Episode Summary

We're breaking down the Trench Question Of The Day. What are the best pass rush moves for a nose tackle in a 3-4 defense?

Episode Notes

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At Big Dawg Football, we're all about making you a tactician in the trenches. Your progress is our success. On this episode of Big Dawg Trench Talk, we're going to open it up for trench question. This question comes from Big Dawg Christian Foltin. He asked a great question that a lot of nose tackles actually wrestle with. The question is, "what are the best pass rush moves for a nose tackle in a 3-4 defense?". All right, Big Dawg Foltin, great question. Now, let's talk trenches.

So, 3-4 defense. So, we're looking at three big dawgs in the trenches. You got your nose, who's in a zero technique. You have your defensive ends, that might be in a 4, which is head up over the tackle. Or they actually might be in a 5, which is outside shoulder of the offensive tackle. Depending on the Defensive Coordinator, he may line those guys up in a 4 or 5. Either way, you only have three defensive linemen and you have five offensive linemen. Now, it's supposed to be advantage offensive linemen, five against three. Three defensive linemen should never beat five offensive linemen. However, if you have three dawgs at d-line, those three dawgs will get to that quarterback and that's a fact Jack. So, let's look specifically at what Christian asks. He's saying, nose tackle. How can a nose tackle be successful in a situation he's in?

Well, what is he talking about? Right now, the challenge for a nose tackle in a 3-4 defense, assuming that the guards are uncovered, assuming that there's no blitz coming from the linebackers, assuming that there is no defensive end that's slanting or long sticking inside, assuming that those ends are rushing outside and that nose tackle has a two way go. Assuming that, there is a challenge. There is a challenge because you have a center and you have two guards there. You have potentially three guys blocking you. You are being tripled team and the job of those guards is to make sure that you do not as a nose tackle, actually rush up that "A" gap.

They have to close that off. There is no way that those guards and that center would ever or should ever allow a nose tackle to rush up the "A" gap. If anything, they'll close off the "A" and force that nose tackle towards the "B". The problem with that is that now if you're dealing with a quarterback that doesn't mind pulling that ball down and taking off, you're giving him a huge lane. So, as a nose guard taking the "B" gap like that, it's definitely not recommended unless again, there's a defensive end that's long sticking to the "A" or a linebacker actually rushing the opposite "A" or "B" gap. But, let's assume there's none of that. Defensive ends not coming inside, linebackers not blitzing of the opposite "A" or "B". It's just you Big Dawg, it's you. You're in the zero technique and you got three hogs, well I call them hogs.

You have three offensive linemen sitting there waiting on you to take either side and whichever way you go, you're getting triple team. That's the challenge for a nose tackle in a 3-4 defense on a pass rush. Well, here we go, Big Dawg. Here's your answer. There's always an answer. Always. Let me pull out my Big Dawg Bible and I'm going to turn to a chapter I call, The Art of Rushing for Nose Tackles. And, the proverb reads, "In the trenches, you don't get space. You create space." When the guards take away your space, take the center's place. Let me say it for you again Big Dawg, in case you ain't catch it. When the guards take away your space, take the center's place. What you talking about Big Dawg? Glad you asked. Let's flip sides for a second. The offensive guard's job is to make sure that he lends a helping hand.

He's got to lend a helping hand to a center. So, while he's punching and stepping to close off that "A" gap, he's punching with his inside arm and he's looking for work. He's looking to see if there is a backer or there's a defensive end coming across threatening his "B" gap. That's what he's doing. So, he's going to close off that "A" gap while he looks towards the "B". And if that nose tackle is threatening that "A" gap, he's going to put both hands on him and shut him down. That's his job. So, potentially what you have is, you have three guys closing off the "A" gap and forcing you to work laterally as opposed to working vertically. That's their job. You have three guys sitting there and they have taken away your "A". They have taken away your "A" and they're forcing you, potentially passing you on to each other, making sure you don't penetrate the "A".

They're taken away the "A", that's the job of the guard. So, the gaps are tight and you can't see no sunlight. What do you do? This reminds me of a movie that I watched. One of my favorite movies of all time, hands down, is Rocky. All the Rocky series. I've watched every single one of them, like more than 10 times a piece, I'm telling you. I've seen them over and over again. I love them. Everyone of them. Rocky 4 is definitely one of my favorite out of all of them. So, if you're not a Rocky fan or you just haven't seen any of the Rocky movies, then you don't know which one I'm talking about. So let me explain. Rocky 4 is where Rocky fights Drago. Drago is a beast, okay. He's a Russian boxer and he is very strong and very powerful. Big Dawg, he was a monster.

I'm telling you. So round one, ding ding. Here we go, Drago on Rocky, like white on rice. I mean Rocky can't go nowhere, ain't no peace in the ring. Every throw Drago throwing is landing like heat missiles, they landing. Drago throwing a jab,landing. Hook. Uppercut. Hook. Jab. Landing. Like all of them, all of them landing. So, I'm sitting there watching like, oh my God. I guess Rocky 4 is when Rocky finally gonna die because that's what it looked like Big Dawg. It looked like Rocky was going down, but he kept getting back up. Ding. Bell rings, round one is over. Rocky goes back to his corner. So, his coach says, "all right, what's happening out there?" And Rocky says, "he's winning! I see three of them out there." So, Paulie's behind him and he says, "hit the one in the middle." And his coach, Tony says, "right, hit the one in the middle."

Big Dawg, that scene is classic and this question reminds me of that scene, you a nose tackle and a 3-4 defense. You actually have three guys you got to deal with. You know what my answer is, hit the one in the middle. Remember in the trenches, you don't get space. You have to create space. You have to make space for yourself. When the guards attempt to take your space away, hit the one in the middle. Attack the center and take his place. A nose tackle in a 3-4 defense has to be able to create space. Creating space as a nose tackle is one of the most important elements to the art of rushing the passer. So, what do I specifically mean when I say take the center's place? Well, you can't go left and you can't go right? What you want to do is hit the one in the middle.

You want to now attack that center and you want to put them on a different level. Now, putting him on a different level can mean a numerous amount of things. What's going to make it difficult for you to work right or left, is that you're working into the guards. The center and the guards are on the same level. What I mean by that is, they are hip to hip. Now, they might sponge set. In other words, they may form a horseshoe around the quarterback to absorb anything that's coming. So, that guard might be slightly behind, slightly behind that center, but that's by design. They're forming a horseshoe around the quarterback, yet they are hip to hip connected. Now, attacking the center, hitting the one in the middle, how does that help? It helps because you have now driven a center back and you place the center on a different level than the guard.

Now, remember I said earlier that guard is going to sit in there and lend a helping hand. He's going to close off that "A" gap, punch with his inside hand to make sure that you stay as a nose tackle in front of that center. Well, that helping hand doesn't matter because I'm going to attack that center. I'm going to actually hit the one in the middle. I'm going to put him on a different level. When I attacked the center and I put that center on a different level than the guards, I just replaced the center where the center was standing. Where the center was actually located at the line of scrimmage, I replaced him because I knocked him back and I sat him down. That's why it is so important that you have a great stance and a great start and that you shock and sit that center down.

Once you shock and sit that center down and you attack the one in the middle, wherever that center was is where you now are. Why? Because the guards have taken away your space. Well, if the guards take away your space, then you take the center's place. You now shock and sit that center down. So, in shocking and sitting that center down, you've now driven the center pass the guards hip. Now, you have created a crease by shocking and sitting that center down. You have created space or you've created a crease for yourself. So, Big Dawg, visually imagine what I'm saying. Imagine yourself or your athlete, your nose tackle explodes off that ball and he shocks that center and knocks him back. So, imagine a center's toes is on the guard's heel. Now, because they're not hip to hip, you have that space to work.

Primarily Big Dawg, that's what you're trying to do. You've got to create a crease. You got to make space for yourself to work. So, first things first, hit the one in the middle and create space. Now that you've got them where you want them, be ready to shock and shed or shock and snatch. By you sheding the center, it's creating more space for yourself to work the opposite "A". So, you get off the ball, you shock him, you sit him down or knock him back, and you shed him right or left. Now, when I say shed, what I'm referring to is that you're actually now playing half a man. Though, you're head up as a nose tackle in a zero and you attack that center, you hit the one in the middle. Once you've driven him back as far as you need to go, whereas now hopefully he's behind the hips of the guards, now look to shed him right or left.

So, if you shed him to your defensive right, you're knocking him into that left guard and creating even more space for yourself when it's time to work to your left defensive left. So again, you shock them, you shed them, and you work that gap you just created for yourself. That's you now creating space. Okay, coach, what if he's strong? It's a strong center and I'm having a hard time knocking that center back to even create that space or put that center on a different level. Well Big Dawg, that's a great point because driving a center back is not the only way you can put the center on a different level than the guards. You can also snatch that center forward, that will cause you to now put that center on a different level.

No, the center's not behind the heels of the guard, but now the center is in front of the guards because he's top heavy. A lot of times when those center don't want to be moved, they're probably top heavy. Which means that they don't have good posture. Their shoulders are above the hips are slightly in front, but they're top heavy. I mean their backs flat and leaning on you pretty heavy. Perfect opportunity as a nose tackle to feel that through your hands and snatch him forward. When you snatch him forward, you would just put the center on a different level. The center's shoulders and the guard's shoulders are not close in proximity. They are not even close to touch it. You just put now the center on a different level. Once again, he's not behind the guard. You just snatched him in front of the guards. That's another way of putting that center on a different level, but you've got to be smart Big Dawg.

The first thing you have to do is attack. You've got to get your hands on the center and your hands, for you now once you hit the one in the middle, have to operate like these "usbs". And, I always tell my Big Dogs, get your hands plugged in like they're "usbs". Because at that point, Big Dog, you can now retrieve information. You can't retrieve information if you don't have your hands plugged in and if your hands not plugged in, you don't know what's going on. You can't do absolutely anything, if you have your hands not on that offensive linemen, on that center. So, first things first, move with the ball, not on the ball. Move with the ball, explode out of your stance, hit the one in the middle. Once you hit the one in the middle and your hands are plugged in like "usbs", you can get a sense and a feel information as to what's going on.

If you sat him down real well and you've driven him back, keep driving them back, shed him and work the gap. But, if you get off that ball, you move with the ball, you shock them, get your hands on like usbs, and man he's pretty stubborn. He's top heavy and you feel that in your hand. Snatch him! Shock, snatch over! Pat him on the back, tell him good job. So what's my point? My point is, is that you can attack that center and put them on a different level behind the guards and find work. Or, you can attack that center and put him on a different level in front of the guards. Well, you also can find work. There's always an answer. There's an answer to every question. You just have to work for it and find that answer. All right, Big Dog, so you might be thinking, "okay coach, so is shocking and snatching or shocking and shedding the only way I can pass rush in a 3-4 defense?" Absolutely not. We just getting started.

Let's look specifically now at the actual hand mechanics of the pass rush move. As a nose tackle and a zero technique, you can work here two by two or two by one. When I say two by two or two by one, I'm referring to the hand mechanics of pass rush moves. So, let's look at a two by two. A two by two is kinda what I just mentioned before, which was that shock and snatch or shocking and shed. Snatching and shedding are pass rush moves. They are escapes. So, if you punch the center with two hands, you're going to shock him with two hands or you're going to snatch him with two hands. That's what I call two by two. Now, when I say two by one or two to one, which you'll see @ with my passwords moves, two by one means I'm going to shock you with two hands and I'm going to take one hand off so I can work the center's hand off and escape.

Now, here's where it gets a little bit more detail. Let's talk about the two to one or the two by one. If I'm a nose tackle and I tagged that center and I set him back like I would like to and put them on a different level with two hands and I take that hand off, now coach, which hand should I take off? Okay, let's say you're a nose tackle and you want to work to the right, defensive right. You have an option, you can take your right hand off. Now, if you're working to your defensive right and you take your right hand off, now your left hand stays on. That left hand is still collapsing that center. You're still collapsing the pocket with the center, with what I call the pusher or your pusher arm.

So, I'm two to one, my right hand comes off, my left hand still on because it's still pushing, why I call it the pusher. And so, my right hand, I'm going to now work my hand and work that center's hand off of me. So, you've pretty much turned the pass rush into a long arm, two hands to one. You kept your inside hand on because you're going right. You use your left hand and now you're long arming that center towards the quarterback. You are not collapsing the pocket. What are you doing with your right hand? Well, it depends and this is where hand leverage comes into place. What's your hand leverage? Is your outside hand under that center's left hand? Is your outside hand on top of that center's hand? Is your outside hand inside of that centers arm because he's trying to grab your shoulder pad? Where is his hands?

That's where you have to feel where you are. That's where the beauty of rushing comes in and now you're being a tactician in the trenches. So, two to one: left hand stays on, right hand comes off, the center's hands under yours. Boom. Quick swim off. Why quick swim? Because a quick swim requires for you to go down. If you have the hand leverage to go down, which means your hands above his hands,work down. Two to one, inside hand stays on, outside hand comes off, but his hands are above your hands. His hands are on the top of your shoulder pad. What do I do? Now we forklift or we "T" lift. Two to one, inside hand stays on, outside hand comes off. But, coach, now his hands are actually inside of my hands. They're hot and inside, what do I do? You "C" swat or "T" swat?

Knock his hands inside and work the edge. Let's say you attack the center and the center has grabbed your outside shoulder pad and your hands are inside of his, but his hands are outside of yours. What do we do now? Well, we can wheel out or we can snake through. When you've shocked and set that center down or driven him back, collapsed the pocket, and created space for yourself (now as a tactician in the trenches) you have to feel where his hands are and work. Identifying hand leverage is going to tell you exactly what you need to do. It's not something you look for, but it's something you feel. So, if the center's hands are low, what should you do? You can chop down. You can "T" chop down. You can quick swim down. Why? Because your hands are higher than he's. If the center's hands are higher than yours and your hands are under his hands, what can you do?

You forklift and you "T" up. One of those two will get you out of that situation. If the center's hands are inside of your hands and they're on your chest plate, what do you do? You can swat. "T" swat. "C" swat. Knock his hands inside and work the edge. If the center's hands are outside of yours, you can wheel out or you can snake out. You can even punch out or punch and drop to that side. Big Dawg, there is always an answer, always an answer. You just have to be willing to work for it and grind to it. Now, all of those pass rush moves were all two to one or two by one pass rush moves. But, specifically it was the two by one where we kept our inside arm off and that pass rush move turned into a long arm rush. Now, let's talk about the two by one or the two to one pass rush move, where we keep our outside arm on and take our inside arm off.

This is what I call the quick release. So, let's go with the same example. I shocked the center as a nose tackle. I sat him down, I drove him back, and I want to work to my defensive right? So, as opposed to me taking off my right arm, I'm going to keep my right arm on. I'm going to take my inside arm off. Now, why would I want to keep my right arm on if I'm going right? Great question, because I want to stack his feet. I want to get him to stack. If I can get his feet to stack, I got a sack. Now, what do I mean by stack? Well, if the center's feet are on top of each other (and I don't mean that literally. I'm not saying that he stepped on his own foot), what I'm saying is that his feet are vertical. That his feet are facing the sideline.

He has completely opened his hip or what I call open his "gate". His feet are stacked. When you get his feet to stack or you get him to drop that back foot. You have just created space for yourself. The center and the guard are no longer foot to foot. You kept your outside arm on and you caused his feet to stack or you caused him to drop that foot and open that gate. But, if that gate's open, I'm sure going through it. But, ain't nobody opened it for me. I had to open it myself. You can do that Big Dawg. You can do that with the quick release. You can do that if you keep that outside arm on, lock him out, play low and long, because we know low and long equals strong. Make him drop that foot because you're attacking, right? He drops that left foot and now you got what you wanted.

He's opened the gate. His foot has stacked. Now go get your sack. Bring that inside arm now because remember you took that inside arm off. You kept your outside arm on, but you took your inside arm off because you are now ready to rip and run or chop and drop. Now, keep this in mind. None of this works if you are not playing with good leverage. What I call, laser down. Now, what I mean by laser down is, I always like to use this example, if there was a laser in the middle of your chest and you're standing straight up, straight up and down, that laser will be pointing straight out. Why? Because you're standing straight up. But, when I say laser down, what I mean is I want that chest down. I want that chest down towards the ground. I want your flat back at contact because that brings great impact.

Flat back at contact, brings great impact. Now, if he can't see it, the center can't strike it. So, laser down. Take away surface, take away any chance that center can have with controlling you. When I teach my offensive linemen as well, I teach them to punch plates. I teach them to block with their feet, but control with their hands. But as a nose tackle, if you don't give them surface, their hands won't land. And if their hands won't land, then they'll never have control. So, laser down, Big Dawg. Chest down, don't give them surface to control. Always play on your 45 drive. So, keep that in mind. All of these things will work if you're playing with great leverage. So, in this discussion, if you choose to hit the one in the middle, this is the best way to go.

The two by two or the two by one. If you two by two, you can shock and snatch or shock and shed. If you decided to go two by one, you can keep the outside arm on, shock him with two, press him with one, quick release. And we can also go two by one, keeping the inside arm on, transitioning quickly into a long arm rush. Shock him with two, keep collapsing with the inside arm and, work off with the outside arm, and the move will vary based on your hand leverage. If you decide to hit the one in the middle, one of those will work. I guarantee it. Now, if you go and work on these moves, you'd have plenty in yards to know to deal with that center and those guards in that 3-4 defense. Now, I can hear somebody asking me coach, which one out of all of those moves is the best? Honestly, Big Dawg that depends on you.

You might just be that power rusher. You might not want to go two to one. You might not like the idea of taking a hand off. And if you're a powerful guy with a great get off, you move with the ball, not on the ball. You move with the ball. I probably wouldn't recommend you take a hand off. I say you bull them, collapse the pocket. I say bull them, shed them. I say Bull him, snatch him. I'd probably say, Big Dog, you're powerful work your two by two. If you're a nose tackle with moderate strength, average, not very powerful, but you have really good hands. Well, I'll tell you Big Dawg, try your two by one. Turn that pass rush in to a long arm and work outside arm and get off of me. That's what I would tell you. Some may say, coach, I'm not strong at all, what do I do?

Well Big Dawg, you better have the hands of a skilled surgeon, skilled and precise. You can't two by two or two by one, you will be what I call a finesse rusher. When I get a finesse rusher at nose tackle, I'm teaching him to attack the elbows and below. We don't put our hands on the offensive linemen because if we could put hands on him, he could put hands on us and you may not be strong enough to get off. Again, I'm talking to my finesse rushers. The beauty behind all of this is to find your match. Find your weapon, what weapon works well with you? What weapon works well with you and for you? That's the beauty of all of it. Do I have to know how to do 35 moves? No, you do not. You just have to find those three moves that you feel will work for you in this situation. In this 3-4 defense being that nose tackle, you have to work the one that works for you and with you.

That's the beauty of it. Find your match, find your weapon. What three moves should you develop? Go back and listen to Episode 2, where we talk about the "go-to", the setup, and the counter. I think it'll help you know. I'm not sure if you caught this, but if you are listening, I think you heard me say if you choose to hit the one in the middle. Well, coach what you mean if I choose to hit the one in the middle, is not the only one I can hit? You probably know the answer to that. The answer is no. The center is not the only guy that you can hit. Now, I absolutely recommend hitting the center first. I agree that you have to hit the one in the middle first, maybe second, and maybe third, but I don't know about fourth and fifth and sixth and seventh.

Big Dawg, you getting predictable, and ninth, and so on and so forth. Big Dawg, you ain't fooling nobody. Remember, we're training you to be tacticians in the trenches. One of the key elements of war is surprise. That means change the rhythm of your rush. Change your course. Don't allow him to predict what you're going to do by doing the same thing over and over and over again. Eventually you hitting the one in the middle, ain't gonna work. So again, to answer your question, do I always have to hit the one in the middle? No, please don't always hit the one in the middle. Should I start off by hitting the one in the middle? Absolutely. Start off by hitting the one in the middle and once you hit the one in the middle, change your P.O.A, change your point of attack. Well, how do I do that?

Great question Big Dawg. Attack the guard. Have you been listening to anything I've been saying? Let me go back to my Big Dog Bible and it reads again, "In the trenches, you don't get space. You create space." Big Dawg, I'm just messing with you. I know you're listening, but this rush I'm talking about, it's called the ricochet rush. This is where the nose tackle would attack the inside shoulder of the guard. Now, the beauty behind this is that, remember, first you hit the one in the middle. You attacking the center once, twice, maybe even three times. What's those guards going to predict? They're probably gonna predict that you're going to attack the center again, but this time, Big Dawg, you don't. You Change your P.O.A. just that fast. Now, it looks like you lined up the same way and you are, but your point of attack is different. Now, we're going to attack the inside shoulder of the guard. And, when we do that, Big Dawg watch this, the offensive tackle has to kick out on that defensive end.

So, you have that space with that "B" gap. You can knock that guard over into that "B" gap and that's going to give you more space and your "A" gap. Now, you're playing like a tactician and that's big dawg football. In summary, you're a nose tackle, you're a Big Dawg, playing in a 3-4 defense. How do I deal with this? Attack the one in the middle. Shock and sit him down. Work your two by two or you're two by one. Or finesse him, attack his elbows and below. Put that center on a different level and create space. Be smart, Big Dawg. Eventually, change the rhythm of your rush. Change your P.O.A. and ricochet.

Hey, Big Dawg. I can talk about this all day long. Actually, I think I do talk about this all day long. Big Dog Christian Foltin. Great Question Big Dawg. I appreciate that. I know for a fact, Big Dawg community, we got better today.

Your progress, is our success. Big Dawg, if you have a question, feel free to email me at That's We appreciate your questions and we really appreciate you being subscribed to our Big Dog Trench Talk podcast. Also, don't forget to head over to It is the Mecca of defensive line content. People all over the world are subscribing and joining the Big Dawg Football community every day. All of those pass rushes we talked about today for the two by two, two by one, finesse rushes, you can find all of our pass rushes on Let's get our Big Dawgs better.

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