 7 21
Derwin James LAC 16 2 18
Jordan Poyer BUF 11 7 18
Adrian Phillips LAC 11 7 18
Antoine Bethea ARI 11 6 17
Tyrann Mathieu HOU 11 6 17
Reshad Jones MIA 8 9 17
Harrison Smith MIN 9 8 17
Landon Collins NYG 8 8 16
Malcolm Jenkins PHI 10 6 16
Bradley McDougald SEA 12 4 16
D.J. Swearinger WAS 13 3 16
Andrew Adams TB 13 3 16
Quandre Diggs DET 8 7 15
Minkah Fitzpatrick MIA 13 2 15
Justin Reid HOU 10 4 14
Adrian Amos CHI 11 3 14
Tony Jefferson BAL 11 2 13
Kevin Byard TEN 10 3 13
Vonn Bell NO 6 7 13

Box safeties obviously have an advantage here over free safeties because they play closer to the line of scrimmage. Young safeties may have an advantage too -- the top four safeties in 2018 were all in their first or second seasons. Jamal Adams of the New York Jets was the triple crown winner, finishing first at his postion in pass defeats (tied with the Chargers' Derwin James), run defeats, and total defeats. Arizona's Budda Baker was right behind him -- second in run defeats and total defeats, tied for third in pass defeats. The Rams' John Johnson was also tied for third in pass defeats and finished third in total defeats.

Most Defeats, Cornerbacks, 2018
Player Team Pass Dft Rush Dft Tot Dft
Kareem Jackson HOU 16 5 21
Kenny Moore IND 15 6 21
Mackensie Alexander MIN 19 2 21
Kendall Fuller KC 15 4 19
Mike Hilton PIT 12 7 19
Jason McCourty NE 14 4 18
Kyle Fuller CHI 17 1 18
Captain Munnerlyn CAR 15 3 18
Logan Ryan TEN 17 0 17
Janoris Jenkins NYG 14 2 16
Brian Poole ATL 15 1 16
Stephon Gilmore NE 13 3 16
Rasul Douglas PHI 13 3 16
James Bradberry CAR 13 2 15
Denzel Ward CLE 13 2 15
Darius Slay DET 14 1 15
Bryce Callahan CHI 12 3 15
Darqueze Dennard CIN 11 3 14
Jonathan Jones NE 12 2 14
Joe Haden PIT 12 1 13
Prince Amukamara CHI 11 2 13
Shaquill Griffin SEA 8 5 13
T.J. Carrie CLE 11 2 13
Desmond King LAC 11 2 13
Marlon Humphrey BAL 11 2 13
B.W. Webb NYG 13 0 13

Defeats are somewhat meaningless for corners, and tell us a lot more about the circumstances in which a person played than they do his abilities as a player. The three cornerbacks who tied for the lead with 21 total defeats were radically different players. Houston's Kareem Jackson has had about as good a career a corner can have without ever making the Pro Bowl -- he started every game in 2018 and has now started 124 of 132 games in his nine-year career. Indianapolis' Kenny Moore was a slot corner as a rookie in 2017 before collecting 16 starts last year. Minnesota's Mackensie Alexander, meanwhile, only started six games last year, bringing his career totals to six starts in 42 games. He is strictly a nickelback and is not expected to start in 2019 either. Speaking of nickelbacks, Pittsburgh's Mike Hilton led all corners with seven run defeats despite starting only two games. This is the second straight season Hilton has had the most run defeats among corners without seeing enough targets in coverage to qualify for our leaderboards. Forget being a nickelback -- Hilton is more like a 5-foot-9, 184-pound linebacker.

Comments

3 comments, Last at 25 Jun 2019, 5:23pm

1 Re: 2018 Defeats

Maybe this is a dumb question and I'm missing something obvious, but how does Campbell have 20 TFLs but only 18 run defeats? Isn't every tackle for loss a run defeat by default?

3 Re: 2018 Defeats

In reply to by TacticalSledgehammer

Tackles for loss, by PFR's definition, includes all tackles that result in lost yardage -- runs, sacks, and completions.

2 Re: 2018 Defeats

A tackle for a loss on the screen pass (or similar) is a passing defeat, so I'd guess Campbell had two of them.