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Felix Jones: Tackle Breaker

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Our good friends from Football Outsiders released their broken tackle rates for offensive players yesterday, and we find one Cowboys player near the top of the rankings: Among the 26 running backs with at least 20 broken tackles in 2010, Felix Jones ranks tenth with a broken tackle rate of 12.9%.

FO arrive at the broken tackle rate by taking the number of broken tackles they've charted in their game tape analysis and dividing it by the number of touches (catches and carries) for each player. For Felix Jones, FO have charted 30 broken tackles on 184 runs and 49 receptions.

Aaron Schatz from FO points out that broken tackles are a good indicator for understanding "which ballcarriers are able to power through defenders -- or avoid them with agility -- and which ballcarriers go down quickly when there's contact."

After the break, we look at which other Cowboys player made the FO lists and how the team fared overall.

Broken tackles, like many of the newer advanced stats that are gaining increasing popularity, are a subjective stat, which means they are derived from watching and charting game tape and using a specific and often unique definition of what constitutes a broken tackle. In the linked article, Aaron Schatz from FO explains in great detail what they consider a broken tackle. Read up on it if you want more details.

From a Cowboys perspective, it's nice to see Felix ranked in the top ten list. After all, for years Felix "First Contact I'm down" Jones has been publicly maligned as a player prone to go down on first contact. These numbers prove the exact opposite, at least for 2010. Jones isn't just the speed guy who complements the power guy anymore. Felix "Tackle Breaker" Jones is a physical back who breaks tackles, can get to the outside and gain yards, and has become a serious threat in the passing game.

But there's some unwelcome news in FO's analysis as well as we look at who ranks at the bottom of their RB list. Among the 60 or so running backs with a minimum of 80 touches, Tashard Choice has the lowest broken tackle rate of all backs. The FO game charters saw him break only two tackles on 83 touches (66 carries and 17 catches) for a league low 2.4% broken tackle rate.

As with most stats, broken tackles are good at describing what happened, but not necessarily good at describing why something happened. So there could be all sorts of mitigating factors for Tashard's performance, as broken tackles are often the result of a long chain of events, and not an individual play. Was the hole opened by the O-line big enough; did the fullback execute his block properly; did the back run more inside than outside; perhaps the game charters missed a couple of broken tackles? At the end of the day, it is what it is, Tashard Choice did not break a lot of tackles in 2010.

Marion Barber is not on either list, so his broken tackle rate is probably around average.

Cowboys receivers and tight ends don't show up on the top list for WR/TE in the article, but FO do provide an overall broken tackle rate of 6.1% for the Cowboys, good enough for 11th in the league.