At the Texans’ Vision Dinner last week at Reliant Stadium, defensive coordinator Wade Phillips explained to suite holders why his nose tackles “don’t have to be the size of a vending machine.”
“There’s all kinds of players,” Phillips said. “I think I’ve had six Pro Bowl nose guards since I’ve coached in the league – all different sizes. Ted Washington at Buffalo was 400 pounds, I know. And Greg Kragen (in Denver), he was 250-260. And even Jay Ratliff, who was in the Pro Bowl with us at the Cowboys, is about 280. He’s not as big as the guys we have here, and everybody’s saying, ‘Wow, these guys can’t play it.’ It’s all the techniques involved and how you play the position.
“It seems simple, but if you’ve got a great big guy that can’t penetrate, like some of the guys I’ve had, then you let him play right in the middle of the (center). If you’ve got a guy that’s quick, you let him stunt. If you’ve got a guy that’s strong, you let him power one side or the other of the center. That’s just the way you coach football. We can take a guy that has good ability – and I think both the guys we have have real good ability – and get him to play well.”
The reason that topic came up, of course, is that the guys that the Texans have at nose tackle are widely viewed as being too small. Shaun Cody is listed at 6-4, 304, and Earl Mitchell is listed at 6-3, 291.
For comparison’s sake, here’s a list of all the starting 3-4 nose tackles – and their heights and weights – that Phillips has coached in his 35 years in the NFL (info from ProFootballReference.com):
Nose tackles under Wade Phillips
Jay Ratliff, Dallas Cowboys, 2007-10 (6-4, 293)*
Jamal Williams, San Diego Chargers, 2004-06 (6-3, 348)*
Ed Jasper, Atlanta Falcons, 2002-03 (6-2, 293)
Ted Washington, Buffalo Bills, 1995-2000 (6-5, 365)*
Greg Kragen, Denver Broncos, 1989-91 (6-3, 263)*
Tony Elliott, New Orleans Saints, 1985 (6-2, 282)
Derland Moore, Saints, 1982-84 (6-4, 250)
Jerry Boyarsky, Saints, 1981 (6-3, 290)
Monte Bennett, Saints, 1981 (6-3, 265)
Curley Culp, Houston Oilers, 1976-80 (6-2, 265)*
*Indicates Pro Bowler
Players obviously are bigger now than they were in the ‘70s and ‘80s, so that skews the numbers a bit, but the fact is that Phillips’ history backs up his words. He has coached nose tackles of all shapes and sizes, and he actually has had more “undersized” noses like Ratliff and Kragen than giant space-eaters like Washington and Williams. It works because he fits his defense to the players’ skills, not the other way around. And he doesn’t think he’ll have any problem doing just that with Cody and Mitchell.
Tags: Earl Mitchell, Shaun Cody, Wade Phillips
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