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3-4 101: The Basics

this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; The New Orleans Saints are switching to a 3-4 defense under defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. You probably already knew that. What you might not know (outside of now there will be four linebackers on the field instead of three) is ...

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Old 07-30-2013, 08:53 AM   #1
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3-4 101: The Basics

The New Orleans Saints are switching to a 3-4 defense under defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. You probably already knew that. What you might not know (outside of now there will be four linebackers on the field instead of three) is what exactly is the 3-4 defense? Why will it make us a better defense?

Well your friends at Who Dat Dish have you covered. We will be rolling out a “3-4 101″ article series to bring you up to speed on the new defense, the different roles of the players, and most importantly how it will make our defense better.

Right out the gate, let me tell you that the 3-4 defense is complicated. There are a couple different variations that have been tweaked by many great defensive coaches throughout NFL history and several different terms that mean exactly the same thing. We will stick to the Ryan 3-4 defense as much possible for the sake of clarity.

The 3-4 defense consists of three down linemen; the two defensive ends and a nose tackle. Their regular job is to engage as many offensive linemen and try to diagnose the play so they can make the defensive stop.These guys are normally larger defensive ends or defensive tackles depending on the team’s personnel.

Next are the four linebackers who play a variety of different roles and are therefore the most versatile players on the defense. They may be asked to blitz, stunt (a blitz meant to confuse offensive linemen on a passing play), play zone pass coverage, and sometimes play man coverage. Speed, athleticism, and size are great traits for a 3-4 linebacker.

The secondary in the 3-4 is lined up in their traditional spots with the corners across from the wide receivers and the strong safety and free safety behind the linebackers.

The corners play man-coverage in the Ryan scheme with some zone coverage mixed in. The strong safety acts like an extra linebacker at times and can creep into the box to blitz on certain plays. The free safety helps corners cover deep passing plays.

In theory, the 3-4 defense is strong against the run and weak against the pass. It all depends on each defensive coordinator’s philosophy in implementing the defense and the personnel on the field.

3-4 101: The Basics - Who Dat Dish

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Old 07-30-2013, 08:56 AM   #2
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Re: 3-4 101: The Basics

So if we have a 3 man front and the NT is lined up over the guard, the centre has a clear path to MLB, which is what made vilma struggle with the jets, getting off blocks.

Lets hope he and lofton can make a great duo in the middle
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Old 07-30-2013, 08:58 AM   #3
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Re: 3-4 101: The Basics

Originally Posted by WhoDat!656 View Post
The strong safety acts like an extra linebacker at times and can creep into the box to blitz on certain plays.
That's just enough to upset all our Harper haters
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Old 07-30-2013, 09:02 AM   #4
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Re: 3-4 101: The Basics

Originally Posted by dizzle88 View Post
So if we have a 3 man front and the NT is lined up over the guard, the centre has a clear path to MLB, which is what made vilma struggle with the jets, getting off blocks.
Vilma went over this in his presser. He kept talking about the stunts and shading they would be doing to protect the LBs. And someone like Jenkins and/or Hicks will require double teams to block properly...
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Old 07-30-2013, 09:50 AM   #5
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Re: 3-4 101: The Basics



In contrast to the true 2-gap 3-4, there’s no clear “bubble” in a 1-gap front. The strongside end slides down in the guard-tackle gap and the nose tackle slants to the weakside center-guard gap. The weakside end may or may not be head-up on the tackle, sometimes aligning in a 5-technique. Moving the defensive lineman just a few inches changes the philosophy entirely. The diagram above shows an under-shifted 3-4, but over-shifted 3-4 fronts are also common.

It’s clear that the two inside linebackers can be, if the linemen are disruptive at all, better protected from the blocks of interior linemen. You can see the lines of attack for a delayed ILB blitz or how each OLB might get a jump by shifting one defensive end to the outside of an offensive tackle.

The under-shifted 3-4 front, with or without a 2-gap end, is just one of many potential variations a coordinator may align for his front seven. In fact, a coach influenced by both flavors of the 3-4 might be tempted to meld both concepts with traditional 4-3 ideas and create a monster playbook with more than 50 fronts. And pull it off with amazing success.
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Old 07-30-2013, 10:08 AM   #6
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Re: 3-4 101: The Basics

Thanks, Danno, for semi-clearing up some of the defensive concepts for dummies like me.
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Old 07-30-2013, 08:49 PM   #7
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Re: 3-4 101: The Basics

Originally Posted by SaintnDE View Post
Thanks, Danno, for semi-clearing up some of the defensive concepts for dummies like me.
Ditto Danno.
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Old 07-30-2013, 09:01 PM   #8
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Re: 3-4 101: The Basics

Originally Posted by SaintnDE View Post
Thanks, Danno, for semi-clearing up some of the defensive concepts for dummies like me.
I didn't know anything about the new 3-4's being used around the league until I read that article.

Its NOT like the 3-4 Mangini ran in New York that Vilma didn't care for.

BTW: Vilma still played OK in that 2-gap 3-4, he just didn't excel at it.

In the current 1-gap 3-4's Vilma is basically playing the equivalent of a 4-3 WLB.
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Old 07-30-2013, 09:04 PM   #9
 
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Re: 3-4 101: The Basics

It's kinda crazy the kind of mismatches that can be created when shifts are implemented...
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Old 07-30-2013, 09:16 PM   #10
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Re: 3-4 101: The Basics

In layman's terms,

The 3-4 under shifts a 1/2 gap to the weak side
The 3-4 over shifts a 1/2 gap to the strong side.

Also, this style 3-4 allows 1-gap penetrators to excel. Players like Jordan, Tom Johnson, Hicks can really cause havoc with their quickness.

It does reward attacking instead of just reading and reacting. Looks like it can also be a little feast or famine as well.
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