Any thought to moving to more of a 3-4 Hybrid Defense or at least a 3-4 Hybrid formation?
I realize that you can't just change your entire defense mid-season, but I read that the Patriots had to do some 3-4 hybrid stuff out of necessity due to injuries.
Could we make some adjustments to our defense to take into account underperformance/injury (Joey Porter, Matt Roth, Jason Ferguson, Channing Crowder) and get our playmakers into position to make plays (Randy Starks, Cam Wake)?
I say that Randy Starks is our best defensive player right now and it would be to our advantage to get him in position to put more pressure on the QB. The RDE position in the 3-4 is important, but it is not a prime position to get pressure on the QB. Richard Seymour and Haloti Ngata were able to be effective because their supporting cast put pressure on the offense. We don't have a Mike Vrabel/Terrell Suggs putting pressure on the outside to free up rushers from the inside.
I am not advocating a full shift into a 3-4 hybrid defense. Basically I am suggesting lining up in a 4-3 formation with one of the OLBs with his hand on the ground. From here, you would either attack as a four-man nickel D-Line OR shift at the last moment back into a 3-4 standard alignment. I believe that the shift at the last moment would create enough confusion with the Offensive line that you would be able to get a rusher free (either a D-lineman or a blitzing OLB). Add to that Cornerback blitzes off-and-on and you would have a recipe for aggressive pressure without the risk of all-out blitzes. Your safeties are back in coverage helping your rookie corners or covering the TE. The pressure is coming from D-Line and OLB alignment shifts and unpredictable, but frequent CB blitzes.
Here's a sample of a suggested hybrid 3-4 formation:
_ _ _ _ _ _ LDE (Merling/Moses) LDT (Soliai/Langford) RDT (Starks/McDaniel) RDE (Taylor/Wake) _ _ _ _ _
_ _ _SLB (Walden/Wake/Taylor) _ _ _MLB (Torbor/Kershew) _ _ WLB (Ayodele/Nate Jones - nickel)
I'm calling for SS (Tyrone Culver) and FS (Chris Clemons) to provide coverage whenever Davis/Smith are sent on CB blitzes.
Note that if the hybrid shifts back at the last minute to a 3-4, there might be some times when Kendall Langford is caught at NT and Quentin Moses is caught at LDE in a 3-4 alignment which might be a disadvantage against the run, but Langford is 6-6 290 and Moses is 6-5 260, so it is not a total mismatch and if they are slanting into the line, they might even make a tackle for loss play in the backfield. On a pass rush, they would definitely have a quickness/mobility advantage in addition to the surprise effect of a last-second shift.
An additional benefit is that instead of having Quentin Moses, Jason Taylor, and Cam Wake try to attack and adjust to a new/unfamiliar OLB technique, they can attack more instinctively from a more familiar DE spot (obviously, they will need practice reps at these new positions).
You can get additional pressure by blitzing the SLB/LOLB off the strong side. I highly recommend it since the safeties I've chosen are decent in coverage.
Pass coverage improves with Culver/Clemons from the safety position playing deep centerfield.
Addtional pressure comes from big/fast/physical CB surprise blitzes or from CBs playing physical press coverage at the LOS.
Note: to defend the 3 WR set, you insert Nate Jones for Akin Ayodele as the nickel corner. The SLB and MLB become nickel linebackers.
- Sit Joey Porter, Matt Roth, Yeremiah Bell, Gibril Wilson, and deactivate Charlie Anderson (Moses active).
- Move Quentin Moses to a hybrid LDE position and Kendall Langford to a hybrid NT/DT position
- Get more snaps for Erik Walden and Cameron Wake (especially from a hand-on-the-ground position).
- Use the uniqe talents of our current players to have an impact on the game from creative positions in the formation - minimizing the learning curve (and sitting loud-mouth underperformers).