Defensive tackle

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Defensive tackle Pat Williams (in blue) Pat Williams and Ronnie Brown at 2009 Pro Bowl.jpg
Defensive tackle Pat Williams (in blue)

A defensive tackle (DT) is a position in American football that will typically line up on the line of scrimmage, opposite one of the offensive guards, however he may also line up opposite one of the tackles. Defensive tackles are typically the largest and strongest of the defensive players. Depending on a team's individual defensive scheme, a defensive tackle may be called upon to fill several different roles. These roles may include merely holding the point of attack by refusing to be moved, or penetrating a certain gap between offensive linemen to break up a play in the opponent's backfield. If a defensive tackle reads a pass play, his primary responsibility is to pursue the quarterback, or simply knock the pass down at the line if it is within arm's reach. Other responsibilities of the defensive tackle may be to pursue the screen pass or drop into coverage in a zone blitz scheme. In a traditional 4–3 defense, there is no nose tackle. Instead there is a left and right defensive tackle. [1] Some teams, especially in the National Football League (NFL), do have a nose tackle in this scheme, but most of them do not.

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Nose tackle

Nose tackle (also nose guard or middle guard) is a defensive alignment position for a defensive lineman. In the 3–4 defensive scheme the sole defensive tackle is referred to as the nose tackle. [2] The nose tackle aligns across the line of scrimmage from the offense's center before the play begins in the "0-technique" position. [3] In this position, frequently taking on the center and at least one if not both of the guards, the nose tackle is considered to be the most physically demanding position in gridiron football. [4] In five-linemen situations, such as a goal-line formation, the nose guard is the innermost lineman, flanked on either side by a defensive tackle or defensive end. According to Pat Kirwan, a traditional 3–4 defense demands "a massive man who can clog up the middle," while a 4–3 defense is looking for "a nose tackle who relies on quickness to penetrate and move along the front." [3]

A lone nose tackle in the base 3-4 defensive formation DefTackle34.svg
A lone nose tackle in the base 3–4 defensive formation

Typical 3–4 nose tackles are "big wide bodies who can hold the point of attack and force double teams by the guard and center." [3] They are usually the heaviest players on the roster, with weights ranging from 320 to 350 pounds (145 to 159 kg). Also, height is critical, as they are supposed to get "under" the offensive line, which means ideal 3–4 nose tackles are no taller than 6 ft 3 in (1.91 m). [3] Recent examples of such nose tackles include Gilbert Brown, Casey Hampton, Jamal Williams, Vince Wilfork, and Damon Harrison. Rather uncommon are taller nose tackles, such as Ted Washington and Ma'ake Kemoeatu, who each won a Super Bowl ring, are both 6 ft 5 in (1.96 m) tall.

In some 4–3 defenses, the nose tackle is one of two defensive tackles. Some teams, especially in the NFL, do have a nose tackle in the 4–3 defense, which lines up against the opposing center and very likely the weak-side or pulling guard. In a 4–3 defense, nose tackles are rather quick and supposed to "shoot the 'A gap' and beat the center and very likely the weak-side or pulling guard into the backfield." [3] Height is not as important, and their weight is closer to 300 pounds (136 kg).

The terms "nose guard" or "middle guard" were more commonly used with the five-man defensive line of the older 5–2 defense. Effective against most plays of the day, but with a weakness to the inside short pass, the 5–2 was phased out of the pro game in the late 1950s. [5] [6] In the 4–3 defense, the upright middle linebacker replaced the middle guard. The nose guard is also used in a 50 read defense. In this defense there is a nose guard, two defensive tackles, and two outside linebackers who can play on the line of scrimmage or off the line of scrimmage in a two-point stance. The nose guard lines up head up on the center about six to eighteen inches off the ball. In a reading 50 defense, the nose guard's key is to read the offensive center to the ball. In run away, the nose guard's job is to shed the blocker and pursue down the line of scrimmage, taking an angle of pursuit. The primary responsibility of the nose tackle in this scheme is to absorb multiple blockers so that other players in the defensive front can attack ball carriers and rush the quarterback.

3-technique tackle

A 3-technique tackle (also 3-tech) or undertackle is often featured in a formation with four defensive linemen (such as the traditional 4–3 or the 4–2–5 Nickel defense), but can sometimes fill in as the nose tackle in a 3–4 defense. Compared to the 0 or 1-tech who is more prototypical of the nose tackle, the 3-tech is often a smaller, more agile defensive lineman (but still larger than the defensive ends) who specializes in penetrating through the line with his quickness as his bigger counterpart occupies blockers, aiming to sack the quarterback or tackle the rusher (often the running back) for a loss of yards. The 3-tech often lines up against the "weak side" of the offensive line, and therefore faces fewer double-teams as a result. [7] Notable examples of prototypical 3-tech tackles in the NFL include Geno Atkins, Sharrif Floyd, Tyrone Crawford, Kyle Williams, Aaron Donald, and Ed Oliver. Donald and Oliver, in particular, have pushed the limits on how small the 3-tech can be, both weighing just 285 lbs. [8] Their smaller statures have drawn criticism, but Donald and Oliver often make up for this using their athleticism. Donald has made seven Pro Bowls and was thrice named the AP Defensive Player of the Year. [9]

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Linebacker Defensive position in American football

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46 defense American football defensive formation

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Tampa 2 American football defensive scheme

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3–4 defense American football defensive formation

In American football, the 3–4 defense is a common defensive alignment consisting of three down linemen and four linebackers. It is a called a "base defense" because it is the default defensive alignment used on "base downs". However, defenses will readily switch to other defensive alignments as circumstances change. Alternatively, some defenses use a 4–3 defense.

4–3 defense American football defensive formation

In American football, a 4–3 defense is a defensive alignment consisting of four down linemen and three linebackers. It is called a "base defense" because it is the default defensive alignment used on "base downs". However, defenses will readily switch to other defensive alignments as circumstances change. Alternatively, some defenses use a 3–4 defense.

The following terms are used in American football, both conventional and indoor. Some of these terms are also in use in Canadian football; for a list of terms unique to that code, see Glossary of Canadian football.

5–2 defense American football defensive formation

In American football, the 5–2 defense is a defensive alignment consisting of five down linemen and two linebackers.

7–2–2 defense American football defensive formation

The 7–2–2 defense or seven-box defense, used seven "down linemen", or players on the line of scrimmage at the time of the snap, two linebackers, and two safeties. Amos Alonzo Stagg invented the seven-box defense in 1890 at Springfield College. At that time, most teams were using a nine-man line on defense, and there were only three downs and no forward passes. The 7–2–2 was the base defense used by Knute Rockne at Notre Dame, as well as Mike Donahue at Auburn. Into the late 1930s, the 7–2–2 was still commonly employed inside the defender's thirty-yard line. It was considered "very strong against a running attack, but rather weak defensively against passes." The 7–2–2 was also employed when the opponent was expected to punt.

7–1–2–1 defense American football defensive formation

The 7–1–2–1, or seven-diamond defense, used seven "down linemen", or players on the line of scrimmage at the time of the snap, one linebacker, two safeties relatively close to the line and one safety farther downfield. The formation was created by Minnesota coach Henry L. Williams in 1903, reputedly to stop Michigan back Willie Heston. By some accounts in the mid-1930s, the 7-1-2-1 was considered "almost obsolete" due to its weakness against the forward pass, whereas the 7-2-2 defense was still considered viable. Yet Bill Arnsparger notes the use of the seven-diamond from the 1940s into the 1960s, as a defensive adjustment to the common wide tackle 6 defenses of the time. Further, the form of the 7 diamond as derived from a wide tackle 6, with a more compact line spacing than the 1930s era 7 man lines, shows a marked similarity to the 46 defense of Buddy Ryan.

Miami 4–3 defense Defensive formation in American football made famous by coach Jimmy Johnson

The Miami 4–3, also called the 4–3 slide, is a scheme closely associated with the Jimmy Johnson-led Miami Hurricanes, and taken by Johnson to the Dallas Cowboys. Built around Jimmy Johnson's notion of "upfield pressure", it is a penetrating, swarming defense, with a "get there firstest with the mostest" mentality. The focus is to cause opponents to make mistakes, even if the defense might give up a big gain or two. Compared to older 4–3 defenses, such as Tom Landry's 4–3 inside, the defensive line assignments are simpler. Linemen don't read then react, they act then read. Linebackers fill the gaps the linemen leave behind, ignoring gaps away from the play. Coverages are simple, and the playbook small and easy to learn.

References

  1. Rush, Nathan (February 8, 2008). "NFL Draft — Defensive Tackles". Athlon Sports. Archived from the original on February 14, 2010.
  2. Dillon, Dennis (October 11, 2004). "Getting their nose dirty". The Sporting News . Archived from the original on August 29, 2009.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 "In deep pool of D-line talent, schemes will dictate picks". CBSSports.com. March 6, 2013.
  4. Dixon, D., (October 18, 2004) http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1208/is_42_228/ai_n6249316/?tag=content;col1 Archived 2012-07-08 at archive.today The Sporting News
  5. Rand, Jonathan, Riddell Presents: The Gridiron’s Greatest Linebackers, Sports Publishing, 2003, p. 36
  6. Zimmerman, Paul, The New Thinking Man's Guide to Pro Football, Harper Collins, 1984, p. 128.
  7. Renner, Michael (June 4, 2015). "Defensive Prototypes: 3-Technique — PFF News & Analysis — Pro Football Focus". www.profootballfocus.com. Archived from the original on November 17, 2017. Retrieved April 28, 2019.
  8. Whitefield, Brett (July 14, 2017). "Defensive Line Techniques - The 2017 Prototypes — NFL Analysis — Pro Football Focus". www.profootballfocus.com. Archived from the original on April 28, 2019. Retrieved April 28, 2019.
  9. "NFL players analyze 'ridiculous' Aaron Donald: 'Best player in the league'". Rams Wire. 2018-06-26. Archived from the original on 2019-04-28. Retrieved 2019-04-28.
Positions in American football and Canadian football
Offense (Skill position) Defense Special teams
Linemen Guard, Tackle, Center Linemen Tackle, End, Edge rusher Kicking Placekicker, Punter, Kickoff specialist
Quarterback (Dual-threat, Game manager, System) Linebacker Snapping Long snapper, Holder
Running backs Halfback/Tailback (Triple-threat, Change of pace), Fullback, H-back, Wingback Backs Cornerback, Safety, Halfback, Nickelback, Dimeback Returning Punt returner, Kick returner, Jammer, Upman
Receivers Wide receiver (Eligible), Tight end, Slotback, End Tackling Gunner, Upback, Utility
Formations (List)NomenclatureStrategy