The Dallas Cowboys Already Have the Perfect 1 Tech DT


The Dallas Cowboys are in need of defensive upgrading at virtually every position, but one place where they specifically underachieved in 2014, could be fixed from within.

In the offseason of 2014, the Dallas Cowboys made a series of quiet, and seemingly mundane, roster additions. One of those additions spent much of 2014 injured, and if he can stay healthy, could make a big impact in 2015.

Last offseason, DT Terrell McClain was signed by the Dallas Cowboys to a 3 year/$3,050,000 deal. Coming from Houston, where he was used primarily as a rotational NT in Wade Phillips’ 3-4 defense, McClain has seen limited snaps in recent seasons. The 6’2” 300lb linemen was not an ideal size for a 3-4 NT, and while he was effective, he wasn’t impactful.

McClain joined the Dallas Cowboys to contribute primarily as a 1 technique defensive tackle, but he was excited at the prospect of playing in more of a 1 gap penetrating role, that would better utilize his quickness.

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Terrell McClain never had the chance last season to fully insert himself into the Dallas Cowboys’ defensive. Injuries hit the former 3rd round pick almost immediately, following up a significant high ankle sprain with a concussion. When all was said and done, Terrell McClain only played 349 snaps for the Cowboys (playoffs included), but what he quietly did with those snaps, were noteworthy.

Before you can really grade Terrell McClain, you first need to understand McClain’s role as a 1 technique DT. Rod Marinelli employs an aggressive 4-3 defense that often asks 1 tech DT to play a penetrating 1 gap role, in addition to the prototypical 1 tech role of 2 gap. Because Marinelli asks his 1 tech tackle to do both, the ideal player would need to have strength to maintain against double teams, as well as have speed to beat the block through the gap.

"Terrell McClain’s quickness and strength make him ideal for Rod Marinelli’s defense as a 1 technique DT."

Pro Football Focus (subscription required) rated Terrell McClain with a positive 1.1 score on the season. This may not sound like an overly impressive score, but considering the role of the 1 tech, and the scoreability of said role, it’s not too shabby.

Note: I’ve long complained about PFF scoring all DTs similarly when the assignments are so incomparable. In other words, a typical 1tech DT will never even be faced with a fraction of the opportunities a 3 tech DT sees on a weekly basis. To penalize a 1 tech for not having stats, ignores the fact the 1 tech often isn’t supposed to collect stats, but rather maintain ground, occupy blockers, and allow others to make plays.

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With that said, 1.1 rated McClain higher than any other 1 tech DT on the Dallas Cowboys (Nick Hayden -23.8 and Ken Bishop -1.4). McClain displayed speed and quickness uncommon for a 1 tech DT, all while properly executing the less glamorous assignments of occupying multiple blockers and space.

There’s no question Rod Marinelli likes to use a defensive rotation in order to keep player effort and energy optimal. If healthy, Terrell McClain should easily claim a bigger role on this defense as the primary 1 technique DT. The Cowboys cannot afford to march Nick Hayden out there for 585 snaps again, that much is certain.

Next: Understanding Techniques in Football Positioning

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