A Matter Of Technique

Utah defensive lineman Star Lotulelei is high on most draft lists. (Rick Bowmer/AP)

In his position breakdowns of the draft that have run in this blog the last several days, Mike Mayock has made reference to ``3-technique’’ and ``5-technique’’ defensive players.

A few people have e-mailed me and asked for an explanation on exactly what Mayock means when he says that.

So let’s do that, boys and girls.

In a nutshell, ``technique’’ refers to where a defensive lineman lines up in a given defense.

The ``techniques’’ are numbered from the inside out. Zero is directly over the center, two is over the guard, four is over the tackle and six is over the tight end.

More often than not, defensive linemen, with the exception of the nose tackle, don’t line up directly in front of an offensive linemen. They’ll line up in the odd-numbered ``techniques.’’

The 1-technique refers to lining up on the outside shoulder of the center, the 3-technique on the outside shoulder of the guard and the 5-technique on the outside shoulder of the tackle.

The reason former Eagles defensive line coach Jim Washburn’s alignment was called the ``Wide Nine’’ was because the end lined up in the ``9-technique,’’ far outside the tackle and tight end.

At least one of the two defensive tackles in a 4-3 scheme – usually the one who’s the best pass-rusher – lines up in a 3-technique, so that he can use his quickness to split the guard and tackle. The other tackle in a 4-3 – usually the better run-stopper – tends to line up more inside, either directly over the center (0-technique), in the gap between the center and guard (1-technique) or directly over the guard (2-technique).

The defensive ends in a 3-4 scheme usually are referred to as 5-technique players. They line up either over the tackle or on his outside shoulder.

In most 3-4 schemes, the 5-technique defensive end is charged with much of the grunt work. He is more of a block-occupier than a playmaker, which is why 3-4 ends usually are bigger than 4-3 ends. And why you don’t see too many 5-technique ends among the league’s sack leaders.

A 3-4 end’s primary job is to prevent blockers from getting to the second level, thus freeing up the linebackers to make most of the plays.

That’s not always the case. Some 3-4 teams, such as the Houston Texans with J.J. Watt, have their 5-technique ends play a bigger role in rushing the passer. But Watt is the exception rather than the rule.

Hope that helps.