Football Nose Tackle

Football Nose Tackle

Among the many positions on a football defensive line, the nose tackle is one of the least-discussed, but they are extremely important to a variety of plays. Forming the center of the defensive line, this player is a vital blocker, and in many ways, they are a crucial first line of protection against the offense advancing the ball. Read on to learn more about the nose tackle.

What Is the Nose Tackle in Football?

In football, the nose tackle is a defensive lineman that lines up in the center of the defensive line. The nose tackle, also called a defensive tackle, is situated between the left and right ends on the defensive line and opposite the center on the offensive line. The nose tackle is often called the “anchor” of the defense as they are the first line of defense on the defensive line.


The nose tackle’s primary goal is to collapse in on the offensive line and attack the quarterback and running back. They are called nose tackles because they are often “nose-to-nose” with the football. Nose tackles aim to jam up the offensive line so they cannot gain any yards down the field.

Nose tackles rarely get sacks on the quarterback, but they are the primary run-stoppers of the defense. Most nose tackles lack statistical excellence as the position does not put them in a place to dominate statistically. However, it is an important position as the difference between a good and bad nose tackle is notable.

Nose Tackle Skills

Since a nose tackle’s chief responsibility is to lead the defensive line, they must be both strong and large in size. They can use these skills to block the brunt of the offensive line. Though they are not the fastest on the field, nose tackles still require significant speed so that they can quickly create gaps for their teammates to pour through.

If a nose tackle can combine all these skills to open a gap in the team’s offensive line, the defensive line can attempt to either sack the quarterback or make moves on one of the other ball carriers once the gap is opened.

Nose Tackle Jersey Numbers

In the NFL and NCAA, defensive linemen are allowed to wear the numbers 50-79 and 90-99. Offensive linemen are only allowed to wear numbers 50-79, as they need to be easily identifiable to the referee as ineligible receivers.

Best Nose Tackles

A few of the best nose tackles in NFL history are:

  • Bob Lilly
  • “Mean” Joe Green
  • Merlin Olsen
  • Randy White
  • Warren Sapp
  • Cortez Kennedy
  • John Randle


What is a nose tackle in football?

The nose tackle in football is the defensive lineman who lines up in the middle of the defensive line. Nose tackles are typically employed in 3-4 or two-gap defensive schemes, in which they are responsible for guarding the two gaps between themselves and the defensive ends on either side of them. The nose tackle anchors the defense, playing directly opposite the center on offense.

What is the difference between a defensive tackle and nose tackle?

A nose tackle is a type of defensive tackle in a 3-4 scheme that is paired with two defensive ends on the defensive line. A defensive tackle is the overarching position that refers to the innermost players on the defensive line. Defensive tackles are flanked on either side by defensive ends.

When is a nose tackle used in football?

A nose tackle is used when a defense is lined up in a 3-4 formation. The 3-4 features three linemen and four linebackers. The nose tackle will line up between two defensive ends to form the defensive line. In other formations, such as the 4-3, a singular nose tackle is replaced by two defensive tackles.