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Let's talk about possibly evolving to a 3-4 in the future

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#1 frash.exe


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Posted 22 October 2011 - 02:54 AM

From a personal standpoint, if you asked me which alignment I prefer naturally, I would say the 3-4 instead of the 4-3, even though we're a team that has run the opposite alignment for about the last ten years. Teams all over the league the past 5 years have been making the transition to a 3-4 (Cardinals, Bills, Redskins, Packers, Texans, Chiefs off the top of my head) and drafting personnel to fit it. Why? More speed on the field. Ability to disguise and manipulate blitzes better than your average 4-3. These two main benefits come in handy when it comes to rushing the passer and disguising pre-snap coverage schemes against the QB.

So why would this benefit us? In 2002 John Fox switched to a 4-3 from what had previously been an awful performing 3-4 at the time. So fug 3-4, I mean who needs it, right?


In 2002 it was the right decision to make the transition. After being thrown into a new division showcasing power runners like Deuce McAllister, Mike Alstott, and ...TJ Duckett. (lol) ...but still, those guys did produce, so naturally why not change defense from its foundation if the current state it was in was awful? (and it was)

In 2011 the division looks a lot different. Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, and Josh Freeman are the key pieces to their offense. NO's leading rusher is Mark Ingram. The best performing back on our rivals' rosters is Michael Turner, and he'll be on the wrong side of thirty by next season. This is not as if to say the 3-4 is bad against the run because that's a myth and I'll address it later, but that passing is more of a threat than it was in the early 2000s in this division. Even Matt Ryan, who literally has to aim for the roof cables to throw a 30 yard pass in the georgia dome is more threatening than Vick was in his first few years in Atlanta. Because of this more 3-4 could probably be seen in the future.

How to build - Some people believe that we're like 11 starters away from playing good 3-4 but that is a little insane. I think we're 1 NT and 1 feature WOLB away from playing a good one. No major changes needed in the secondary to switch, unless you want to run LeBeau's 3-4 which puts a lot of accountability in both athleticism and read/diagnose capability compared to other 3-4s, and I don't think that's the kind of 3-4 we would run if we switched.

Your usual 3-4 front, unless you want to run the Bum Phillips version, is strictly a 2 gap assignment at the defensive line. The NT lines up over center, controls both A-gaps, and the defensive ends line up in the 5-technique. While this has become more of a football buzzword (just like 3-technique) it basically means your defensive ends line up over the offensive tackles and control the B and C gaps on their respective sides. In my opinion we have some good candidates to play 5-tech. Sione Fua was said to be a potential fit there as a prospect, McClain has good size for it and even Hardy can find a niche in there.

The problem is finding a NT. Only a handful of good DTs with 2-gap potential come out in the draft and as a result teams will pick them higher than they are projected. Ron Edwards, while he has NT experience isn't someone good enough to where I would rely on him to tackle the position alone and I'm not sold on Ron Fields either.

At LB, with the exception of WOLB I think we would be set. Beason would make an easy transition to WILB and Anderson/Connor could handle SILB. CJ was reported to say lining up at 3-4 OLB and he might be able to round the corner with good enough speed to get to the QB from the WOLB spot (this is where DeMarcus Ware gets many of his highlights). WOLB is like the candy and gummi bears spot because it has the most freedom in a traditional 3-4 than any of the other linebacker spots. What we need is to find one do-it-all OLB, probably in the draft. Dallas SOLB Anthony Spencer's contract runs out after the year and the Cowboys might not retain him because of their cap problems and the fact that Victor Butler has been playing well in spot duty and they might just promote him, but even then I don't think we can offer a competitive salary in free agency. With that addition we'd be able to experiment with him and CJ and find out who's a better fit at SOLB and WOLB.

Here are some myths to dispel

Are all 3-4s the same? - No, 3-4s can vary in scheme and technique just like 4-3 defenses can. For instance in Dick LeBeau's 3-4 the SS lines up almost like another linebacker, much closer to the LOS than a traditional SS. For more info on the scheme differences visit this link.

Are 3-4s bad against the run? - No, while this is perceived as a weakness primarily because you're putting more speed on the field a solid 3-4 has no problem clogging the run. In fact just last year Pittsburgh, the New York Jets, Baltimore, San Francisco, San Diego, and Miami ranked top 10 against the run and they all run 3-4.

Only one or the other? - A lot of teams actually run both schemes effectively. Remember the NFL is constantly evolving on both sides of the ball, and just like we have 3-4 sub packages in our base 4-3 defensive playbook, other teams do the opposite. The Ravens run a hybrid and so do the Patriots (but their defense is terrible). The Cardinals even have some 5-2 sub packages that they run in addition to some 3-4 and some 4-3. Against power running teams we can deal with the obvious runs from I-formations by lining up in 4-3 if the 3-4 isn't working as well.

Here's an off-topic video



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Posted 22 October 2011 - 03:22 AM

That site you linked lists Da'Quan Bowers as the #2 overall best player in this latest draft.

Just thought that was lol

#3 Guest_Irv_*


Posted 22 October 2011 - 03:47 AM

let's go to sleep and talk about it monday

#4 Catalyst


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Posted 22 October 2011 - 04:04 AM

Thing is, we just re-signed Charles Johnson and I'm not sure he fits well in a 3-4. Not sure Greg Hardy would be the best 3-4 OLB either, TBH. He could rush the passer, sure, but can he cover? I know 3-4 OLB's don't cover as much as 4-3 'backers, but they do have to be able to some of the time and Hardy doesn't have much experience in coverage of that sort.

We just spent $72 million on a 4-3 DE and now we're going to move him to OLB? Or make him a 3-4 DE? I'm not sure he's fast enough to play OLB and/or big enough to play DE in a 3-4. He's a 4-3 DE, that's what he does best. Look around the league and you'll find very few 275 pound ends on teams that run a 3-4 scheme. The only elite ones I can think of that's close are Justin Smith with the 49ers & Darnell Docket, who are both 285. C.J. is a good run defender in a 4-3, but I'm not sure that would still be the case in a 3-4 where the ends are much more responsible for stuffing the run rather than rushing the QB.

I suppose we could move Anderson inside, put Hardy at OLB, and draft another one, but even IF we put Charles Johnson at DE in a 3-4 and pray he works out there, we'd still need a NT and another DE. I'm not so sure Fua or McClain fit the bill for either position. McClain MIGHT be able to get some good pass rush as a 3-4 end, but that's very iffy and I'm not liking the idea of him trying to play the run from that spot. Fua is just too small to play nose tackle, IMO. I know some teams prefer smaller NT's (Cowboys w/Jay Ratliff for example) but it's fairly rare to see a guy just over 300 pounds able to play nose at a high level.

I mean, I'd be willing to give this a shot if it'd improve our defense. The elite teams mostly do have 3-4 defenses, so it's certainly worth considering, but my biggest concerns revolve around Johnson & Hardy, two of our best defensive players who might not be able to play at the same high level if we were to switch.

Edited by Second City Panther, 22 October 2011 - 04:21 AM.

#5 JawnyBlaze


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Posted 22 October 2011 - 04:37 AM

I mostly agree with SCP's point. The fan in me says Hardy and CJ are too good to waste in the wrong scheme. However, they did try CJ at OLB last game for a few snaps. If he can succeed at that spot, he's worth his contract. He's too rich for a 3-4 DE though, they're not big enough play makers. If Hardy can hold up at 3-4 DE well enough, I could see using him there though.

But in the long run, if switching will be better for the defense then we can't let our affections for a couple of players (CJ and Hardy) prevent it. What's best for the defense is best for the team(and I'm not saying the switch IS what's best, just IF it's what's best), even if our pieces don't quite fit at first.

#6 Herbert The Love Bug

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Posted 22 October 2011 - 04:59 AM

Charles Johnson has played well at OLB in the 3-4. Also Applewhite turns into a beast playing OLB in the 3-4. Next year if we add the right couple of guys for it, and get our guys back healthy, I think we can be a scary good defense in that scheme. It excites me.

And I really don't understand why some people thing that guys can play well in one scheme but not in another. They are NFL players. The best athletes in the world. Charles Johnson has been quoted as saying he prefers the 3-4 because he gets to stand up. And that helps him see things better and get to the QB faster.

So I'm not understanding this "we don't have the right personnel" or "our guys are going to waste in the 3-4"

I think our defense will excel in it once we get a really good NT. That's the only thing missing.

Edited by BigFurryKittyMan, 22 October 2011 - 05:03 AM.

#7 IBleedBnG83


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Posted 22 October 2011 - 06:56 AM

Evertte Brown could have probably down well as an OLB in a 3-4

#8 unicar15


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Posted 22 October 2011 - 07:45 AM

If Johnson could play the WOLB then it could work but we just signed the guy to a 72 million dollar contract so...

#9 HeatCheck



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Posted 22 October 2011 - 08:11 AM

Charles Johnson has played well at OLB in the 3-4

When has he ever done that?

Personally, I don't see how he fits that OLB.

#10 predryder226



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Posted 22 October 2011 - 08:21 AM

Here is my problem with this we are builit around a 4 3 defense and once we get are injured players back we are 2 defense tackles away from being a top 15 defense which is not great but should be able to win with are High power offense. We would need a few years of drafting to be a grood 3 4 D might be able to make it work now but wouldnt be as good as a 4 3 when we fill the few gaps we need.

#11 PhillyB


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Posted 22 October 2011 - 08:25 AM

And I really don't understand why some people thing that guys can play well in one scheme but not in another. They are NFL players. The best athletes in the world.

dumbest statement ever. this is literally the easiest possible concept to grasp.

#12 GritsRgreat



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Posted 22 October 2011 - 08:29 AM

I've always loved the 3-4 myself. The problem is finding a quality NT to anchor the scheme.
Good Free agent nose tackles will cost a poo load of cash.

#13 JawnyBlaze


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Posted 22 October 2011 - 08:48 AM

When has he ever done that?

Personally, I don't see how he fits that OLB.

He did it last Sunday against the Falcons for a few plays.

I'd be willing to give CJ a shot at it because if Mario Williams isn't too big for it, then CJ isn't. It's just a matter of if CJ is as athletic as Williams (which he isn't, but could still be athletic enough for the spot).

#14 Stroupe-a-loop


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Posted 22 October 2011 - 09:11 AM

Rivera said one of the reasons we spent so much on Johnson is that he can play multiple positions. I'm guessing he evaluated him at a permanent position in the 3-4 if he plans to move to it eventually. Beason, Anderson, and Connor all seem like middle backers, so one of them probably leaves. Maybe Hardy can play the other OLB position. We would probably need an entirely new defensive line, so this is going to be a lengthy rebuild.

#15 mmmbeans



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Posted 22 October 2011 - 09:16 AM

wasn't the 3-4 developed specifically to stop the run?