Why Denver added beef to the Defensive Line and how it will affect the entire defense.

We’ve spent a lot of time discussing Defensive Formations, mainly focusing on linebackers and defensive backs. As we’ve said, Denver’s base is a 3-4 defense. Three DL, four linebackers. In a Cover 2 formation.

You need more talent than what most teams have to pull it off. In a 4-3, teams use four guys on the line to stop the run and to get to the passer. There’s less onus on the linebackers on run stoppage, but more on pass defense.

If a team can have only three on the line to stop the run up the middle, that gives them eight players to shut down the pass and runs to the outside. Game over. In a 4-3, the two tackles and two defensive ends fill all the gaps on the OL.

In a 3-4, a Nose Tackle takes on the Center. If he can hold his ground, so the run isn’t behind the center, that forces the run to the A gap, between the center and guards. Since centers are big guys, NTs need to be a lot bigger. Which is why John Elway brought in triple whoppers with cheese in, Domato Peko and Zach Kerr.

Last season, the lack of a good NT, allowed teams to run up the middle and grind out against Denver. If a C/G double teams a stud Nose Tackle and he can get a stalemate or create a pile, it makes it harder for the back to gain yardage which is considered a W on the play for the DL.

Since Denver lacked this, teams attacked their lone weakness. This in turn created a domino effect. It meant the ends and linebackers needed to spend more time on run stoppage, which leads to more injuries, which weakened the line even more. Oh, and less sacks.

The key to games starts up front. The five for the OL, and our three on the DL. It doesn’t matter how great your pass defense is, if a team can pound the rock. Running makes the game more physical and keeps defenses on the field longer. Plus, it forces defenses to creep up to help stop the run, leaving holes for the pass game.

If the NT can stuff the middle, this forces the back towards the defensive ends. The ends have two jobs: stop the run and put some fear in the quarterback.

They are responsible for filling the B gaps and helping the NT with the A. The B gap is between the guard and tackle. If a back runs to the outside, hitting the C gap (outside of the T) or D gap (outside of the TE), the linebackers, safety and ends combine.

If the defense knows it’s going to be a pass, the ends (and NT) can blitz with a linebacker and/or safety or rush the passer alone. Quickly, the difference between a rush and a blitz is a rush comes from the Dline, a blitz is when additional bodies also rush the QB.

This means the DEs need to be big, but fast, too and great tacklers. Often, one DE will be the designated pass rusher, for us that’s Derek Wolfe. Unless he knows a run is coming his way, every play he has a bead on the quarterback. He usually plays opposite of edge rusher, Von Miller, so the quarterback knows he’s got two terrors coming his way, every, single, play.

The beauty of having a DE who is good at rushing the passer, is they can spook QBs. Force them to dump off the ball too quickly, run from the pocket too soon. Like bats in the belfry, they’re always circling in a QB’s mind. After all, football is a mind game.

While they added Peko and Kerr, they also drafted, DeMarcus Walker. At FSU, he had the second most sacks in the country, making him a counterpart to Wolfe. While there, he rushed both inside and outside. What that means is he could attack between the A, B and C gaps. Since this is the NFL, chances are, he’ll be more of an inside guy, for now.

What this means for Denver is they drafted a Wolfe pup. He most likely will play behind Jared Crick with the intention of starting there or fill in for Wolfe when he’s injured. Next season, it wouldn’t surprise if Elway targets a NT in the draft. He’s building a perpetual machine of drafting young to learn behind veterans.

Defensive Lineman, and to an extent, linebackers line up in what is called a “Technique Number”. The system is credited to O.A. “Bum” Phillips, father of Wade. (Insert heart emoji)

Here is a summary of the Technique #’s

  • 0 The Nose Tackle is head up on the Center
  • 0 Shade (not pictured above) but the NT shades the Center to the strong side or the weak side of the defense depending on the strength call.
  • 1  Inside eye/shoulder of the Guard.  (some coaches put this technique in the middle of the A gap)
  • 2 Head up on the Guard.
  • 3 Outside eye/shoulder of the Guard. (some coaches put this technique in the middle of the B gap)
  • 4 Head up on the Tackle
  • 4I (not pictured above) Inside eye/shoulder on the Tackle
  • 5 Outside eye/shoulder of the Tackle.
  • 7 Inside eye/shoulder on the Tight End (some coaches put this technique in the middle of the C gap)
  • 6 Head up on the Tight End
  • 8 Outside eye/shoulder of the Tight end (some coaches put this technique in the middle of the D gap/Outside TE)
  • 9 Off the edge of the TE, further out than the 8 technique, looking for an angle on rushing the passer.

For Linebackers, they add a 0 to the technique that corresponds to 00, which would have the MLB head up on the Center, but off the LOS at his normal depth. For example, 40 would have a LB head up over the Tackle. It was created for ease of communicating where they line up.

The hole/technique #’s will be revisited during an OL piece.


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