Busting the Meme: The Run Stuffing 1 Tech

Beef up front. A big body to draw double teams. Keep the offensive linemen away from Sean Lee.

Those are the phrases that are most often heard when talking about a 1 tech for Dallas. A big defensive lineman who can occupy two blockers and keep attention away from Henry Melton and Sean Lee. A player who can play the one, so our undersized three tech's aren't just mauled in the running game.

And that makes sense. When we think of 1 techs we think of those big space eaters like Tony Siragusa, Pat Williams, or the great Nick Hayden. The one and the three have different roles along the line, and thus require different skills.

There is only 1 problem...under Rod Marinelli it isn't true.

Here is how one poster over at Windy City Gridiron put it when Marinelli took over in Chicago:

If there's one thing I hear that just ticks me off is complaints that the Bears D-Line needs to keep the blockers off Urlacher. Nope. Wrong. That is such a pet peeve of mine. That isn't the basis of what the Bears do defensively. The Bears ask their defenders to attack 1 gap and 1 gap only, not to take up space...1 Technique nose tackle (lined up on the centers outside shoulder), is the type of nose tackle the Bears use, but he still only has 1 gap, that A gap, responsibility.

This makes sense. The defensive line doesn't need to keep blockers off of Sean Lee because in this defense Lee's first responsibility is coverage....his first move should generally be dropping back, not crashing the line. The stats confirm this...out of 99 tackles last year, Lee only recorded 4 stuffs according to ESPN. His job is not to attack the line of scrimmage in this defense, and the 1 tech's job is not to keep blockers occupied and off of him.

In fact in a lot of ways the 1 and 3 tech in this defense are interchangeable. Both have the same primary responsibility, get to the quarterback. They both 1 gap, and play the run on the way to the quarterback. The traditional model of the big beefy 1 tech just does not hold up in the Marinelli defense.

Let's look at the raw data. Here are every starting DL combination that Marinelli has coached in the NFL, either as a DL coach, DC, or HC, not including last year with the Cowboys, (we should all remember and be familiar there!).


1996: LDT Brad Culpepper/RDT Warren Sapp

1997: LDT Brad Culpepper/RDT Warren Sapp

1998: LDT Brad Culpepper/RDT Warren Sapp * Culpepper had more sacks

1999: LDT Brad Culpepper/RDT Warren Sapp

2000: LDT Anthony McFarland/RDT Warren Sapp

2001: LDT Anthony McFarland/RDT Warren Sapp

2002: LDT Anthony McFarland/RDT Warren Sapp

2003: LDT Anthony McFarland/RDT Warren Sapp

2004: LDT Chartric Darby/RDT Anthony McFarland

2005: LDT Chris Hovan/RDT Anthony McFarland


2006: LDT Marcus Bell/RDT Corey Redding

2007: LDT Shaun Rogers/RDT Corey Redding

2008: NT Chartric Darby/RDT Corey Redding


2009: LDT Tommy Harris/RDT Marcus Harrison

2010: LDT Matt Toeaina/RDT Anthony Adams

2011: LDT Israel Idonije/RDT Henry Melton

2012: NT Stephen Paea/RDT Henry Melton

Let's break these players down. All measurements courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.


In Tampa there were two main combos...Brad Culpepper with Sapp, and Booger McFarland with Sapp. Interestingly enough, Sapp as the 3 technique was bigger than both of his 1 techs.

Warren Sapp 6’2 303

Brad Culpepper 6’1 275

Anthony McFarland 6-0 300

After Sapp left McFarland the former 1 tech moved to the 3 tech spot, and the 1 was manned by:

Chartric Darby 6’0 270

Chris Hovan 6’2 296

Both of whom are smaller than the new 3 tech, McFarland. It is interesting to note that, despite the 3 tech being the motor of this defense, the defense was probably at it's best after the acquisition of Simeon Rice, a DE who recorded more sacks every year during his time there than any other player.


A few caveats need to be mentioned. First Marinelli was not primarily in charge of the defense during his time here, he was the head coach. Secondly, these were by far the worst teams of Marinelli's tenure.

Marinelli had the same 3 technique his entire time in Detroit, Corey Redding.

Corey Redding 6’4 285

But there was turnover every year at the 1 tech, with 3 different players manning the spot:

Marcus Bell 6’2 339............30th ranked defense

Shaun Rogers 6’4 340..........32nd ranked defense

Chartric Darby 6’0 270..........32nd ranked defense

Here we see more traditional 1 tech templates. What is interesting here is the story of Shaun Rogers. Rogers was the incumbent starter as a high draft pick, but was hurt for most of 2006 which is why Marcus Bell played. Rogers then posted his best sack year by far in 2007 with 7 sacks. But he was let go in 2008, (and went on to post a pro-bowl year in Cleveland), and replaced by former Buc Darby. The interesting thing is, when Marinelli was able to choose a new 1 tech he again chose a smaller player, (who was again smaller than the 3 tech).


Things kind of break down here in PFR's database. For whatever reason some of these players are listed as NT and just DT instead of RDT and LDT. There were also constant changes in the lineups, so I am just going to post the raw data:

2009: LDT Tommy Harris/RDT Marcus Harrison

2010: LDT Matt Toeaina/RDT Anthony Adams

2011: LDT Israel Idonije/RDT Henry Melton

2012: NT Stephen Paea/RDT Henry Melton

Tommy Harris 6’3 300

Marcus Harrison 6’3 310

Matt Toeaina 6’2 301

Anthony Adams 6’0 300

Israel Idonije 6’7 290

Henry Melton 6’3 280

Stephen Paea 6’1 306

Again we see the same dynamic. Players are interchangeable. Tommy Harris played on the Left despite being bigger than Marcus Harrison. Israel Idonije played next to Henry Melton; neither was over 300 pounds.


First it means we need to shed our preconceptions of what to look for in a 1 tech. There really isn't much difference in this system. Players like Anthony McFarland have successfully played both as a primary position.

Second size doesn't matter. On numerous occasions Marinelli has brought out a line where the nominal 3 tech is larger than the 1 tech.

Size really doesn't matter! Marinelli isn't afraid of getting run all over. He does not need "beef" or a run stuffer. He isnt' afraid to play two smaller DT's at the same time.

Donald is still very much in play. And if he is chosen, and is good enough, will see snaps alongside Melton, not just in rotation.

Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.