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Why so many teams are switching to the 3-4 and what it means for the Panthers

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Posted

The spread offense is run by a number of teams and has been for years long before Urban Meyer was at Florida. He may be one of the latest to run it and gets lots of exposure because of The Golden Calf of Bristol but he is hardly the originator or even the best innovator of the spread offense. It was originated by Randy Russell in 1927 for his boy's team which is where the term Mighty Mights originated in Texas. In 1952 TCU coaching legend wrote a book entitled The Spread offense is Not New. The father of the modern Spread offense is generally credited to Glenn Ellison and was termed the Run and Shoot. This is the offense run by June Jones when he coached the Atlanta Falcons in the 90s before he went to Hawaii. Even last year I would say that Houston and Texas Tech ran better spread flex schemes than Florida did. They get the exposure in the SEC.

There are several versions of it typically called the Spread- Flex, the Run and Shoot, the Spread Option, the Pistol Offense, etc. Even the Wildcat used by the Panthers in 2006 and now by Miami is a version of the spread offense. Here are some general articles for those that care.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spread_offense

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Offensive_philosophy_(American_football)#The_Spread

http://www.spreadoffense.com/

Why are they so popular? Because they don't require a great quarterback to run them who can read defenses, use quick tempo passing which is easier to complete, and college defenses aren't very good at stopping them.

If the spread offense had anything to do with teams employing a 3-4 look than most college teams would be going to it but they aren't. Why not? Because it is hard to find high school players big or strong enough to play a 3-4 nose tackle position or even a 3-4 DE position. Most colleges run a version of the 4-3 with many going to a 4-4. In fact the limitation on most 3-4 defenses in the NFL is a lack of good 3-4 nose tackles coming out of college even after having 4 more years to bulk up. In addition a 3-4 takes time in college to teach particularly the linebackers and secondary. Plus most 3-4 linebackers in the NFL were actually 4-3 DEs in college. Many teams go to the 3-4 in the NFL because it is easily to scout and to find smaller DEs who will fit in NFL schemes as 3-4 linebackers. The problem with the 4-3 is finding 4-3 DEs. Many DEs in college aren't talented enough to play DE in a 4-3 at the pro level.

The concept of DEs coming around the edge and DTs shooting the gap has been around for decades and isn't a result of the spread offense. Any pass defense relies on pressuring the quarterback. In fact pressuring the quarterback by blitzing for example isn't a primary weapon to neutralize the spread offense since the spread offense rolls out, throws screens and short timing routes which are primary tools to beat the blitz. And remember that blitzing is a primary tool of the 3-4. Plus DTs shooting the gaps is a function of a 4-3 not a 3-4. The concept of college defensive coordinators using faster smaller linemen is because they are more available and the increase in passing in general not any particular scheme. It is interesting that this trend has increased at colleges as well as the pros despite the rules in college not favoring the offense as much as it does in the NFL.

There is no doubt that increased emphais on passing in the pros has been a function of new rule changes favoring the offense although I doubt that Polian should be given undue credit since a majority of the owners have to agree with any rule change. If they believed the rules favored one team over another they could easily defeat it needing only 6 votes to defeat it if I remember correctly. I think they all agree that scoring points increased TV revenue and makes it more exciting and that is why the offensive changes have occurred. Safety concerns are most often cited by the league for quarterback protection issues and rightly so.

Are pro teams going to a 3-4 to take advantage of the talent coming out of college. Yes, but not because of the spread offense. It is as I noted above, there are tons of DEs in college that can be converted to OLBs in a 3-4. 4-3 DEs are much harder to find and develop. Increases in speed and athleticism are halmarks of all college athletes not a trend to defend a particular scheme in college. In fact I would argue that more colleges are going to a spread offense because more high schools are using it so there are more guys coming to college familiar with it. Plus as noted above, it doesn't take extremely talented athletes to run it.

And the 3-4 isn't new either. The 3-4 was designed by Bud Wilkerson in the 1940s at the University of Oklahoma. Chuck Fairbanks imported it into the NFL. The first team to win the Super bowl with the 3-4 was the Miami Dolphins in 1972. Both teams in Super bowl XV used the 3-4 Philly and Oakland with Oakland coming out on top. (Painful memory for me). By the mid 90s it was waning in importance. It has re-emerged in the last 10 years with now 12 of the 32 teams currently running it exclusively. Other teams like Arizona run a hybrid version and most teams have used it as one time or another.

I will add more after dinner.

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Posted

i don't see how you figure it's easier to run on a 3-4 than a 4-3. logically it should make sense, but aren't some of the best run defenses a 3-4 with huge nose tackles?

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Posted

good post fiz

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Posted

There is an offense that often gets overlooked that quietly, except for smart coaches, that has influenced the "spread" and Wildcat moreso than many others.

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Posted

There is an offense that often gets overlooked that quietly, except for smart coaches, that has influenced the "spread" and Wildcat moreso than many others.

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Posted

Now lets discuss Fox and the Panthers. Has he always been a 4-3 guy. Actually not. When he was defensive backs coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1989-1991 they ran a 3-4. When he was New York they switched from a 3-4 after Taylor retired to a 4-3 because they didn't have the personnel to run the 3-4 anymore. The same applied to the Panthers. When Fox got here he had a weak linebacking group and a better defensive line. Even then we were a much better group for a 4-3 than a 3-4. Here is another good article on the 3-4 versus the 4-3 and all its variations.

http://www.buffalorumblings.com/2010/1/26/1269381/which-defensive-scheme-will-the

The Panthers as noted in the article run a Tampa 2 version now and largely a cover 2 or cover 3 previously. As the description notes it can be effective if the right personnel are in place. It requires good DEs, one ProBowl DT and extremely fast linebackers. I would add that it also requires very good physical safeties. By the way what are we definitely missing?? You don't have to look beyond the first requirement- A pro-bowl DT. Now can anyone say Albert Haynesworth. I knew that you could.........

Do the Panthers change their scheme inside the 20s. No they still use the Tampa 2 which doesn't employ blitzing much. The Tampa 2 operates a little differently in that the Tampa 2 is designed to double deep passes and keep things in front of them. Since there is no worry about deep coverage the safeties do play closer but that is an issue of field position not change in scheme. Meeks will venture out of the Tampa 2 into a cover 1 rover where the strong safety comes into the box to either blitz or help with runs support or tight end cover over the middle.

Are more NFL teams using a spread offense. Given that a spread look can take many forms including what we run when we use 2 wideouts and 2 TEs, then the answer would be yes. But lets be honest, teams have been using variations of a spread offense for 20 years given that the WCO offense is a variation of a spread offense. This is nothing new.

Are there going to be a dearth of players for a 4-3 with more teams going to a 3-4. Not really. When everyone ran a 4-3 we competed for the 4-3 DEs. Now many of those 4-3 DEs will be converted to 3-4 linebackers. But there are still the same numbers of teams and the same number of picks. The supply should honestly be the same. It may work to our advantage. With fewer teams running a 4-3 there will be less competition to find 4-3 linebackers who are too small to play in a 3-4. And normally we could find a DE or DT who is being traded because the team is going to a 3-4 and the guy doesn't fit their personnel. That assumes of course we would trade for someone this year.

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Posted

Cool, man.

I bet Foxy and Co. were thinking about this the whole time.

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Posted

When Fiz grows up he wants to be at least half as knowledgeable as P55, although until then he'll always act like he knows twice as much. :)

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Posted

Is there anyway to get statistics on the fox era panthers split up by 3-4 and 4-3 D's?

I like being a fan of a run first team personally.

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Posted

We haven't done too well against 3-4 Ds, unfortunately. Last year, for instance, we lost to the entire AFC East, and all teams run a 3-4. Whenever we play Pittsburgh, we lose as well. There are other factors too, but I'm not sold on us playing against 3-4s.

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Posted

Agree, the more teams follow the trend of re-tooling offenses to better defend the pass, the better our running game gets.

Just the other day, Charles Davis said NFL teams have gotten to the point of looking for 4 corners in the secondary instead of a run stuffing safety... advantage: us.

I don't think we need to switch to a 34 defense, but we do need to re-tool our secondary to make sure we have 4 guys back there than can cover. Harris is more of a traditional "in the box" safety, but last year there were occasions where we subbed Martin in to play pass coverage, so we're already adjusting. In the meantime, we should keep our offense as-is and cram the ball down the opponents throat.

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Posted

Wow, p55 pwning Fiz...

p55 you should post this in the smack forum.

:D

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