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How to Play Nose Guard in American Football

By Jeff Gordon

The nose guard, also called the nose tackle, is the interior defensive line bulwark in some football schemes. He is typically a large and very powerful player who can disrupt running plays up the middle, occupy interior offensive linemen and apply inside pass pressure. This is one of the toughest and least glamorous jobs in sports.

Nose Guard Alignment

Nose guards are often flanked by two defensive ends in a three-man defensive line, with outside linebackers playing off the edge. The nose guard normally plays directly over the center or in one of the two gaps between the center and guards. Some four-man defensive lines deploy a defensive tackle in a classic nose guard role, attacking one of the center-guard gaps.

Taking on the Center

Nose guards can line up in the classic three-point football stance or in a four-point stance with both hands on the ground. Keep your weight on the balls of your feet. Keep your back flat. Lead with your hands, striking the center in the chest. Extend your arms to maintain separation from the blocker. Fight off the blocker and clog the gaps to stuff dive plays, draws, cutbacks, or counter runs.

Drawing Double Teams

Elite nose guards often draw a second blocker, with a guard coming over to assist the center. Occupying two blockers makes it easier for your inside linebackers to penetrate the line to make plays. You can deliver dominant performances without recording many tackles or assists.

Rushing the Passer

Nose guards seldom earn quarterback sacks. You primarily open lanes for others. But keep your head up and track the quarterback on passing plays. Bull rush the center or use a swim technique to get around your blocker. Stay in your rush lane in case your teammates force the quarterback up the middle.

Prepare Mentally, Play Hard

Know your defensive playbook inside out. Understand each defensive play call. Study your opponent. Read keys that tip off offensive play calls. Be ready to pounce at the snap of the ball, but don't jump offside trying guess the snap count. The ball is right there in front of you. Stay poised, but play with an edge. Keep your feet moving on every play to wear down your opponent.

Get Bigger and Stronger

Nose guards at the college and pro levels can weigh 300 pounds or more. They build body mass and muscle through extensive weight training and strategic eating. But if you want to play at the highest levels, develop great quickness and agility too. At the NFL Scouting Combine in 2010, 325-pound University of Tennessee nose tackle Dan Williams bench pressed 225 pounds 27 times, ran the 40-yard dash in 5.17 seconds and recorded a 33 1/2-inch vertical jump.

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