The 12 Posts of Playoffs : 9-technique

football, basics

football, basics, playoffs, technique

Ok, so we’re diving a little bit deeper into the football world today, but I know you can handle it!

A 9-technique is a defensive technique. Which begs the question, what is a defensive technique?

A defensive technique probably sounds like it’s describing a specific aspect of a defender’s play, like he has a trick move that he whips out on blitzes or something. But techniques actually refer to a defender’s stance when he lines up on the defensive line.

We’ll back this truck up for a minute to remember that the defensive linemen are the players lined up directly across from the offensive linemen. The defensive line consists of defensive tackles and defensive ends.


basic, football, offense, defense

(To clarify, the defensive line is in light green. The darker green squares labeled CB are cornerbacks; they are part of the secondary. If your brain feels like it’s in a blender, feel free to read this post all about defense.)

Ok, so for the players on the defensive line, each guy lines up in a specific “technique.” You’ll hear this terminology used quite a bit when draft time comes to call – analysts will be talking about a player as “a great 3-technique,” and so on and so forth. The technique describes his location on the line and what his primary responsibilities are.

In general, techniques are identified by numbers, starting with zero, and increase from inside to outside (almost always – this is still football, after all).

It looks like this:

football, fundamentals, technique

image by Pro Football Focus

There is an alternative system of numbering these techniques created by the legendary Bear Bryant, but it’s not quite as straightforward as this one. We’re going to stick to this method today, but feel free to read about both methods in this post all about techniques.

Ok, so the white line that crosses the field is the line of scrimmage. The circles on top of the line are the offensive line (plus one tight end on each side just to show how the numbers work when a tight end lines up with the O-line). The numbers on the bottom of the line indicate the “technique” of the player who would be standing in that position.

Stay with me, here.

So if a defensive linemen, usually a nose tackle, is lined up directly across from the center, he’s playing 0-technique. If a defensive tackle is lined up to the outside should of an offensive guard (labeled RG or LG), he’s playing 3-technique. If he’s lined up to the inside shoulder, he’s playing 1-technique. Directly over? 2-technique.

As per our post, the 9-technique would be lined up where?

If you guessed the outside shoulder of the tight end, you are correct!

Now the question is: who goes where? What type of player fits the mold for each technique? Let’s consider that in terms of odd-numbered techniques (except for zero), the ones most frequently used to describe defensive linemen:

0-technique: usually the biggest guy of the bunch. He’s traditionally (but not always) responsible for blocking the center and defending both A gaps*, so he’s got to be large enough to take up a lot of space on the field.

1-technique: similar physique and job description as the 0-technique, but he usually defends one gap (the A gap), not two, and should command attention from both the center and the guard.

3-technique: the lineman aligned in this position is poised for disruption. It’s his job to shoot the B gap and get into the backfield to disrupt any running or passing plays. As per Pro Football Focus (which is a must read for more information about these techniques – or about anything football, for that matter): “Unlike the first two tackle positions, the 3-technique relies far more on speed and agility than brute strength.”

5-technique: this alignment is designed to block the B and C gaps, not so much through size, but through length. The 5-technique player is usually large, but also tall.

7-technique: it’s all about setting the edge and stopping the run for the 7-technique player. In the case of a passing play, the lineman in this position should also be able to elude the tight end and the tackle and get into the backfield to disrupt a passing play.

9-technique: these are the speed rushers; the guys who are going to fly off the defensive line and into the backfield to rush the quarterback.

*Gaps? What? Read this post

So…that’s a lot to swallow, but does it kind of make sense? Questions, comments, and snide remarks welcomed below!

Author: Beka