I know it’s still the preseason, so I try not to look too deep in to things. However, after only two preseason games one thing is apparent: the tackling has not been good.

I understand that this is to be expected during the preseason. A lot of young players are out there just barely getting their feet wet in the world of the NFL. All rookies in the NFL were standout players at their school. There’s no questioning that if any player makes it to the NFL that they were the best of the best on their college team. Because of that, young players relied heavily on their pure athleticism to make plays during their time in college. This could just be one of many reasons that we’ve seen so many missed tackles thus far in the preseason. It’s a hard transition for rookies to make. Many of them dominated their conference and made plays with ease. Now they’ve been knocked down a peg and must adjust to a quicker style of play.

Vince Lombardi once said, “Football is two things. It’s blocking and tackling. I don’t care about formations or new offenses or tricks on defense. You block and tackle better than the team you’re playing, you win.” We don’t have to over-complicate things in football. This is what it boils down to, blocking and tackling. Tackling can often be overlooked, especially in the NFL. After all, these players have been practicing tackling for years. From pee-wee football on, every practice tackling was emphasized in some way or another. I’m a firm believer that limited contact in practice will make a team’s defense suffer. Part of the blame can be put on the league rules, which limit how much contact a team can have in practices. Also, two-a-day practices were limited after the CBA. In those two-a-day practices, many teams would hold a walk-through in one practice, going over assignments and special teams, and in the other putting on full pads and having a contact practice. Now the team must put all of that in to one practice. It’s no different after the regular season begins, as teams around the league barely practice in full pads.

We’ve seen the world of tackling evolve in recent years. New tackling methods have been adopted in order to try and cut down on concussions. I’ll be the first to say that I’m all for that. In past years, the tackling method that everyone used was to hit the ball carrier with the shoulder and get the head across the body, wrap and drive. The head was supposed to go across the body to prevent arm tackles. A new method of tackling was introduced several years ago that many NFL defenses adhere to, which is known as the “Hawk tackle”. The hawk tackle was introduced by the Seattle Seahawks coaching staff sometime around their Super Bowl victory. The concept of the hawk tackle is to strike the ball carrier with the near shoulder, wrap the thighs and roll. If you watch carefully, it’s a lot like a rugby tackle. The defensive staff in Seattle figured that if rugby players could tackle without using their head, then the same could be done with their defense. Nearly every team around the league is using the hawk tackle in their defenses. When closing in on the ball carrier, the tackler is supposed to use the near foot to close in and their aim point is for the near hip, as opposed to getting across the body.

New tackling methods, lack of contact or adjusting to a new level could all be reasons that the tackling has been shaky thus far but remember, we are only two weeks in to the preseason. I feel like things always seem worse during the preseason than they really are. There’s no need to panic or think that this defense won’t be any good. The potential is certainly there. However, this is an area where the defense must improve. I feel like the opportunity to make plays has been there for the defense, but they must capitalize. As I said earlier, tackling may seem like a simple thing, but it can be the difference between winning and losing games.

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