Jump to content
Washington Football Team Logo

WT: Refining a Noble cause


Recommended Posts


It takes a special kind of guy to play nose tackle.

Not a pretty guy, or a fancy guy, or a particularly athletic guy. Not a guy in search of big money, babes or ESPN face time.

It takes a guy like the Washington Redskins' Brandon Noble. A squatty, beefy guy. A guy who proudly rubs his tummy and probably eats all the dinner rolls while waiting for the entree. A guy with a Bigfoot beard, a hankering for hunting and no illusions about his identity.

"I'm a football player," Noble said yesterday. "There are people who are great athletes, like LaVar [Arrington], who play football. And then there are football players. And that's what I am. I love to play the game. I love to go get dirty. I think it should be played outside, in the grass, in the mud."

The nose tackle, you see, is a man meant to be beaten down. He lines up over the center, gets double-teamed on most plays and gets sacks pretty much by accident.

But he performs a key role. By covering the center on every play, the nose tackle frees the middle linebacker to attack the ballcarrier, rather than fight off a blocker on the move.

"He's a key part of the defense, especially from my position," middle linebacker Jeremiah Trotter said. "When you can hold that center up a split-second, it gives me time to make the read and then get downhill."

Noble's blue-collar role is why one could never make a direct comparison to defensive tackle Daryl Gardener, the Redskins' 2002 star who wasn't re-signed and was replaced on free agency's first day by Noble.

Technically, Noble took Gardener's place. But while Gardener was asked to penetrate into the backfield and disrupt plays, Noble is meant to hold his ground and several blockers, making sure Trotter can shine.

"You ever heard that saying, 'Too many chiefs and not enough Indians?' " Trotter said. "You need some guys to do the dirty work. They brought Brandon in just for that. They brought him in to keep the linemen off me. I was very excited about that."

A hot topic has been whether the Redskins' defensive line can perform without Gardener and defensive tackle Dan Wilkinson, the latter released last week because he refused to take a pay cut. It's easy to predict a big drop-off for the No. 5-ranked defense with no in-their-prime stars on the line.

Noble calls such talk "understandable" but remains confident that he and Jermaine Haley can, if not match the level of Gardener and Wilkinson, be just as valuable.

"I think we're going to be OK," Noble said. "Now we don't have the name recognition, and I'm not going to tell you that Jermaine and I are going to get 15 sacks between the two of us. But we'll be a solid group. We'll let the linebackers run. And we'll be stout in the middle."

The first preliminary test comes Saturday at Carolina, where Washington will face former Redskins running back Stephen Davis, one of the NFL's most powerful interior rushers.

Noble knows Davis well after battling him twice a season the past four years as a Dallas Cowboy. During that span Noble faced similar questions when he and Michael Myers replaced Chad Hennings and Leon Lett during the 2000 season.

"We actually had a better run defense than we did with some of the bigger names in there," Noble said. "If you don't get those headlines and people don't recognize your name, then they assume you're not a good football player. That's not always the case."

People also tend to make assumptions based on size. That drove Marvin Lewis crazy last year when he was Redskins coordinator, because everyone assumed he needed two big defensive tackles — reprising his Baltimore Ravens setup in 2000 — to have a successful defense.

Noble, whose 304 pounds are well short of the 330-360 widebody range, laughed as he described watching film of hefty defensive tackles, calling their technique often "horrible."

"Smaller guys can do the same things," Noble said. "We just need to be better technicians."

And he is, as far as Redskins defensive end Renaldo Wynn is concerned.

"I don't know anyone who plays the nose, as far as technique-wise, better than he does," Wynn said.

Washington also expects to benefit from depth, rotating its linemen in waves rather than keeping a few stars on the field constantly. (Think 2000, when Bruce Smith, Dana Stubblefield, Marco Coleman and Wilkinson refused to come off the field.)

Will it work? It's far too early to tell. Regardless, don't expect too many highlights of Bigfoot in burgundy. He'll be mucking away on the interior, clogging holes, opening up plays for his teammates and looking for little more than "camaraderie."

"I always joke with my wife, I say I probably would have joined the military if I didn't play football," Noble said. "It's that same kind of hanging out with the guys, the camaraderie, knowing that the guys next to me and around me appreciate what I do.

"As opposed to everybody outside. Because when you're winning football games, there's enough credit to go around. You don't have to worry about that."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think Noble is dead on with his assessment of his skills and of what he and Haley can accomplish.

I think too often people forget that in order to be a sucessfull football team, TEAM is the primary need.

Team players doing the dirty work will allow others to shine and the net result will be a better overall performance.

Bruce Smith was often at fault of going after personal interests in persuit of the QB to the detriment of the overall performance of the D. Lavar has hurt the team as times as well because he was in a defense that demanded he play a specific role and he fought that role and was cought out of position leaving gaps that were exploited.

Team players and solid team play can win games. Noble is a real upgrade albiet not a spactacular, in the Redskins ability to plug the middle and help this D perform well. If you watch a tape of a Dallas Redskins game over the past several years you will see that Noble never takes a play off and gives a very reliable and solid performance. That consistency was ever so needed by our D-line.

Many of you predict catastropie, I predict improvement.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

We may feel the loss of Gardener as far as his penetration skills go, but I am confident Haley and Noble will be able to do the job.

We won't miss BDW at all IMO. I'd rather have two 300 pound tackles who work their butts off on every play than one 350 pounder who barely gets off the line and just ties up blockers with his girth.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think Noble is dead on with his assessment of his skills and of what he and Haley can accomplish.

I have to agree with this statement as well. We have high caliber linebackers and these seem like the right type of players to compliment them. I'd really like to see Wynn get a fire lit under his tukas and grab 10 sacks this year. We know Smith is going to go for broke. We need pressure on the QB and it's going to have to come from other areas than the tackle spot. I, for one, would like to see Matt Bowen and Fred Smoot blitz more often. Is that a feature of this type of defense?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I say more difficult. Runs up the middle are gone. Gardener was trying to get around his defender to get to the back field. So he had to commit to one side or the other, opening up a gap. If Noble and Haley are just there to take up space then they aren't going to create such large gaps by trying to get around. Then the offense has to go to the outside of the line and deal with Arrington, or Armstead... I like the take up space up front and let the linebackers get the glory style of D.

Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
  • Create New...