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On Albert Haynesworth And The Nose Tackle Position

Posted by Matt Terl on March 22, 2010 – 2:27 pm

Well, Albert Haynesworth‘s certainly become something of a hot topic. First there was Kelli Johnson’s breathless Twitter report over the weekend that Haynesworth had not been at workouts after Monday. Then Jason Reid at the Washington Post countered by reporting that the team had been made aware of Haynesworth’s absence in advance. And now Haynesworth himself has turned up on Sirius NFL Radio with Adam Schein and Rich Gannon, talking about exactly WHY he wants to use his own trainer.

Dan Steinberg has done the heavy lifting of transcribing the quotes, and you can see Haynesworth’s reasoning there. (My two cents: I see his point and don’t totally agree right now, but it’s the kind of thing where it’s all going to depend on hindsight. If he has a great season and stays healthy, then it was a great move. If he struggles, everyone can point at this as a mistake. Honestly, I’m not sure it contributes either way.)

ANYHOW, that wasn’t the part of the interview that intrigued me the most.
Here’s what Haynesworth said about playing nose tackle in a 3-4 defense (as transcribed by Steinberg):

“You look at all the nose tackles in the NFL, they’re all the same type guys. Like me, I’m 6-6, 330, 340 pounds, whatever. Most of those guys are short, stubbier, pretty much stump-type guys. I don’t think I’m built to be a nose tackle, to be honest.”

This has earned a bit of scorn and skepticism on Twitter, but here’s the thing: he’s absolutely right.

On the eyeball test alone, Haynesworth doesn’t fit the mold of a nose tackle. Nose tackles are usually enormous, square-looking men, guys who look almost as wide as they are tall and can eat up a ton of space in the middle. Vince Wilfork, pictured above, would be a good example of this. Or Sam Adams.

In this eHow description of “How To Play Nose Tackle” — written by “an eHow contributing writer,” so you KNOW it’s accurate! — here’s the first step:

Possess the correct body type. A nose tackle must be large. Typically, the nose tackle plays against players who weigh at least 250 pounds at the high school level, and 350 pounds or more on the professional level. While not an absolute, it helps the nose tackle to be shorter (6’4″ and below) than an average defensive linemen. The nose tackle uses leverage to play the position and the taller a player is, the harder it is to get leverage on an opponent.

Haynesworth, as he pointed out in that excerpt, stands 6’6″, and despite the easy “Fat Albert” nickname, he doesn’t look anything like a stump.

But looks and an uncredited eHow profile aren’t quite enough data for me, so I went to NFL.com, sorted players by position — the only relevant choice is DL — and sifted out all 26 guys who were listed as NT. (I admit that this doesn’t include guys — such as Wilfork, actually — who are listed as DT by their teams, but it certainly provides a decent sample set.)

None of them are 6’6″.

One (Baltimore’s Kelly Gregg) is 6’0″.

Three (Aubrayo Franklin, Casey Hampton, and Kendrick Clancy) are 6’1″.

Six guys list at 6’2″, six at 6’3″, and a whopping nine guys stand 6’4″.

Exactly one guy who lists as a NT on the NFL.com rosters stands 6’5″, and … well, he’s already on the Redskins roster: Ma’ake Kemoeatu lists at 6’5″, 341. And speaking of the eyeball test, I’m deeply skeptical of those numbers; Kemoeatu is a guy who absolutely LOOKS like a nose tackle. (Even injured and sitting in a folding chair, as you can see in the picture below.)

Say what you want about Haynesworth — and it seems like everyone is — this is one area where he’s probably not wrong. And, hey, he seems perfectly onboard to play 3-4 DE, based on what he said on the radio today: “End in 3-4 is the same thing as a defensive tackle in the 4-3, I believe.” So as long as everyone’s right and that where the coaches plan to play him, things seem good to go.

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