So today I just want to touch on a subject that irks me a little.
In an age where the Internet and TV combine to make NFL players into household names or even the dreaded 'Superstars' title, the simple fact is that some people on football teams get more attention and more time spent raving about them than others. Some of it is understandable; quarterbacks are more visible and spend more time on the field than kickers. And while kickers sometimes miss important field goals, they don't throw interceptions at key moments like many quarterbacks do (mentioning no names here *cough* Tony Romo).
Now defenses get a reasonable amount of love and attention, probably not as much as they really should, but even then there are winners and losers. In fact, there are big winners and big losers.
We hear all about secondary guys like Revis and Asante Samuel and Charles Woodson and Troy Polamalu. We get plenty of air time spent talking about pass rushers like Jared Allen and DeMarcus Ware and Jason Pierre-Paul and Dwight Freeney. We often here about middle linebackers, guys like Patrick Willis, Ray Lewis, Sean Lee, James Farrior etc. People talk about defensive tackles like Ndamukong Suh, Casey Hampton, Haloti Ngata, B.J. Raji etc.
But you know who we never hear about? I'm guessing you do, because I gave it away yesterday and the title kind of gives it away too; Defensive ends in 3-4 defenses. You very really hear people talk about these guys.
Guys like Ziggy Hood and Brett Keisel (Steelers). Guys like Cory Redding (Ravens). Guys like Randy Starks and Jared Odrick (Dolphins, who've actually started to drift away from the true 3-4). Guys like Glenn Dorsey (Chiefs). Guys like Luis Castillo and Jacques Cesaire (Chargers). Guys like Adam Carriker (Redskins). Guys like Calais Campbell and Darnell Dockett (Arizona). Guys like Justin Smith and Ray McDonald (49ers). Guys like Marcus Spears (Cowboys).
The unsung heroes of the 3-4 defense.
These are the guys that do pretty much everything that the nose tackle does, with the exception of maybe not dropping out into coverage as much (it just sounds weird saying that, but nose tackles are becoming legitimate members of the pass defense in the NFL), and perhaps contribute more. They stop the run just as well as nose tackles and they certainly seem to get after the quarterback better.
Part of that might get attributed to the nose tackles being doubled so often, but that's not necessarily the case as 3-4 defensive ends see a fair share of double teams too. It's also interesting to note that the teams with what might be considered the "better" defensive ends right now, the 49ers, Steelers, Ravens and Cowboys, seem to be among the leagues best defenses.
Yet hardly a word is spoken about these invaulable cogs in their various defensive schemes. You never hear about how Ziggy Hood and Brett Keisel eat up blocks on the tackles so guys like James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley can end up one on one with a pass protecting running back. You don't get to hear about how Cory Redding often sets the edge for the Ravens defense, forcing runs back inside to the waiting arms of Ray Lewis. How often have you heard people talk about the amount of sacks that Justin Smith has picked up over the years for the 49ers? How often do you hear about Marcus Spears shutting down escape routes for opposing quarterbacks, forcing them to sit in the pocket while Demarcus Ware comes crashing in from the opposite side?
So whether you have a beer, a cup of coffee, a glass of orange juice or whatever refreshing beverage you've chosen for the evening, raise it now and say it with me; "3-4 defensive ends, we salute you!"
And that's really all I wanted to say about that. Just throwing out some love and recognition for hard working players who don't get enough attention. Tomorrow I'll be back to normal service, e.g. drawing badly proportioned diagrams, when I look at Matt Forte's touchdown run from Sunday against the Buccaneers. Then Saturday I'll do my picks for week 8 (we're already half way through the season? Shit). And then at some point next week, in honor of the fact that this looks like it'll be the last season for the UFL, I want to expand and lay down in writing my crazy master plan for creating an alternative league to the NFL.
And I'll also spend some time figuring out a way to stop myself from starting sentences with the word 'And'.