ITP Glossary: 3 Technique Defensive Lineman

Football is littered with specialized terminology. From climbing the pocket to double A gap blitz, commentators and writers rarely get to explain everything you need to know before the next play. Inside The Pylon’s glossary takes you inside part of the game you may be missing.

3 Technique

3 Technique – An alignment and technique designation for interior defensive linemen. A 3 technique defensive lineman aligns on the outside shoulder of an offensive guard in the B-gap between the guard and tackle. The player is responsible for controlling and/or penetrating that gap (i.e., a one-gap player).  The 3 technique is typically a defense’s premier interior pass rusher, relying on a combination of power, speed and quickness to beat potential double-teams and get to the quarterback. The 3 technique is commonly used in a 4-3 scheme.



Geno Atkins of the Cincinnati Bengals is aligned as a 3 technique defensive lineman in the above picture. Positioned on the outside shoulder of New England Patriots left guard Dan Connolly, Atkins is tasked with splitting the B gap between the guard and the left tackle, Nate Solder. Getting into the backfield as soon as possible is his primary responsibility, whether to pressure the quarterback or to find and flow to the ball carrier. Notice the positioning of linebacker Vincent Rey (#57) behind Atkins, ready to fill the “bubble” should the running play be aimed right at the gap the 3 technique defensive lineman is attempting to penetrate.

When used alongside other interior techniques, such as the 0 technique and 1 technique, the 3 technique is not traditionally designed to occupy and control a double team often referred to as anchoring though standing up at the point of attack against the run is an essential part of the role. In the above example, the 3 technique works in concert with the 6 technique defensive end aligned over the tight end. The defensive end aims to quickly jam the tight end before engaging the left tackle, while the 0 technique nose tackle will attempt to engage the center and right guard, thus potentially creating a one-on-one matchup for the 3 technique to exploit.


On this play, former Texas Longhorns DT and current Patriots rookie Malcom Brown aligns as a 3 technique against BYU. Watch as he fulfills the responsibilities listed above to perfection. At the snap he slices between the LG and LT, penetrating the backfield immediately and forcing the quarterback to climb the pocket. While Brown doesn’t finish the play with a sack, he disrupts the play, allowing the cavalry to arrive soon thereafter.

The ITP Glossary is curated by Mark Brown. Others contributing to this entry are Brian Filipiak and Mark Schofield.

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Inside The Pylon covers the NFL and college football, reviewing the film, breaking down matchups, and looking at the issues, on and off the field.

All video and images courtesy the NFL and NFL Game Rewind.

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