What is the definition of defensive tackle in football?
1. A defensive tackle in football is a defensive lineman who, for most plays, lines up across from the offensive guards along the line of scrimmage. The responsibility of the defensive tackle will change depending on the play and the defensive scheme of the team. However, their responsibilities may include holding the defensive point of attack, stopping the run, providing coverage, knocking down a pass or pressuring the quarterback.
Defensive tackles tend to be among the strongest and largest players on the team, often weighing over 300 pounds.
What does a defensive tackle do?
A defensive tackle has several jobs on the field, including:
Defensive tackles serve as blockers who stop up gaps in the offensive line. By doing so, they limit the options for receivers to make runs through those gaps and potentially receive a pass from the quarterback. Ideally, a defensive tackle will try to occupy more than one offensive lineman, which allows for their teammates to potentially reach the quarterback or otherwise interfere with the offense’s play.
Pressure the quarterback
Defensive tackles can apply pressure to a passer in order to interfere with the opposing team’s strategy. In most cases, the passer in question is the quarterback, so defensive tackles will move toward that player in order to limit the time they have to make a pass. In some cases, a defensive tackle is able to make a sack.
Knock down passes
When possible, defensive tackles will knock down passes in order to prevent a pass completion for the opposing team. This type of defensive player needs to be aware of the ball location at all times and keep their eyes open for potential opportunities to stop a pass.
What is a defensive tackle’s main responsibility?
Of the defensive tackle jobs listed above, the priority is to fill gaps in the offensive line. Their size makes them difficult to move, which helps to hold the point of attack and prevent the offense from completing their plays as intended.
What is the position of a defensive tackle on the field?
A defensive tackle positions themselves across from the offensive guards and center. Usually, defensive tackles set up near the middle of the line of scrimmage in order to have a direct line toward these opponents.
In a defensive line along the line of scrimmage, the cornerback is positioned furthest from the center across from the wide receiver. Moving toward the center, the line then features an outside linebacker (across from the tight end), then defensive end/edge rusher, defensive tackle and a middle linebacker or nose tackle.
What are the requirements to be a defensive tackle?
Some of the key skills and traits that defensive tackles possess include strength, size, quickness and toughness.
Defensive tackles face blocks from offensive linemen. A strong defensive tackle will require more offensive blockers to keep them from pushing the line into the backfield. This allows their teammates more room to move and potentially interfere with the offensive play through a tackle, interception or sack. Strength in the lower body helps to create leverage when blocking or tackling, while upper body strength helps them hold offensive lineman at a distance.
Defensive tackles are typically the biggest players on the team. In the National Football League (NFL), some of the best defensive tackles weigh 300 pounds or more. Their size helps them to be better blockers so they can stop players on the offensive line from getting where they want to go.
Despite being among the largest players on the team, defensive tackles also benefit from having explosive quickness. These players don’t need to sprint down the field like a receiver, but by taking rapid steps toward the offensive line at the snap, they can block more effectively and potentially put pressure on the quarterback. Defensive tackles who are caught on their heels are more likely to allow offensive linemen to push through the defensive line.
The defensive tackle position requires an ability to withstand lots of contact. It’s one of most high-impact and physically demanding positions on the field. Defensive tackles go head to head with opponents who also exhibit superior strength and size, so they need to be able to handle tough, head-on collisions in play after play.
What makes a defensive tackle good at their position?
General athleticism is an asset to any football player. To succeed in their position, defensive tackles need to be agile and quick on their feet while also demonstrating strong blocking skills.
Another factor that’s equally important is focus. Defensive tackles need to be fully dialed in before the play even begins. Once the snap is made, they need to make split-second decisions to react to offensive plays in a way that will benefit their team.
Is a defensive tackle a lineman?
Defensive tackles are one of the types of defensive lineman. The other main type of defensive lineman is a defensive end.
What is the difference between defensive end and defensive tackle?
Both defensive tackles and defensive ends are positioned across the line of scrimmage from the offensive linemen. Defensive tackles are positioned more closely to the middle across from the offensive guards and center. They focus on runs and passes being made near the center of the line of scrimmage and help put pressure on the passer.
Defensive ends are positioned next to the tackles on the outer side across from the offensive tackles. These players work to stop offensive runs towards the outer edges of the line of scrimmage and, when possible, attack the passer.
What is a nose tackle vs. defensive tackle?
A nose tackle is a type of defensive tackle in a 3-4 defense. They are positioned at the center of the defensive line and take on the opposing team’s center and/or guard, who is positioned in front of the quarterback, fullback and running back. A nose tackle, which is abbreviated as NT, is usually one of the larger and stronger players on the team, commonly weighing between 320 and 350 pounds.
The name “nose tackle” comes from the position’s central alignment on the field. At the start of the play, nose tackles are positioned directly over the “nose” of the football. When a five-man line is used, this position is referred to as the nose guard.
What is the difference between a nose tackle and a 3-technique defensive tackle?
The difference between a nose tackle and a 3-technique defensive tackle is the location where they positioned along the line of scrimmage before the ball is snapped.
A nose tackle is positioned directly across from their opponent’s center or guard. This is known as the 0-technique. In a 3-technique, the defensive tackle lines up across from the gap between the opponent’s guard and the tackle.
A 3-technique defensive tackle usually has more explosive speed and agility compared to a nose tackle. They are able to move quickly enough to pursue gaps in the offensive line, penetrate the backfield and put pressure on the ball carrier. A team’s best pass rusher is often placed in the 3-technique position.
There are also 1-technique defensive tackles, 2-technique defensive tackles, etc., with numbers going up to 9-technique. From 0, which indicates the center, each number represents moving one position closer to the sideline.
Who are best defensive tackles in NFL history?
In pro football, rankings for the best defensive tackles of all time typically include the following standout players:
Bob Lilly was a starter for the Dallas Cowboys in every game of his 14-year NFL career. He earned the nickname “Mr. Cowboy” and was an iconic part of the franchise’s Doomsday Defense in the 1960s and 70s. He displayed incredible agility and pass-rushing skills, and he scored four defensive touchdowns in his career. He was First Team All-Pro seven times and won one Super Bowl.
Randy White was a defensive tackle for the Dallas Cowboys. He was the second player selected in the 1975 NFL Draft and went on to take over the role left by Bob Lilly. He was named co-MVP of Super Bowl XII (an honor not commonly awarded to defensive players) in a victory over the Denver Broncos. White was also selected first-team All-Pro seven times and had an impressive 111 career sacks.
Buck Buchanan played for the Kansas City Chiefs for 13 years. He was exceptionally fast for a lineman, and after playing as a defensive end briefly, he became the team’s defensive right tackle. Buchanan was particularly skilled at intimidating the passer and his 6’7” frame made him tough to take down. He was a two-time American Football League (AFL) champion and instrumental in the Chiefs’ win over the Minnesota Vikings at Super Bowl IV.
Alan Page was a member of the Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears. He was the first defensive player to win the MVP Award and was best known as a member of the Vikings’ Purple People Eaters defensive line. He made 148.5 sacks in his career, earned All-Pro honors six times and played in nine consecutive Pro Bowls.
Warren Sapp played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Oakland Raiders and was one of the first players to excel as a three-technique defensive tackle. Known for his speed, he ran the fastest time for the 40-yard dash (4.69 seconds) ahead of the 1995 NFL Draft. His size also made him difficult for opponents to stop, even when double or triple-teamed. Sapp made seven Pro Bowl appearances, was awarded Defensive Player of the Year and was a Super Bowl Champion.
Mean Joe Greene
Joe Greene played for the Pittsburgh Steelers and was one of the most formidable defensive players of his time, earning him the nickname “Mean Joe.” He was named the Defensive Rookie of the Year before going on to become a two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, five-time first-team All-Pro and 10-time Pro Bowl participant. Greene was also a four-time Super Bowl champion. Greene is often referred to as the best player of the 1970s and one of the best defensive linemen in league history.
Merlin Olsen spent his 15-year NFL career with the Los Angeles Rams and was a member of the Fearsome Foursome known for penetrating the backfield and intensely pursuing ball carriers. He played in the Pro Bowl 14 times and was first-team All Pro five times. He was also a member of the two NFL All-Decade Teams in the 1960s and 70s.
Cortez Kennedy played with the Seattle Seahawks for 11 seasons. At over 300 pounds, his size certainly helped him overpower his opponents, yet he also exhibited excellent speed and agility. He had 668 tackles in his career and three interceptions. Kennedy was selected as NFL Defensive Player of the Year, was first-team All-Pro three times and played in 8 Pro Bowls.
Other notable defensive tackles in NFL history
Some of the other NFL defensive tackles considered to be among the best to have played at the position include:
- John Randle: Minnesota Vikings, Seattle Seahawks
- Casey Hampton: Pittsburgh Steelers
- Arnie Weinmeister: New York Giants
- Roger Brown: Detroit Lions, Los Angeles Rams
- Joe Klecko: New York Jets, Indianapolis Colts
- Curley Culp: Kansas City Chiefs, Houston Texans, Detroit Lions
- Henry Jordan: Cleveland Browns, Green Bay Packers
- Art Donovan: Baltimore Colts, New York Yanks, Dallas Texans
- La’Roi Glover: Oakland Raiders, New Orleans Saints, Dallas Cowboys, St. Louis Rams
Best defensive tackles currently in the NFL
As of the 2023 season, some of the top NFL players in the defensive tackle position include:
- Aaron Donald: St. Louis / Los Angeles Rams
- Geno Atkins: Cincinnati Bengals
- Chris Jones: Kansas City Chiefs
- DeForest Buckner: Indianapolis Colts
- Grady Jarrett, Atlanta Falcons
- Jeffery Simmons, Tennessee Titans
Examples of how defensive tackle is used in commentary
1. The defensive tackles for the Carolina panthers are doing a great job of plugging up the Chargers’ offensive line, forcing them to the outside where they are met by the outside linebackers.
2. Thanks to effective blocks by the defensive tackles, the Kansas City Chiefs defense has been able to put pressure on Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts for much of the game.
Sport the term is used
Also seen as:
1. Defensive guard