Thursday, January 22, 2009

From the Archives: DT Explained

by: Chris Sullivan / Michael Steffes

(Chris) This is an article that Steffes wrote last year to explain the defensive tackle position, specifically the differences between the three-technique and two-gap tackle positions. It was written back in March, before the draft. It appears likely that the Seahawks are looking to convert Red Bryant into a three-tech, but it remains to be seen if that's the case. From what little I've seen of B.J. Raji, he seems more like a small (but talented) two-gap, which is not much of a need with Mebane starting. Peria Jerry from Ole Miss would be a good three-tech, but is unlikely to earn a top-5 pick and won't likely drop to the second round. We'll keep an eye out. Now then, here is



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.

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.

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

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. ~END~