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Haynesworth Unhappy About 3-4 Defense?

According to The Post, some reports have surfaced suggesting:

“[DT Albert] Haynesworth is unwilling to shift to nose tackle because he’s opposed to simply being a “space eater.” And much of the speculation about Haynesworth’s supposed discontent has been fueled by Haynesworth’s public silence since the end of the 2009 season.”

So even though there is no official word, rumors are that Mike Shanahan and DC Jim Haslett have basically decided to try out a 3-4 Defensive scheme in 2010.  And why not? But before we take this further and try to answer that question…

Check out this chart of the most consistently productive defenses from 2009:


Note that the Redskins just miss the elite top 10, but are still there rated #11 position…

Now let’s unpack this a little bit and see what we can find out.

We know some of the historically best defenses in the NFL have run a 3-4 scheme… Pittsburgh, Baltimore, New England, Cleveland, and San Francisco have primarily, philosophically, and historically run a 3-4 Defense and they are consistently among the most productive defensive teams in the league.

The NY Jets are an interesting case because they ran a 3-4 under former coach Eric Mangini (now with Cleveland) but Rex Ryan’s top rated defense was made possible because he brought in specific specialists like Bart Scott to make his unit extremely versatile. Read more on that interesting case here.  In light of the Jet’s transition that wasn’t, some might say that the 3-4 scheme itself is nothing without the “right” kinds of players.

But regardless the question as to whether or not a team should transition away from a 4-3 and into the “defense of the future” (3-4) is a debate that continues to be had.  I know the NY Giants’ defense is another NFC East team that has been toying around with that idea since Steve Spagnuolo departed for his head coaching position with the Rams at the end of the 2008-09 season. Dallas already runs a 3-4. And the Eagles run a 4-3 while employing elements of a 3-4…. more on this later.

A consistently top defensive team such as Baltimore has variably gone between the two schemes several times over the last 10 years… though the constant there is that they are always good as a unit. Some say Ray Lewis is better in a 4-3 scheme. Some believe you can get more sacks in a 3-4.  As you look into it — there is of course no right answer.

In the Ravens and Ray Lewis’ case (who never seems to age, btw):

Picture 4

We can clearly see that in 2006 when the Ravens ran a 4-3 and were a top rated Defense with 60 sacks, Ray Lewis logged more individual sacks but had fewer total tackles. But in 2006, Bart Scott also had 9.5 sacks and Adalius Thomas had 11.

Last year in the Ravens 4-3, however, DE Trevor Pryce who only started 7 games led the team in sacks with 6.5 while Ray Lewis only logged 3 and started twice as much.

The stats and the myth of the 3-4 / 4-3 differences seem to conflict.  Ray Lewis and the Ravens appeared to get less sacks in a 3-4 defense, while at the same time the LB core in 2006 in a 4-3 led the team and league with sacks… But this is supposed to be counter intuitive!


You account for Rex Ryan’s rule and you account for your defense having the 1) right guys in the 2) right place at the 3) right time.   Easier said than done of course, but Rex Ryan has consistently done just that because he utilizes the scheme he knows best, and he brings in the best players he knows can get the job done for him.

And part of that is your pressure packages and your usage of deception — if you line up in a 3-4 but shift to a 4-4 or a 5-2 before the ball is snapped, and you make a stop… isn’t that the part that counts?

Creating a sense of confusion through DECEPTION and then EXECUTING is what really matters, not what scheme you lined up with before the snap count.

Maybe that’s all the top 11th rated Redskins need to do here… evaluate how to best deceive the offense and get pressure on the QB and less about how to line up. In my opinion, this is what the best defenses do consistently.  Teams like the Jets or the Eagles will end up in a 4-4 pressure package and you don’t know who is blitzing or where they are coming from… you have to get the ball out quickly and guys like Derrelle Revis or Asante Samuel is there waiting. It requires talent at every level… from the front 7 on through to the secondary.

I’m sick and tired of listening to people say that this scheme or that scheme will be better… the truth is that you need the right leadership, the right players, the right preparation, the right read, the right play call, the right communication, the right timing, and the right EXECUTION on every single down… on offense and defense. Then and only the will you win consistently.

Thats the one thing that Jim Zorn had right – “It’s very hard to win in the NFL.”

So whether or not the Skins transition to a 3-4 this season — I think the bottom line is they have to figure out where their best players will play well consistently. Choosing where you line up an extra guy at the outset is just the very beginning of a defensive scheme, there is no magic bullet here folks.

But you tell me:

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Notable teams that have transitioned to a 3-4 with recent success include Arizona, Green Bay, Miami, and Denver.

Teams that have bucked the current trendy love affair with 3-4 defenses and have stayed with a base 4-3 scheme and have been successful are the NY Giants, Minnesota, Philadelphia, and up until now — the Washington Redskins.

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