Thursday, January 10, 2008

Revisiting the 3-4 Defense

The 3-4 defense is all the rage in the NFL right now, and rumors persist that UW is leaning towards running it this spring. Everything old always becomes new again with a few twists. The 4-3 first became popular in the 80's when Chuck Noll started running it with the Steelers. Defenses come and go as offenses change to take advantage of them.

We have no idea what UW will run till they bring in a new DC who then has to take a good look at the personnel he is inheriting.

The 4-3 defense has the following characteristics:

There are 4 defensive lineman (DL) and 3 linebackers (LBs)

On plays where a LB or DB does not blitz, the pass rush is generated by the defensive linemen.

The DEs in particular must be able to get pressure on the QB. The best/fastest pass rushing DE typically plays at RDE and is referred to as the "rush end".

The LDE is referred to as the "base end" and must be solid against the run, because teams often run strong-side, which is the side where the TE is, and the TE often lines up next to the RT.

The DEs play from a 3-point stance, so they have a hand on the ground

The SLB matches up against the TE. SLBs are on the taller side for a LB.

The MLB plays the middle of the field and provides run support.

The WLB often plays in space, has the freedom to flow to the ball, and must have good range. WLBs are often undersized compared to the other LBs.

The 3-4 D has the following characteristics:

There are 3 defensive lineman (DL) and 4 linebackers (LBs)

The primary function of the DL is to protect the LBs and play the run. Each defensive lineman is responsible for 2 gaps.

The pass rush is generated by the 3-4 OLBs. On almost every play, 1 of the OLBs will rush the QB.

The OLBs play from a 2-point stance, so they're standing up

What are the advantages of the 3-4 defense?

The offense does not know which of the 2 OLBs is going to rush the QB, as both of the OLBs are in a 2-point stance.

This creates the following advantages:

It's harder for the offensive linemen to correctly determine their blocking assignments before the snap and execute

It puts more mental pressure on the QB, because the defense is harder to read.

It is more flexible than the 4-3 which allows for greater flexibility when it comes to situational substitutions

3-4 Defensive Alignment

Personnel Requirements

The front 7 players in the 3-4 defense are significantly different from their counterparts in the 4-3. In a nutshell, the defensive line in the 3-4 are bigger than the defensive line in the 4-3. The 3-4 OLBs are bigger than 4-3 OLBs because they have to match up against OTs.

The 3-4 NT is the toughest position to fill. The NT plays head-up on the Center and is responsible for defending both gaps one each side of the Center in the running game. He faces constant double-teams and takes a pounding. He must have size, mental and physical toughness, stamina, durability, lateral quickness, and good technique in terms of playing with leverage. If the NT can not hold his ground, the defense is very vulnerable to runs between the tackles. You need a big, strong, quick guy for the middle that usually weighs over 300 pounds.

The DE's also have two gap responsibility. In college these guys weigh between 270-290 pounds. It's tough for a 3-4 DE to pick up as many sacks as a 4-3 DE, because a 3-4 DE doesn't have the freedom to go up field. He has to protect the LBs in order for the 3-4 to work.

3-4 ILBs must be stout in run support. Because there are only 3 DL to match up against 5 OL, they must be able to stack and shed an unblocked offensive lineman in the running game.

3-4 OLBs are the play makers of this defense. They get the glory of picking up sacks on the QB. They must have strong pass rush skills and also be able to drop into coverage. If the 3-4 OLBs are unable to consistently apply pressure on the QB, the defense is very vulnerable in the passing game. Many 4-3 OLBs are not suited to playing 3-4 OLB because they lack the pass rush skills and the ability to head on with an OT.

Why a 3-4 for Washington?

The main reason it is being kicked around is because Washington is going to be very green on the defensive line, and they have some talented LB's they could get on the field next year to help make up for that.

Will Washington have the right personnel to run a 3-4 this Fall?

This team was recruited with the idea of running a 4-3 defense. We will have 12-13 DL on the squad for next season. This is how the roster would most likely break down if we started playing a 3-4. These are just guesses using the Fall 2007 roster.

Nose Tackles

Ta'Amu is your prototype NT just by size alone, but is he ready to take on double teams every play as a true frosh?

Alameda Ta'Amu 6'4 330
Craig Noble 6'3 290
Jovan O'Connor 6'5 290
Tyrone Duncan 6'2 290

Defensive End

Cameron Elisara 6'2 275
Senio Kelemente 6'5 275
Nick Wood 6'2 265
Deshon Matthews 6'3 245

Defensive End

Daniel Teo Nesheim 6'4 265
Johnnie Kirton 6'3 270
Everette Thompson 6'6 255

Strong Outside Linebackers

You need a big LB that can go up against an offensive tackle. Just the place to put two of your smaller defensive ends.

Darion Jones 6'3 245
Kalani Aldrich 6'7 244
Fred Wiggs 6'1 230
Cory MacKay 6'4 216

Weak Outside Linebackers

EJ Savannah 6'2 222
Chris Stevens 6'0 215
Matt Houston 6'1 215

Inside Linebackers

Donald Butler 6'1 220
Mason Foster 6'1 225
Trenton Tuiasosopo 6'2 240
Cort Dennison 6'1 220
Bradly Roussel 5'11 210
Josh Gage 6'2 220


hairofthedawg said...

Thanks for the education. I agree about our players perhaps fitting that style, but what about the learning curve? I also wonder if that's one of the reasons the DC search is taking so long, maybe he's looking for a guy who knows that D.

Could that be Kirton was switched, aside from his struggles at TE?

bigdave967 said...

I am a personal fan of the 3-4 because of the contant pressure that is applied to QBs from all angles. With that said I believe that a 4-3 ran correctly can be just as effective. The 4-3 has smaller more active D-Ends, perfect example is Patrick Kerney. (I love watching him play). He is active and never stops. With Def-Ends like that you can keep the 4-3. From the few games I saw last year they got no pressure from their ends. If that is the case then they need to go to a 3-4. The nice thing is that you can run a 4-3 base then switich to 3-4 on passing downs or 2 and longs to bring pressure from all sides. Since the strength and experience will be at linebacker i would love to see them all get a lot of snaps. Like you said in your blog, if they switch to a 3-4 and play a taller, bigger outside linebacker with 270-290 def ends they can rotate the 3-4 to a 4-3 and visa versa which youll see a lot of teams do...walked up linebackers are a big part of the 3-4. If they stay 4-3 they need more line stunts...almost like delayed cross blocking on the Off Line. That creates mismatches and if done properly can be an effective way to open huge holes for ends to come around and SMACK the QB.

Oledawg said...

Idea for DC: Mike Singletary???

John Berkowitz said...

Hair- I don't think we need Kirton next year at TE, but he could fill in pretty easily if needed.

I don't know what they will come up with on defense, but this shows what they ar elikely to do if they go 3-4.

bigdave967 said...

What about Browns defensive coordinator Todd Grantham...just got canned and was at one time considered the successor for Romeo Crummel. Story on

bigdave967 said...

Looks like UW lost Roussel to Tulane.