Here are the players since tackles became an official stat in 1987 to have over 100 tackles through the first eight games of a season:
- Zach Thomas (102 tackles, 2005 Miami Dolphins)
- Zaire Franklin (102 tackles, 2023 Indianapolis Colts)
That's the list.
Thomas, who was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame this summer, finished that 2005 season with 162 tackles over 14 games, earning the sixth of his seven Pro Bowl appearances in the process.
Franklin, meanwhile, is averaging 12.75 tackles per game. If he keeps that pace and plays in all 17 games this season, he'd break his own franchise record for tackles (166) before Christmas and would set an NFL record for tackles in a season. Currently, Franklin is on pace for 217 tackles; the NFL record is 214, set by the Buccaneers' Hardy Nickerson in 1993. Only two players have ever had over 200 tackles in a season: Nickerson and the Falcons' Jessie Tuggle, who had 201 in 1990 and 207 in 1991.
"His leadership role that he's having on the team and this defense, the way he has played and the intensity he brings – the hard hitting that he brings to the team," linebacker Shaquille Leonard said of the impact Franklin is making. "That's something that you love, especially from a MIKE linebacker and he's been doing a great job at it."
It's not just the volume of Franklin's tackles, though. The Colts have seen Franklin make critical plays at critical times, and he's constantly been around the ball. Per Pro Football Focus, Franklin has made first contact on 76 plays this year, 14 more than the player with the second-highest first contact total (Jacksonville's Foyesade Oluokun). The gap between Franklin and Oluokun in second is the same as the gap between Oluokun and, among other players, Baltimore's Roquan Smith in 12th.
"He is making plays all over the place on the field," defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said. "... He is playing with tremendous effort right now and playmaking ability. ... There are a lot of big plays – single tackles, solo tackles – that he's making. When he does hit it's explosive."