Football Defensive Tackle

Playing Defensive Tackle in Football

The defensive tackle is the anchor in a football team's defensive line. There are typically two defensive tackles on the field positioned on the inside of the defensive line. These two tackles fight play after play in the trenches, doing everything they can to bounce run plays to the outside or to rush the quarterback when a pass play is called. They have to be quick, strong, big and durable. 

So where does a defensive tackle line up, and what does he do when the ball is snapped?

Alignment of the Defensive Tackles 

The defensive tackle lines up on his assigned man or his assigned gap -- the space between the offensive linemen positioned on the other side of the scrimmage line. His assignment depends on what type of defensive play has been called.

He'll be in either a 3- or 4-point stance, ready to fire off when the ball is snapped. The player contacts the ground with three points, generally leaning forward with one hand and two feet on the ground, in a 3-point stance. Both hands are planted in a 4-point stance. The important thing is that he's not standing up, offering a bigger target for the other team's offensive blockers. 

Defensive Tackle Assignments

The defensive tackle is either charged with clogging up the gap he's assigned to, or he might be assigned to rush past his man to try to get to the quarterback. He may be responsible for covering more than one gap. The more often he wins this battle, the more likely it is that the defense will stop the play.

When the Ball Is Snapped 

The defensive tackle is going to fire off the ball as hard as he can when the ball is snapped to begin the play. At the same time, he must anticipate what the offensive linemen are going to do. He is most likely going to be the target of more than one blocker coming at him from different angles.

 Whichever way he gets blocked, he will "fight pressure with pressure." In other words, he will fight to go the opposite direction of where the offensive lineman is trying to push him. 

When a defensive tackle reads a run, he'll fight pressure with pressure to fill his assigned gap and either make the tackle or cause the play to bounce outside. If he reads a pass, he' must get separation, avoiding and eluding the offensive blockers to reach the quarterback in his pass rush lane.

As a general rule, defensive tackles push the pocket -- the area of protection provided to the quarterback by his offensive line -- in from the front. The defensive ends will attack the pocket from the outside. The idea is to collapse the pocket so the quarterback is open and vulnerable.

Defensive tackles are two of the most critical positions on the defensive unit. Well they can do their jobs well, they make all the other defenders' jobs easier.