Is T’Vondre Sweat too heavy? 3 of biggest D-linemen in NFL history discuss Titans 2nd-rounder

The Tennessee Titans used a second-round draft pick last month on Texas defensive tackle T’Vondre Sweat, a 6-foot-4 hulking presence who in 2023 won the Outland Trophy — awarded to college football’s best interior lineman — at 366 pounds.

Why UT's T'Vondre Sweat might be the perfect draft fit for the Dallas  Cowboys -

For context, there wasn’t an NFL defender in 2023 who took a snap while listed as heavier than 355 pounds.

It’s impossible to talk about Sweat without discussing his size. So The Tennessean surveyed three of the biggest defensive tackles in NFL history about what life is going to be like for Sweat, what the advantages and disadvantages will be at his weight, and how Sweat can succeed in the league in order to determine just how big of a deal it is to be the biggest player around.

Weight checks, weight clauses and double-teams galore

Adams, who had a 14-year NFL career, played at a peak weight of about 350 pounds. Grady Jackson, a 13-year pro, played as big as 365. Terrence Cody, who lasted five seasons, remembers being as big as 374 pounds.

Size matters when it’s your job to eat space and collapse pockets. The biggest, most disruptive defensive linemen attract the most double-teams. When 700 pounds of mass are being directed your way, you had better be stout enough to withstand it or else you’ll be replaced.

“It’s a lot of wear and tear just being able to sit in the middle and take on double-teams and hold the point,” Cody said. “You’re fighting force with force.”

But with extra size comes logical questions about stamina. Michael Pierce, Vita Vea and Jordan Phillips were listed as the three biggest defensive players in the NFL last season, per Pro Football Reference, and they played an equivalent of 55%, 61% and 44% of their teams’ defensive snaps per game. Last year at Texas, Sweat played 54% of the Longhorns’ defensive snaps.

Teams want their biggest players to withstand the rigors of interior double-teams, but they also want them on the field as much as possible. That means weight monitoring. Adams remembers being weighed twice a day in-season. Cody had a weight clause in his contract that had him paying $1,200 to $1,400 for every pound he showed up overweight. Cody says Baltimore Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome gave him hell even when he was underweight about keeping vigilant.

“They’re gonna be on you about your weight,” Jackson said. “You’ve just got to get the weight down a little bit, work a little extra harder.”

T’Vondre Sweat’s health, Jeffery Simmons and Tennessee Titans’ future

Longhorns Daily News: Texas DT T`Vondre Sweat earns consensus All-American  status - Burnt Orange Nation

Sweat told the media the night he was drafted that his goal is to play between 350 to 355 pounds. Adams’ advice for Sweat is to try to lose five pounds for every year he’s in the league. It’ll help with recovery. The longer you’re in the league, the harder it is to deal with soreness, especially as a bigger player.

Adams, Jackson and Cody all slimmed as they got older — particularly Cody, who played as light as 320 pounds after multiple hip surgeries made it too hard to keep playing at his normal weight.

That doesn’t mean Sweat should shed weight now. Adams watched his college tape and came away thinking he was the best defensive prospect in the class. Sweat’s ability to move tackle to tackle fluidly and rush the passer confidently is evident. If Sweat can play that way at 360 pounds, Adams says go with what you know.

Especially because Adams has been in Sweat’s position. Seattle drafted Adams to complement All-Pro defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy, much like the Titans drafted Sweat to complement All-Pro tackle Jeffery Simmons.

“When I came in, I made (Kennedy) 100 times better because he’s not taking on a bunch of double-teams anymore,” Adams said. “When you don’t have to take on a bunch of double-teams and you’re allowed to go one-on-one, that changes the game for you . . . So that’s how I became an All-Pro. I got a lot of single blocks as well. You can’t double-team us both.”

In order for Sweat to attract double-teams away from Simmons on passing downs, he’ll have to prove he can be on the field for passing downs as a pro. That means overcoming one of the stigmas big defensive linemen are naturally saddled with. Cody remembers Nick Saban, his college coach, telling him he would start playing on third downs as soon as he got below 350 pounds.

Neither Titans coach Brian Callahan nor GM Ran Carthon answered directly when asked what they believe Sweat’s optimal weight is, but they both said they envision him as a three-down player in the Titans’ defense.

Titans GM Ran Carthon, New HC Brian Callahan Plan to “Hunt Together”

If that’s the case, Adams is already wishing the rest of the NFL luck.

“I’ve got news for you all: Sweat’s coming,” Adams said. “He’s going to be making a lot more people sweat because he can move up and down the line, he can take on two. If you don’t put two on him, he can get up the field. He can win the one-on-one pass rush with multiple moves.

“Second-round draft pick. They stole him at that round. He’s worth more than that. If he can maintain his weight, they’re going to have to back up the dump truck to pay him. He is a baller.”

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