Over his two years in the National Football League, Eddie Lacy has developed into one of the most complete running backs in professional football. He's a threat both running the ball and catching it out of the backfield, he's a short-yardage threat, and he's good for a long run or two every game.
With all that said, Lacy is truly among the league's elite in one particular category: forcing missed tackles, and he improved that aspect of his game in his second year. With the help of stats provided by Pro Football Focus and Football Outsiders, we can see just how well he improved from his rookie year to this past season.
First, we'll look at the stats from Football Outsiders. It is worth noting that their methodology for defining a missed tackle changed from 2013 to 2014, leading to an increase of 20-25% (their own estimate) across the board. Here, we'll look at their numbers for Lacy, first the raw 2013 numbers, then the numbers for 2013 with an estimated 25% increase due to the change in analysis, then the 2014 numbers using the new methods.
Football Outsiders' missed tackle stats
|Year/Method||Touches||Missed Tackles||Missed tackles/touch|
|2013 (projected new method)||319||36||11.3%|
|2014 (new method)||288||51||17.7%|
Note that Football Outsiders' numbers only include regular-season games.
As you can see, Lacy's rate of missed tackles almost doubled from 2013 to 2014, and even accounting for the change in methods, he still increased that rate significantly. His overall broken tackle rate put Lacy at 9th overall among all NFL running backs with at least 80 touches, and fourth in the league if you increase the cutoff to 100 touches.
Pro Football Focus helps us see more clearly where Lacy's improvements come from, splitting up his missed tackles by rushing attempts and receptions. Here are their numbers on Lacy:
Pro Football Focus' missed tackle stats
|Year||Type||Touches||Missed Tackles||Missed tackles/touch|
Note that Pro Football Focus also includes postseason games as well as plays that are cancelled due to penalties.
Here we really see where the improvement came about. Lacy's broken tackle rate stayed almost identical from year to year on rushing attempts, but the passing game saw him make extraordinary improvements, more than quadrupling his ratio from the year before. That is a significant reason why his yards per reception increased from 7.3 in 2013 to just over 10 this past season.
Further illustrating this fact, Lacy's two longest plays of the year came on receptions - a 67-yard catch-and-run against the Saints in week 8 and a 56-yarder against the Bears' defense two weeks later. His longest run of the season was 44 yards, in Tampa Bay during the week 16 game.
All in all, these numbers back up the narrative of Lacy's improvement as a receiver during the 2014 offseason. Those efforts earned him more playing time on third downs last year, and though his total number of receptions was not substantially higher (42 vs. 35 in 2013), his production on those touches was markedly better.
(Bonus note: in two games against the Seahawks, Lacy forced a total of 16 missed tackles on his own, coming on 36 touches. That's a rate of 44.4%.)
One other note worthy of mention is that the Packers as a team were one of the best squads in the NFL at breaking tackles, with Lacy leading the way, according to Football Outsiders. Of the Packers' plays in 2014 (including those that had defensive pass interference called), they recorded at least one broken tackle on 8.4% of them, tying them for fifth in the league. This follows a 2013 season which found the Packers third in the NFL in the same measurement.