Defensive Prototypes: 5-Technique

Perhaps not as common as thought, finding the pure 5-technique is a tough task.

| 2 years ago

Defensive Prototypes: 5-Technique

prototypes-5techAs we continue our look through the Defensive Line prototypes we come to the 5-technique, which has been suffering from a confused identity in common parlance.

When the draft rolls around we hear talk about the traditional 5-tech, the long, strong 3-4 defensive end who plays over the offensive tackle and dominates against the run. That player is actually a 4-tech in the most widely used naming system. The 5-tech actually lines up shaded to the outside of the offensive tackle.

The 4i, 4 and 5-tech alignments have tended to be lumped together through the years and collectively labeled as 5-tech players, but in truth the 5-tech is actually the least used of the three, with 4 and 4i accounting for approximately seven times the number of snaps 5-techniques were played in 2014.


In reality, because the league plays nickel on around 60% of defensive snaps in today’s NFL, every 3-4 defensive end is going to spend more time as a 3-tech than he is playing 4i, 4 or 5 because of the nature of pass-rushing sub-packages.

As we move further out from center the more we move from the realm of true interior players into that of hybrids, or players that ply their trade in defensive fronts that are more multiple than they are either 3-4 or 4-3. Each of the players to appear in this graph (click to enlarge) has a far higher spike at either 3-tech or outside of the 5-tech in the area usually occupied by 4-3 defensive ends and true edge-rushers. Some have higher spikes at both than they do at 5-tech, but these five players are the five with the highest percentage of their snaps at 5-tech in 2014.

5tech thumb

5-Tech, Click to Enlarge

Perhaps the two most interesting lines to focus on are those of J.J. Watt and Michael Bennett, because they are extremely close matches. If you are looking for an analogue of what Watt has evolved into, at least by alignment he is far closer to Bennett than he is a true interior presence like a 3-tech defensive tackle or 3-4 end.

Watt’s biggest spike, like Bennett’s, is well outside the tackle, and he has a relatively small spike inside at 3-tech, but both players do spend a significant amount of time lining up around the tackle across all of those various technique spots. They are inherently edge defenders that also move inside and adjust their alignment according to the defensive front on the play. Watt, it’s worth noting, also has a pretty significant spike at the 9-technique spot, the widest alignment possible and one usually reserved strictly for speed rushers and stand-up outside linebackers.

Muhammad Wilkerson is another interesting player to appear on the list. His graph shows lower peaks than any of the other players because he is the most versatile in terms of his alignment. Wilkerson essentially has been moving all over the line and playing everywhere for the Jets. They seem happy to stall on his contract and plan for a future without him, but they might be wise to seriously consider how many players can realistically replace his versatility and ability to play all across the line.

Corey Redding is the player with the biggest spike at 5, thanks largely to the Rex Ryan-inspired hybrid defense that the Indianapolis Colts run. Even Redding plays far more as a 3-tech defensive tackle than he does at 5-tech. Finally Ray McDonald, playing in San Francisco’s pretty traditional 3-4 defense, was one of the highest percentage players aligned at 5-tech in 2014.

The 5-tech might not be exactly what you thought it was, but perhaps the most interesting point in all of this is that the entire position of 3-4 defensive end is dissolving the more the league is forced to defend the passing attack of offenses with nickel and dime defensive packages.


Follow Sam on Twitter: @PFF_Sam


| Senior Analyst

Sam is a Senior Analyst at Pro Football Focus, as well as a contributor to ESPN and NBCSports.

  • LightsOut85

    Is there a reason Watt’s line is different than the graph on his top-100 page? (His peak there was at 5-tech, not 6/7). I noticed Calais Campbell’s line there was also different from the one on the 3-technique article

    • LightsOut85

      Michael Bennett, too, now that I look at it again.

      • PFFSamMonson

        Yeah, it’s probably worth a note. Originally the C-gap was grouped in with the 5-tech but we’ve separated out those edge guys a little more clearly in the data and now it’s in this group. Because a lot of the time the C-gap is essentially going to be the end of the LOS it’s a big group.

        • LightsOut85

          Ah, okay. Are B gaps grouped with 3-tech and A with 1?

          Should I assume JPP’s 5-tech mark from that original graph is also mostly 6/7 tech? (Given that he plays in a 4-3).

          Also, was there a plan to do a 9-tech write up? See who lines up widest of the outside guys (the Dwight Freeneys of the world, etc).

  • Jimmy

    These articles are great, very interesting and unique.