Eagles Defense Has Much Improved Open Field TacklingBREAKING NEWS, Eagles, General News, News Wednesday, September 19th, 2012
One of the reasons the Eagles defense has been able to perform much better in the team’s first two games has been their open field tackling. It’s not an easy job to approach a speedy and shifty ball carrier in the open field and keep your balance.
The key tacklers on a football team are the normally the linebackers and the safeties, and that’s been the case so far after the first two games.
Middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans, rookie linebacker Mychal Kendricks and safeties Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman have led the way in making open field tackles.
You can do everything else right on a play, putting pressure on the passer, covering the receivers, but if you don’t tackle well you’re going to wind up giving up first down conversions on third downs.
You want to get the ball carrier down by any means necessary. Using the your arm and hands to grab something in the open field is the key.
Making a classic open field tackle is especially tough, but it doesn’t have to be textbook.
You would like to get your feet as close as possible to the ball carrier, so that you can explode with power from your rear, back, and thighs to get underneath him. Getting underneath a ball carrier eliminates his running power because you stop him from pushing and driving off the ground. You wrap him up with your arms after hitting him with shoulder pads.
The big thing I have noticed about Ryans is the tremendous strength in his hands and arms. When he gets his hands on a ball carrier, the party is over. He wraps a guy up like you’re supposed to and doesn’t do any of that collision tackling where the tackler runs into the ball carrier and hopes he falls down without wrapping him up.
Ravens running back Ray Rice is known for the strength of his legs. He’s got those huge thunder thighs, and you see that strength when he breaks tackles. I’ve been told by people who saw Rice workout at Rutgers that he would squat nearly 600 pounds. Those short, stocky and quick backs like Rice are most difficult to tackle, but Ryans had no problem with him.
I remember one play in the second quarter when Rice used those powerful legs to break tackles by Cullen Jenkins and Kendricks, but he was locked down by Ryans immediately. The middle linebacker put a vice lock on Rice, the legs stopped and he had to go down.
We saw him do the same thing to tight end Dennis Pitta as he caught a crossing route from Joe Flacco. Many times,tight ends break the tackles and turn those crossing routes into big plays. That wasn’t the case on Sunday because Ryans and his fellow linebacker Mychal Kendricks did a great job of making one-on-one tackles out in the open field.
Kendricks made some outstanding open field tackles on Rice and tight end Dennis Pitta at key spots during the game. He doesn’t make the mistake of giving the receiver any room to breath. In the third period on Sunday, Rice ran a wide route where he just runs straight to the sideline from his running back position.
He was five-yards behind the line of scrimmage and you wouldn’t expect Flacco to throw the ball to him there. Kendricks didn’t stand at the line of scrimmage, so that Rice would have the chance to catch the football and put a move on him. The rookie was standing next to Rice and tackled him for a five yard loss when the quarterback threw the ball to him.
I like the job that Allen and Coleman are doing as tacklers, although they’re making the habit of going low on ball carriers, which could become dangerous. If you stay up high, you’re sure to grab the ball carriers jersey or something to stop him from getting free immediately, then you get help from your teammates to bring him down.
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