Thursday, February 17, 2011

The 3-4 Defense: FRONTS/ALIGNMENTS/PLAYERS

A SERIES ON IMPLEMENTING A 3-4 SCHEME APLLICABLE AT ALL LEVELS OF PLAY

One thing I feel certain in saying is that there is no defense that serves as the definitive “answer” for stopping offenses. At the end of the day your ability to stop offenses relies on 1) the player’s that you have on defense, 2) your knowledge of the defense and ability to apply it against your opponents, and 3) the opponents ability to both excel and/or shoot itself in the foot. There are many great coaches that swear by certain schemes, fronts, and coverage’s. You look around the country and you see different schemes working all over the football map. TCU’s 4-2-5 has been a hot topic lately. The success of Dom Capers (Green Bay) and Dick Lebeau (Pittsburgh) in the NFL has kept the 3-4 newsworthy. Too many programs have success with the “multiple” 4-3. I see merit in each and every scheme out there, but at the end of the day I have a certain affinity for one: the 3-4.

Why the 3-4? Several reasons:
Personnel: some areas/schools seem to “grow” a certain type of athlete, but at most of my stops I see more hybrid type kids than I do true defensive ends. I think find it easier to find a hybrid kid that can do multiple things than I do kids that I feel safe anchoring down as a four man front DE. I think that this defense also lends itself Nickel and Dime package(s).

Box Alignment: I think the 3-4 allows you to be multiple in your box alignment. I also think that your alignments can more easily be tailored to your strengths in this front.

Secondary Alignment: My preferred coverages will come later, but I think that a 2-high shell is the best starting place when designing the back end of your defense and the 3-4 allows you to use the 2-high shell but still adjust as needed.

Balance: I think that the “base” alignment for a 3-4 defense allows you to balance up to any formation. This benefits the defense in the run game, passing game, and also in the pressure/blitz game.

DISCLAIMER: Below are a few things that I want to put out there before I go any further, some of this applies to football schemes in general and not just this post –
1. We all know that the last guy with the pen wins on the grease board. Players make plays, not markers and diagrams.
2. Almost all schemes are related in some way. This scheme, like others, employs certain principles that make it akin to other defenses so I know some things might enter your head as being “contradictive” to my argument for the 3-4.

3. Most of my 3-4 knowledge comes from a good friend and former co-worker and an outstanding clinic weekend with the defensive staff at Liberty University (Parcells/Belichick/Groh line of 3-4 coaches) and a staff I worked on.

4. It is my blog so I can say what I want.

Personnel for the 3-4 FRONT:

I identify the lineman in the 3-4 as the Nose, Tackle, and End. The outside linebackers, who are important to your alignments, are the Sam and the Jack. The Sam will always align on the strong side and Jack will always align on the weak side of the formation. The inside linebackers are the Mike and Will. The secondary consist of two cornerbacks with a free safety and a strong safety.

NOSE: This is your plugger – or at least the closest thing that you have. I never ask my Nose to 2-Gap (this is not the NFL). If I do not have a true plugger I am going to play someone with good “get-off” and serious strength at this position.

TACKLE: This is more like the traditional 4 man front 3-Technique. He needs to be a little more mobile. Preferably the Tackle will be a good pass rusher, but still sturdy enough to take on a double team when needed.

END: Again, this is like a four man front strong-side DE. The End is a solid pass rusher, but primarily good against the run.

JACK: The Jack is the hybrid. I don’t expect any of you to have a Marcus Spears, but if you do this is his spot. He is the “tweener,” the kid that is not quite a LB, but not quite a DE either. He will play in a two point stance in a removed position and tighter in a 5 tech.

SAM: The Sam must be able to play in space as well as down in a 9-tech. Your Sam should be better in space than the Jack. If you are lucky enough to have a Clay Matthews this is where you should play him.

MIKE: My Mike LB is my plugger. This is the LB that absolutely has to play downhill.

WILL: I love it when the Will can be my “brain” in the box of the defense. This is the player that makes great reads and understands how to wade through traffic and get to the ball.

Alignment for the 3-4 FRONT:

When discussing the different fronts that you can get into, the possibilities in the 3-4 defense are endless. The reality is much more limited. How many you actually carry, and how you align to certain offensive formations should be based on what your team can handle and most importantly on what your team needs. Here are some of the more prominent fronts and how they are used in the 3-4:

-A balanced front that is “safe” against any offensive formations.

-Again a balanced formation. This is our version of a “BEAR” alignment. Instead of aligning in tight 3 techniques we align in 4i’s and attack B-Gap at the snap of the ball.
-Just like the traditional UNDER front except the backside 5 technique is played by the Jack LB instead of a DE. The Jack remains in a 2 point stance.

-Another common front that teams use against running teams/formations. Again, the Jack LB moved down to the 5 tech.
I will continue to discuss the implementation of this defense in upcoming post.

1 comment:

Cindy Dy said...


Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I truly appreciate your effort in sharing this informative articles. Very impressive and quite interesting for the readers. Good job.

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