What exactly is a three-technique?

During the simultaneously boring/exciting Hall of Fame game on Sunday night, Al Michaels actually asked a good question.  I was as surprised as you are; I mean this is a guy who has made a whole career off of calling the Miracle on Ice, and who usually seems not to even care, at this point.

He asked this good question of Cris Collinsworth, who knows what he’s talking about, and usually expresses himself well on television.  Collinsworth, though, completely booted a chance to teach viewers something about the game.

Collinsworth was talking about Albert Haynesworth wanting to play 3-technique, and Michaels spontaneously asked Collinsworth what a three-technique was.  Cris gave an incomplete answer about how the 3-technique lines up between the Guard and the Tackle, which is true.  Michaels followed up by asking if that’s the A-gap or the B-gap, and Collinsworth, seeming annoyed, said it was the B-gap.

I criticized Collinsworth on Twitter for this half-assed explanation, and now I am going to take the opportunity to explain what he didn’t feel like explaining.  I’ve even drawn a picture to help you understand the explanation.

When you’re talking about defensive front play, the word technique indicates nothing more than where a player lines up, in relation to the offensive line.  Because of that, I’m going to start by showing you a diagram of an offensive line.

Now, from this diagram, we can first discuss gap nomenclature.  You’ll often hear about the A, B, and C gaps, typcially in a defensive context.  As you can see in this diagram, the A gaps are between the center and guard, the B gaps are between the guard and tackle, and the C gaps are outside the tackle, and inside the end (whether that end is split or tight.)

Defenses use this gap terminology, because it allows you to easily describe locations for pressure schemes and run fits.  If you’re talking about a double A-gap blitz, anybody can easily understand that you’re bringing pressure from both sides of the Center.  (The Steelers and Giants both love to use that concept, from very different base defenses, incidentally.)  The point is, this is terminology that virtually everybody uses, and there’s no great complexity to it.

Now, on to defensive front techniques, which, remember, means where they line up.

Quite simply, we start in the middle at zero, which is a traditional nose tackle, aligned head-up on the offensive center.  As with the gap nomenclature, the numbering goes out in both directions.

One-Technique – Aligns on the outside shoulder of the Center.

Two-Technique – Aligns head-up on the Guard.  (Sometimes, on the inside shoulder of the Guard, if the offensive line has wide splits.  This is true of even numbers throughout.)

Three-Technique – Aligns on the outside shoulder of the Guard.

Four-Technique - Aligns head-up on the Tackle.

Five-Technique – Aligns on the outside shoulder of the Tackle.

Six-Technique – Aligns head-up on the Tight End, if there is one.

Seven-Technique – Aligns on the outside shoulder of the Tight End, if there is one.

These terms can apply to any defensive players who line up close to the offensive line.  It’s entirely possible for a safety to stack the box by lining up in a six-technique.  (He’d either be looking to blitz or jam a TE off the line, most likely, on a pass play.)

I think that for my next post, I’ll talk about the different defensive fronts, and how they like to align.  Collinsworth could have easily explained this on TV, and I wanted to make sure that somebody did.

Originally posted at One Man Football

1.  I’m not in the arguing business, I’m in the saying what I think business.
2.  I get my information from my eyes.

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