There are 11 guys playing defense on any given play, and most of the time only one of them is making the tackle, but that doesn’t mean that the other ten were just riding shotgun. In fact, oftentimes players other than the tackler may have had a far bigger, more destructive impact on that play, but there’s no stat in place to track it and you may not even notice it when watching the play. You’ll see the runner cut inside, try to reverse field, and eventually get taken down, but you might not catch why he had to do that – because his lead blocker was just blown up by a defender and the entire play was dead in the water before it really got going.
Bart Scott is the master of those plays.
Scott's tackling numbers are not too shabby. He did finish second on a team that allowed 3.6 yards per rush. I feel like Scott is a difficult guy to truly appreciate unless you spend time focusing on him. An excellent run defense like the Jets have truly is a collaborative effort. It is next to impossible to do what the Jets did defensively with a weak link in the front seven, particularly in the middle. Frequently what these guys do is subtle. It is forcing a runner into a tackle for somebody to clean up. Other times it is simply holding the point to prevent a runner from having a cutback lane. Guys like Scott, David Harris, Sione Pouha, and Mike Devito are not appreciated for the way they consistently do their job and stay within their role. If these guys were flying up the field, they might put up bigger numbers, but the team would also suffer because it would create conditions for bigger runs.
It is not unlike the relationship between running backs and offensive lines. The backs get most of the glory because it is difficult to quantify what the linemen do. Both matter a lot.
I am not sure Bart is as good as PFF indicates. I would not categorize him as elite, but he is very good against the run. I think his coverage has taken a step back from where he was in Baltimore, but it has not prevented Scott from being productive.
If you need evidence about tackles not telling the whole story, think back to the AFC Championship Game. Harris actually led the Jets with 9 tackles, but I do not think that anybody who watched closely would argue David had anything other than an uncharacteristically poor game. He frequently missed chances to make stops and got himself out of position, making the defense vulnerable to big runs.