Visualizing directional tackle data

Tackle

Sports coaches are not always interested in the statistics, graphs, and charts that their analysts produce. However, in my experience, rugby and American football coaches are always interested in tackle data.  One on one tackling is the cornerstone of team defense in both sports. Missed tackles lead to big plays. They are usually the difference between a good and bad defense. So it is easy to understand why coaches are so interested in tackle data. But assessing tackle performance is notoriously difficult.

Starting 7s recently published an article on Rpubs describing an approach to visualizing tackle data. It categorizes tackle attempts by the clock face number that corresponds to the tackler’s tracking angle relative to the ball carrier. We plot the data using polar coordinate charts that map tackles to their corresponding clock face numbers. Using this approach coaches can quickly see where the majority of their team’s — or their opponent’s — tackle attempts are made and missed.

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A tale of two (NFL) tackles — JJ Watt and Luke Kuechly

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wsj.com recently published an article called What the NFL Can Learn From Rugby. It describes the growing trend of American football coaches learning safer and more effective tackling techniques from rugby.

The article does a great job of pointing out the differences between cheek to cheek rugby tackles and across the bow football tackles. However, two tackles made during the 2015 NFL season’s opening weekend do a better job of showing the differences:

Continue reading A tale of two (NFL) tackles — JJ Watt and Luke Kuechly

Should football players tackle across the bow or cheek to cheek?

In football-speak going across the bow means tackling with the head in front of the ball carrier. Rugby players are taught to tackle cheek to cheek with the head behind the ball carrier. Should football players tackle across the bow or cheek to cheek?

This video shows what happened to helmet-less tacklers who went across the bow on Rennie Ranger.

Continue reading Should football players tackle across the bow or cheek to cheek?