For the premium the NFL puts on pass rushers, many teams also have a need for a big space-eating defensive tackle to help them inside against the run. Former Notre Dame defensive tackle Louis Nix III is thought to be just the kind of inside presence that those teams are looking for, so I decided to break him down next. For the purposes of this breakdown I watched Nix play against Temple, Purdue, Michigan State, Arizona State and Pittsburgh. Those games represented the first, third, fourth, sixth and 10th games of Nix's final season, respectively. Cutup videos can be found at Draft Breakdown. Cat-quick and ... slow Playing nose tackle in a 4-3 compared to playing it in a 3-4 can be a whole different world. I won't go into a dissertation because that could take up almost this whole post, but here are a few differences: **If you are already familiar with the differences just skip down to the next section** In a 3-4, the nose tackle is going to get double-teamed on just about every play. He generally has to back away from the ball a little before the snap and then "catch" the center rather than exploding forward when the ball is snapped. He is usually two-gapping which means, depending upon the blocking scheme, he could be responsible for either A-gap. Because he lines up head-on against the center and off the ball, a 3-4 defensive tackle isn't expected to be much of a factor as a pass rusher, no matter how the offensive line blocks him. In a 4-3, the nose tackle gets double-teamed a lot too, but he also sees quite a bit of single blocking on the backside of plays when the opposing center is superior at reach blocking. He lines up at the line of scrimmage like everyone else. He can't come off like a sprinter on the snap, but a 4-3 nose tackle does need to explode off the ball enough to have a fighting chance against a double team, penetrate into the backfield against any reach block and be able to transition to a pass rush against the guard should the center slide over to help block the three-technique. Did you get all that? LOL Whether you understood what you just read perfectly or it flew right over your head, I think everybody can get what I'm saying is that a nose tackle generally has much different responsibilities in a 3-4 than he has in a 4-3. Why this is starting to matter more and more is because every year you see NFL teams going to a hybrid defense. For instance, the Falcons have played a lot of 3-4 and 4-3 and a blend of the two at times over the last couple of seasons under defensive coordinator Mike Nolan. It used to be that you could find a nose tackle to fit your specific scheme, but now with hybrid defenses you see a premium being put on nose tackles who can do both. That means they have to be big enough to anchor down against the run as a zero nose lined head up on the center. They also have to be quick enough off the ball to get penetration against the run. Maybe most importantly, they also have to at least be able to give something in the way of pass rush because this is a passing league, right? **OK start reading again here** Which brings me to Louis Nix III. First of all, he's what we call back home a Big Un! Nix is definitely heavy enough to play nose tackle in any scheme at 331 pounds. He isn't overly tall at a shade over 6'2, but as I've said before in these breakdowns, height can be a little overrated for an interior defensive lineman. Where Nix starts to separate himself is the fact that he is also cat-quick at times. He certainly showed that he has the ability to be explosive in short areas when he wants to be. Notre Dame ran somewhat of a hybrid defense, so I got to see Nix playing both, two-gapping and getting off the ball at nose tackle, which helped with my evaluation a lot. I was skeptical before I started watching that he would be a fit in a 4-3 defense, but now I believe he is at least quick enough to fit. The problem is that as quick as Nix can be, he also looked slow as molasses if he had to run any more than a couple of steps. With more teams using zone schemes when running the ball, you see a lot of them try to stress the 4-3 nose tackles by scheming the ball to cut back through his A-gap. I'm not sure how successful Nix would be at defending those kinds of plays because he doesn't bend his knees after his first couple of steps, which makes him high and slow at times. The linebackers can cover for Nix in a hybrid type of defense where he is head up on the guard two-gapping, but in a fast flow 4-3 scheme, he would give up yards in that backside A-gap based on the games that I watched. Sometimes the nose, no matter what the scheme, will have to be involved in turning the ball back to his help on the front side of a run. This goes back to having to beat a center's reach block and also having to beat slip blocks where the center goes up to get the linebacker. Being quick off the ball helps a lot, but eventually you might have to escape off that block and run down the line of scrimmage to make the play or make the ball bounce behind you. I have my doubts that Nix could make very many of those kinds of plays.
Is Louis Nix III the best of both worlds?
SB Nation | May 5