3 technique football

What Is 3 Technique In Football?

Need some explosiveness and quickness? Try the 3 technique, one of football’s defensive tackle techniques. But what’s 3 technique football?

It’s a technique in which the defensive tackle lines up between the offensive guard and the tackle. The guard’s inside shoulder, and the tackle’s outside shoulder denotes his landmarks. The 3 technique is often used in a 4-3 defense but can also apply in other defensive schemes.

When used in a 4-3 defense, the 3 technique defensive tackle is responsible for the B gap. He handles the space between the offensive guard and tackle. His job is to penetrate the B gap and disrupt the play.

The 3 technique defensive tackle can be super effective for stopping the run. It’s also valuable when you need to pressure the quarterback. However, this technique can be challenging to master. It requires good strategy and quickness.

Let’s take a keener look at what it entails.

Three Technique Responsibilities

The primary responsibilities of the 3 technique are to disrupt the play, stop the run, and pressure the quarterback. To do this, he must penetrate the B gap. The 3 technique can also use his quickness and explosiveness to beat the lineman to the spot.

They Make Splash Plays

The 3 technique is responsible for making splash plays. Splash plays are the ones in which the defense makes a big impact play that can change the game. They can be tackles for loss, sacks, or tackles that stop the play in its tracks.

The 3 technique defensive tackle is in an excellent position to make splash plays. He is quick off the snap and can penetrate the backfield to disrupt plays. He’s also responsible for the B gap, often where plays go.

Defensive tackles frequently encounter double teams of the offensive line. Because the three techniques are between the tackle and the guard, they are seldom double-teamed. That’s because the outside tackle handles the defensive end in a 4-3 formation.

Therefore, receiving one-on-one matches is one of the critical ways 3 technique defensive tackles make splash plays. The defensive tackle is often against a guard, which makes it simpler for him to apply pressure to the QB.

Speed Over Weight

The 3 technique is a technique that favors speed over weight. The ideal 3-technique defensive tackle is quick and agile. The 3 technique is usually smaller and quicker than the other defensive tackles. He needs to be quick off the snap to penetrate the offensive line.

speedy defensive player

He should be able to enter the backfield and disrupt plays. He should also shed blockers and make tackles.

Weight can be a hindrance in this technique. The heavier the defensive tackle, the slower he gets. More enormous defensive tackles may be able to push the offensive lineman back. However, they’re less likely to penetrate.

Most of the 3 techs are under 300 pounds. These players’ lesser weight is not much of a problem because we don’t expect them to face off multiple teams.

They Provide Most Interior Pressure

Although pressure from an outside defensive end might be successful, the quarterback frequently ramps up and evades it. However, when faced with inside pressure, the quarterback often has to leave the pocket to continue the play.

The 3 technique provides the most internal pressure of any defensive tackle technique. That’s because he handles the B gap. This gap is where plays often occur because it’s the widest part of the offensive line.

The 3 technique can use his quickness and agility to penetrate the backfield and disrupt plays. He can also use his weight to bullrush the offensive lineman and collapse the pocket. That can make it difficult for the quarterback to throw the ball and lead to sacks.

What Makes a Good 3 Technique?

A good 3 technique is quick off the snap, has sound footwork, and can maintain gap control.

A player who is quick off the snap can provide an immediate disruption to the offense. Good footwork allows the player to maintain their position and not be pushed around by the offensive line. Maintaining gap control allows the defense to keep the offense from running through the middle of the line.

The ability to shed blocks and make plays in the backfield is also essential for a 3 technique. A player who can do this can make it difficult for the offense to run the ball up the middle. It also provides pressure on the quarterback when they drop back to pass.

Good 3 techniques are super disruptive to the offense. They make it difficult to run the ball or throw it effectively.

How to Play the 3 Technique

When you play the 3 technique, you must understand the offense and defense well. You need to know when to penetrate and when to contain. You need to read the play and react quickly. You’ll be a disruptive force on the defensive line if you can do all that.

Here are some key things you need to do to play the 3 technique.

Get in a Good Stance

The first thing you need to do is get in a good stance. A good stance helps you explode off the line of scrimmage and make plays. You want to be in a stance that’s comfortable for you. You also want to be in a stance that allows you to move quickly.

start of a football game

Some good things to keep in mind when you are in your stance are:

  • Bend at the knees
  • Keep your head up
  • Keep your back straight
  • Keep your weight balanced
  • Keep your hands inside your frame
  • Keep your feet shoulder-width apart

Read the Play

The next thing you need to do is read the play. You need to know what the offense is trying to do. You also need to know where the ball is going. You can do this by reading the offensive linemen. You want to watch their hips and their feet. Their hips and feet tell you what they’re going to do.

Watch the quarterback, as he often gives you a good idea of where the ball is going.

React Quickly

Once you have read the play, you must react quickly. You need to explode off the line of scrimmage and make a play. You want to be quick, but you also want to be under control. You don’t want to overrun the play.

Use Good Technique

Use your hands and your feet to your advantage. Have them to keep off and shed blockers off of you. Use your feet to stay in your gaps and move correctly to keep your balance.

Good technique helps you keep your body in proper alignment and balance. That makes it easier to move laterally and shed blocks. Plus, a good technique helps you generate more power and explosiveness off the line of scrimmage. 

Finally, good technique aids in staying healthy and avoiding injuries, a paramount concern in football.

Make a Play

The final thing you need to do is make a play. You want to disrupt the play. You want to make a tackle. Do whatever you can to help your team win the game.

Once you master the 3 technique, it can be advantageous.

Best 3 Techniques In NFL History

There are many excellent players. However, Bob Lilly, Warren Sapp, and Aaron Donald knock it out of the pack when it comes to 3 techniques.

ball carrier being tackled by defense

Bob Lilly

Lilly is a former Dallas Cowboys player from 1961 to 1974. He is the best defensive tackle in NFL history. The star got into the Pro-Football-Hall-of-Fame list in 1980.

Lilly was known for his quickness and agility. He was able to penetrate the offensive line and disrupt plays.

Moreover, he was an excellent run defender. He would shed blockers and make tackles with ease.

The 11-time Pro Bowler was in the 1960s and ’70s NFL’s All-Decade Team. Lilly was a crucial part of the Cowboys’ defense that helped them win Super Bowl VI.

Warren Sapp

Sapp was one of the best 3 techniques in NFL history. He played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 1995-2003. Sapp then played for the Oakland Raiders in the subsequent four seasons before retiring.

He was a first-team All-Pro in four consecutive seasons, starting in 1999. Sapp is a member of the Pro-Football-Hall-of-Fame.

He was quick off the snap and could penetrate the offensive line. He was also able to shed blockers and make plays in the backfield. Warren Sapp was an immense force on the defensive line. He helped the Tampa Bay Buccaneers win a Super Bowl.

Aaron Donald

Donald is arguably the best 3-technique defensive tackle still playing in the NFL. He has played for the Los Angeles Rams since 2014. Donald is an 8-time Pro Bowler, a Super Bowl champ, and claims first-team-All-Pro even times. 

Donald clenched the Defensive Rookie title in 2014. He also won the NFL-Defensive-Player titles of 2020, 2017, and 2018.

Donald is an explosive and quick defensive tackle. He can penetrate the offensive line and disrupt plays. He’s also a good run defender. Donald is a big part of the Rams’ defense that has been one of the best in the NFL in recent years.

Three Technique Cons

The 3 technique can be susceptible to outside runs and passes to the tight end or running back. It can get disrupted by an excellent double-team block from the offensive guard and tackle.\

The 3 technique requires good technique and physique. The defensive tackle must be able to execute the technique correctly. If he doesn’t move with speed and exploits all avenues possible to disrupt the play, he won’t be effective.

footbal player defense blocking ball carrier

The 3 technique can be difficult to master. It takes time and practice. The 3 technique requires quickness and agility. The defensive tackle must be able to get off the snap quickly and penetrate the backfield. He must also be able to shed blockers and make tackles.

3 Technique FAQs

Is a Nose Tackle a 3 Technique?

A nose tackle isn’t a 3 technique, but rather a 0-techique. Typically, the nose tackle protects both gaps between the guard and the center. It’s frequently employed in a 3-4 defense.

What Is the Difference Between a 3 Technique and a 5 Technique?

The difference between a 3 technique and a 5 technique is the defender’s positioning. In a 3 technique, the defender positions himself on the outer shoulder of the guard, between the tackle and the guard. In the latter, the defender takes a position on the outside shoulder of the tackle.

What Makes a Good 5 Technique?

The ability to hold the point of attack against the run makes a good 5 technique. They should have the quickness to penetrate the backfield and disrupt plays. Also, they should have the ability to rush the passer and get to the quarterback.

What Position Is 3 Technique?

If the defender’s position is on the outer shoulder of the guard, that’s 3 technique. The defender in this position is the one that keeps the inside on its tabs.


The 3 technique is a common football defensive alignment in which the defensive tackle lines up between the offensive guard and tackle. This alignment defends against the run and also helps pressure the quarterback.

The 3 technique allows defensive tackles to use their strength and speed to reck up the middle of the offensive line. That makes it difficult for the offense to run the ball up the middle. 

Additionally, the 3 technique can induce the quarterback to mess up. That’s possible due to the defensive tackle’s quickness to rush the passer.

One of the key benefits of 3 technique football is that it allows the defensive tackle to control the point of attack. It lets them dictate the flow of the play. Also, the 3 technique can be used to stunt or twist. This way, it helps to create confusion and disruption along the offensive line.

Want to know more about the defensive tackle? Here’s our ultimate guide on football defensive positions.

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