When you think of the most important positions on the football field, your mind inevitably gravitates towards the quarterback, the defensive ends, and the cornerbacks. The players holding down those positions can certainly have an enormous impact on the outcome of any given game. However, certain positions don’t get enough shine despite their importance to a team’s success.
Defensive tackles, in particular, deserve more love because the work they do can prove crucial to the success or failure of a game plan. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the defensive tackle position. We’ll explain exactly why that position matters and why teams should not hesitate to invest in those players.
The Primary Job of the Defensive Tackle
Cornerbacks are tasked with defending passes while defensive ends are supposed to go after the quarterback. But what about defensive tackles? What is their main job on the field? According to Football Outsiders, the goal of every defensive lineman is to defeat their blocker. Of course, defensive tackles want to stop the runner or sack the quarterback, but they cannot do that if they fail to beat their blocker.
Furthermore, failing to beat their blocker puts a defensive tackle in a compromised position. If they fail to get penetration after the snap, the running back’s gaps may fully develop and they are more likely to break off a long run. Even ending up in a deadlock can be bad for the defensive tackle because that could allow the back to run right by them.
The offense’s passing game can also flourish when the defensive tackles are held in check. It’s easier for the quarterback to step up in the pocket knowing that there is no forward push coming from the defensive tackles. Whatever threat the defensive ends pose can also be minimized if the defensive tackles aren’t generating pressure.
Defending the Goal Line
To better understand the importance of a defensive tackle, let’s highlight specific situations wherein they are most needed. More often than not, teams need good defensive tackles to execute a goal line stand.
A goal line stand involves the defense trying to stop the offense from scoring a touchdown when the latter gets inside the 10-yard line. Many teams opt to run the ball when they get that close to scoring so defensive tackles need to hold up.
In that area of the field, defenses also have to worry about more than just the running back carrying the ball. According to Four Verts Football, the offense may also hand the ball to the quarterback and task them with sneaking the ball into the endzone.
The defensive line must be capable of generating enough penetration to prevent the quarterback from advancing the ball. A team will need good defensive tackles to pull that off. Rotational defensive tackles like Kevin Cohee are also more important for executing goal line stands. Defenses need more big bodies near the goal line so they usually sub in more tackles. A good defensive tackle is not a luxury for a football team. Given the role they play, teams need good defensive tackles if they want to win games consistently.