It didn't happen a lot but you can catch some defensive ends of the 1970s moving inside in certain packages and playing on the center, usually to get a one-on-one matchup. That could happen if the defense uses a five-man defensive line.
Other times it might just be that the end is switching places with a tackle and it's an overshift to the opposite side - the tight end is on that side - and that places the tackle on the nose. It could also be that the key player is always over the nose, playing either tackle but regardless of the shift he's going to be matched on the center which looks to be the case for Bubba Smith (see still below)
Or it might be a 3-4 that is used in certain situations.
Either way here are a handful of well-known defensive ends playing nose tackle.
|Claude Humphrey in a three-man line in 1971|
|Bubba Smith, usually a left DE, playing RDT in overshift|
|Deacon Jones on the nose in a five-man line|
|Lyle Alzado in a five-man line|
|Cedrick Hardman cocked on the center in a five-man line|
There are other examples - these are just a few. It's different than what happened with guys like Howie Long or even Dan Hampton.
In the latter years that Hampton started as a defensive end, he had a role in a particular package, the 46, and in it, he'd play on the nose. But he'd also play defensive tackle in nickel.
In other years he was a right tackle in base and in nickel, then move to the nose in the 46. In his early years, 1979-81 he was a starting end and usually stayed outside in nickel and in his rookie year they did run the 46. In 1980-81 they did and he'd often play right tackle in it, next to Alan Page.
Long played defensive end in a 3-4. But he'd play defensive tackle, usually three-technique in nickel. But they also had a 46 package that would put him on the nose. He'd also play on the nose in a 3-3-5 scheme. And, there are some things that we're probably missing - he did play snaps at right defensive end when Lyle Alzado needed a rest or was injured, for example. That is until 1985 when Alzado went out for the year. Then they had Sean Jones start and he took over from there.
The five examples are little twists that defensive coordinators threw at offenses in an era not known for moving guys around. Now, it is commonplace.
Then? Not so much. But they did do it a little even with All-Pro level guys.