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    general counsel's Avatar
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    the impact of rookie defensive tackles

    there is an excellent article on the effectiveness (or lack thereof) or rookie defensive tackles in the nfl on nfl.com. Its written by pat kirwan. Can one of our many tech savy rambros please post that article or a link to it, i am sure it would provoke some excellent discussion.

    I raise this in the context of people assuming that carriker is going to step in one day one and be effective to the point where kennedy for example is now completely useless, let alone the assumption by some on this board that clifton ryan will produce anything at all

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    Re: the impact of rookie defensive tackles

    Can one of our many tech savy rambros please post that article or a link to it
    Your wish is my command:

    Rookie defensive tackles in for an education
    By Pat Kirwan
    NFL.com Senior Analyst

    (May 14, 2007) -- One of the toughest positions on the field for a young player to master is defensive tackle. The speed of the game inside is like a blur for a rookie. The strength and size of the offensive linemen in the NFL is something just a rare few can adjust to when they first put their pads on. As one defensive line coach said to me this past week about first-day draft picks at defensive tackle, "Most of the rooks physically dominated their college opponents with little technique and they are in a world of trouble now."

    The speed of the game is a whole other problem, especially with offensive lines that have worked together for years or are masters of the Alex Gibbs zone-blocking schemes. Rookie defensive tackles inevitably play too high to see the ball or the quarterback and it's easy pickings for the offensive linemen.

    Health is also an issue for rookie defensive tackles. In the past four years, there have been 28 defensive tackles drafted on the first day of the draft (Rounds 1 through 3) and only 10 of the 28 were active for all 16 games their rookie season.

    So with nine defensive tackles drafted on the first day of the 2007 draft, what do they really have to look forward to this season? Let's look back at the last four years to determine the future. Production expectations for a rookie defensive tackle has to be brought into a realistic area. Sure, Kevin Williams showed up as a first-round pick of the Vikings as a rookie in 2003 and started all 16 games and had 51 tackles, 10 sacks and four passes defended, but he's the exception, not the rule. Will first-round picks Amobi Okoye (Houston) or Justin Harrell (Green Bay) be the next Kevin Williams or will they be the next Brodrick Bunkley? Bunkley didn't start a game and had nine tackles, no sacks, no forced fumbles and no passes defended as a rookie for the Eagles last season.

    What about the second-round defensive tackles taken in 2007? From 2003-06, there were just five defensive tackles taken in the second round -- Shaun Cody (Detroit), Jonathan Babineaux (Atlanta), Junior Siavii (Kansas City), Tank Johnson (Chicago) and Anthony Adams (San Francisco). As a group they generated only 10 starts their rookie season with just four sacks while averaging 20 tackles each. An average year for this year's second-round tackles -- Alan Branch (Arizona) and Turk McBride (Kansas City) -- should be two or three starts, 20 tackles and one or two sacks.

    A lot of defensive tackles went in the third round this year -- Jay Alford (N.Y. Giants), Tank Tyler (Kansas City), Brandon Mebane (Seattle), Ray McDonald (San Francisco) and Quinn Pitcock (Indianapolis) -- which is surprising considering NFL averaged 2 tackles taken in the third round from 2003-06. The third round has two great stories in the past few years. Darnell Dockett was selected by the Cardinals in 2004 and promptly started 15 games and produced 39 tackles and 3 sacks. If you didn't know the truth about rookie defensive tackle production that might not impress you, but the league average suggests it was a great season.

    Of the 10 tackles since 2003 taken in the third round, eight of them didn't have any starts as rookies and only Dockett was active for all 16 games. In the past two years, none of the five tackles taken started a game, and they only generated one sack and an unimpressive 20 tackles combined. On the other hand, maybe a team will get lucky and find a Cory Redding. The Lions franchise tagged him this past season, but in his rookie season, mostly at defensive end, he didn't start a game was active for only nine games and had seven tackles and no sacks. Three years later, Detroit has a good player.

    Of course, there is also a 20 percent chance one or two of this year's selections turn out to be Junior Siavii, Donnell Washington or Vincent Burns and gone from the game.

    Finally, the fans and media expect big things from this year's first-day draft picks, but keep in mind a good season will be to hit the average the previous 28 first-day draftees achieved in their rookie seasons. Keep this guideline with you before you start believing these young defensive tackles down in the trenches are headed towards being a bust -- start 30 percent of the games, be active for 75 percent of the games, be in on 19-20 tackles, grab one or two sacks, defend one pass and either force or recover one fumble. That's a solid rookie season at defensive tackle.

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    Re: the impact of rookie defensive tackles

    I have a theory on this.

    While obviously physical attributes, talent and experience are all factors in success (particularly early success), I think certain positions, most notably OG and DT, are based, to a large extent, on the player's frame of mind.

    Kennedy has all the physical talent in the world. But, I see him as a guy who wants to be a star. He wants to penetrate the line and make a big play. He wants to pursue ball carriers and get a lot of tackles.

    Only one problem: that's not his job.

    A DT - particularly a NT - has the primary function of being, for lack of a better term, "cannon fodder." He's supposed to hit the interior line like a battering ram, and force the other team to sustain blocks on him (often times with double teams), while smaller and faster players get the highlights. Their role is crucial (Ray Lewis wouldn't have been Ray Lewis without guys like Tony Siragusa in front of him) and somewhat thankless.

    I don't think Kennedy has the mind frame for that role. I hope he proves me wrong, but I just don't see it.

    Carriker, on the other hand, seems to have exactly that mindset. Again, I could be wrong, but that's what I perceive.

    Clifton Ryan? Not sure.

    Keith Jackson, Jr. - again, he seems like a plugger to me.

    Maybe some will think I'm way off base here, but I truly think that the difference between guys who come in and succeed at the thankless roles (Mark Setterstrom, for example) and guys who don't depends largely on mindset.

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    Re: the impact of rookie defensive tackles

    i dont disagree with your basic premise av, although i am not yet prepared to indict kennedy after only one year at the position. I believe completely in the "Man against Boys theory" that is alluded to in the article.

    So many of the defensive tackles dominate in college on pure strength and physical ability because they are really men playing against boys. However, when you hit the nfl, physical strength alone will almost never be good enough without technique. same is true of pure speed at the wide receiver position without route running skills.

    there is nothing tougher than an nfl offensive lineman. these guys are just born killers. The defensive tackles have to use technique or they just get beat to crap. Its a night and day difference between a college lineman and an nfl offensive lineman, not so much in size anymore, but in strength, speed, technique and just born killer instinct.

    ramming speed to all

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    Re: the impact of rookie defensive tackles

    The key to a good DT is the willingness to sacrifice. Of course, this can be said about many of the positions on both offense and defense.

    Would you be willing to sacrifice a chance in the spotlight, with all the money and fame contained in the spotlight? Or, would you rather have it all, regardless of what it does to the team and the win-loss record?

    For example: In 1999, Faulk was known for making plays. But, if you watch the games closely, you'll notice that one of the most important roles he had was as a blocker. Had he not assumed this role, how long would Kurt have lasted?

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    Re: the impact of rookie defensive tackles

    RamsFanSam, I'm glad you noticed Faulk's role. Few people has said it and still it's very true he sacrificed himself for the team in general and for Kurt in particular.

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    Re: the impact of rookie defensive tackles

    Quote Originally Posted by Evil Disco Man View Post
    Your wish is my command:

    Rookie defensive tackles in for an education
    By Pat Kirwan
    NFL.com Senior Analyst

    (May 14, 2007) -- One of the toughest positions on the field for a young player to master is defensive tackle.
    So Kennedy is a slow learner. This is his year to shape up or ship out.

  8. #8
    z.nrd Guest

    Re: the impact of rookie defensive tackles

    I am happy to indict Kennedy after one year at the position. He can't play NT. He doesn't have either the mindset or the techninque---and he shows no willingness to learn the proper technique. For example: one thing no DT should ever, ever do is stand up at the snap. That's especially the case with NTs. Put in any game from 2006 and count the number of times JK just stands up at the snap.

    I have seen guys who never did anything more than play DT in high school post in stuttering rage over him doing that game after game.

    And the fact of the matter is, while it IS true that it takes a traditional DT a while to learn the position, rookie NTs start all the time in the league. That may be because the NT (1) must be predisposed to the position in terms of (a) mindset and (b) willingness to learn the technique and (c) having the right skill set....and if you target anyone in the draft as a true NT chances are he already has all those things coming out of college; and (2) the NT learns a limited role with a specific mission, and it's easier to learn THAT than to master all the skills needed to play traditional DT (which include a lot more reading and a lot of different moves, including pass rush moves...NTs just play their much more limited role and then chances are, exit on passing downs).

    In fact a lot of the guys playing NT in the league right now DID start as rookies.

    So if a team doesn't expect a lot from the NT beyond normal block-clogging, run-stopping duties, then yeah, a rookie can play there.

    As for Ryan...his profile is like a perfect resume for a 4/3 NT. People who watched him play last year (or reviewed games after he was drafted) are all impressed. I haven't read anyone on any board on the net who actually watched Ryan play who says he can't make it. In fact the ones who did watch him play are all enthusiastic (same with Jackson). This includes the Shrine Game, where he stood out. IN terms of his skill set, compare him to Barry Cofield, the 4th rounder who ended up starting at NT as a rookie last year for the Giants. They have virtually identical (on paper) skill sets (and btw, neither played NT in college...both shifted between DT and DE). I am not promising anything, but right now, Ryan looks like a good pick. So does Jackson.

    One more thing. If you read around on Ryan and Jackson---looking both at net draft guru stuff and also posts by fans who watched one or both of them play----no one ever, ever, ever says a word about "downs off" or "fades during the game" or any of that. Not that I saw anyway. Ryan is praised for being the one consistent player on a chaotic line; Jackson is praised for his super John Randle-like motor. That stuff about "downs off" etc. WAS said about Kennedy when he was drafted. So there's THAT too.
    Last edited by z.nrd; -05-17-2007 at 08:41 AM.

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    Re: the impact of rookie defensive tackles

    the article talks about first round defensive tackles but makes no mention of Carriker what so ever. I understand he was listed a DE, but you think someone with the knowledge the guy supposedly has would know Carriker is a DT for the Rams.

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    Re: the impact of rookie defensive tackles

    I think that Carrikers work ethic and mentsal toughness will help him thrue the lack of confidence that affects DTs.

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    Re: the impact of rookie defensive tackles

    Kirwan knows his stuff, he's one of the few (perhaps even the only) NFL.com writer whom I respect. I agree with his assessments, we can't expect a rookie DT to turn around our defense.

    There are lots of expectations for Carriker, probably too many. I really doubt a rookie DT is going to save our run defense, DT is our main problem at the start of this season as it was the year before and the year before that. What really gets to me is why we didn't do anything about DT 1 or 2 years ago, drafted a stud DT in the 1st, traded for a veteran, anything (anyone could see that was our main problem IMO). If we'd done something about the problem back then we wouldn't have to wait now, and yes I do believe we will have to wait on Carriker before he really grows in a NT role and gets a chance to be dominant enough to turn around our defense (with help from a lot of other players). Our run defense looks roughly as bad this year as it was last year (say, 28-32 ranked), and that's why I can't be overly optimistic about this season. We can't expect Carriker to turn around our run defense on his own, I think we'll have to expect a defense roughly on par with last year's and then aim at outgunning the opposition - don't like that strategy? Blame our offseason moves.

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    Re: the impact of rookie defensive tackles

    wow he is good

  13. #13
    keith m. klink Guest

    Re: the impact of rookie defensive tackles

    i totally disagree with DENMARK , the whole rams defensive line has been revamped , restocked with talent , and it's rookie's have had a year too grow under the coaches and system . with noted improvement , that has impressed the coaches . last year it was the defensive backfield that was in shambles and ranked at the bottom of the league before the draft . with veteran leaders added and a good draft , they were at the top of the heap, ( ya i know , they were ranked their because of the running game was bad . but again , i will say , go back and look at total yards , and the rams were somewhere beetween 250 - 400 yards from being ranked 30th in run defense instead of 17th or so . that is a huge jump .) so with the influx of talent at free agency , and the drafted and undrafted rookies, i see this team as on the better side of the road on stopping the run . i'm thinking maybe 14th to 18th in the run -D and 8th to 13th in passing-D , because of the better run stopping , i see more passes coming our way .

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    Re: the impact of rookie defensive tackles

    Quote Originally Posted by znrd
    If you read around on Ryan and Jackson---looking both at net draft guru stuff and also posts by fans who watched one or both of them play----no one ever, ever, ever says a word about "downs off" or "fades during the game" or any of that.
    If Ryan and Jackson are the answer, great! When camp gets here, find your two best NTs and get the season going. Carriker, Kennedy, Ryan, Jackson.......pick 2 and let's go. But surely your not saying cut Kennedy now, without even seeing any of the three rookies against NFL talent?

    My concerns with Ryan are when I read things like....
    Quote Originally Posted by Scott Wright
    Not real explosive...isn't stout versus the run
    And Jackson's consistency HAS been noticed...
    Quote Originally Posted by Scott Wright
    Work ethic has been questioned....not very powerful and doesn't get a good push......at most he profiles as a backup
    "Before the gates of excellence the high gods have placed sweat; long is the road thereto and rough and steep at first; but when the heights are reached, then there is ease, though grievously hard in the winning." --- Hesiod

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    Re: the impact of rookie defensive tackles

    Quote Originally Posted by AvengerRam View Post
    I have a theory on this.

    While obviously physical attributes, talent and experience are all factors in success (particularly early success), I think certain positions, most notably OG and DT, are based, to a large extent, on the player's frame of mind.

    Kennedy has all the physical talent in the world. But, I see him as a guy who wants to be a star. He wants to penetrate the line and make a big play. He wants to pursue ball carriers and get a lot of tackles.

    Only one problem: that's not his job.

    A DT - particularly a NT - has the primary function of being, for lack of a better term, "cannon fodder." He's supposed to hit the interior line like a battering ram, and force the other team to sustain blocks on him (often times with double teams), while smaller and faster players get the highlights. Their role is crucial (Ray Lewis wouldn't have been Ray Lewis without guys like Tony Siragusa in front of him) and somewhat thankless.

    I don't think Kennedy has the mind frame for that role. I hope he proves me wrong, but I just don't see it.

    Carriker, on the other hand, seems to have exactly that mindset. Again, I could be wrong, but that's what I perceive.

    Clifton Ryan? Not sure.

    Keith Jackson, Jr. - again, he seems like a plugger to me.

    Maybe some will think I'm way off base here, but I truly think that the difference between guys who come in and succeed at the thankless roles (Mark Setterstrom, for example) and guys who don't depends largely on mindset.
    That's a very good point AV; the stats don't tell the whole story when it comes to the interior of the D line. If Spoon, Little and Hall have a good season then we will know.
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