The forward tackle position is often overlooked. They don’t usually generate big plays or highlight real moments, and they don’t pressure passers often. Nose tackles tend to play a thankless role – at least as far as outside observers are concerned.
But players like Arkansas’ John Ridgeway III are certainly appreciated by their teammates. Their ability to control the line of scrimmage, occupy double teams and control spreads makes life for other linemen and linebackers much easier.
The New York Giants have invested heavily in their defensive line over the years, but their defense suffered after losing Dalvin Tomlinson to free agency. Could Ridgeway plug that hole in the middle of their defense?
Perspective: John Ridgeway III (99)
Games watched: vs. Texas (2021), vs. Texas A&M (2021), vs. Georgia (2021), vs. Auburn (2021)
Height: 6 feet 4 inches
Weight: 327 pounds
Arm length: 33 5/8 inches
Wingspan: 81 3/8 inches
Hand: ten 1⁄4 inches
Games played: 11
Tackles For A Defeat: 4.0
Better: Size, Strength, Power, Run Defense, Competitive Tenacity
Worse: General Athletics
Projection: A tackle on the nose in a multiple defense.
(Ridgeway is iDL number 99)
Arkansas defensive tackle John Ridgeway III is an important, competitive, and extremely strong inside defensive line prospect.
Ridgeway has lined up primarily as an A-gap defender, usually as an 0-tech Nose Tackle, in the Arkansas defense. He has a tall and powerful frame at 6-foot-4, 327 pounds and supports his weight very well with good thickness in his top and bottom halves.
Ridgeway played both 1 and 2 gap techniques in the Arkansas defense, either rushing individual gaps or looking to control the center and the two A gaps. He plays with good initial leverage , constantly getting under the centers pads before extending his arms and propelling them into the backfield. Playing strength is Ridgeway’s calling card, and he’s able to master most crosses and is able to control center/guard dual teams.
He does a good job driving lone blockers into the backfield, allowing him to disrupt both running and passing plays. Ridgeway also shows very good use of the hands. He has a dangerous push-pull move as a setter, and has one arm ready as a counter move. Ridgeway is a capable hand fighter and is able to gain inside leverage on blockers, as well as defeating their attempts to gain leverage on him. He controls his blockers well before eliminating them to make plays on the ball.
Ridgeway plays with great competitive tenacity and is dedicated to his pursuit of play. He has a strong awareness and quickly disengages from blockers to pursue plays, and is willing to run anywhere on the court to help make a tackle. .
Although Ridgeway has exceptional playing strength and uses this strength to disrupt attacks, he is a limited athlete. He lacks great – even good – speed and agility and is more “strong” than “explosive”. Ridgeway doesn’t have a great start and doesn’t really have the ability to explode out of the line of scrimmage, nor is he able to disrupt as a looper on stunts and twists.
And while Ridgeway is tireless in pursuit and has limited upside as an inside pass thrower, his lack of long speed allows running backs to run away.
Ridgeway also shows some stiffness in his lower body. He doesn’t seem to have much flexibility in his ankle, which can compromise his balance, especially when kicked to the side.
Conditioning and endurance is also an issue with Ridgeway. He was frequently off the field for extended periods of watched games and may need to be in an active rotation at the NFL level.
Overall rating: 7.2
John Ridgeway III projects as a nose tackle with a diversity of NFL-level schemes.
Whether he’s a “starter” or considered an important player in rotation will likely depend on the pattern of individual defense and the game of the week. Ridgeway has the skills to be a starting 0 or 1 technique defensive tackle, but the “multiple” nature of modern defenses makes the “beginner” designation a bit moot. Ridgeway is good at what he does, and a defense can trust him in big moments.
That said, Ridgeway shouldn’t be a major contributor to the pass rush — at least not directly. He has some backhand passing push, mostly due to his prolific playing strength and ability to push the pocket forward. Ridgeway’s biggest contribution to the pass rush comes from his ability to disrupt quarterbacks by denying them the opportunity to get in the pocket, and in particular his ability to occupy blockers. Ridgeway has great upper and lower body strength, which allows him to stand up against double teams without giving ground. This can allow teammates one-on-one matches, or even free rushes for blitzers.
Teams will likely consider Ridgeway a “run filler,” and he’s a great run defender. He’s hard to get off the ball, diagnoses are quick and he has the ability to control inside lanes. This could end up hurting his draft stock, as disrupting the passing game is just more important than stopping the run. However, Ridgeway’s eventual team will likely love his playing strength and competitive tenacity.