I just wanted to star out this post by pointing out what an elite NT looks like. See 2 examples below. I might add more later...
What I want you to see is the difference between what we have and an elite NT. difference is SPEED. While it is difficult in itself to find guy that big and that strong, what separates the good ones from the truly great ones is explosiveness. Soliai is anything but explosive. Wilfork intercepts a pass and look at the fat guy go. Sure he gets caught he outweighs everyone else on the field by at least 50 lbs. But look at him go.
What I want you to see with Garay is 2 things you will never see with Soliai.
See how he uses that explosiveness off the ball and gets the Guard on his heels. He is done for at that point. Once he turns the Guards pads there is nothing the Guard can do but hope to slow him down a little bit.
2.) Violent Use of his hands
See what he does with his hands? In the first play you see him turn the guys pads? In the other plays he sheds blockers with ease to make the play behind the line of scrimmage. Go watch tape of Soliai. You will not see him shed a blocker like this guy. He will occasionally play patty cake, but he never wins at patty cake. Because of this he makes most of his tackles after giving the offense 3-4 yards.
He has to do this because he gets caught up messing with the blocker and has to give ground in order to get where he wants to go. You CAN NOT GIVE UP GROUND AT THE LINE OF SCRIMMAGE. On a few plays you will notice that as he does this he gets his own LBs caught up and takes them out of the play as well. That is almost worse than if he wasn't even on the field.
Here you see the exact opposite of an elite NT. A virtual anti-highlight film and our very own FRANCHISE PLAYER-- Paul Soliai
Its really easy to find video to prove my point.
Look on NFL.com for a big run play, then look at the video. If it goes up the middle it is almost certainly at least partially Soliai's fault.
1.) In this example we have the Patriots running to the outside. You see Soliai turn around because he was expecting someone to block him, but they knew they didn't need to waste a guy to block him because it was going to the outside and if he ran that far he would need oxygen.
2.) Who does Greene run right behind on this play? you guessed it.. Paul Soliai.. why is he constantly turned the wrong way?
3.) On this one at first it looks like Soliai takes on a double team. Don't be fooled though, what you are actually looking at is 2 linemen pushing him back into our LB, which means we have 2 blockers essentially blocking 2 guys. Or you could credit them with a double team on Soliai and Soliai for an awesome seal block... either way you want to look at it I guess....
4.) On this one Soliai is lined up on the inside. He is blocked by a RG, allowing the Center and Guard to clear the way for a Goal Line TD.
Don't believe me... just look at any highlight and see where Soliai is. It is almost comical. I can not believe he is our franchise player. No wonder we started the season 0-7....
You might still be able to see the links, but if not, at least read my commentary.
OK so I keep hearing about how we need to switch to a 4-3 from the 3-4, for mulitple reasons. True there are just not that many guys out there that big that can actually move well enough to play the NT position. But that is not a reason to stop running a defense that we have been running since the days of Nick Saban and are finally starting to be a very solid defense. We have found solutions that are at least decent, and we are really only short ONE PLAYER. We know exactly what we have with the 3-4 as we stand now... a top 10 defense.
If we improve at NT(bring in Garay), we could be a top 5 defense easily. But we really have no idea what type of defense we will have if we switch to the 4-3. Kevin Burnett is not a 4-3 LB in my opinion. SD runs a 3-4 and for that matter so does Dallas where Burnett played before. Dansby came from a 4-3, but he really is more suited to be a 3-4 ILB. Misi could probably play OLB in a 4-3, but I am not sure he would be good at it at this level. You could say that about everyone in our front 7 for that matter to some extent. Sure some of them might be able to play in a 4-3, but why would you try to fix what isn't broken.
While we have plenty of depth at DE that could probably make the transition to 4-3 DT, they are not exactly cut out for a 4-3 DE. Wake would be one of your DEs, but who would be our other DE? Langford, Starks, McDaniel are all DTs, and none of them has the speed needed to be a 4-3 DE.
One of the reasons that a 3-4 is better than the 4-3 is what it does for your 53 man roster. When you run a 4-3 you are forced to commit extra roster spots to D-linemen that you would otherwise be able to commit to LBs. Less LBs on the roster means less LBs for special teams. The more LBs you have on special teams, the better. They are the right size for blocking, and are usually pretty solid tacklers. No matter how fast a D-lineman is, you are never going to put him on kickoff team. You are never going to put him on kickoff return team. Since you have less LBs you wind up filling in those extra positions with WRs, TEs, and DBs and ability to tackle can be a crap shoot with any of those players. The less LBs you have the worse your special teams is going to be.