This statistical study is going to ignore pass coverage, and it will instead focus on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerbacks’ abilities to tackle. The Bucs were the worst team last season in terms of missed tackles, and their cornerbacks were also major culprits in this regard. The safeties and linebackers made their fair share of slip-ups (especially Tanard Jackson), but there were three Bucs cornerbacks who were among the worst in the NFL last season in terms of missed tackles, according to this study from the Pro Football Focus. Now, time to tackle this issue.
As it can be seen, the Buccaneers had three cornerbacks who were among the twenty worst in the league in Tackling Efficiency. This means that basically all of their CBs who received significant playing time were unable to make the play.
E.J. Biggers was unsurprisingly the 20th worst cornerback in the NFL last year with ten missed tackles on 63 attempts. The talented but enigmatic Aqib Talib was the 13th worst with eight missed tackles on just 43 attempts.
However, the biggest culprit comes as a surprise to most, because he is known around the league for his ability to play in run support. Contrary to popular belief, veteran Ronde Barber is not one of the best tackling cornerbacks in the league and was the fifth worst CB last season with a position-high 22 missed tackles. The only thing saving Barber was that he missed those tackles in 101 attempts. Still, his ratio of about 4.6 is unacceptable for a player who is starting under the presumption that he can make an impact as a tackler (like Eric Wright of the Detroit Lions).
Fans overrated Barber as a tackler because of his reputation and the misleading stat sheet. While it is true that he had 70 tackles last season, that does not mean that Ronde Barber was excellent at tackling. He racked up statistics that were both good and bad, but the overall ratio of 4.6 is horrible.
At one point in his career, not too long ago, Ronde Barber was a premier corner who made play after play in run defense. He is no longer that guy due to age, and it’s always sad to see a player who has a shot at the Hall of Fame decline. That is exactly what has become of him, and things aren’t going to get easier with his future with the team in limbo.
As Josh Hill highlighted earlier today, there are quite a few quality cornerbacks that the Bucs could target this offseason. Carlos Rogers and Brandon Carr are two intriguing options, and both are more sure-handed than Barber, younger, and they are both far superior in coverage. If the Bucs are somehow unable to make an upgrade at the position, then Barber will have to be re-signed.
Even if they do sign a top corner, there is the chance that Ronde Barber gets re-signed. He would still be a nice veteran glue guy to have as the No. 4 corner to help out the younger guys and give some depth. However, he has at the point in his career when he needs to take a backseat role. There is no way that he gets paid anywhere near the $4 million he earned in 2011, so a paycut is definitely in order.
It’s no secret that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense struggled last season with their tackling, but they were not alone in the NFC South. The Carolina Panthers have some top talent in the secondary, as far as pure covering goes, but their safeties had huge problems with tackling, as did Chris Gamble (second lowest opposing QB Rating) and Darius Butler.
The Bucs defense definitely struggled on a whole with their tackling, and the whole back seven looked lost at times. It’s painful to watch a defense break down and struggle with their fundamentals, and several linebackers will need to be weeded out from last years team. Upgrades need to made, and it’s great to have $67 million available to make those moves. Of course, one must spend wisely.
Cornerbacks are expected to make the tackle to avoid giving up the huge play, so it’s disappointing to see that three of the Bucs cornerbacks were among the worst in the league. The corners are supposed to be the reliable guys, so getting burned and letting the receiver waltz by don’t exactly help out the overall defensive numbers and record out. The advanced statistics supplement what we see on TV and give us striking numbers to properly put performances into context. Unfortunately, the performances of the Bucs cornerbacks last season was far from good.
You can follow Joe Soriano on Twitter @SorianoJoe.