What Is A Defensive Tackle In Football

A defensive tackle in football is a player that lines up in center of the defensive. This position has the responsibility of stopping the run as well as rushing the passer. A defensive tackle is typically the largest player on the defense.

These players often carry a lot of body fat and typically have noticeable beer bellies. But do not be fooled by their looks, most defensive tackles are incredible athletes and are quite fast for their size.


Plugging Holes

Though it may sound strange plugging up holes in the defense is one of the main responsibilities of a defensive tackle. On any running play, the halfback is given predetermined hole to run through.

The hole will represent a gap in between two of his offensive lineman. For example, a running back may be told to run between his left guard and the center.

On these plays, a defensive tackle is tasked with protecting several holes and not allowing the running back to go through it. When done successfully this results in a tackle or forces the halfback to change directions and choose a different hole.

Rushing The Passer

Rushing the passer is another important responsibility for defensive tackles. Just like defensive ends, tackles will attempt to get past offensive lineman and reach the quarterback on passing plays.

Defensive tackles don’t tend to get as many sacks as other pass rushers though they still play an important role in forcing pressure on the quarterback.

Attracting Double Teams

Another interesting responsibility of defensive tackles is that they are expected to draw double teams. A double team in football refers to a situation when two offensive lineman will block the same defender.

Defensive tackles are incredibly strong and for that reason, they are often hard to stop on ones own. By drawing doubles teams defensive tackles can allow the other pass rushers to get one on one matchups.

This greatly increases the chances their teammates will be able to get a sack or quarterback pressure on the play.

Defensive Tackle Attributes


Strength is the most important attribute to have when playing the defensive tackle position. As it helps you in each of the responsibilities that come with the position.

If you lack strength as a defensive tackle it can make it incredibly difficult to play the position effectively. The reasoning behind this is because this position requires strength more than any other.

No other position will face as many double teams as a defensive end.


Though you may be thinking that defensive ends are not the fastest players on the field their athleticism is still quite important. Defensive tackles do not need to be as fast as wide receivers but they need to be incredibly fast for their size.

There are very few 300 plus pound athletes that can chase and tackle an NFL level running back or quarterback.

In order to play this position effectively, a DT must be much more athletic than what your first glance at them may tell you.


Another important aspect of this position is endurance. Plugging a hole or pushing full strength against an offensive lineman is an incredibly tiring job. That is why you will notice defensive tackles are often substituted out throughout a drive.

In order to play a lot of snaps in this position, a player must have great endurance. This means a lot of training hard while still keeping on the weight that allows a player to be effective at the position.


Positioning for defensive tackles is quite straightforward. This position always lines up in the middle of the defensive line. If you are running a four-three defense there will be two tackles on the field.

These two tackles will play as the middle to players in the defensive line. If you are running a three-four defense there will only be one defensive tackle on the field. This tackle will line up in the middle of the defensive line.


As we’ve already stated a few times in this article defensive tackles have quite a large build. These players are the heaviest on the field and usually the strongest as well.

They do not typically have a muscular build and tend to have a high percentage body fat. That being said these players are still incredible athletes. It is not uncommon for defensive tackles to retire from football and immediately lose up to a hundred pounds in body fat as they get back to a more comfortable weight.

Concluding Thoughts

We hope you enjoyed this guide on understanding the defensive tackle position in football. If you have any more questions regarding this position please reach out through the comments below.

If you want to learn about other positions like defensive tackles read about the nose tackle position or learn all the defensive positions in football.

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