It's common knowledge that a disruptive pass rush is a crucial element in successful NFL defenses of today, and defensive line prospects are tested on how well they can attack the quarterback from the edge at the NFL Combine.
Through two techniques, the rip and swim moves, players are drilled in their pass-rushing skills. A video from NFL.com (under the "position drills" tab) shows how it looks in real-time.
Beginning by lining up on the right side of the line, defensive linemen have a tackling dummy set up about four yards in front of them. A coach holds a broom handle with a football attached on the end, and the defensive lineman waits for it to move, simulating a snap.
The rip technique is first, which focuses on the defender using his inside arm to wedge underneath an offensive lineman's pad level, while edging around him and sprinting to the quarterback. The lower a defender can stay to the ground, the faster they can usually rip around the corner.
Next, the swim technique utilizes the rusher's outside arm; by swinging it towards an offensive lineman in a sort of clubbing fashion, the defender tries to knock the blocker off-balance or get them leaning inside. From there, they can go outside and around to the quarterback.
Defensive linemen are all a part of Groups 7 and 8, which means they check into the Combine in Lucas Oil Stadium on Friday, along with Group 9, which is the linebackers.
On Friday, the defensive linemen will check in for registration, a hospital pre-exam and x-rays as well as orientation and interviews. On Saturday, the linebackers will be measured, have medical examinations and be interviewed by teams and the media. On Sunday, they go trough psychological testing and perform the bench pres, which should be entertaining. Finally, on Monday, they'll go through their position drills on the field.
Scouts focus first on the player's first step on the snap of the ball, as getting a jump on an offensive lineman is one of the more important factors to a good pass rush. From there, what is called the "running arc" is watched closely. This arc is a defender's skill in not only staying low and applying a move, but also not losing much or any acceleration during the turn around the edge.
Players to watch:
This year's crop of defensive linemen is impressive. The defensive tackle group is one of the best in recent memory, while a handful of players with dangerous pass rush potential could come off the board in round one. Among the best defensive tackles are Utah's Star Lotulelei, Missouri's Sheldon Richardson, Florida's Sharrif Floyd and Alabama's Jesse Williams. The next tier of players includes Georgia's John Jenkins,
At the defensive end position, Texas A&M's Damontre Moore, Florida State's Bjoern Werner, BYU's Ezekial Ansah and Oregon's Dion Jordan appear to be the top prospects. LSU's tandem of Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery are both intriguing as well. Auburn's Corey Lemonier and UCLA's Datone Jones will also draw some interest from teams.
Other defensive linemen worth watching:
- Alex Okafor, Defensive End, Texas
- Magus Hunt, Defensive End, SMU
- Bennie Logan, Defensive Tackle, LSU
- Akeem Spence, Defensive Tackle, Illinois
Depending on the scheme, defensive linemen are asked to do a number of different things. Finding a scheme fit is important at any position, but it becomes particularly crucial when looking at defensive linemen. Different skill sets are required depending on whether a team plays a 3-4 or a 4-3. Regardless of scheme, the 2013 NFL Draft boasts plenty of talent on the defensive line.