Breaking Down the Chiefs: Tyson Jackson

We've been here before, even though it seems like forever ago. In case you don't remember me, I'm MNchiefsfan, and I talk about the Chiefs sometimes

I'm going to cover a LOT of territory here, so no time for a decent intro (or even really an intro. I'm going to do more like an "in"). How do bullet points grab you?

- I'm breaking down some Chiefs players this offseason

- I'm doing this because before we really know what we "need" or what to expect next season, we need as much information as we can get on the guys we currently have playing for us.

- I base these breakdowns off basic stats, ProFootballFocus stats and game tape. A lot of game tape. At least a couple hundred snaps or I don't do the post (hence the amount of time between this post and the last one).

- I end each breakdown with a scale of 1 to 10 of "Replacement Need". 1 is a guy like DJ, who I wouldn't trade for anyone else in the league at his position. 10 Is a guy like... well, I don't want to hurt feelings. So I'll say it in code. 10 is like a guy whose name rhymes with Carry Prichardson (What do you mean my code sucks?).

- This is not for a more casual fan. This is long, in depth, and as detailed as I can possibly get. I'll try to lighten it up with a joke or two along the way, but this is for the hardcore fan that wants to know EXACTLY what T-Jax did this year. If that ain't you, move along (although I don't know how many fans like that are here on AP...)

Today's focus... Tyson Jackson. Yeah, we're going there. (h/t to Steve and Kalo for both helping me with my research process. You guys are men among boys. And h/t to NFL Rewind for allowing me to watch hundreds of snaps over and over. If you want to talk with authority about a player, you REALLY need to be able to do the legwork. All right, enough h/t love. Let's do this)

***** Late Addition: some have asked me to post a link to my breakdown on Dorsey. Find it here

First and foremost, let me kill an old argument (or at least wound it critically)

I find very few arguments more ridiculous than the old, "he's terrible because he was taken too high. I expect more from a top 5 pick." That bugs me on many levels.

First, after a player has been in the league for 3 years, who gives a crap where he was taken in the draft? What matters is his production on the field. If a guy is producing for us, I don't take into account his draft position when I decide how I feel about him as a player. Because ALL that matters is what's on the field.

Second, using that argument leads people to not do real legwork, and pigeonhole a player in a certain light. Nothing's worse than willful ignorance.

Finally, the argument itself is insane. Does anyone here like Belcher better than DJ? I mean, Belcher was undrafted and is a "kinda OK" starter! All DJ does is dominate, but isn't that what a 1st round pick is SUPPOSED to do? Sounds crazy, right? Except it's the same logic used when criticizing T-Jax for his draft position rather than his play. So just to be clear, this is about Tyson Jackson as a 3-4 defensive end for our team, not Tyson Jackson as a 2009 draft pick.

So what do the basic stats tell us?

Let's make this quick, because basic stats don't mean much with 3-4 DE's. However, it's an encouraging start for T-Jax. He had the 2nd most tackles in the league at his position with 46 solo (behind Calais Campbell's 55). He also had 12 assisted tackles to bring his "total" up to 58 (again, second to everyone but Campbell, who had 62 total tackles). Not too shabby T-Jax.

The more depressing part? He had exactly 1 sack this year. That's just gross, as 20 other 3-4 DEs in the league had more. Yuck. Icky. Ew.

What do these stats tell us? Well, not much by themselves, honestly. They DO tell us that Tyson Jackson had a lot of tackles for a 3-4 DE, but woefully few sacks. So that's where we're at.

Now we've consumed the appetizer, let's get to the "meat"

What do PFF's in-depth stats tell us?

Short answer: a lot more. We'll do this in several Parts...

First of all, we see that T-Jax was second in the league at his position in total tackles despite having played fewer snaps than all but 1 other 3-4 DE that's in the top 10 in tackles. In fact, he played over 400 fewer snaps than Calais Campbell and 200 fewer snaps than J.J. Watt, the #1 and #3 tacklers in the league. That's both impressive and a little sad. Impressive because he was able to produce such a high number of tackles on fewer snaps, but sad because it shows he's a player with a limited role.

Next, we see that of his solo tackles, 40 of them were "stops." What's a stop, you ask? I'm glad you did! It is a "solo defensive tackle made which constitutes an offensive failure, including sacks." What does that mean in English? Think of it as a "stuff" where a couple of yards or less are allowed. And out of 46 solo tackles, T-Jax made a "stop" nearly 90% of the time.

This is valuable information because it offers an instant counter to this argument made by a person who doesn't do their homework before spouting off opinions...

"Yeah, T-Jax had a lot of tackles, but they were all 5 yards downfield after he got shoved out of the play."

Looking at the actual statistics, we see this is CLEARLY not the case. So next time someone attempts to throw that kind of misinformation out there, kindly point out to them that not only was T-Jax 2nd in the league in tackles, but he was 2nd in the league in "stops" as well. When they say, "what the hell is a stop?" you can just laugh at them and tell them to do a little more legwork before trying to act like they know something about T-Jax (moments like that are fun. No need to thank me for helping you achieve one. It's my job. Or volunteer duty. Or whatever it is a contributor here is supposed to do).

So where are we at? OK, still on PFF stats.

Next, we take a look at his overall "ratings" as a 3-4 defensive end. PFF creates these rankings based on watching every snap played. A player with a 0 rating is "average." A player above or below is above or below average (duh moment of this post).

There are 19 3-4 DE's in the league that PFF rates as "above average." Ranked number 11 is Tyson Jackson. Not bad, but hardly exceptional. So what about the details?

On the positive side, Jackson is ranked 6th in the league against the run. Excellent stuff, especially considering the number of double teams he receives (which I'll delve into later, in the "game film" section). On the negative side, he's in the bottom 10 in the league at rushing the passer.

Looking further at T-Jax's limitations when rushing the passer, we find that he had (in addition to his lone sack), 1 QB hit, 4 QB Pressures, and 2 batted passes. He was called upon to rush the passer on 225 plays. So in other words, when asked to rush the passer, Jackson (by PFF stats) made an impact play 3.5% of the time. Yikes.

So we see a similar pattern to what we saw with Glenn Dorsey in my last breakdown: Tyson Jackson is excellent against the run, and lousy when rushing the passer. However, there ARE differences. While Dorsey's "rating" of rushing the passer is a -10.7, T-Jax is sitting at -5.4. So while T-Jax is bad at rushing the passer, he's much closer to the "average" rating than Dorsey. Against the run it's a flipped script: Dorsey has a 16.1 rating and T-Jax has a 10.0 rating.

Additionally, the "impact play" numbers are different. While T-Jax's % of plays made when rushing the QB is certainly poor, it's 2% higher than Dorsey's. Maybe that's irrelevant to you, but to me an extra half dozen impact plays matter. You never know when a game will be won or lost on a single impact play.

(For the record, I know this is a post about Jackson and not Dorsey. However, given the two play the same position on our team and are somewhat similar players, the comparison becomes necessary when evaluating how badly we need one player vs. the other).

So we've gone about as far as we can based on PFF stats. We see that T-Jax make a ton of stops, is solid against the run, and bad at rushing the passer (though not quite terrible like Dorsey is). These are things you likely knew or at least suspected, but now at least you have some statistical validation for your views.

Now, it's time for the main course and the MOST important aspect of evaluating a player: game tape.

Now, I went back and forth between the idea of breaking down every single game or giving an overall impression. I chose the latter, because I believe it'll be less repetitious and let's face it, we're already at 1600 words here. You're welcome! So I'm going to do this in list form, with no general rhyme or reason with regards to the order.

-Just finishing the Detroit/Buffalo games. Let me tell you, those games were WAY more on our offense than our defense. And our secondary was worse than our line. Man those games sucked to watch again. Just disgusting stuff. I hope to never see the Chiefs dominated like that again. All right, back to T-Jax...

-It's fascinating watching T-Jax rush the QB. And I don't necessarily mean that in a good way. Whenever he simply gets his hands on the blocking lineman (or linemen, in some cases) and PUSHES, he's able to move towards the QB with simple brute strength. A much better bull rush than I expected, given how poorly he rates as a pass rusher. The problem? He doesn't go to the bull rush nearly often enough. He often tries to go outside as if he's Houston or Hali. The only problem is he's not even close to fast enough to get around a blocking lineman. He ran himself out of a lot of passing plays like this.

-A corollary to that last observation: T-Jax gets double teamed enough when rushing the passer to at least make a difference (as in, he pulls blockers away from other guys). It happens almost exclusively when he uses his bull rush and tries to force his way to the QB. When he does this, another lineman or RB often move move over to help out the guy T-Jax is matched up against. Again, he's GOT to use this more often. He gets more of a pass rush against double teams using this method than he does against a single blocker when trying to use "finesse."

-T-Jax is strong. And not just "bulky" strong the way Dorsey is. He's got incredibly strong arms. When he stands up and gets his hands on opposing linemen, he's consistently able to stand them up and hold the spot WHILE keeping his head up and looking for the runner. He does this very nearly as well when doubled as he does when singled. Very impressive. Kalo noticed something similar, and was kind enough to offer his thoughts:

"Watch his anchor and hand placement right off the line. You see Gregg and Dorsey bend backwards at the waist too often and fold back over their knees. This is due to lack of arm strength/length and them trying to compensate and get closer to the player(s) trying to block them. Tyson most of the time has an upright (but low) position, and he uses his arm strength/length to keep multiple guys at bay. He typically doesn't throw his body into a block until he recognizes where the play is going. He's getting very good at disengaging from a blocker when the play is away from him, and even better at throwing himself into a double team while moving laterally to form a gigantic wall and shut down the running lane." (Kalo quote)

-Quick side note... Chris Collinsworth is painful to listen to as an announcer. Sure, that's not about T-Jax, but it's worth noting. Does he have some football player's version of "little man syndrome?" Because I've never heard someone try so hard to sound old school and tough. I ended up muting the one game because I just couldn't take it anymore.

All right, let's take a break here for a second. Stand up, move around, stretch a little. Maybe go get a drink of water or something. Good. Ready for more film study? Great! And here we go...

-Here's a fascinating tidbit I found (with Kalo's help, and confirmed by what I saw): The Chiefs use T-Jax in coverage sometimes. I swear, they do! Well, ok, not TRADITIONAL coverage, no. But I saw on over a dozen plays T-Jax "jam" the TE or even (a few times) the RB as they were trying to get into their route. An interesting tactic, and extremely effective from what I saw: in the plays I saw it happen, not once did the TE/RB get into their route. I hope they incorporate that more next year (which they should, given T-Jax's limitations as a pass rusher and the trouble TE's give us).

-T-Jax's biggest weakness as a run defender is a tendency to get Too low and allow a lineman to take him out of the play by essentially "sprawling" on him in the same fashion an MMA fighter would to avoid a takedown. That's a problem, and one he needs to work on. I'd see it happen once or twice a game. It would hurt him when doubled as well, and the times I saw him get pancaked by doubles (it happened. Not often, but it happened) seemed to be a result of that kind of mistake.

-T-Jax sees quite a few double teams, relatively speaking. It's not every play, but it's pretty close to every other play. The bad news is he'll sometimes allow himself to get washed out by double teams. The good news is he generally doesn't, and can consistently (when he gets his hands up and on both linemen) keep both blockers at bay long enough to locate the play. Very encouraging, and a world of difference from the way I saw Dorsey handle double teams.

-Matt Moore TORE US UP. That's about all I got out of the Miami game. Maybe Brian Daboll will end up being a good hire? He sure schooled RAC in that game...

-That Broncos game still ticks me off. 2 passes completed and they win???? Sheesh. This game is commonly pointed to as proof that our run D can't get it done, so I watched every snap of this particular game. Here's an interesting tidbit: 50 of their rushing yards came on two plays, both of which were plays in which Moreno bounced to the outside (after having no room inside) and Studebaker failed to set the edge properly. I'm not gonna hammer Andy here, but crap those two runs hurt. Without those two runs (which were both COMPLETELY preventable) the Tebows average just a little over 3.5 YPC that game. Not nearly as bad as I thought it'd be, and T-Jax played a fine game (insert someone saying, "no way! Look at all those yards!" here. Seriously, go watch every snap, then get back to me. I'll be waiting for your apology).

-Another thing to note in the Denver game: those runs by Moreno were the end of Studebaker's time as SOLB. Houston replaced him, our run D tightened up, and Houston proceeded to take all but ONE defensive snap the remainder of the year. And after Houston was in, Denver stopped even trying to run at him and T-Jax. Which became a pattern as the season wore on. I'll again quote Kalo, who had something to say on that last point (By the way, if you don't know who Kalo is, he's a guy here who watches every defensive snap. Like, repeatedly. And also knows way more about defense than me or most other people I've spoken with on the subject). And I quote...

"You don't run over his side of the ball. Everyone starts trying to run over the right side of our defense. They run into Tyson and Houston a couple of times for little/no gain, and they bail on it because the weakside is an open door." (Kalo)

-This observation was confirmed by my study. Even before Houston became a full time player, teams tended to run a lot more at Dorsey/Hali than at T-Jax/Studebaker (unless they were going outside). After Houston became our full time SOLB? Forget about running the ball to that side. It just didn't happen. Teams just went left because yards could be had there. But T-Jax and Houston are a phenomenal duo against the run.

-It's worth saying one last time... Tyson Jackson gets double teamed quite a bit more than Dorsey. And what's more, he performs well against those double teams the majority of the time. Not to say he doesn't sometimes get run over or washed out of the play. He does. But way more often he holds his ground and forces runners to move laterally away from him.

"Replacement Need" Rating: 2

After watching the Chiefs this season, I was pretty sure he was our best lineman, and had surpassed Dorsey to an extent. After watching what ended up being over 500 defensive snaps of both players, I'm not longer "pretty sure." T-Jax is a better run defender and not nearly as pathetic a pass rusher (although he's still lacking in that department).

He's got great arm strength, keeps his head up, can handle double teams most of the time, rarely gets pancaked, and plays with WAY more of a mean streak than I realized. I'd never thought of T-Jax as a "mean" player. But after watching him exclusively, he really gets fired up out there. His primary weakness against the run is one of technique (as I said, he'll get too low and allow a blocker to basically lay on him).

It was as a pass rusher, however, where I was the most surprised. It's not that he literally CANNOT do it (which seems to be the case with Dorsey). Rather, he's only got one way of doing it (the bull rush), and he uses that move only a quarter of the time (if that). The rest of the time he looks like a wannabe OLB out there. And he's nowhere NEAR fast enough to pull that off. If he quits fooling around with finesse stuff he could actually contribute to the pass rush a little bit.

He doesn't rate a 1 the way DJ or Hali would (since I wouldn't replace those guys with anyone in the league). However, he's a keeper. His principal weakness is that pass rush. He's GOT to work on that. Maybe we'll get lucky and he'll read this on AP. Here, just in case, I'll do this...

Tyson, please stop trying to use "moves" when rushing the passer. It doesn't work. You're a bull, man. You can help this team WAY more by pushing the pocket back rather than going for the actual sack yourself. You know those faster guys on either side of you? Hali and Houston? Let them take the sacks and the glory. Believe me, we'll still know you're doin' work in there. But it's time you stop trying to act like Dwight Freeney out there and start acting more like Haloti Ngata. It's your best bet to become a guy who is an asset on passing downs.

Also T-Jax, while I've got you... talk to Pioli and RAC about getting us a legit, powerful NT (no offense Gregg. You played hard but wore down, big fella). Then on passing downs, you and _______ (insert legit, powerful NT name here) just do one thing... Push. The Double-H's will take care of the rest.

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