Thursday, April 14, 2011

Welcome Back, 4-3 Under: The Defensive Line

The 4-3 Under

A couple weeks ago, I put up a post that took a stab at the depth chart for 2011.  In the comments section, I was asked to describe what should be expected from each position.  I'll try to do that here.

Alignment: 5-technique, which is on the outside shoulder of the offensive tackle
Gap responsibility: C gap (between offensive tackle and tight end)
What should he look like? It's only a matter of semantics, but head coach Brady Hoke and new defensive coordinator Greg Mattison appear to be referring to this position as the 5-technique defensive tackle.  Don't get caught up in the terminology - the term "5-tech" is more important than whatever comes after it.  This player needs to be able to stand up to double-teams by the tight end and tackle, which will come with some regularity.  He also needs to be able to rush the passer when the tight end releases or when the offense goes to the spread.
Best physical fit: Ryan Van Bergen (6'6", 283 lbs.)

Alignment: 1-technique, which is on the strongside shoulder of the center
Gap responsibility: A gap (between center and strongside guard)
What should he look like?  The most important thing for a 1-tech (a.k.a. nose tackle) is that he should be able to stand his ground against double-teams.  Any penetration or pass rush from a nose tackle is gravy, but if he can resist getting blown backwards, the rest of your defense has a chance.  It would be typical to expect a short, fire hydrant-type player to fill this role.  Tall players (such as 6'5" William Campbell) often struggle with losing leverage.  Mike Martin, the projected starter at nose tackle, is a bit of an anomaly, because he has the strength and technique to be successful at the position, despite being less than 300 lbs.
Best physical fit: Richard Ash (6'3", 320 lbs.)

Alignment: 3-technique, which is on the outside shoulder of the weakside guard
Gap responsibility: B gap (between weakside guard and tackle)
What should he look like?  Rather than size, the key at this position is the ability to get penetration.  Whether it's by brute strength or pure quickness, it doesn't really matter.  Most running plays go to an offense's strength, which means the 3-tech is expected to play the B gap while simultaneously squeezing the A gap and trying to prevent cutbacks.  In passing situations, the 3-tech ought to be able to beat a single block (typically the guard) and push the pocket.  Because of the job description, players of various shapes and sizes can play the 3-tech.  Albert Haynesworth was a great 3-tech at 6'6" and 335 lbs., but so was Warren Sapp at 6'2" and 300 lbs.
Best physical fits: Mike Martin (6'2", 299 lbs.) and William Campbell (6'5", 333 lbs.)

Alignment: 5-technique, which is on the weakside offensive tackle's outside shoulder
Gap responsibility: C gap (outside offensive tackle and containing outside)
What should he look like?  This is essentially the weakside end position that gets so much attention in recruiting each year.  He's typically the quicker and lighter of the two defensive ends.  While he should be more of a threat as a pass rusher, he needs to be able to hold his own against single blocking by the offensive tackle.  In certain blitz packages, he might also need to cover the flat zone or a running back out of the backfield.  You can expect this player to be between 6'3" and 6'5" and somewhere around 260 lbs.
Best physical fit: Craig Roh (6'5", 251 lbs.)


  1. Good stuff. Succinct and informative. Would like to see the same for LB and DB.


  2. Thanks so much. As the person who asked for this I really appreciate it.

  3. Where do you predict Jibreel Black will play?

  4. It seems odd (to me at least) that the FS would be the guy to "walk up" to the box rather than the SS who is left to cover the deep middle.

    Any explanation for the reasoning behind this?

  5. @ Lankownia 12:06 p.m.

    I'll be putting together post(s) for the rest of the defense, too.

  6. @ KB 2:02 p.m.

    No problem. It was a good idea.

  7. @ Anonymous 3:32 p.m.

    Black is playing rush end. He'll either back up Roh or start at the position. I'm not sure whether he'll start or not, but Roh's probably a more typical body for the position.

  8. @ Anonymous 7:30 p.m.

    The safeties need to be able to play both positions. That's why the SS and FS both need to be able to cover and run. It's also why I'm a little nervous about Jordan Kovacs playing SS, because at times he's going to be the only one back there and doesn't necessarily have the speed to pull it off. But he's smart, so...we'll see.

    Anyway, whether a safety walks up or not depends on the coverage. If it's Cover 2, then both those guys will stay up. If they call a blitz off the edge, maybe the SS will walk up. It will just depend on what's going on. So I wouldn't worry too much.

  9. What does the term "tech" actually mean. Does the 5-Technique tackle need to know 5 techniques, or is it just the position they line up in?

  10. @ Anonymous 12:03 p.m.

    It's just the position they line up in. It sounds fancy...but "tech" is basically "field" in baseball, like left field, center field, right field. You could just call Will Campbell "a 3" instead of "a 3-tech" and football people would understand, just like you could say "Ken Griffey, Jr. is in center."