Importance of the Nose Tackle in the 49ers Defense
The nose tackle in Robert Saleh’s 4-3 defense, or 1 Technique, lines up on the shoulder of the center in base downs and short yardage situations.
The nose tackle position isn’t exactly the glamour position on the Defensive line. You think of edge rushers like Demarcus Ware and Michael Bennett, or interior guys like Aaron Donald or JJ Watt. The Nose Tackle is an important piece to any defense, just may not be the flashy position that gets all the sacks.
The 2016 49ers were the equivalent of a wet paper towel in the run game. Didn’t matter what team it was, they had their way with the 49ers defense on the ground. It was infuriating watching the team try to get off the field on 3rd and short and fail over and over. In 2016 the Nose was manned mostly by Glenn Dorsey. This season we will be seeing a whole new crop of players coming in to play the Nose tackle.
The Nose, or in the 49ers 4-3 defense the 1 technique, plays a very important roll on the defensive line in short yardage and 1st down plays. The 2016 49ers played a 3-4, so the Nose tackle lined up mostly at the 0 tech. Most defenses pull the nose off of the field on passing downs and when the offense is lined up with 3 or more wide receivers to bring in another defensive back in place of the Nose Tackle. Where a 1 tech will earn his money is in run stopping. He’s the big guy right over the centers shoulder taking up space in the A gap. Depending on what is called by the defensive coordinator a 1 tech could 1 gap, penetrating the offensive line into one specific gap, or could 2 gap, holding the offensive line and choosing which gap to attack.
The Nose has to keep a low pad level to not get knocked off the line. He needs to hold firm, take up space, and let his fellow D line and linebackers make plays around him. He won’t be chasing down any plays. Short yardage and goal line is where a nose tackle can really make a difference. Having a pro bowler at the nose can be the difference between 4th down and a touchdown.
Taking a look at the 49ers current roster, Robert Saleh has 2 true nose tackles to work with. Earl Mitchell and DJ Jones. Neither guy was on the team in 2016. In free agency the 49ers got Earl Mitchell, 6’3 311 pounds, who was drafted in the 3rd round in 2010 by Houston, then moved on to the Dolphins in 2014. He has 206 tackles and 5.5 sacks in his career. All in all Mitchell is a solid nose tackle. Now DJ Jones was drafted in the 6th round in this year’s draft by John Lynch. Jones is 6’0 321 pounds out of Ole Miss. Jones had a great college career and has a lot of promise as the future at 1 tech for the 49ers. Good nose tackles often fall to the later rounds due to defense being in sub packages so often in the current NFL. Mitchell will most likely win the job but look for a battle at the nose to come about later in the season and into the 2018 season.
Wild card in all this is Quinton Dial. Dial is 6’5 318 pounds, a little tall for a 1 tech, but he has shown versatility throughout his career with the 49ers. Dial was a 2013 Trent Baalke draft pick out of Alabama in the 5th round. He’s not a lock to make the roster, (who is really) but his versatility will surely help. Look for Saleh to move Dial around the defensive line, especially in sub packages.
The 2017 49ers defense will almost certainly be better on defense. How much better could have a lot to do with the big guy in the middle taking up space.
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