Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The 3-4

So, I've been getting some questions regarding this "new" Defense that Grantham's gonna be bringin' with him to Athens. More exactly, I've been reading emails that look a little something like this:

"Jest what in tarnation is a 3-4 defense, Dukes? Help a brotha out!"

Alright, I'll do my best. Now, while I understand the BASICS of the 3-4 defense, I don't know EXACTLY what Grantham will do with it. During my time in football, I worked out of a 4-lineman base pretty exclusively. Though, I did run some scout 3-4, so I've done a little bit of it. Cherry-picking tidbits from what Grantham has said, I can give you MY IDEA of what he's gonna be doing. I'd love to be in Sanford this spring to get a look at it on G-Day. If I can arrange it, I will.

Now, all of that being said, let me explain (a bit more than I did previously) how Grantham's "1-gap" 3-4 may work.

In a traditional 3-4 defense, your three down linemen (1NT, 2DT) are all VERY big. We're talking 300+ on the outside, and around 350 or more for the Nose. Each of these players has a two-gap responsibility. What this means, is that the DL has to attack the blocker in front of him and read to each side of the blocker, looking for the runningback. That DL has to make the first hit on any back coming through, preferably stopping him dead in his tracks. For the NT, he has the "A" gap on either side of the Center. The DTs will have the "B" and "C" gaps between the guard and tackle, and outside the tackle respectively. The linebackers are then free to go make plays. The OLBs are basically on a rush-or-drop assignment (either a pre-play call, or a read) and the inside backers are read-all-the-way. This is your BASE defense with no blitz.

Now, I don't think this is quite what Grantham has in mind. When he uses the term "1-gap responsibility", I believe what he's telling us is that his tackles are indeed not going to be hitting a lineman and then reading for the back. What it seems to me, is that each DLman will be attacking a specific gap, with linebackers filling the holes. For this, I believe he'll be using more ahtletic DEs instead of bigger DTs on the outside.

"Dukes, what are you sayin? How does it work???"

Ok, let's break it down: If the Nose takes the "A" on the right side, one of the ILBs will be taking the "A" on the left.

Now, it all gets a bit complicated. There are many options after that. Both the DEs could crash in on the "B" gaps, with the OLBs keeping containment on the outside, and the remaining ILB will be free to read and attack the ball.


The DEs can fan out and contain on the "C" gap (outside the offensive tackle) and the OLBS could crash inside on the "B" gaps. This is unlikely to happen on first or second downs...big running downs. Generally, you're gonna want your meat inside and your speed outside on running downs. BUT, on a 3rd down pass, you could easily see the OLBs and the DEs playing a "switch" in order to confuse the blocking scheme.


The defense could be run in a SLANT. What this means, is when the NT takes the rightside "A" gap, both DEs take the gap to their right, the ILBs fit into the backside "A" and frontside "B" gaps, and the OLBs read and react.


Any combination of these is what we're likely to see on a down-to-down basis. What we're NOT likely to see is a primarily read-and-react defense with huge open zones and little pressure on the quarterback (read - UGA's defense for the past few seasons).

"BUT DUKES! There's only three down-linemen. How does that equal greater pressure on the quarterback??"

Well, there are only three down linemen. But, with four linebackers, you now have six legitimate speed-rushers instead of the five that you get with the 4-3. Also, unlike in the 4-3, the linebackers are in fairly consistent position. What I mean by this is, in the 4-3, you often walk the SAM backer up to the line, and play him outside the tight-end. So, your formation is "heavy" to the strong side. Blockers then can adjust pre-snap to the formation. But, in the 3-4, you fairly constantly have both of your OLBs up on the line. It's hard for the OL and QB to know which (if either) of them will be rushing on a particular play. They have to make a read and react to it post-snap.

This gives you a better opportunity to disguise your defense. The extra speed and athleticism gained by the fourth linebacker adds to this as well. Pre-snap, a quarterback may be reading a man-type press coverage, but on the snap, an OLB who appears to be in coverage may indeed blitz, with support of a safety moving up into coverage. OR, the Backer may show blitz, then bail into coverage, with a safety or a different backer actually bringing the pressure.

There is a great deal of deception available in a 3-4 defense, more so than in the 4-3, simply from personnel and alignment standpoints.


Those who watched the 'Bama defense would note that they often played in the DIME defense, swapping out two of their backers for defensive backs, due to facing many spread-type offenses. This brings additional speed and athleticism to the scheme. Grantham has already stated that we'll be ready to play in the Nickel, from either a 4-man or 3-man front.

From a 4-man front, that looks like a 4-2-5 (five DBs) and from a 3-man front, it's a 3-3-5. Either way, I believe we have 3 linebackers in the game in Nickel. If we're running a base 3-4, and we have to go to a 3-3-5, we simply make one substitution - a DB for an LB. If we want to go to the 4-2-5, I don't think we necessarily make another substitution. I think we move our biggest and best pass-rushing LB down as an edge-rusher.

In the Dime, we would customarily drop another LB and bring in the 6th DB. But, I don't know if that's the case. From an attacker's standpoint, I have to think...if we have 6 DBs in the game, they probably have 5 wideouts. If they have 5 wideouts, it's doubtful they're going to be doing any power running. The Dime I foresee is one without the NT. Instead, you have 2 DEs and 3LBs in the game. This gives you multiple sets. You can run a 4-1-6 or a 3-2-6 without having to run anyone out of the game, and without sacrificing speed in the pass rush. For even more fun, maybe you run a 2-3-6 Dime or a 2-4-5 nickel. This way, you have DEs covering the Guards, and many linebackers roaming around, confusing blockers pre-snap and then attacking.

"Dukes, this all sounds great, but will it actually work??"

Hahaha. I have no idea! On paper, it looks great. In practice, it has worked, it has failed. What it all boils down to, is how the players perform with the X's and O's given them by the coaches. I don't think motivation is going to be a huge problem. I don't think talent is going to be a problem. Let's face much as I love the assessment of which 4 and 5 stars we've stolen from other states, or that they've stolen from us, at the end of the day UGA always has solid talent. People have shown that our drafts stats have been down recently...and yet we have a number of guys who've been signed as undrafted free agents. This tells me they have NFL talent, but they didn't put up NFL performance in college. That leans on the coaching. Those coaches have been rewarded for their lackluster production with firings. Huzzah!

So, if we have the talent, and we have the motivation, I'd say we should be successful. At this point, though, it's all conjecture. Still, I'm very excited to see how it all plays out.

Go Dawgs!


Listen to Todd Grantham's Interview with 680 The Fan here and you'll get it straight from the horse's mouth! Sounds very similar to what I wrote above. There are few things in this life that are on par with being right. Yeah, Come On!


BulldogBry said...

I'm excited too. But one question. If the 3-4 is more confusing (pre-snap) to the OL and QB, why don't more DC's use it?

Ben Dukes said...

The main reason is that it's difficult to go out and find the athletes who can truly excel in this scheme. The 3-4 is a very discipline and assignment-heavy scheme. You need true playmakers. Your outside linebackers have to be excellent at pass rush as well as pass coverage. It's rare to get both in one player. Also, the speed-athleticism factor isn't as prevalent as you'd want it to be.

Take a successful UGA DL a few years ago...the one with Marcus Stroud, Richard Seymour, Charles Grant and Bruce Adrine. None of those guys were gonna be good in coverage. The linebackers we had then were Will Witherspoon, Kendrell Bell and Boss Bailey. These guys were great in coverage, but not great pass rushers. It's a personnel thing.

Also, with the DECEPTION angle, comes a need for a greater understanding of fundamental football. So, now you not only have to have a guy who is big, strong, and fast...but he needs to be SMART. The best example of someone who fits that bill is the ILB from Bama, Rolando McClain. Saban says he's a one-of-a-kind player. The thing is, in this 3-4, you want about 7 of those one-of-a-kind kids in your front 7.

Right now, about 1/3 of the NFL runs the 3-4.

So, that just goes to show....even at the highest level, the kind of premium athlete that is needed for this scheme is rare.

sanjeet said...

It's rare to get both in one player. Also, the speed-athleticism factor isn't as prevalent as you'd want it to be.

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