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The Atlanta Falcons, The Secondary And Missed Tackles

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Thomas DeCoud is constantly lit up for his tackling. He takes bad angles, we gripe! He has bad form, we shout! He just plain old misses, we grouse!

With the news that he's been re-signed, I thought it would be an interesting time to re-visit what is undeniably a problem with the Falcons: Missed tackles. Studs like Sean Weatherspoon had key misses, while guys like DeCoud and Dunta Robinson missed a lot. I can't help but think the Falcons would have allowed a couple hundred less yards and less touchdowns had they simply been able to wrap up and bring down, like we all learned to do in Pop Warner.

In an odd sort of way, I'm going to wind up defending DeCoud here, for reasons that you'll see shortly. That's in part because open-field tackling is more challenging than bringing down the guy you've been shadowing, and it's tough to deny that most of DeCoud's missed tackles were in the open field. It doesn't excuse those whiffs, of course, but it helps to explain them.

But it's also in part due to the numbers. The team leader in missed tackles? If you guessed Dunta Robinson, you are absolutely correct:

Robinson: 12
DeCoud: 11

Looking purely at numbers, you'd think that DeCoud was very close to being as terrible at tackling as Robinson. According to Pro Football Focus, you would be wrong.

That's because we're talking about missed tackles in attempts. DeCoud doesn't make the bottom 20 safeties because he made 86 tackles and missed 11, which isn't great by any stretch of the imagination but is not one of the worst ratios in the NFL. The worst belongs to Tanard Jackson, who on 57 attempts whiffed on 24 tackles. Ye gods.

PFF has Dunta with 59 attempts—either the NFL's wrong or they are, because he's listed with 49 tackles—and 12 misses. Dunta's efficiency numbers are bottom five in the entire league, which may have something to do with the horrible tackling form we've been complaining about. No one else on the team placed in the top 20.

So while DeCoud has a deserved reputation as a guy who misses tackles, we've got a worse culprit playing in the same secondary. Something to keep in mind.

The upshot? Dunta Robinson had better do a hell of a lot better in 2012 to justify his salary, but DeCoud needs to cut down on the missed tackles too in order to reach his full potential. Mike Nolan should emphasize discipline, taking good angles and sound tackling technique this off-season.

It could save more than one touchdown in the season ahead.