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Can someone explain to me the philosophy behind (1 Viewer)

Andy Dufresne

Footballguy
From a football perspective, I've always been more interested in the offensive side of the ball. I played RB/QB in high school and never made it to the other side.In trying to put together mocks for the upcoming NFL draft, I've encountered problems with trying to fit defensive players, particularly defensive ends into teams using the 3-4 scheme.My question is, what type of players fit where in a 3-4? A lot of good college defensive ends play in the 4-3, where a DE makes more sense. And linebackers are linebackers. Is a 3-4 more of a scheme with 3 defensive tackles and 4 linebackers? How do defensive ends fit in a 3-4 scheme?

 
DEs in a 3-4 have to be a DT-DE hybrid. You can't have a 240 lb chiseled specimen sitting out there - he's going to catch OG/Ot double teams or OT/TE double teams regularly, with the outside OL brushing him & going to the next level. That means that the DE has to have required strength & mass to hold his end of the line - if he doesn't, the outside of the second level (LBs & SS) gets collapsed and it gets ugly vs the run. If I had to pick a prototypical DE for a 3-4 D, it would be a Reggie White type of player. Capable of playing DT if necessary, but agile enough to play on the edge.

 
How often does a successful DE in college make the transition to OLB in a pro 3-4 scheme?
Fairly often I would guess, since the OLB in a 3-4 is very often still lining up with his hand on the ground to rush the passer -- Peter Boulware and Terrell Suggs come to mind.
 
How often does a successful DE in college make the transition to OLB in a pro 3-4 scheme?
It used to be fairly rare because DEs in college didn't move laterally or play in space very well, but lately some college DEs have made the transition. College coaches are starting to accumulate speed on D, and their DEs are a bit lighter & agile than the traditional DE in college has been.Playing in space is a very difficult transition for most DEs. They are used to immediate contact/feel & read action rather than read first/lateral translation at the onset of a play. In short - they don't read & scrape well & tend to be north-south players.

 
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Yes, 3-4 DEs are more like 4-3 DTs.3-4 OLBs are more like the 4-3 weakDE & SLB. For instance, Suggs was a terrific college 4-3 DE turned pro 3-4 OLB, who moved back to weak/right side DE when the Ravens went back to the 4-3.Guys like Merriman (6'4" 272) and Foley (6'3" 265) aren't that different than a lot of weak/right side DEs like Freeney (6'1" 268), Simeon Rice (6'5" 268) & Jason Taylor (6'6" 255).

 
with regard to playing in space, with the advent of the zone blitz, even left/strong side DEs are being ask to play in space sometimes...peppers comes to mind.another reason i think teams like playing the 3-4 is that the perfect players for their positions are often misfits in the 4-3. 4-3 'tweeners' become pefect fits in the 3-4. 'undersized' 4-3 DEs & DTs are just right for 3-4 OLB & DE. as a result, it's easier to get great players at those positions in the draft and free agency.

 
I still remember how the Ravens grabbed two FA DTs for their super bowl run in 2000. A club has to skimp somewhere, and it would seem this is an area that would be easier to fill via free agency than others, imho.

 
So of the guys mentioned as potential 1st rounders this year, which fit in a)either a 3-4 or 4-3, b) 3-4, c) 4-3In other words, is a guy like Taba Hali only a fit as DE in a 4-3? Can Kiwanuka play in either a 3-4 or a 4-3?Here's the top guys mentioned (add others that I may have forgotten/overlooked):HawkMario WilliamsNgataKiwanukaGreenwayTamba HaliBroderick BunkleyDemeco RyansOrien HarrisClaude WrotenElvis Dumervil

 
Generally speaking, the 4-3 has more "specialized" players while the 3-4 has more "generalized" players. The 4-3 often has 2 big runstuffers at DT, a fairly big strongside DE (280 lbs plus), and a passrush DE (260 lbs plus). The linebackers tend to be smaller, faster guys, particularly the WLB and to a lesser extent, the MLB. You can play 230 pound LBs in a 4-3. These smaller guys generally run free and dont take on O linemen often.The 3-4 typically has 1 big runstuffer at NG, and two 290-305 pound DEs. The linebackers tend to all be 250-265 pound guys. They are big enough to take on Olinemen and/or rush the passer. Former college DEs often line up at OLB given their strength/speed/size ratio. Suggs, Merriman, Ware, Porter etc. are all good examples.

 
Also, you typically don't draft run-stuffing DTs in the first round. You are taking them that high because they can rush the passer. If that fails to materialize, the DT is basically a bust (you overspent). That doesn't mean he can't play in the NFL, though.

 
Which teams run 3-4 defenses in the league. I know Cleveland does. The Texans still do, right? The Ravens switched back to the 4-3?

 
Which teams run 3-4 defenses in the league. I know Cleveland does. The Texans still do, right? The Ravens switched back to the 4-3?
Lots of teams have a 3-4 look, but here are the teams I know that play 3-4 predominantly:Patiots (thought they have the most diverse D looks in the league)

Browns

Steelers

Texans

Chargers

Cowboys

 
Bill Belichick practically invented the current 3-4 with the hybrid LB-DE players.This defensive philosophy makes player rosters easier to manage because you can have players on your roster who can both play LB and Defensive Line which help cover injuries.There was a great article in a book I read about this, I believe the book was "The Football Scientist" which in a very good book regardless.Edit for Billick = Belichick

 
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Which teams run 3-4 defenses in the league.  I know Cleveland does.  The Texans still do, right?  The Ravens switched back to the 4-3?
Lots of teams have a 3-4 look, but here are the teams I know that play 3-4 predominantly:Patiots (thought they have the most diverse D looks in the league)

Browns

Steelers

Texans

Chargers

Cowboys
Vikings played 3-4 after Udeze and Spencer Johnson went down and seemed to flourish and Cottrell is a 3-4 guru. I think you can add them to the list.
 
Which teams run 3-4 defenses in the league.  I know Cleveland does.  The Texans still do, right?  The Ravens switched back to the 4-3?
Lots of teams have a 3-4 look, but here are the teams I know that play 3-4 predominantly:Patiots (thought they have the most diverse D looks in the league)

Browns

Steelers

Texans

Chargers

Cowboys
Vikings played 3-4 after Udeze and Spencer Johnson went down and seemed to flourish and Cottrell is a 3-4 guru. I think you can add them to the list.
They also went 3-4 because Kevin Williams got hurt. When he and Udeze/Johnson return next year, they most likely will return to the 4-3 with the two Williamses in the middle, don't you think?
 
Which teams run 3-4 defenses in the league.  I know Cleveland does.  The Texans still do, right?  The Ravens switched back to the 4-3?
Lots of teams have a 3-4 look, but here are the teams I know that play 3-4 predominantly:Patiots (thought they have the most diverse D looks in the league)

Browns

Steelers

Texans

Chargers

Cowboys
Vikings played 3-4 after Udeze and Spencer Johnson went down and seemed to flourish and Cottrell is a 3-4 guru. I think you can add them to the list.
They also went 3-4 because Kevin Williams got hurt. When he and Udeze/Johnson return next year, they most likely will return to the 4-3 with the two Williamses in the middle, don't you think?
this is probably true, when you add Erasmus James to the mix. It can't be ignored, however, that Darrion Scott played his best football as 3-4 DE, Kevin Williams also has the right skill set to be a 3-4 DE, and Pat Williams as NT is just perfect. Maybe it makes sense for them to mimic what the pats do and show different looks depending on the situation.
 
Which teams run 3-4 defenses in the league.  I know Cleveland does.  The Texans still do, right?  The Ravens switched back to the 4-3?
Lots of teams have a 3-4 look, but here are the teams I know that play 3-4 predominantly:Patiots (thought they have the most diverse D looks in the league)

Browns

Steelers

Texans

Chargers

Cowboys
Vikings played 3-4 after Udeze and Spencer Johnson went down and seemed to flourish and Cottrell is a 3-4 guru. I think you can add them to the list.
They also went 3-4 because Kevin Williams got hurt. When he and Udeze/Johnson return next year, they most likely will return to the 4-3 with the two Williamses in the middle, don't you think?
this is probably true, when you add Erasmus James to the mix. It can't be ignored, however, that Darrion Scott played his best football as 3-4 DE, Kevin Williams also has the right skill set to be a 3-4 DE, and Pat Williams as NT is just perfect. Maybe it makes sense for them to mimic what the pats do and show different looks depending on the situation.
True. And drafting a linebacker (either 1st or 2nd round) to add to that mix makes a lot of sense. The Vikings defense could be really good next year. James really came on late, Udeze played well before the injury was too bad to ignore. Both the Williamses are studs. Interesting.A front four of Wiliams x 2, James, and Udeze could be pretty impressive.

 
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Which teams run 3-4 defenses in the league.  I know Cleveland does.  The Texans still do, right?  The Ravens switched back to the 4-3?
Lots of teams have a 3-4 look, but here are the teams I know that play 3-4 predominantly:Patiots (thought they have the most diverse D looks in the league)

Browns

Steelers

Texans

Chargers

Cowboys
Vikings played 3-4 after Udeze and Spencer Johnson went down and seemed to flourish and Cottrell is a 3-4 guru. I think you can add them to the list.
With all the first round picks spent on DL I can't imagine them going to a 3-4. Kevin Williams, Udeze, Erasmus were all first rounders the past three years. Toss in Pat Williams and I don't see why they would switch. There was only a few games (3 or 4) where they primarily played in the 3-4. Even when they were supposedly in the 3-4, they were actually in a 3-3-5 nickel, with BWill, Irvin, and Ralphy substituting. When Kevin was out near the end of the year CJ Mosely filled in and they stayed in the 4-3 primarily during that time.

 
Bill Billick practically invented the current 3-4 with the hybrid LB-DE players.
I find it amazing that someone actually credits Billick with the invention of the 3-4, current or otherwise.
 
What is the difference in thinking between the modern version of the 3-4 and the more common 4-3? What are they trying to accomplish in either formation?

 
Bill Billick practically invented the current 3-4 with the hybrid LB-DE players.
Who's Bill Billick? I remember the 3-4 defense being around for a long time, and many LB-DE tweeners making good 3-4 OLBs.If you're looking for guys to draft... If you've seen Auburn play the last two years... Stanley McClover is a DE that I would love to see go to a 3-4 defense. He's big (about 265), fast, quick and I've seen him work VERY well is space/open field. A pass rush specialist that is strong enough to overpower most TEs and can make the open field tackle playing the 'outside contain' usually assigned to DEs.

ILBs in the 3-4 don't need to be FAST, but need good quickness and agility. The key for an ILB in the 3-4 is the guard in front of him. If the guard pulls, the ILB needs to BEAT the guard to the other side of the formation and fill the hole. He also needs to be stong enough to hold his ground against a drive-blocking guard (if you saw the last K.C./S.D. game, you saw what happens if they can't) to plug the hole.

As mentioned before, your DEs in a 3-4 are basically 4-3 DTs with superior agility. Maybe not quite as strong as your stud DTs, but usually ranging 280+lbs and of the pass rush type. The DT in a 3-4 or noseguard is A STUD. Big, strong and quick with his hands as well as his feet. Usually getting over 310 lbs, and preferably closer to 320+, they are not exceptionally tall. The job of 3-4 D linemen is not to make plays, but occupy O linemen.

As the linemen are hopefully taking up at least 4 O linemen, a (usually random) LB is coming as the 4th lineman that you would have in a 4-3. Now, IF the O line correctly picks up all 4 defenders coming, there should still be 3 LBs flowing to the ball. The strength of the 3-4 HAS to be the LBs. Your line must be good, but you really only need 3, and LBs come a little cheaper than good DL, so for the NFLs purpose, a 3-4 may be a little cheaper to run, but it is harder to scout for since all the front 7 are of a fairly specific breed.

 
What is the difference in thinking between the modern version of the 3-4 and the more common 4-3? What are they trying to accomplish in either formation?
The basic philosophy is to stop the run by burning up O-linemen with one less D-lineman & allowing the LBs to roam to the ball with less blocking interfernce - allowing the D to meet the O at the point of attack with even numbers or a man advantage. This D is considered better at stopping the run, but lacks in pass pressure, since teams usually have to send at least one LB in on pass plays to create significant pressure.That's why larger & stronger D-linemen than normal are required - they are expected to be double teamed on most if not all plays, and they have to at least maintain ground while occupying 2 O-linemen. Not an easy D to find the right personnel to run, but if you can find the right guys, it can be a devastating D since it makes an O very one-dimensional.

 
The strength of the 3-4 HAS to be the LBs. Your line must be good, but you really only need 3, and LBs come a little cheaper than good DL, so for the NFLs purpose, a 3-4 may be a little cheaper to run, but it is harder to scout for since all the front 7 are of a fairly specific breed.
Very good posting. This has been the philosophy of the Steelers since Cowher took over. The linebackers are the heart of the Steelers defense. It is also critical to have a big run-stopping NT.
 
So of the guys mentioned as potential 1st rounders this year, which fit in a)either a 3-4 or 4-3, b) 3-4, c) 4-3

In other words, is a guy like Taba Hali only a fit as DE in a 4-3? Can Kiwanuka play in either a 3-4 or a 4-3?

Here's the top guys mentioned (add others that I may have forgotten/overlooked):

Hawk

Mario Williams

Ngata

Kiwanuka

Greenway

Tamba Hali

Broderick Bunkley

Demeco Ryans

Orien Harris

Claude Wroten

Elvis Dumervil
Anyone want to take a stab at this?
 
with regard to playing in space, with the advent of the zone blitz, even left/strong side DEs are being ask to play in space sometimes...peppers comes to mind.

another reason i think teams like playing the 3-4 is that the perfect players for their positions are often misfits in the 4-3. 4-3 'tweeners' become pefect fits in the 3-4. 'undersized' 4-3 DEs & DTs are just right for 3-4 OLB & DE. as a result, it's easier to get great players at those positions in the draft and free agency.
Patriots are a perfect example of this. Mike Vrabel is a supbar DE in the 4-3, and not a good LB in the 4-3 either, but in the 3-4 he's a MONSTER. Perfect fit for the defense.
 
Good postings in here.LBers in the 3-4 have to be all about versatility since they are asked to do so many things. You need to have equal amounts of pass rushing skills, run stopping skills and coverage skills. It also helps to have a "5th LB" type Strong Safety to disguise coverages and blitz packages.

 
The beauty of the 3-4 is that at any time you can take the OLB from either side and line him up as a DE for that play. In a 4-3 taking a DE and moving him back to a OLB is usually a mismatch favoring the TE.

The more fronts you can show an opposing QB the better chance you have of gaining the positional advantage.

Will M.Spears be rushing the passer, or dropping into coverage?

Or

Would W.Sapp be rushing the passer or dropping into coverage?

Yes Sapp played DE in 2004, but moved back to DT in 2005.

I have not seen these guys play but here is my guess. College DEs\LBs that can use their hands well and can get off blocks can play as an outside LB in the 3-4. Those that rely on pure speed or pure strength will have to stay in the 4-3 as a DE.

There is a write-up on the players you listed on this site.

http://www.nfldraftcountdown.com/rankings/de.html

 
Bill Billick practically invented the current 3-4 with the hybrid LB-DE players.
I find it amazing that someone actually credits Billick with the invention of the 3-4, current or otherwise.
When did Billick do this? I am not trying to be difficult, but the Giants under Parcells played a 3-4 with Lawrence Taylor playing a LB-DE hybrid. The Giants went to a 3-4 when they drafted Taylor.
 
Bill Billick practically invented the current 3-4 with the hybrid LB-DE players.
I find it amazing that someone actually credits Billick with the invention of the 3-4, current or otherwise.
When did Billick do this? I am not trying to be difficult, but the Giants under Parcells played a 3-4 with Lawrence Taylor playing a LB-DE hybrid. The Giants went to a 3-4 when they drafted Taylor.
LT started the trend and Bill Belichick was the DC with the Giants.Its is so versatile of a defense that you could be in what appears to

be a 5-2 defense on one play and then drop back in to a 4-2-5 zone on the

next. Zone blitzing is especially effective from the 3-4 because you have so

many players who can do similar things. You almost have endless combinations

of the zone blitzes you can call. This is what has made Bill Belichick and

Romeo Crennel so successful over the past four seasons, they were completely

unpredictable and nobody had any idea what they are going to do next. They

did so many different things every week that at times it seemed like they

were drawing defensive calls out of a hat.

Maybe I should not have said that Belichick invented it, but he is right not using it like no other coach in the NFL and in my opinion the versatility he shows using it is the way of the future for many NFL defenses.

Just for trivia Coach Hank Stram first introduced the 3-4 to the NFL.

 
Bill Billick practically invented the current 3-4 with the hybrid LB-DE players.
I find it amazing that someone actually credits Billick with the invention of the 3-4, current or otherwise.
When did Billick do this? I am not trying to be difficult, but the Giants under Parcells played a 3-4 with Lawrence Taylor playing a LB-DE hybrid. The Giants went to a 3-4 when they drafted Taylor.
LT started the trend and Bill Belichick was the DC with the Giants.Its is so versatile of a defense that you could be in what appears to

be a 5-2 defense on one play and then drop back in to a 4-2-5 zone on the

next. Zone blitzing is especially effective from the 3-4 because you have so

many players who can do similar things. You almost have endless combinations

of the zone blitzes you can call. This is what has made Bill Belichick and

Romeo Crennel so successful over the past four seasons, they were completely

unpredictable and nobody had any idea what they are going to do next. They

did so many different things every week that at times it seemed like they

were drawing defensive calls out of a hat.

Maybe I should not have said that Belichick invented it, but he is right not using it like no other coach in the NFL and in my opinion the versatility he shows using it is the way of the future for many NFL defenses.

Just for trivia Coach Hank Stram first introduced the 3-4 to the NFL.
Just looked up some info.Lawrence Taylor was drafted in 1981. Ray Perkins was the HC. Bill Parcells was the DC. Bill Belichick was the LB coach (became LB coach in 1980).

In 1983, Parcells was promoted to HC and Belichick was promoted to DC.

I don't know who invented what, but the Giants switch to a 3-4 and incorporating Lawrence Taylor into the LB corp was definately under Parcells and Belichick.

 
I have to make sure credit is given to the mastermind behind the 7 man front. Bud Wilkenson devised the alignment at the University of Oklahoma in the 1940's. Tom Landry invented the 4-3.

It was touched upon earlier but NFL teams realized that it was economically beneficial to use this type of defense, as it is much cheaper to retain a 3-4 LB and or DE versus a specialized 4-3 DE, and offered better options to the team roster. More importantly, it is much easier find a 3-4 LB than locate the elusive 4-3 DE in the draft.

There was an article in either The Sporting News or Street & Smith's NFL Preview this past spring that documented the history of the 3-4 in the NFL. Chuck Knoll's Steeler's dynasty was the first team to realize the financial and human capital benefits of this scheme.

 
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So of the guys mentioned as potential 1st rounders this year, which fit in a)either a 3-4 or 4-3, b) 3-4, c) 4-3

In other words, is a guy like Taba Hali only a fit as DE in a 4-3? Can Kiwanuka play in either a 3-4 or a 4-3?

Here's the top guys mentioned (add others that I may have forgotten/overlooked):

Hawk

Mario Williams

Ngata

Kiwanuka

Greenway

Tamba Hali

Broderick Bunkley

Demeco Ryans

Orien Harris

Claude Wroten

Elvis Dumervil
Anyone want to take a stab at this?
I'm bored. I'll do my best. I hadn't noticed this thread, but I did just notice that the LB depth in this draft is very hyped, and the DB class is much stronger than I thought. That got me looking at DEs like Dumervil who may find themselves playing the Merriman, Ware, Foley role in a 3-4. So, I'll add a few names at the end of this. I think I have a pretty good handle on this. A big caveat to all of the draft discussion (in this thread and others) first. It's hard not to discuss these prospects in terms other than best case scenarios, so I and most others are probably very high on players who will flat out fail. Just scroll through a decade of drafts and you can't help but be stunned by what a crapshoot this picking and choosing really is. Without careful analysis, I would guess 50% of 1st and 2nd rounders never realize their supposed potential, and a much higher percentage disappoints more than meets expectations. That stated...

Hawk (OLB)-- His freakish combination of size, strength, speed, football instincts, and athleticism make him the most valuable and versatile name on this list. He can excell as a weakside or strongside LB in the 4-3, and he can likely takeover the middle better than Thurman or Tatupu did. In the 3-4 he should be awesome at ILB, in the Ray Lewis role, but his blitzing ability, strength and speed on the edge also transfer to an excellent 3-4 OLB.

Mario Williams (DE)-- Another talent who can manage very well in either defense. Has the strength and power to play DE in the 3-4, and the speed to be very effective at DE in the 4-3.

Ngata (DT/NT)-- Classic overpowering 3-4 NT, who would be an asset at DT in the 4-3 also.

Kiwanuka (DE)-- Probably a pure 4-3 DE. Doesn't have the leverage and power to play there in the 3-4, and is not a candidate for OLB.

Greenway (OLB)-- An excellent OLB in either system, would likely be at his best at OLB in the 4-3 where his LBing versatility could be put to better use than the constant pass rushing required in the 3-4, but he can get after the QB with the best of them.

Tamba Hali (DE)-- Not sure, and I have watched him fairly closely and read about as much as has been written. Obviosly, he is a highly regarded DE for a 4-3. He seems to have better power than Kiwi, but less athleticism. I don't think it translates to DE in the 3-4.

Broderick Bunkley (DT)-- An interesting player for this conversation. He is a classic 4-3 DT, but he is fast and athletic enough to possibley move out to DE in a 3-4. San Diego does it with Igor and the results have been surprisingly good.

Demeco Ryans (OLB)-- Not the most physical of LBs in this draft, but a high motor guy with awesome instincts who is always around the football. I think he needs to be outside in the 4-3, but here I'm probably over my head trying to evaluate him. He may translate to the 3-4, but he doesn't seem to have the pass rush explosion. More of a tracker and tackler, but not an inside LB.

Orien Harris (DT)-- See Brodrick Bunckley, but not as athletic.

Claude Wroten (DT)-- See Brodrick Bunckley, as athletic, but personal issues have been reported.

Elvis Dumervil (DE)-- The player I was researching who made me decide to reply to this thread. And I don't have much of an opinion. He's short. He's not 265 like some say. He's not very fast. He's an athlete (good basketball player) who has a keen sense of leverage and makes a mess of college level RTs. I think he's a situational pass rush specialist only, and regardless of defensive system.

Adding:

Manny Lawson (DE)-- I tried to scout Mario Williams and this kid kept making great plays from the other end position. He certainly looks like he can be a quality 4-3 DE, but even more important he has a Merriman/Ware quality about him (so he could do well at OLB in the 3-4). Great power and speed combined with sideline to sideline athleticism and awareness. This is one of my sleepers to make a big move on draft day. I'd take him before Dumervil in a heartbeat.

Parys Haralson (DE)-- See Manny Lawson, but not as dominating. He is very quick and very explosive, but Lawson just had this uncanny knack for making plays that I think Haralson may lack. He's going to log a few sacks in the NFL whatever position he lands at though.

Ray Edwards, Kamerion Wimbley and Darrell Tapp (DEs)-- All look like classic 4-3 ends to me. I haven't seen much of Edwards and I guess he had a bad season, but the other two look good. Tapp is the kid who beat D'Brick badly all day earlier this season, and Wimbley looks very strong too.

Gabe Watson (NT)-- Gets lazy, but he is a rare classic 3-4 nose tackle and that alone could launch him into the first round. He would look disinterested for several plays this season, then destroy everything in his path for a few plays. If he can maintain his intensity, I think he can be very valuable in the NFL.

eta: Rodrique Wright could play DT in the 4-3 and be a very good DE in the 3-4. I may be too low on him.

 
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