When Vontaze Burfict is on his game, there's no stopping him. The linebacker, though enigmatic, is an NFL superstar and one of the most indispensable players on the Bengals' roster. Now 25-years-old, Burfict led the NFL in tackles when he was only 23. More impressively, his 171 tackles in 2013 were the most tackles in a single season since Jerod Mayo tallied 175 in 2010.
Facing a three-game suspension to open the 2016 season, Burfict's odds of re-establishing himself as the NFL's leader in tackles are stacked against him.
Can Vontaze Burfict lead the league in tackles in 2016?— Connor Howe (@HoweNFL) June 3, 2016
To get 155 tackles next year, he'd need 11.92 tackles/game. pic.twitter.com/G4QiGatVP0
If Burfict manages to play all 13 games he's eligible for and repeats his career-high 10.7 tackles per game, he'll only garner 139 tackles on the season, which definitely wouldn't be enough to lead the league. In fact, if Burfict were to aim for 155 tackles in 2016, he'd need to set a new career-high. None of the NFL's top three tacklers have racked up 11.92 tackles per game in the past four seasons.
In his career, Burfict has recorded 11 or more tackles in 14 games, with only two of those games coming after 2013. He tallied a career-high 18 tackles in a Week 17 matchup against the Ravens in 2012. Burfict would need to be a new animal to total 155 or more tackles in 2016, and judging from his 2014 and 2015 numbers, it seems highly unlikely the linebacker will lead the league in tackles. That being said, Burfict is the best linebacker in the NFL when he's on his game. If he could tally 171 tackles at age 23, 155 is certainly possible at age 25, even if he's only given 13 games to do so.
All of what's been said so far has been assuming the linebacker will stay healthy, which adds a new dimension to the discussion. Burfict played 95.9 percent of his team's snaps in 2013, per Pro Football Reference, so he'd need to be on the field nearly every play in 2016 to have a chance at the tackles title. And seeing as how he lined up on 43.04 percent of Cincinnati's snaps last season, despite missing six games, it could potentially be a possibility for the linebacker.
Regardless, there are far too many factors to consider to believe Burfict should even be in the discussion as a potential candidate to lead the league in tackles. The linebacker would need to stay healthy for all 13 games he plays in, and he'd need to play an insanely high percentage of the team's snaps in those games.
However, Burfict has proven many wrong before. It would be fairly surprising to see him lead the league in tackles this season, but it definitely wouldn't be the most surprising storyline of the season.