Bull Rush: Get Movement Going On Young D-Line

April 28th, 2010
Former Bucs DE Steve White

Former Bucs DE Steve White

JoeBucsFan.com analyst

 Steve White spent every season of the Tony Dungy era (1996-2001) playing defensive end for the Bucs. He’s spent countless hours in the film room with the likes of Warren Sapp, Rod Marinelli and more. Joe is humbled to have White, also a published author and blogger, as part of the JoeBucsFan.com team. Recently, White even contributed “Insider” NFL Draft content to ESPN.com. 

 Below is White’s weekly Bull Rush column that breaks down all things defense with a focus on the defensive line. It’s simply a can’t-miss read for the hardcore Bucs fan. 

With the 2009 season over, White has broken down every Bucs defensive lineman, shared takes on offseason preparation, and gotten into some serious Xs and Os. For football junkies, reading White’s work is like striking gold.  

Today, White analyzes how the Bucs could find success on the defensive line with their young defensive tackles.

Grab a cold beverage and enjoy.

I have my issues with us drafting Brian Price in the second round after drafting Gerald McCoy with the No. 3 pick in the first round, which don’t really reflect the way I feel about Price as a player.

He definitely has first-round talent and that he would have made us or somebody else a great undertackle. It more has to do with the fact that I have reservations about drafting two guys with such similar skill sets so early in the draft, and I also truly believe that drafting Price at that slot eventually cost us a fifth-round pick that potentially could have at least provided competition at another position, if not developed into a starter.

But let’s set all that aside for the moment.

Both McCoy and Price are here now, and GM Mark Dominik as well as Coach Morris both say they will team up with Roy Miller to form a disruptive defensive tackle rotation. The question is how do we maximize each player’s abilities both individually and collectively to get the most out of them as a group?

As you might imagine I have some ideas, so I thought I might share.

First of all, it’s important for fans to understand that playing nosetackle is as different from playing undertackle/3-technique as playing safety is to playing cornerback. Sure, you both belong to the same generic group whether its the defensive line or the secondary, but the technique with your footwork and hands are divergent, as are the schemes you will see thrown at you.

For an undertackle, you are going to be in a wide 3-technique with your inside hand on the ground on the offensive guard’s outside foot or wider. You will be tilted inside in your alignment to aid you in seeing the ball being snapped and you will have what we call a “credit card” alignment, meaning you get as close to the line of scrimmage as possible without being called for lining up in the neutral zone. Everything is about attacking off the snap and then playing whichever blocking scheme is thrown at you. There is no read and react, you force them to react to you as much as is humanly possible.

From this position you may see a zone-strong running scheme where the guard tries to overtake your outside shoulder and block you inside so that the running back can bounce it outside. There also is the opposite play, in which they zone-weak and the guard slip blocks you off quickly up to the linebacker and the backside tackle tries to scramble or cut block you to create a cutback lane.

You may have a base block where the offensive guard comes off low and hard at your inside shoulder on downhill between the tackle runs by the running back. You may also get a double team between the offensive tackle and guard, either on a downhill off tackle running play or on a counter-play strong. And then you have the occasional down block where the guard in front of you pulls outside and the tackle on your side blocks down on your outside shoulder to cave you inside.

Nosetackles don’t have the luxury of being in wide alignment. Instead, you line up with your inside hand down inside of the center’s outside leg. Your tilt is more pronounced in our defense and is referred to as being cocked. The secret about this alignment is when being double teamed, which a nosetackle will be A LOT, you don’t want to give both guys a lot of surface to hit.

If you go into the gap with your shoulders parallel to the line of scrimmage then you make it easy for the offensive line. The center takes one shoulder, the guard takes the other, and you end up playing the deep third back by the safeties. But if you can get into the gap with your shoulders more perpendicular to the line of scrimmage you still give the center your chest to block but you make it hard on the guard who only has your back to push on. In fact, the more the guard pushes you in the back, the more he is actually helping you defeat the center’s block, if you get good hand placement and arm extension on him.

Which ain’t easy. In fact, a nosetackle getting his hands into a center’s chest consistently on run blocks is one of the hardest things to do in football in my opinion.

Timing Very Different At Nose, Undertackle

Now some of the schemes a nosetackle will face will somewhat mimic what an undertackle sees but the timing is different because guards are usually backed off the line while the center is, of course, lined up on it. So when an undertackle is double teamed it’s more of a simultaneous block, whereas when a nosetackle gets doubled it’s more of a bang-bang scenario. The center punches you and then here comes the guard coming to clean you up. In that same vein, a nosetackle wants to be quick off the ball but he doesn’t want to fire up field. Instead, he wants to take a good short power step and shoot his hands so that he has a good base of strength with good balance.

Aside from the double team a nosetackle will see a lot of scoop blocks on zone-strong, where the center posts them and then heads up to the linebacker and the guard tries to cut or scramble them. If a nosetackle can’t play that block, it creates a huge soft spot in the defense because the linemen on the strong side are hustling to make sure the running back has to cut back. If he can cut back and hit the hole downhill where the nose should be, then he gets to get up a head of steam heading into the secondary. Not a good look.

There are a few centers still athletic enough to reach-block a nosetackle, and it can also be hell on a run defense if they are successful.

I remember back in the days when Frank Winters for the Green Bay Packers made that block into almost an art form. If you block a nosetackle inside you are moving him from one side of the formation to the other. At that point, the defense is woefully outnumbered on the weakside and that’s how you end up with breakout runs.

Line Stunts, Assignments Could Provide An Edge

A more rarely used but very effective blocking scheme against a nosetackle is the Wham block. It’s a total asshole move where a team uses an offset fullback or a flexed tight end to come in and blindside the nose after the center flashes them to get them going up the field. Guys get so excited about being unblocked that many times they never see the block coming, and MAN does it sting!

Probably, the No. 1 worry with such young guys playing for us in the middle is they will have urges to make plays that aren’t theirs to make.

What I mean is that McCoy may be getting reach blocked and see the running back appear to be on course to run inside of him. Well, natural instinct in that case is to forgo your gap and peek inside to help out on the tackle. But the difference between NFL running backs and college running backs is tremendous. And if you duck inside on most NFL running backs they will see it, bounce the ball outside right where you were supposed to be and make you pay.

You have to trust that your teammate that is supposed to have the gap inside will do their job and make the play while you continue to do yours. It sounds easy, but it goes against most football players makeup to not try to make every play no matter what.

So considering the fact that we have three guys in McCoy, Price, and Miller who are all of similar size, which is to say they are considered somewhat undersized in this day and age, but are all athletic and strong, how do we put them in the best position to win?

One word. MOVEMENT

And really, this doesn’t just apply to them, but to our whole defensive line.

Don’t get me wrong, the majority of snaps in most games we will have to line up and get after it. But we should also be mixing it up with line stunts on early downs and pass rush games on longer yardage situations.

In all reality, line stunts turn into pass rush games if it’s not a run anyway. But the point is with movement you keep offensive linemen off balance, you make them hesitant when coming off the ball, you keep our guys from being double teamed as much, you get the most out of our guys athleticism, and you also set yourself up well to get a pass rush versus play-action pass.

Also, and this isn’t a minor thing, you can save young guys from themselves by giving them an assigned place to go rather than have them trying to read and play a block correctly every single play.

Tons of people keep saying we need to get back to what we used to do in our defense and I couldn’t agree more. But it’s worth noting that even at the end of his tenure, Monte Kiffin probably wasn’t using as many line stunts as he could have or should have.

We can dictate to the other team where the ball goes with our stunts while helping each other defeat blocks. For instance, there is a stunt where our strong side defensive end and undertackle make inside moves on the snap of the ball. This creates a situation where the running back has to keep the ball strong and, when run properly, can’t cut back. On the same stunt the undertackle has the ability to pick the center off of the nosetackle so that he can get over the top strong and help out on the tackle. And guess what, if it’s a pass instead, the nosetackle just loops around strong to get after the quarterback while the defensive end and undertackle have opportunities to get quick pressure with their inside moves.

If you have ever read any of my missives here you know how I feel about pass rush games and with the addition of McCoy and Price along with Miller getting better in his second year, we could strike fear in the hearts of offensive linemen on third down.

Again, there are times when guys will have to win one-on-one battles but pass rush games even help with that. If we have success running a TEX game (tackle penetrate, end loop inside) then offensive tackles will be wary of kick-stepping out to defend the speed rush. If we have success with EX games (end penetrate inside, tackle loop outside) you can have the guard scared to follow the defensive tackle on inside moves worried a defensive end is on the way to blast them in their earhole.

As great as Warren Sapp was as at pass rushing one on one, his TEX games were devastating. It got to the point where you could watch film after our games and see offensive tackles immediately reaching out their inside arm on the snap for fear that he was coming for him. And, of course, that would make them late getting out to block the defensive end. That’s the kind of fear we need to get back to instilling in people.

No ‘Vanilla Football’

And best of all, if we can get back to running great TOM games (one tackle penetrates inside, other tackle loops), we can give both of our ends straight one-one-one opportunities while getting great push in the pocket from the penetrator and the looper has a chance for a cleanup hit. If we run that a few times, the interior offensive linemen will be so confused they will end up losing all of their technique and start taking bad pass sets, which once again only helps in one-on-one situations.

Now I know that there are some 4-3 teams that have these humongous defensive tackles teamed up with somewhat lighter undertackles, but it’s important to remember that in the so called glory days of our defense that was never the case here. Both Brad Culpepper and Anthony McFarland were at nosetackle and Sapp was at undertackle, so it’s not like this is unprecedented or an impossible situation.

What it does mean though is that we shouldn’t just be playing vanilla football. A lot of attention gets paid to blitzing but you have to have movement even when we are just in a four-man line. That’s how we did it back then, and that’s how we can have a lot of success now.

Otherwise, you are asking Price and Miller at just over 300 pounds to sit in there against double teams from, say, the Saints, which will bring guards pushing 350+ pounds and a center pushing 320.

Not a good look.

Before you ask, yes, I remain skeptical about Price starting at nosetackle, but at the same time I want my team to win and I want him to be successful. I think the best way for both of those things to happen is to keep our defensive line on the move. It’s worked before, and it can work again.

As long as that’s our actual game plan, that is….

25 Responses to “Bull Rush: Get Movement Going On Young D-Line”

  1. oar Says:

    Mr White, Again, your reads never let down! Another great one! Thanks for all the info and insight!

  2. Radio Mushmouth Says:

    I hate the idea of wasting Price’s talents at Nose-Tacke.

    When we won the superbowl we had Chartric Darby at Nose. We don’t need a star to play that position, you can plug almost anyone in there who is strong , with a high motor. All they do is eat doubles anyhow.

    WHy the hell did we spend a high 2nd rounder on this position with all the holes we have??

    I know I keep repeating this point , but it annoys the shit out of me. Hopefully they can get super-creative to make it work like Steve is suggesting . I’m not exactly confident they will.

  3. CharlieB Says:

    I’m always left wondering why you’ve never gotten a job coaching the D-Line, Steve. You make it seem so simple, yet it also doesn’t seem like we’re doing anything half as sophisticated on our line.

  4. MichiganBucsFan Says:

    Great points Steve, hopefully we take advantage of our new found athleticism up front and really give the other teams offensive lineman hell.

  5. Jonny Says:

    Mr.White, you are a gem of a writer, you take your time and space to elucidate things and it helps us viewers of the game to understand the game better. There is absolutely NO ONE out there in the press that talk about defensive line assignments, techniques and pitfalls in such a detailed way. Just like Mike Williams could be a steal for the Bucs in the 4th, you are the steal for Joe and his site. With every article of yours, you get better, we get better and JBF.com gets better.

    Now about Price, one of the knocks against Price according to scouts is that he overpursues plays. I have watched his videos and do not understand what they mean. But after reading this article, by the usage of the word overpursuing, do they mean he is a guy that gets too excited and vacates his gap to chase the runners leading to a cutback by RBs?

  6. CharlieB Says:


    Is Suh considered better as an under tackle or a nose tackle? Would the pairing of Suh and Price been better for us? Granted, I know that’s not how it happened, but I’m legitimately curious.

  7. ReaderM Says:

    Thanks Steve so much for the article, as a football fan your articles are everything and more we could as as probing fan.. i’m not going to lie one of my first thought when I found out Bucs drafted Price was “I wonder what Steve’s thoughts on this pick and his thoughts on what kind of scheme we might run.” I do have a question, what do you do/plan do to make sure that you stay on top of your D-line game/analysis as a writer??

  8. RahDomDaBest Says:

    Sure would be nice if you were coaching our d-line.

    I’d like to see Henderson come in and take the NT position on 1st and 2nd down while we rotate those DT’s, and line up Proce at LDE from time to time.

  9. sgw94 Says:


    Glad you enjoyed it.

  10. sgw94 Says:


    I might get back into coaching one day. At the moment I just have some other things Id like to do. But I appreciate the compliments and I am glad it was easy to understand.

  11. RemyBuc31 Says:

    Wow. This might be the best blog entry I have EVER read. Thanks for the info Steve! You’re an asset to this site, and one of the reasons I keep coming back here to read day after day. Feeling pretty lucky as a Bucs fan to get insight like this.

  12. sgw94 Says:


    I am not sure what they mean by over pursing when it comes to Price. Usually it means a guy takes bad angles and allows the ball carrier to cut back on them but I never saw that kind of thing with Price.

  13. acharlot5 Says:

    steve, love te work man you really know how to explain ur thought process..keep it up
    i heard some rumors that stated the bucs will be hiring warren sapp to help coach these guys and mentor them.. any truth to that??

  14. sgw94 Says:


    You will never see a nosetackle taken that high in the draft so if we had taken Suh he would have been an undertackle too. I personally think McCoy was the better fit for us over Suh but I know some folks don’t agree.

  15. sgw94 Says:


    Glad you liked it. As for staying on top of D Line analysis basically I just watch a lot of football and read books. The truth is football isn’t astro physics, especially when it comes to defensive line play. Certain things re never going to change and then others that do are pretty much common sense changes. I have in the past attended some coaching clinics but the truth is I could have gotten up and taught at most of them.

  16. sgw94 Says:


    Thanks, I will certainly keep doing my best. As for Sapp I have no knowledge of him being hired in any formal capacity but I am pretty sure that in one form or another he will be around to help out McCoy and Price.

  17. RahDomDaBest Says:

    Steve, the o-line and de-line mechanics to include d-line movement and o-line blocking techniques is a concept that the majority of the fans, including me, have no idea about AND an area of expertise that the media, or skinny announcers never discuss.

    So when we hear it from a seasoned veteran who played with Sapp and Rice and coached by Kiffin and Marinilli (sp), it is like a Goldman Sachs desk trader talking about the mechanics of a synthetic COD… it’s cool stuff to hear the details from an expert. We never get to hear it.

    In contrast, when Carlson writes about QBing, the lingo sounds familiar probably because that position is a glamor position and a lot of announcer’s are ex-QBs. But NO ONE talks about the d-line rushing tachniques and o-line blocking schemes… or not like you at least.

    It is as if we are involved in each play, in slow motion, it’s pretty cool.

  18. BigMacAttack Says:

    Alrighty then. That pretty much somes it up. Mix it up, run more rush games, sprinkle in a blitz, and keep opponents off balance…..

    Boomshakalakalaka Boomshakalakalaka…..dunh dunh dunh…..dunh dunh dunh…hey hey hey!!!

  19. topdoggie Says:

    It makes the game more enjoyable when you know what is going on. Keep up the good work Steve. We are here in your school and loving every minute of it.

  20. JimBuc Says:

    Great article. For all the Morris haters out there — what did Morris change when he took over the defense? We went to a Tampa-2 base, but he added movement and blitzing, just like at K-State.

    I know people hate to give Morris credit for anything, but . . .

  21. Warthog Says:

    Mr White, superb article as usual. You are the best in the business at this stuff.

    Actual analysis from a person knowledgeable about the subject! How refreshing. I always wonder why ESPN etc avoid hiring people like yourself and instead go with the McShays of the world. But then I realize that they want something simplified and watered down until it can be consumed by any moron with 30 seconds to spare. They have no room for legitimate, intelligent writing like you provide. Keep it up.

    Joe: Whatever you are paying Steve, double it!

  22. admin Says:

    Joe here,

    Frankly, Warthog, Joe can’t pay Mr. White what he’s worth. Joe’s just happy to give Mr. White a big stage filled with many thousands of hardcore Bucs fans every day hungry for his takes.

  23. sgw94 Says:

    Thanks for all the compliments guys. The great thing is that its as fun for me writing this stuff as it is for ya’ll to read it.

  24. tampa2 Says:

    Mr. White
    Do you really think that we have the coaches to develop & train these guys on the line? DB’s? LB’s? Since I respect your opinion, I would like to hear your “real” thoughts on the defensive coaches this year. Because I still believe some of the young guys were left own their own last year and looked worse that they really are.

  25. Tristan Says:

    I read something (who knows where, at this point) that while McCoy is a definite lock on the UT position, Price has quite a bit of versatility. That, while UT is his strongest position, that he’s also an excellent NT and can even play a bit at either end; and at various times played all of those positions during his college career. I’m sure that factored a lot into the Dynamic Duo’s thinking when they pulled the trigger on Price. I’m not trusting blindly, necessarily, but I’m hoping that he works out on the D-line the way they hope.

    Major kudos and thanks again, Steve. Like everyone else, i love reading this level of analysis.