In the National Football League, defensive coordinators spend countless hours each week trying to prepare their teams for their next opponent's offense. They tweak their schemes and formations, adjust personnel packages, and draw up their list of stunts, coverages, and blitzes that they hope will confuse opposing offenses and/or put the defense in a position to make the play.
But if the defenders can't tackle the ball carrier, all of this preparation is for naught.
That's why NFL players who are hard to tackle are so valuable to their teams. Because even when a defense does everything right, an offensive play can still succeed if a player can avoid or run over a tackler (or two or three).
And this trait is one that is very difficult to teach. Given that contact practices are being limited throughout all levels of football, it becomes that much harder for a player to get the repetitions they need to develop a consistent ability to break tackles or juke defenders. Therefore, a running back, receiver, kick returner, or quarterback who does possess the ability to cause "unsuccessful" tackles is worth his weight in gold.
Of course, NFL fans absolutely love to see players who are difficult to bring down. Watching a ball carrier dodge, duck under, or power through tackles is exciting and awe-inspiring. That's why some of the greats are so popular even today - whether it's tanks like Earl Campbell and Bronco Nagurski or magicians like Emmett Smith or Barry Sanders. With people who can shrug off tacklers, the play is never over until the referee's whistle sounds.
So who are the players in the NFL today who cause dread in the hearts of defensive coaches? Here are 25 men who are the hardest to bring to the ground in today's NFL.
25 25. Jack Doyle - TE, Indianapolis Colts
24 24. Jonathan Stewart - RB, Carolina Panthers
23 23. Maurice Jones-Drew - RB, Oakland Raiders
22 22. Trent Richardson - RB, Indianapolis Colts
21 21. Fred Jackson - RB, Buffalo Bills
20 20. Chris Johnson - RB, New York Jets
19 19. James Starks - RB, Green Bay Packers
18 18. LeGarrette Blount - RB, Pittsburgh Steelers
17 17. Golden Tate - WR, Detroit Lions
16 16. Cordarrelle Patterson - WR, Minnesota Vikings
15 15. Andre Ellington - RB, Arizona Cardinals
14 14. Rob Gronkowski - TE, New England Patriots
13 13. Chris Ivory - RB, New York Jets
12 12. Giovani Bernard - RB, Cincinnati Bengals
11 11. Eddie Lacy - RB, Green Bay Packers
10 10. Donald Brown - RB, San Diego Chargers
9 9. Cam Newton - QB, Carolina Panthers
8 8. Darren Sproles - RB, Philadelphia Eagles
7 7. LeSean McCoy - RB, Philadelphia Eagles
6 6. Jamaal Charles - RB, Kansas City Chiefs
5 5. DeMarco Murray - RB, Dallas Cowboys
4 4. Calvin Johnson - WR, Detroit Lions
3 3. Russell Wilson - QB, Seattle Seahawks
2 2. Marshawn Lynch - RB, Seattle Seahawks
1 1. Adrian Peterson - RB, Minnesota Vikings
It's ironic that it would take an off-the-field incident to stop AP, given that he's virtually unstoppable while on the gridiron. After his astounding 2,097 rushing yard performance in 2012 coming off a knee injury the previous year, Peterson followed it up with an impressive 1,266-yard, 10 TD season in 2013. Given his unmatched combination of speed, quickness, and power, Peterson is the hardest NFL player to tackle, regardless of his off-field problems.
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