NFL defense terminology: Defensive front techniques

Michael Pallas  \ Aug 20th, 2019

Football season is upon us. For many football is a foreign language, and that means you need to learn. In this series, I will try to decipher the terminology the commentators use to improve everyone’s football IQ. 

When you hear A-gap or 3-technique, you may not completely be aware of what the analysts are talking about. Well, here’s your lesson.

When talking lettered gaps, it’s fairly straight forward. Lettered gaps are on both sides of the field. A is in the middle (between the guard and center) of the field. C gap is the edge, and B Gap is between the guard and tackle. Those can be attacked by multiple players from different positions. However, when we’re talking the numbers — 0-9 — those are for defensive linemen only.

If a defensive lineman has an even number assignment — without a letter — he’s going head to head with someone on the line. Zero is the center, two is a guard, four is a tackle, and six is a tight end matchup. This limits the number of double teams the opponents can use.

For the odd numbers, though, it’s about what is called shading. Shading is when a player isn’t directly lined up head to head. A 1-technique defensive tackle is shaded inside the center but off the guard.

3-technique is off the outside shoulder of the guard. Those players are defensive tackles. They’re on the end of a 3-4 look or the interior of a 4-3 look.

5-technique players are always defensive ends. They are shaded off the outside shoulder of the offensive tackle.

Finally, 7 and 9-techniques are also defensive end. 7-techniques play off the inside shoulder of the tight end. 9-techniques play off the outside shoulder. This position was made famous in Philadelphia when they used what became known as the wide-9, because of how wide the defensive end was lined up.

Stay tuned for part 2 of this football crash course.

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