Often, we hear the QB position is the most important to a team and the high percentage of “franchise tags” for QBs would support this.
But for my money, give me a disruptive force against the core of a offensive line – the middle. You know the same location a QB starts the play and often the same location a running game tries to establish its toughness.
This is the era of disruptive DTs. Attacking the underbelly of an offense line is good business in NFL (7 of the last 11 super bowl winners possessed dominant NT playing in 3-4 defense). The smart teams have figured it out by drafting pressure DT who can play NT or DE in 3-4 alignment. They possess the strength/size to hold down NT role while having the athletic ability to slide over to DE to marauder opposing QBs. The line between DE and DT in 3-4 have narrowed considerably. Even Bill Belichick moved the immovable NT Vince Wilfork to DE in spot situations in 2011.
Now what works really well here is having a traditional 2 gap technique NT to go along with your hybrid DT/DE. Kelly Gregg gives Baltimore the flexibility to move Haloit Ngata anywhere they want. Ryan Pickett is a great compliment to moving B.J. Raji ”The Freezer” to the inside. Below is a list (Part 1) of disruptive DTs who are dominant against rush or pass and in several situations – both. In Part 2, we discuss top 5 DTs in the 2011 NFL Draft who have the strength and athletic ability to play NT or DE.
1. Haloti Ngata (Bal) 6’4″ 350 lbs – a new era NT who can also play end. He is more of a souped-up SUV. What makes him so special is he can be dominant at NT or DE in 3-4 defense. An “absolute monster” according to Colts center Jeff Saturday. Compiled 62 tackles and 5.5 sacks.
2. Vince Wilfork (NE) 6’2″ 325 lbs – one of the most dominant space eaters of the past few years. Belechik showed us he can play DE also. Pure 2 gap technique nose tackle.
3. Ndamukong Suh (Det) 6’4 305 lbs – Stunning numbers for a rookie DT (66 tackles and 10 sacks). Gil Brandt a longtime Cowboys scout recently stated that Suh is “the Merlin Olsen of today”. Suh played in a two-gap system at Nebrask, but Detroit’s cut him loose in a one-gap style that encourages linemen to “play the run on the way to the quarterback.”
4. B.J. Raji “The Freezer” (GB) 6’2″ 337 lbs – was a wrecking ball in postseason. Had 39 tackles and 7 sacks in 2011. Remember his name.
5. Kyle Williams “Meatball” (Buf) 6’1″ 310 lbs – Terror against against the run and pass this year. A low center of gravity guy who keeps getting better. 77 tackles and 5.5 sacks and making his first pro-bowl appearance.
(honorable mention – two stud players who I thought declined somewhat in 2011 – Casey Hampton, PITT and Kevin Williams, MINN)
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