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  1. #1
    RamWraith's Avatar
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    Massive men in the middle are missing

    NFL Expert Dennis Dillon
    Posted: May 29, 2007

    Talk about staying power. Cleveland's Ted Washington, who weighs 365 pounds and recently turned 39, is gearing up for his 17th season. Miami's Keith Traylor, who weighs 337 and will be 38 in September, has 15 seasons in the books. The Bengals recently cut Sam Adams, who is a very conservative 350 as he closes in on his 34th birthday. But don't be surprised if Adams pops up on another team's roster and plays a 14th season.

    You can call them dinosaurs -- but not because of their age. Each is a heavyweight defensive tackle who can anchor his ample girth on the line of scrimmage and disrupt an opponent's running game. And that type of cat is becoming an endangered species in the NFL.

    "It's just tough to find the big guys anymore," Eagles general manager Tom Heckert says.

    Teams looking for big men with big game in this year's draft class were disappointed. Of the 19 defensive tackles selected -- 20 if you count Adam Carriker, who played end at Nebraska -- two had listed weights above 320. Only two of the 10 drafted in the first three rounds weighed 310 or more.

    Colleges don't have much room in their football gardens anymore to cultivate dominant run-stopping tackles. More and more teams are looking for speed on defense to combat all the spread offenses. So players who are recruited as safeties end up as linebackers, players who come in as linebackers are moved to the front and asked to rush the passer, and defensive linemen, well, if they're not quick and agile, they'll likely end up on the offensive line.

    Also, some NFL coaches believe many defensive tackles coming into the league aren't sound in the fundamentals critical to playing the run: using their hands to get off blocks, staying square to the line of scrimmage and playing a two-gap technique. In college, they often are asked to line up in one gap, turn their hips and jet upfield.

    "That's all fine and dandy," Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan says, "but if that running back is running for 200 yards on you, you've probably got some problems."

    The NFL may have unwittingly contributed to its own problem. Because the cover 2 has become the defense du jour, many teams are willing to try to stop the run using lighter, undersized tackles. The Super Bowl champion Colts are an excellent example. They used Raheem Brock (274 pounds), Montae Reagor (285) and Anthony McFarland (300) as their primary tackles last season and were last in the league in run defense in the regular season -- a 375-yard gashing by Jacksonville in Week 14 skewed the numbers a bit -- before they righted themselves in the playoffs.

    Because the number of wide-bodied run stuffers coming out of colleges is so sparse, teams often reach for tackles in the draft. Or they persist like blindfolded children swinging at a pinata, hoping they'll eventually hit their target. The Rams drafted Damione Lewis and Ryan Pickett in the first round in 2001, then took Jimmy Kennedy in Round 1 two years later. Lewis and Pickett no longer are with the team, and Kennedy may be on his last leg in St. Louis.

    So the Rams are making another attempt to close the gaps in a run defense that ranked 31st, 30th and 29th the past three seasons. They selected the 292-pound Carriker with their top pick and are making him a tackle. And they expect him to get bigger -- just as Washington, Traylor and Adams did.

    The NFL isn't devoid of good run-stuffing tackles. The Vikings led the league in run defense last season largely because of the play of Pat Williams and Kevin Williams; Marcus Stroud and John Henderson form a strong duo in Jacksonville; and Baltimore's Haloti Ngata, Pittsburgh's Casey Hampton, San Diego's Jamal Williams and New England's Vince Wilfork are huge 3-4 nose tackles who make life difficult for running backs. But there certainly isn't enough of their kind to go around.

    NFL teams need to figure out how to keep this breed of tackle from becoming extinct. If not, they'll soon be wailing, "Where have you gone, Ted Washington? Our gaping run defenses turn their lonely eyes to you."


  2. #2
    RealRam's Avatar
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    Re: Massive men in the middle are missing

    Enough!

    Just get Adams and Jenkins and place them along with Kennedy and Wroten as our front four. Just let them sit there, close together. That will take care of any gaps on any running defense situation.

    And BTW, keep all four on a constant 'all you can eat' burger and fries and shakes diet starting in training camp; non stop throughout the season.

  3. #3
    Dr. Defense's Avatar
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    Re: Massive men in the middle are missing

    This is our exact problem. The ages of big men clogging up the middle are diminishing. As a result teams have to reach for that someone to play tackle. Those tackles that are good enough, rarely leave the first round let. Then those that are in the league are swallowed up by teams(see minnesota and jacksonvile). There is a reason there run defense is so high, it's because they have huge bodies clogging up the middle. That allows the ends and the linebackers and swoop down on the running back who now has to kick it to the outside. Whether or not Carriker is the guy, he has to be an upgrade over what we have now. All I know is that we can't stay with small guys, who get pushed aruond for much longer.

  4. #4
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    Re: Massive men in the middle are missing

    I agree the fatties are the way to go. Imagine if you dare, a starting D-line consisting of Hall, Carriker, Adams, and Little. Yes I know their not all fat, but thats one good looking front four.

  5. #5
    z.nrd Guest

    Re: Massive men in the middle are missing

    Quote Originally Posted by Dr. Defense View Post
    This is our exact problem. The ages of big men clogging up the middle are diminishing. As a result teams have to reach for that someone to play tackle. Those tackles that are good enough, rarely leave the first round let. Then those that are in the league are swallowed up by teams(see minnesota and jacksonvile). There is a reason there run defense is so high, it's because they have huge bodies clogging up the middle. That allows the ends and the linebackers and swoop down on the running back who now has to kick it to the outside. Whether or not Carriker is the guy, he has to be an upgrade over what we have now. All I know is that we can't stay with small guys, who get pushed aruond for much longer.
    Except they're not all "huge."

    Stroud is 6'6", 306.
    Henderson is bigger at 6'7", 325.

    Kevin Williams is 6'5", 304.
    Pat Williams lists at 6'3", 317.

    The Bears defensive liner was first-rate before Tommie Harris got hurt. He's 6'3", 300. His partner NT, Tank Johnson, is 6'3", 300.

    Imagine adding any one of the following to the Rams defense---wouldn't it be better?

    Stroud? Kv. Williams? Tommie Harris?

    Meanwhile two of the big guys are Adams and Jenkins---one was cut and the other is on the trading block.

    It ain't all size---technique and heart and tenacity all count for more.

  6. #6
    RealRam's Avatar
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    Re: Massive men in the middle are missing

    It ain't all size---technique and heart and tenacity all count for more. -- Z.nrd
    Z, I agree. That's why I was joking around with us having four Big-Boys-Big as a "wall of weight" for our DL. I'd much rather have a quick big man than a huge mountain at DT.

    Everyone knows Kennedy hasn't fulfilled the role of the big stopper. Not many of us know why. Even the Rams official Web site has been describing him as such since he arrived (I realize they have to insert positive text in the roster)...

    Jimmy Kennedy, DT #73:

    Has all the tools to be an inside power guy such as Ted Washington and Gilbert Brown…big and athletic new breed of defensive tackle…can shut down run…selected by Rams in first round (12th overall) of 2003 NFL Draft.
    Too bad. This is his last call. It is somewhat unlikely but he might vindicate himself. And that would be great so as to spark up the DL to what it should be, revamped with Carriker and possibly Clifton Ryan as well at DTs.


    BTW, I hope Alan Branch takes a few years in Arizona to wake up like it will have taken JK to do so w/the Rams for 07! I certainly don't want to see the Cards improving their run D because of a meaty DL!
    Last edited by RealRam; -05-29-2007 at 11:58 PM. Reason: Content

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