[FAQ] Understanding Defensive Lineman Alignment

[FAQ] Understanding Defensive Lineman Alignment

During the tactical analysis of a football match or within the framework of the evaluation of prospects on the defensive line, two notions are often used: that of “Gap” and that of “Techniques”. These concepts may seem barbaric at first glance but they are not that complicated. We will guide you to understand them.

This article aims to introduce the tactical bases and is not intended to be exhaustive.

1 – The “Gap”

Between each offensive lineman, there is a “Gap” (a space). Before the engagement, the defenders organize themselves to occupy all the spaces: to stop a runner coming out of one of these gaps or to sneak in to attack the quarterback. The space between the center and the guard is the “Gap A” (on both sides), between the guard and the tackle it is the “Gap B”, between the tackle and the tight end the “Gap C” and at the outside of the tight end the “Gap D” (see diagram below).

Understanding the notion of Gap allows us to then focus on another fundamental notion for studying defensive linemen: techniques.

2- “Techniques”

At the time of the snap, a defensive lineman may be:

– In front of a player from the offensive line, he will then be aligned in a technique whose number is even. The technique will be 0 in front of the center, 2 in front of a guard, 4 in front of a tackle and 6 in front of a tight end.

– The defender can also shift to attack the sideline man, and in this case he can be on the inside shoulder of the player (2i, 4i etc the “i” for inside) or on the outside shoulder ( 3, 5 etc.). The “inside shoulder” of an offensive lineman is the one that is on the side of the center, and the outside one that is towards the side of the field. The center position is symmetrical, which is why attacking him on his left or right shoulder amounts to being aligned in “1-Technical”.

Source: https://www.viqtorysports.com

Now that the theoretical bases are installed, let’s move on to the practical application.

3- Practical application

Case 1:

Source: NFL Game Pass

On this first situation, the base defense of the Seahawks is a 4-3, with therefore 2 defensive tackles, 2 defensive ends and 3 linebackers. The defensive end on the right looking at the photo is placed on the outside shoulder of the right tackle, so it is aligned in “5-Technique”. A defensive tackle is between the center and the guard, aligned on the inside shoulder of the guard therefore in “2i-technique”. The other defensive tackle is positioned in “3-Technique” because aligned at the level of the outside shoulder of the offensive guard. The second defensive end (on the left in the photo) is separated from the left offensive tackle (more than on his outside shoulder), so he is aligned in “7-Technique”.

Case 2:

This time the defense is 3-4. From right to left (direction of the photo), the first lineman is in “9-Technical”, because aligned at the outer shoulder of the tight end. The second (N#91) is located on the outside shoulder of the guard, either in “3-technique”while the last one (N#94) is on the center outside shoulder, in “1-technical”.

4 – NFL specialists

To take concrete examples: Myles Garrett aligns most often in 7-TechnicalTJ Watt in 9-TechnicalDeForest Buckner in 3-Technical and Vita Vea in 1 or 0-Technical. There is also an effective player everywhere and his name is Aaron Donald.

During the 2020 season, the Rams player signed 6 sacks and 31 pressures while being aligned in 3-Technical2 sacks and 18 pressures in 4i-Technical2 sacks and 9 pressures in 4-Technical1 sack and 7 pressures in 5-Technical and 3 sacks and 9 pressures in 7-Technical ! This is why he is the best defender in the NFL, he knows how to have an impact even when he moves from his preferential position of 3-Technical.

Text: Jean-Michel Bougeard and Victor Roullier

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