A “missed tackle” can mean a lot of things and not only are the types of missed tackles varied — from the embarrassing whiff to the embarrassing stiff (arm) — but so are the degree to which an outlet will count something as a missed or broken tackle. However, if Micah Kiser even came close to seven missed tackles in his first career start then the Rams could have an issue at linebacker.
Beyond the previously known issues at linebacker.
There were many exciting aspects to how LA’s defense played against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night. According to ProFootballFocus, Dak Prescott was the second-most pressured quarterback in the NFL this week and that’s a big reason why the Rams held a top-ranked offense to 17 points and won their SoFi Stadium debut. Not only did Aaron Donald finish with a sack and four QB hits, plus sacks for Leonard Floyd and Michael Brockers, but they did so with all-pro guard Zack Martin having one of his worst performances against a defensive line to date.
Games like this one should give confidence to a unit that lost A’Shawn Robinson before it actually got him. Part of the reason for that could have something to do with Kiser, who Pro-Football-Reference listed as having blitzed four times, as much as the rest of the defense combined. We had speculated on players like Floyd or Samson Ebukam (two blitzes) as being the linebackers who’d attack the pocket but Kiser was that guy on Sunday night.
If he was also the type of guy to miss half of his tackle opportunities, then Sean McVay and Brandon Staley have some work to do before playing the Philadelphia Eagles and the other remaining 14 games.
According to P-F-R, Kiser had seven tackles and seven missed tackles, by far the highest total of missed tackles in the NFL. Panthers rookie safety/linebacker Jeremy Chinn had five missed tackles against the Las Vegas Raiders and Jets linebacker Harvey Langi, a 28-year-old with barely a pro track record to his name until this week, had four.
Micah Kiser trying time arm tackle Zeke— Ramuel L Jackson (@RamuelLJackson) September 14, 2020
ILB Micah Kiser blew his responsibility covering Zeke in the flat, then missed the tackle. Nice job buddy.— The Giant Insider Newspaper & Podcast (@GiantInsider) September 14, 2020
Having two and three more missed tackles then second and third place may not seem like “by far” but Kiser’s seven missed tackles would be more than double any other player other than a rookie playing a new position in his first game and a journeyman on potentially the worst team in the league. Not only that, but I can’t even fathom a player continuing a pace of seven missed tackles — or even near it.
I’m not sure which game had the most missed tackles in 2019 because I can’t find a P-F-R tool that will allow me to do that, but the leader in missed tackles for the season was Nick Vigil of the Cincinnati Bengals, who had 21. Kiser would be one-third of the way to last season’s leader with fifteen-sixteenth of the season left to go.
If the missed tackles weren’t bad enough for one game’s worth on the resume, Kiser was also credited with allowing three receptions on six targets in his direction, including a touchdown.
It’s not that Kiser did everything wrong.
And Kiser wasn’t the only Rams player on defense to struggle with the wrap-and-trap because as a team they were credited with 15 missed or broken tackles. That included three by rookie star Jordan Fuller and two from Jalen Ramsey.
Chinn and Langi were in unique positions on Sunday, far from experienced veterans, and that was also the case for Kiser. A 2018 fifth round pick who played in zero defensive snaps as a rookie and missed all of his second season only to return in 2020 to a unit that had lost its two or three best players and was now defaulting him to play in 72 snaps in Week 1 against an offense that has players like Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott and Michael Gallup, one of the better receivers in the league at forcing missed tackles.
Could seven missed tackles be jitters against an elite offense? Could it be partially caused by his assignment to blitz four times and learning new skills and attributes on the fly? He’s only four more missed tackles from having a higher total than any Rams defensive player last season, so the answers to those questions will need to be found by McVay and Staley soon.
If not a more pleasant definition of a “missed tackle.”