What To Look For In an NFL Defensive End

The Cowboys need a pass rushing defensive end.

A "war daddy," as team owner and general manager Jerry Jones called i.

That means Jones is looking for the next in a long line of great Cowboys pass rushers like DeMarcus Ware, Charles Haley, Harvey Martin and Ed "Too Tal"l Jones. 

With the 28th pick in the first round of a deep class of defensive lineman, Jones and his Cowboys scouts will look to on draft day.

What are scouts looking for? Former Chris Landry of is a consultant for NFL teams and used to work as a scout in the league. These are some tips that should help make you a smarter fan.  

Evaluating a Defensive End
Defensive ends in today’s NFL fit into the following areas:

• A left defensive end in a 4-3 front is a run defender first that also must provide at least some power rush skills, if not some edge rush capabilities.
• A right defensive end must bring special pass rush characteristics out of a 4-3 front.
• The 5-Technique end play on the outside shoulder of the offensive tackle and sets the edge on a 3-man front.

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A designated pass rusher is not much of a factor against the run other than on his way to trying to sack the quarterback. His role is clearly defined as getting upfield and pressuring the quarterback.

Critical Factors
NFL defensive ends must be explosive and have quick hands, base core strength and the athleticism to bend and play balanced with speed and quickness.

1. Athletic ability/Quickness: Quick feet in pass rush, hand quickness for pass rush moves, closing burst to QBs, reaction to movement, pursuit speed. Agility: Ability to run down ball carriers & rush the passer, ability to slide & beat his man 1-on-1 athletically, speed to pursue and chase, ability to move laterally. Balance: Ability to stay on feet, change of direction.

2. Strength/Explosion: Playing strength. Strength: Ability to overpower opponents with arm and leg strength. Ability to stack and neutralize a block, ability to play through blocks, bull rush ability, ability to handle double teams. Explosion: Ability to explode into a tackle, ability to create & establish leverage on a blocker.

3. Playing/Edge Rush Speed: Acceleration/burst off line of scrimmage, initial quickness, quickness on movement, foot quickness. Change of Direction: Ability to redirect body, speed to chase & pursue the outside run, speed/quickness in short pursuit, closing quickness/speed to ballcarrier. Stride/Fluidity: Length of stride, smoothness of runner.

4. Competitiveness: Clutch, win at all costs, wants to be best, plays with confidence & aggression, wants to be in charge with game on line. Work Ethic: Works at being best on and off field. Production: Game film grade production.

5. Size: Type of body build, body development, growth potential or fully bulked.

6. Hand Use: Quickness of hands, ability to replace and re-locate hands.

7. Pursuit: Angle, effort, quickness, short and long pursuit, step over trash staying balanced.

For those of you who want to watch film and want to know what to look for in a defensive end on a play, Landry breaks that down here:

Evaluating a Defensive End on a Play:

1. First move off ball
2. 1 on 1
3. Play double team
4. Play trap
5. How does he play run at him
6. Defeat
7. Shed
8. Tackle
9. How does he play the run away from him
10. Lateral ability
11. Shed on move
12. Tackle on move
13. First step on pass rush
14. Pass rush moves/skills
15. Use of hands on pass rush
16. Shed ability—not staying blocked
17. Change of direction on pass rush
18. Burst to QB
19. Ability to pressure and negatively affect the quarterback
20. Can he get to QB—finish

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