Next to offensive linemen, linebackers are the hardest position-player to quantifiably, as well as qualifiedly, evaluate. It’s easy to look at a guy like Ray Lewis and understand the positive impact his play has on the teams defense, but where the evaluation gets tricky– even deceiving–is for a guy like Indianapolis Colts, Pat Angerer. He leads the league in tackles with 90. As a mark of comparison, the next highest is NaVorro Bowman with 68. What do we make of a guy like Pat Angerer?
Prior to this season, D’Qwell Jackson was sidelines with an injury that kept him off the field for nearly two consecutive years. Before his career threatening injury, he led the league in aggregate tackles. This was a surprise to Browns fans, because, not only were we stunned that a Cleveland Browns player could ever lead the league in any positive statistic, but it never crossed our minds that D’Qwell Jackson was anything more than a serviceable linebacker in the NFL.
Currently, Jackson finds himself healthy and he is again among the tops in the league for tackles; however, this time there is something different about him–something that separates him from Pat Angerer, and something that separates him from, say, Clay Matthews. What’s that difference? D’Qwell Jackson does everything, he’s the NFL linebackers equivalent to a five tool player in baseball.
Tackles are an overrated stat, is it any surprise a guy from the Colts leads the league in that department? The Colts defense is laboring on the field for extreme durations of game time. The same could be said about the Browns, who are susceptible of allowing elongated, slow, “short chunks of yardage” drives. No one will ever mistake D’Qwell Jackson for Terrell Suggs or LaMaar Woodley, but perhaps he’s not as far off as we thought. Perhaps, maybe, he is–do I dare say–better than the likes of those two notable names?
How do even begin to determine who is “better” when comparing linebackers? We all have our own determining factors like sacks, hard hits, and interceptions, but overall, our determination is pretty subjective. Having said that, I can’t state a case for D’Qwell Jackson’s pro bowl candidacy, but I can point out how under appreciated Jackson is in the minds of Browns fans and NFL followers everywhere.
According to advancednflstats.com, Jackson has a tackle factor of 1.59, which is good for third in the league among all linebackers. What that means is he makes %59 percent more tackles than what would be expected from someone who plays his position. In comparison, Chris Gocong and Scott Fugita who play opposite of Jackson have tackle factors or .81 and.50. The thing about the tackle factor stat is that, overall, it is a great indicator unless we are talking about a player who thrives on making big plays; in that case the stat is not so friendly. That’s why a guy like Aldon Smith, who has seven sacks, also has a tackle factor of .38. Where Jackson’s case gets interesting is that he’s the only one in the top ten of the league in tackles for loss who has a tackle factor above 1. Of the top 30 players in tackle factor, Jackson and Desmond Bishop are the only two with three or more sacks.
What hurts Jackson is that, over the last decade of the NFL, actually, over the last fifty years, a linebacker’s value and worth has been subjectively determined on the basis of how much they scare opposing defenses. It’s safe to say when you think of the guys you would least want staring you down prior to the snap, D’Qwell Jackson isn’t exactly one of those guys to shiver your spine. But is that so bad? Taking into account all of the statistics and factors in a standard deviated format, Jackson would rank first, second, or third, (interchangeably) in the league among linebackers with Desmond Bishop and NaVorro. Whether a coincidence or not, these three players are tops in the league in solo tackles. The same cannot be said about Indianapolis’ Pat Angerer and Kavell Connor with 45 and 32 assists on tackles.
So all of this leads me to ask, who and what are you D’Qwell Jackson? Are you actually among the best? Are you actually an ideal prototype of what teams would want in a linebacker? Or are you a result of a poor run defense where opposing teams make habit of giving you free tackles? Or maybe, just maybe, you are a player whose accolades are hidden in the shadows of some of the most feared LB’s in the league like Brian Urlacher, Ray Lewis, Clay Matthews James Harrison, LaMaar Woodley, and DeMarcus Ware?
If you ask me, the Phil Savage regime deserves a little bit of credit for once as they were the ones who drafted Jackson. Amongst all the offensive turmoil the team is finds itself in every week, Jackson is something for fans to smile about.