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Getting to Know the Nose

While in midst of preparing a post on Nose Tackle rankings for the 2010 draft, I started to realize that a little information gathering might help give some context about what to look for in a Nose Tackle. I assume that almost all of us know that the Chargers run the 3-4 hairfence defense. I'm also thinking that almost everyone has heard of the Nose Tackle position and probably knows that for many years we have been treated to one of the best in the game in Jamal Williams. A couple weeks ago many of you also pointed out that Nose Tackle is one of our biggest needs as Jamal Williams is coming off injury and is not getting any younger. So with all this in mind I decided to ask 3 questions: 

What is a Nose Tackle?

Who are the Nose Tackles in the NFL?

Where do they come from?

Let's educate ourselves.

What is a Nose Tackle?
On the defensive line, positions are most commonly associated with the spot that they line up. Lining up directly over the Center is called 0-technique. Lining up between the Center and either guard is called 1-technique and the gap is referred to as the A-gap. The numbered techniques radiate outward in both directions all the way up to 6. 2 and 3 are lined up on either shoulder of the two guards. 4 and 5 the shoulders of the tackles and 6 is where the TE's inside should would be. The gaps also go out in alphabetical order in both directions up to E. The Nose Tackle's job is line up as 0-technique or 1-technique and occupy those 2 A-gaps on either side of the Center. Oftentimes, this means that he gets double teamed since a run up the middle wouldn't work if someone came through the A-gap and on passing plays the A-gap is the quickest way to the QB if blocks aren't executed. The best Nose Tackles are then going to be the ones that can't beat these double teams since that sort of disruption would obviously stop a play dead in its tracks. Secondary to beating double teams is simply to hold ground. Holding ground against a double team keeps two blockers occupied while the rest of the defense works on their matchups. It also takes up space in the middle so that there are no extra holes to run through and it keeps the you and your blockers from disrupting the linebackers behind you. Typically, a Nose Tackle is most needed on 1st and 2nd downs when teams are less likely to pass. In obvious passing situations a Nose Tackle may be substituted for or may move to a 2-technique although some pass defense formations will allow for 0- or 1-technique lineman. It might go without saying, but today's NFL has more passing than ever so either a Nose Tackle will have to be versatile enough to be a productive member of the pass rush or will have to be substituted out a lot.

Who are the Nose Tackles in the NFL?

Nose Tackles are much more prevalent in the 3-4 defense. Currently, 13 teams in the NFL run a 3-4 defense and each needs at lease one Nose tackle.
Team Nose Tackles
Arizona Cardinals Bryan Robinson
Baltimore Ravens Haloti Ngata/Kelly Gregg
Cleveland Browns Shaun Rogers/Ahtyba Rubin
Dallas Cowboys Jay Ratliff
Denver Broncos Ron Fields
Green Bay Packers Ryan Pickett/B.J. Raji
Kansas City Chiefs Ron Edwards
Miami Dolphins Jason Ferguson/Pail Soliai
New England Patriots Vince Wilfork
New York Jets Kris Jenkins/Sione Pouha
Pittsburgh Steelers Casey Hampton
San Diego Chargers Jamal Williams/Ogemdi Nwagbuo/ Ian Scott
San Francisco 49ers Aubrayo Franklin


Where do they come from?
There may be some of you out there that think that you can just draft a Nose Tackle. That's not exactly true. To the best of my knowledge only two teams run a 3-4 and those are Alabama (under Nick Saban, a Belichick disciple) and Virgina (under Al Groh, a Parcells disciple), but even those teams don't run it as much as NFL teams do. So what colleges and conferences are producing the NFL's Nose Tackles?

Big 12 (6): Oklahoma State (1, Williams), Texas (2, Hampton, Rogers), Texas A&M (1, Edwards), Iowa State (1, Rubin), Oklahoma (1, Gregg)
SEC (5): Tennessee (1, Franklin), Florida (1, Scott), Georgia (1, Ferguson), Mississipp State (1, Fields), Auburn (1, Ratliff)
ACC (3): Maryland (1, Jenkins), Miami (1, Wilfork), Boston College (1, Raji)
Big Ten (2): Michigan State (1, Nwagbuo), Ohio State (1, Pickett)
Mtn West (2): Utah (2, Puoha, Soliai)
Pac 10 (1): Oregon (1, Ngata)
WAC (1): Fresno State (1, Robinson)

There isn't really anything definitive there. There's no Nose Tackle power house school. The 3 conferences with the most NTs are also the 3 biggest conferences. Maybe you might feel more comfortable if your Nose Tackle prospect cut his teeth in the Big 12 or SEC, but I wouldn't call it a ringing endorsement. There is a conspicuous absence of the Big East in this list, although I think Wilfork technically played in the Big East when he was in college. Also, it says a lot about Utah's big man depth since they are one of two non-BCS schools on the list and actually have 2 NFL NTs.

Let's take a look at where these guys are drafted and see if that helps.
1st Round (5): Hampton, Ngata, Pickett, Raji and Wilfork
2nd Round (3): Rogers, Williams, Jenkins
3rd Round (2): Edwards, Pouha
4th Round (2): Scott, Soliai
5th Round (2): Fields, Frankllin
6th Round (2): Gregg, Rubin
7th Round (2): Ferguson, Ratliff
UDFA (2): Nwagbuo, Robinson

Most of the NTs were not 1st round picks, but there is the highest concentration of them in the round. I also don't think I'm going out on a limb by saying that some of the best of this group are the 1st and 2nd round picks. That probably means that these guys are pretty easy to spot, which makes sense. These guys are going to be very large, but the best ones are going to have a special athletic ability to move other large men out of their way. The other ones are probably the space eaters who are useful to teams that need NT, but aren't worth spending a ton of money on.

So what does this mean for the 2010 draft? Well, I'll refer back to this post when I do my initial NT rankings.