Friday, March 28, 2008

Defensive Tackle Explained

Well, you all can thank RM8 for this. As I have said before, and I will say again, here at Seahawk Addicts we are all about the reader. RM8 wanted a post looking at the roles of the Seahawks D-line, and who from this years class will fit. So I have done some looking and will do my best to explain....

First off, even if you know, the Hawks play a 4-3 defense. Let me explain in case these numerical interpretations confuse you. A 4-3 defense is characterized by using 4 defensive lineman, usually 2 tackles and 2 ends. The second line of the defense is 3 linebackers. When you hear of a 3-4 defense it is the opposite, 3 D-linemen, and 4 linebackers.

Ok, so the Hawks run a 4-3 and have 4 D-linemen on the field at time. The defensive ends, Patrick Kerney and Darrell Tapp remain on the field in most situations. The defensive tackles tend to rotate in and out a bit more (usually cause of their size they get tired). The Hawks scheme functions best when they have a pair of tackles on the field with contrasting abilities. Usually they like to have one two gap player. This is a tackle who can occupy two blockers at once, usually a guard and the center. They also like to have what is called a 3-technique tackle. This is usually a smaller, quicker tackle, who can win a one on one match up and cause a disruption in the backfield. Hope you are following along ok so far.

So, as I mentioned, these DT's operate in pairs for the most part. One of the reason the team was so successful in 05' was that Tubbs was healthy. He is the closest thing the team had to a true two gap player until last year when they discovered Mebane. While not typical size, he holds up multiple blockers very well. This is why Holmgren sang his praises despite little proof on the stat sheet to back him up. Rocky Bernard is the teams top 3-tech tackle. He is the penetrator. Behind him, Craig Terrill would be considered a 3-tech, even though he is clearly not starting material, at least not with how important consistent pressure is in this scheme. Beyond these players, Howard Green is a definite 2 gap player, and Chris Cooper would be the 3rd 3-tech tackle. Hope you can see this way how the pairings would probably work.

So here is the problem. First, Tubbs can't be counted on to be the starter, so every body moves up. Mebane and Rocky are the top pair. Rocky, however, is showing signs of age along with the fact he is a free agent next year. Because of Mebane being entrenched as a starter, it seems that a 3-technique tackle is the biggest need.

Here is the kicker though, Tubbs, who no one even knows about how much he will contribute, is also a free agent. So essentially the Hawks could use both types of tackles for 2009. My reason for supporting the 3-technique guy is that he would have a year to learn the system behind Rocky and would need to start next year. The team could take a two gap player late, or next year, and he would be a back up to Mebane. So in my opinion, the Hawks should be looking for the smaller quicker type of defensive tackle first. Insert Trevor Laws man crush statement here.

The other side of this is that the team is really one injury away (two if Tubbs actually contributes), from having Howard Green be the primary run stuffer. Not a real exciting thought. Terrill is capable of working in that role, but he won't be nearly as successful as a wide body like Tubbs or Mebane. So, and I know this will thrill BobbyK... the Hawks should take TWO d tackles, one rusher, and one run stuffer. If they got some good ones, this D would really be in business for years to come. As I said earlier though, this could be done effectively over two years, which might allow the team to fill these roles with better players.

When we look at the draft, there are a variety of names being thrown around. Let me do my best to group them....

--3-Technique-------------------------2 Gap Tackles---
Sedrick Ellis...........................Glenn Dorsey
Kentawn Balmer...........................Red Bryant
Trevor Laws..........................Marcus Harrison
Pat Sims.................................Frank Okam
DeMario Pressley........................Athaya Rubin

These are partly some generalizations I am making. Sed. Ellis could probably do both, and they say a Dre Moore could do both. It is hard to say definitively, but what you look for in scouting reports is if they have a quick first step and thrive on speed, they usually work well as a 3 tech, if they are strong, or stout at the point of attack and handle blockers well, that usually means they fill the 2 gap role best.

So that is my not so brief breakdown of the D tackle roles. The Hawks seem to be in need of both. This year they have the starters mostly set. Now, if Tubbs can be the backup 2 gap tackle, that may open Craig Terrill up for a great year. If he can't, Howard Green will be playing that role. He was Ok last year, and he is certainly big enough and strong enough. One of the other advantages of having a second top notch penetrator (3 tech) is that they could pair him with Rocky on obvious passing downs and really start to collapse the pocket. The Giants used an oversized defensive end in Justin Tuck to do this last year and you can see where it got them. He is only 6-4 275, but when he is playing tackle, his speed gives guards fits. However it is important that they do this only situationally, because stopping the run is the best way to get the defense to third and long.