The anti-SCUD’s of Sports Scouting – Defensive Ends

Patriot vs SCUD

Let’s create the analogy of an NFL Quarterback to a SCUD missile; a surface to surface weapon whose accuracy can vary but when on target has the potential to inflict a lot of damage.  Along comes the defensive equivalent of the Patriot missile, a surface to air weapon used to shoot down SCUD’s.  Think of Defensive Ends as Patriot missiles, their job being to “sack” the SCUD before it has a chance to hit its target.  Patriots can be highly successful, though have known to miss themselves on occasion.

There are four to five DE’s drafted in the first round every season on average.  The Houston Texans selected Mario Williams first overall in ’06 to the consternation of the local faithful who were pulling for University of Texas QB Vince YoungGaines Adams was selected third overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers the following year and traded to the Chicago Bears just two seasons later.  He has since passed away.  Chris Long was taken 2nd overall in 2008 by the St. Louis Rams and has already recorded 26.5 sacks.  The Kansas City Chiefs selected Tyson Jackson in ’09 with the 3rd pick in the first round and he has one sack to his credit.

Defensive End is one of the hardest positions to find sudden impact players in their first year.  You virtually run the gambit of contribution.  Studies show, like Defensive Tackles, you better take your Defensive End in the first (22%) and second (16%) rounds.  Otherwise you’re just as apt to find a two-deep roster player at the position in undrafted free agency (19%).

71.4% of Defensive Ends drafted 1-10 in the first round made 56 starts in their first 5 seasons (1994-2003) and from picks 11-20 that number fell to 36.8%, 30% from picks 21-50. Compare that to Defensive Tackles.

If Offensive Pass Efficiency is the number one statistical correlation to winning in the NFL (Net yards per attempt – sack yardage) then it only stands to reason that the defense has to put pressure on the QB in order to bring that number down.  This normally rests squarely on the shoulders of Defensive Ends.

When evaluating Defensive Ends, studies have shown that they tend to outperform their peers in 6 of the 7 skill drills at the NFL Scouting Combine and one is consistently the 40 yard dash.

The following Position Specifics are commonly dissected by football talent scouts for the position.

  • Pass Rush – Feet and hand use.   Strength.  Effort.  Pass rush package.  Arm length.  Quick feet.
  • Defense run – At point of attack.  Open field.  2 gap or 1 gap.  Knee bend.  Disruptive.  Stout.
  • Tackling – No leaky yardage.  Face up bear wrap.  Strong hands.  Open field.  Hard or drag.
  • Initial Quickness – Initially disruptive.  Low and sudden.  First step.  Can he gain advantage?
  • Pursuit – Angle.  Effort.  Quickness.  Short and long.  Through trash.  Closing burst.
  • Recognition – Feel.  React.  Instincts.  Right place, right time.  Diagnose while in control.
  • Neutralize block – Hold the point.  Double team.  One-on-One.  Stack at LOS.  Gap integrity.
  • Escape run block – combative.  Whip a block and burst.  Flatten and close to the ball.

Two types of DE’s Rush vs Power

Rush ends are athletic and explosive, with quick hands and a flexible body.  They show quick feet and good instincts to create pass rush success.  They are best described as quick twitch athletes, with long arms and vertical quickness – can get off the ball.  They play the game passionately and are good finishers.

Power ends are athletic and physically strong.  They disrupt the offense with effective use of power in their movements.  They are flexible in the ankles, knees and hips.  They should have long arms and big hands to help play the leverage game.  They are power pass rushers with excellent lateral quickness and good football instincts.  They should show flexibility to be able to rush from an inside alignment.

Rush ends are looked for between 6’2” and 6’5”, 240-275 lbs and running a 4.80 or better 40 yard dash.  They function well with a 12+ Wonderlic score.

Power ends are preferred to be between 6’3” and 6’6”, 260-295 lbs and clocked at a 5.00 or better in the 40 yard dash.  They are also prone to be most successful with a 12+ Wonderlic score.

NFS Performance Summary

DE – These players must have the ability to defeat and ward off offensive blockers, as 50% of their play is pass rushing.  In some defenses, they must be able to play up or down (3 point or 2 point stance).  Quickness is paramount.  

Defensive Ends must also have good lateral movement and sufficient strength to hold their own in double team blocks. They should show good reaction to meet trap blocks and recover from fullback’s block.  Other types of blocks they should be capable of defeating are angle blocks by tight ends and zone blocks by offensive tackles.  

Defensive Ends should be excellent athletes.  Team-oriented and unselfish characteristics are required as well.  One who will discipline himself and then execute the team concept.  Great DE’s like to condition themselves and enjoy contact and running.  They are pursuit-conscious types, sideline to sideline player.

  1. Initial Quickness – Move on movement, sudden, gains advantage
  2. Instincts/Recognition – Feel, read and react.  Right place at the right time.  Locate, aware, digest?
  3. Defensive Run – Strength at the point of attack.  Open field.  Strong or weak?  Lateral quickness.
  4. Neutralize/Dbl Team – Can he disengage?  Play with functional strength?  Stack and control blocks?
  5. Defeat Block – Use of hands.  Control & separate.  Stuff & shed.  Recover?
  6. Lateral Pursuit/Effort – Desire to get to ball.  Tough, aggressive with intent to pursue. Quickness, range.
  7. Tackling – Stop ball carrier at line of scrimmage or dragged back?  Open field? Angles, wrap, control, strike.
  8. Pass Rush – Quickness, speed, athletic ability. Use of hands, adjust on the move, relentless, press, power, burst, acceleration.
  9. Use of Hands – Strength and or explosive use.  Control with authority.  Quick.  Jolt or soft fend off?
  10. Close on the Quarterback – Desire? Surge or burst off separation to close.

Much like the Patriot missile the Defensive End has gone through some changes and upgrades over the years.  After all, the SCUD has to be accurate just once to damage its enemy.  The Patriot can’t afford to miss.

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  1. Hi Ted,

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    • Ted Sundquist Ted Sundquist says:


      Thanks for the feedback and continued support of The Football Educator. I would be delighted to have you write about my site and would be open to speaking to you about what I hope to accomplish down the road. Please feel free to go ahead and use any and all links that you feel would help and would present your readers with the content you feel they’re interested in. I’m at 100 posts, so there’s a lot to sift through.

      All the Best! Ted

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