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NFL.COM: First look: Defensive ends

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First look: Defensive ends

By Gil Brandt

Special to

(Dec. 14, 2003) -- Let's say you are the general manager for an NFL franchise, and you're looking to find the next great defensive lineman to bolster your D-line. What are you looking for? Where would you begin? Is size the greatest factor or is speed the key?

Not so easy. Truth is, there are many different kinds of defensive ends out there, including ends who are better off playing in the 4-3 defense compared to the 3-4.

The basic requirements for defensive end start with speed, agility and the determination to become a good pass rusher. Half the time they line up, ends must pass rush. Defensive ends must also have good lateral movement and have sufficient strength to hold their own against double-team blocks, react to meet trap blocks and lead blocks by fullbacks on running plays. Then there are other types of blocks defensive ends must adapt to, such as angle blocks by tight ends and zone blocks by offensive tackles.

Believe it or not, size (height and weight) is not as important as speed for this position. A great pass rusher will most likely play defensive right end lining up across from the left tackle, where guys like Jason Taylor, Simeon Rice and Dwight Freeney play now. If you've noticed, those three guys can dominate from that position, and it's because of their great speed and initial burst, not necessarily their size.

How important are defensive linemen?

If you are going to win, you need to stop the run and rush the passer. Sacks are a very important stat; the two Super Bowl teams from the 2002 season had 86 -- 43 each for Tampa Bay and Oakland. The reason for this is when teams (offense) get into long yards (second- or third-and-10 or longer), defensive teams play five, six or sometimes seven defensive backs, which makes it very hard to be successful passing. The top three teams in 2002 at stopping the run -- Pittsburgh, Tennessee and Oakland -- all won playoff games.

Draft facts

From 1994 to 2003, 45 defensive ends have been drafted in the first round. Of those 45, eight have been selected in the first five picks. Of those eight, only three have been selected to play in the Pro Bowl a total of six times. They are: Willie McGinest (one), Simeon Rice (two) and Peter Boulware (three). One undrafted defensive end, Adewale Ogunleye from the Miami Dolphins, leads the AFC with 13 1/2 sacks through 14 weeks.

Here are your assignments:

Darrell Campbell, No. 60, Notre Dame, 6-3 ¼, 295

Five-year player who has started three years. Has been a defensive tackle. Think he will be a better end.

Dwan Edwards, No. 98, Oregon State, 6-2 5/8, 305

Five-year player from small town Columbus, Mont. Was outstanding basketball player. Has been playing defensive tackle. Has good strength and quickness.

Claude Harriott, No. 90, Pittsburgh, 6-3 ½, 260

MVP on Pittsburgh bowl team in 2002. Very good athlete with burst. Had 9 ½ sacks and 21 tackles for loss in 2002.

Isaac Hilton, No. 93, Hampton, 6-3, 244

Fifth-year player who is super-quick and fast. Had 13 sacks and 31 tackles for loss in 2003. Edge rusher.

Tommy Kelly, No. 55, Mississippi State, 6-5 7/8, 293

Very raw player. One year in high school and two in junior colleges before coming to MSU in 2001. Has been playing tackle. Still to play defensive end. One sack in 2002.

Chad Lavalais, No. 93, LSU, 6-1 ¾, 294

Older player. Sat out two years after high school working at a prison. Strong and hard-working. Has been playing tackle. Might be better at left end.

Shaun Phillips, No. 15, Purdue, 6-3 ¼, 264

A five-year player. Hard to track; has worn three numbers in four years: 53, 22 and 15 this year. Needs more strength. Had six sacks in 2002 and six in 2001.

Robert "Bo" Schobel, No. 21, TCU, 6-5, 268

Five-year player with high motor. Two cousins play in NFL -- Aaron at Buffalo and Matt at Cincinnati. Can rush passer. Second all-time in TCU history with 27 ½ sacks.

Darren Scott, No. 56, Ohio State, 6-2 ½, 273

Was high school running back in West Virginia. Good athlete; good use of hands when rushing passer. Played as a true freshman in 2000. Had eight sacks in 2002.

Andrew Shull, No. 98, Kansas State, 6-4 ½, 261

Five-year player. Had nine sacks in 2002. Plays hard every play. Does good job on special teams.

Will Smith, No. 93, Ohio State, 6-3, 262

Played as a true freshman at Ohio State. Had three sacks in 2000 and six in 2002. This is a great young man both off and on the field. Possible 3-4 linebacker. Athlete who can run.

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