Whether you're reading through the comments here on BTB or listening to Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett, when you hear talk about the defensive line, you'll hear terms like 3-technique, 1-technique, 5-technique etc., but what do these terms refer to?
Let's look at an illustration....
Here we see that each of the "techniques" really represents an alignment. The numbering system serves as a means of consistent communication. The players learn the above framework and when Rod Marinelli tells Jason Hatcher what his role is in the under front, he doesn't have to say, "You'll play on the outside shoulder of the weakside guard" he simply says "it's a weak side 3-technique".
When talking specifically about the Cowboys defensive line, the terms you'll hear most often are the 1-technique, and the 3-technique. What these are really referring to are positions known as the "Under Tackle" (3-technique) and the "Nose Tackle" (1-technique).
So what makes these guys different, other than their alignment?
The biggest difference has to do with physical traits of the player playing them. For the most part the 3-technique is going to get 1-on-1 blocking because he is on the outside shoulder of the guard, and has a defensive end like DeMarcus Ware outside of him. In contrast, the 1-technique will often face double teams because he is aligned on the center's shoulder, with the nearest defensive linemen being the end who is playing a 5- or 7-technique. Because of this the 1-technique is generally thought of as being a heavier guy who can keep himself from being driven off the ball by these double teams.
Both the "Under Tackle" and the "Nose Tackle" have the task in Monte Kiffin's scheme of getting into their assigned gap and getting up field as fast as they can, so they are similar positions, but the double teams faced by the "Nose" usually demand this guy to be a more stout point of attack player than the guy playing the "Under" tackle.
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