Dallas Cowboys: The best solution at starting 1-Tech DT is…

ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 18: David Irving /

With Stephen Paea’s sudden retirement, the Dallas Cowboys are on the hunt for a new 1-technique defensive tackle. This is the best solution…

To the shock of many, starting defensive tackle, Stephen Paea, announced his intentions to retire from the NFL this week. The surprise Cowboys Camp standout earned a starting role this season, eandearing himself to fans, teammates, and coaches alike.

In fact, Paea’s emergence prompted the Dallas Cowboys to release Cedric Thornton, their only other true 1-technique defensive tackle (1-tech DT). The team has gone from being unnecessarily deep at the position, to dangerously barren in only a matter of six weeks.

So what exactly is the 1-tech DT and who is best suited to fill the starting role?

What is the 1-technique defensive tackle?

First, we start with the name, “1-tech”. The technique simply refers to the positioning of the defensive lineman relative to the offensive linemen in front of him. Lining up in the 1-technique means the defensive tackle lines up with his shoulder over the center. This positions him in the A-gap and as opposed to the 3-technique, who positions himself in the B-Gap.

For a full breakdown of the different defensive techniques, check out the related article directly below in “Explaining the Defensive Techniques”.

Related Story: Explaining the Defensive Techniques

The traditional Rod Marinelli defense involves two defensive tackles: the 1-tech and the 3-tech. The 3-tech, made famous by Warren Sapp, is the playmaker of the two positions. Whereas the 1-tech is the anchor of the line, sometimes even drawing two-gap responsibility, this makes the role the exact opposite of a playmaker.

Playing with a not-so-traditional defensive lineman at the 1-technique may be just the innovation this line needs to be accidentally successful.

You don’t waste superior talent on the 1-tech DT and that’s why Rod Marinelli doesn’t value it on draft day.

The 1-tech doesn’t need talent, it needs a strong base, a non-stop motor, and bit of humility. It’s the Rodney Dangerfield of the line because the 1-tech just gets “no respect” (did I just date myself?).

Consider who’s filled the role in the past: Nick Hayden, Terrell McClain, Cedric Thornton, and most recently Stephen Paea.

All were affordable signings with no draft investment. Now does anyone on the Cowboys fit that description?

Best Fit

To me, the answer to the question above is “no”. I don’t see anyone on the roster ideally fit the 1-tech. But that may actually be a good thing. Over the years, the Dallas Cowboys’ defense has been predictable to say the least. Playing with a not-so-traditional defensive lineman at the 1-technique may be just the innovation this line needs to be accidentally successful.

Last game, against the Green Bay Packers, David Irving got the nod at starting 1-technique. Fresh off a four-game suspension Irving wasted no time making an impact, even if it was at a position different from what he’s accustomed to.

All things considered, Irving produced well in this new role. In 45 snaps he collected five tackles, two sacks and two backfield tackles. After watching the All-22, he proved to be a constant thorn in Aaron Rodgers’ side – harassing him all day long. Unfortunately, he didn’t grade particularly well in the running portion of the game, and considering that’s a pretty important role of the 1-tech, that could be a problem going forward.

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Mix it up

As with all things defensive, mixing up strategy and disguising intentions is paramount to success. Simply plugging Irving into Paea’s role is not going to work long-term. Neither is putting Irving on the sideline to plug in a lesser skilled but better fitting player. I believe the solution is to utilize the biggest asset this defensive line has: position flex

I’m a big believer in playing the best four D-linemen as much as possible, regardless of position. That means rotating responsibilities between Maliek Collins and David Irving.

The Dallas Cowboys clearly see Collins as the present and future at 3-tech, but besides expert stunting, his performance this season has been disappointing. He’s not failing, but he’s excelling either.

Frankly, the Cowboys are probably at their best when Irving moves around. He’s a match-up nightmare and can play all four spots – potentially with dominance. To stick him permanently at 1-tech would waste his skills. And moving him around would maximize his impact.

There’s no clear answer to solving the Dallas Cowboys’ 1-technique problem and for as many pros Irving brings to the position, he also carries with him cons. As possibly the best (or second best) lineman on the roster, it’s imperative the Cowboys get him on the field.

That’s why the Cowboys should extend their committee approach to the 1-tech. At the least it will keep opponents guessing and at the most it can maximize the whole line’s potential.

Next: 3 Players the Cowboys could add to help them make a run

If David Irving is best at right defensive end and 3-tech (which he clearly is), that’s where he should log majority of his snaps. The task of filling the 1-tech role should fall on everyone because using Irving there is nothing short of wasteful.