NFL: Top 5 Unheralded Defensive Tackles in the NFL
Conversations regarding outstanding defensive tackles in the NFL are usually dominated by names like Ndamukong Suh, Haloti Ngata and Kevin Williams. But what about those standout performers in the trenches who aren't always afforded the respect they deserve?
Defensive tackle can be one of the most thankless positions in football. Most defenses are judged on the exploits of speedy edge rushers, or dynamic, omnipresent linebackers. Next to the eye-popping statistics racked up from a defense's glamour positions, it can be easy to forget the neglected interior mammoths who often make such numbers possible.
Here is a list of unfashionable, but skilled defensive tackles. They are players capable of disrupting any offense and their often unnoticed presence is essential to their respective teams defensive potency.
5. Remi Ayodele: New Orleans Saints
A powerful and disruptive player as a one or zero technique, Remi Ayodele is a vital part of the Saints increasingly intimidating defense. Ayodele's greater amount of playing time has coincided with the Black and Gold's rise to fourth overall in the defensive rankings.
Ayodele's penchant for occupying double teams makes a key contribution to the number of one on one matchups faced by top pass rusher Will Smith. Possessing a genuine nasty streak, Ayodele is a perfect fit in coordinator Gregg Williams malevolent schemes.
Ayodele's ability to anchor the middle of the Saints line, gives Williams the flexibility to regularly employ a nickel 33, 3-3-5 alignment. Williams has been able to utilise multiple secondary blitzes out of this package. Ayodele is also essential in keeping cat-quick Mike linebacker Jonathan Vilma free from blockers.
4. Jason Jones: Tennessee Titans
Originally pencilled in as the replacement for Albert Haynesworth, Jason Jones has the potential to escape Haynesworth's substantial shadow.
Standing 6'5" and weighing 276 pounds, Jones is an active three technique. His height and quick first step make him a threat to penetrate the line of scrimmage on every snap. His speed and leverage combine to make him a dangerous weapon in the various line stunts employed by the Titans.
Tennessee could also take advantage of Jones's height by aligning him head up on an offensive tackle in packages involving six to eight defensive backs and a three man rush.
With three forced fumbles and three batted down passes last season, Jones offers hints of true play making skills. He could be primed for a career year if allowed to concentrate on rushing the pocket next to a bigger zero technique in new coordinator Jerry Gray's revamped defense.
3. Cory Redding: Baltimore Ravens
Cory Redding used to excel for the Detroit Lions as a pass rushing tackle in an Under front. Since arriving in the AFC North, Redding has lent great flexibility to the Ravens hybrid schemes. Often overshadowed by the exploits of the bigger names on the Baltimore defense, Redding is still a vital member of the Ravens fearsome unit.
At 6'4" and 292 pounds, Redding has the size to kick out and play as a two gap five technique. His deceptive quickness also enables him to slide down into the tackle-guard gap, when the Ravens choose to adjust to a more aggressive one gap front. Redding's acumen pressuring the quarterback lets Baltimore incorporate many twists and stunts involving Redding in tandem with an outside linebacker or Nickel safety.
Usually lined up on the weak side, Redding provides offensive lines with another threat to consider besides Terrell Suggs. The former Lion's presence also prevents blocking schemes from constantly slanting towards the dominant Haloti Ngata.
New Ravens defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano should have no problem finding ways to get Redding into opposition backfields.
2. Chris Canty New York Giants
Chris Canty is one of the league's premier run defenders. Originally drafted by Bill Parcells as one of the building blocks in the Dallas Cowboys transition to a 3-4, Canty is the kind of defensive presence you don't miss until he's gone.
After signing as a free agent for the Giants in 2009, Canty has overcome injuries to make a smooth transition to a 4-3 front. His consistent play has let Barry Cofield rediscover some of his best form.
An extremely powerful yet cerebral player, Canty uses his hands well to disengage blockers. His tremendous strength and smart technique allow others to play with the freedom to excel. With Canty manning one tackle position, the rest of the Big Blue line need only worry about playing the run on their way to the quarterback.
To join the ranks of the elite, the former Virginia Cavalier would need to prove his durability after a series of nagging injuries. Canty would also need to boost his sack numbers. Playing on the Giants buccaneering line, should provide the perfect opportunity for Canty to develop a more complete game.
1. Fred Robbins: St. Louis Rams
Aside from drafting Sam Bradford, inserting Fred Robbins into the middle of the defense, was the smartest thing the Rams did in 2010. The Wake Forest alumni came with valuable experience in Coach Steve Spagnuolo's complex fire zone schemes.
With the 6'4" 325 pound Robbins clogging up running lanes and collapsing the pocket from the middle, ends Chris Long and James Hall were able to feast on opposing quarterbacks. This was similar to the effect Robbins had for New York Giants trio Osi Umenyiora, Michael Strahan and Justin Tuck, during their Super Bowl run in 2007.
Having Robbins on the line allows the Rams to play vanilla on the early downs and still generate enough pressure to force opponents into the daunting third down scenarios where Spagnuolo likes to unleash his pressure packages. The massive frame of Robbins also acts an important shield to keep blockers off burgeoning star linebacker, James Laurinaitis.
The contributions of Robbins are not purely beneath the surface. Six sacks in 2010 represents a healthy return for a tackle. He has become an expert at batting down passes. The former Giant swatted seven attempted throws to the ground in 2010 and has 23 for his career.
These five defensive tackles may lack the star power of more familiar names. But none of their respective defenses would function as well without them.