Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Why use the 3-4?

I am still puzzled by the change to the 3-4. Aside from Orakpo we had no personnel capable of making the change and contributing to its success. Even then, Orakpo is a natural down lineman who stared with his hand on the ground at Texas. My dream was for the new HC to come in and put Orakpo opposite Andre Carter on the ends, use Haynesworth as a dominating pass rusher and use the other DT spot to occupy blockers. I also expected a free agent splash at the linebacker spot vacated by Orakpo.

Instead we were in for a messy transition to the 3-4 defense. Not only is it messy, but it's ill advised. Know what?


In the 3-4 defense you need:

Big, strong and heavy defensive ends who are athletic enough to pass rush but tough enough to occupy blocks and open lanes to the ball carrier.

A dominating nose tackle who can control the line of scrimmage.

260+ linebackers who are elite at pressuring the quarterback and can cover tight ends and receivers out of the backfield.

Those kinds of players are rare! You don't see a lot of decent 300+ pound ends, or 350+ pound nose tackles, or huge linebackers who can cover and rush. To top it all off, the Denver Broncos, New England Patriots, Cleveland Browns, San Diego Chargers, Kansas City Chiefs, Dallas Cowboys, New York Jets, Green Bay Packers, Miami Dolphins, Baltimore Ravens, Buffalo Bills, Arizona Cardinals, San Francisco 49ers, Pittsburgh Steelers and your Washington Redskins are looking for that very small quantity of players. That's 15 teams, almost half the league!

Team building in sports is about looking at the big picture, it's about looking for what's undervalued and taking advantage of the market. Baseball is light years ahead of football in this area, and the fact that every single NFL team doesn't have a strong GM is kind of ridiculous. (In fact, there should always be a #1 football person on the team as a general manager who is the coach's boss... not the other way around.) To get back on track, when the Steelers did the 3-4, they were trend setters. They found tweener prospects who could play standing up, they saw value in players other teams wrote off. Same for the Patriots, few teams were running a 3-4 when they started winning Super Bowls. They saw what was undervalued on the market and capitalized on it! The Skins should be looking at the pro football landscape and thinking "Look at all those 3-4 defenses stocking up on big guys while the Robert Mathis', John Abraham's and Jason Babin's go completely under valued. We should be capitalizing on this. After all we've had one of the better 4-3 defenses in the league for years!"

But no.

They jumped on the 3-4 bandwagon and will most likely continue to wallow in defensive mediocrity until a smarter team breaks the trend and goes back to a dominating 4-3 that paves the way to the Super Bowl.

Then they'll jump ship again. The cycle continues.

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