The Arizona Cardinals defense: The defensive line in a 3-4 and a 4-3 scheme

Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE

Seth Cox looks at the Cards' current personnel and how it makes sense in both a 3-4 and a 3-4

The confusion with what the Cardinals are doing on defense is easy to understand, and it comes from the continued information that Darnell Dockett is providing on Twitter:

The idea of Dockett playing nose tackle in a 3-4 is without a doubt ludicrous on a down by down basis, even in a 3-4 one gap scheme defense.

That means, as Matt Williamson has said numerous times on Twitter and I posted in my defensive prospect article on Monday, we could be seeing a lot more 4-3 in the 2013 season.

The question is does that make sense from a talent standpoint?

The defensive line:

I have talked about the defensive tackles and their roles in a 3-4 one gap scheme.

Putting Dan Williams in the middle of a 4-3 defense makes more sense, especially if they are using the under defense, talked about with former Revenge of the Birds writer Tyler Nickel.

In the under defense, Williams' ability to maintain leverage and play a more traditional two gap alignment at nose tackle would be ideal.

The problem would be that there may not be much in the ways of depth at a more traditional nose tackle. All three of David Carter, Ricky Lumpkin and Padric Scott would offer more ability as a back up to Darnell Dockett in a 4-3 under scheme, as all three would present more comfortably as an under tackle.

Speaking of Dockett, as a one gap defensive tackle, he'd have a chance to get back to being 2007 Darnell Dockett, whether that be in a 3-4 scheme or the potential 4-3 scheme that is being bandied about.

The defensive end spot in a 4-3 is the real puzzler.

There's no doubt that Calais Campbell would man the strong side five technique in a 4-3 look. His ability to maintain leverage, eat up and shed blocks, but also get after the quarterback in one on one pass situations makes him ideal.

Campbell would basically be reprising the role he played in this year's Cardinals defense, only with more one on one time in pass rush scenarios.

As a backup, Matt Shaughnessy, is ideal in this role, simply because he is a poor man's Campbell. He has the length, strength, and ability to occupy multiple blockers on a down by down basis.

I thought the Cardinals may be bringing him in to back up and eventually take over the defensive end spot of Darnell Dockett, especially if the Cardinals were staying with the more traditional 3-4 front that they ran in 2012.

With the likeliness that we'll be seeing more one gap scenarios out of the Cardinals, it likely puts Shaughnessy on more of a backup role. The question is whether that will be at both defensive end spots in a 3-4, or as the five technique behind Campbell in the 4-3 defense.

The question will be who plays the defensive end opposite Campbell?

Sam Acho, O'Brien Schofield, and Alex Okafor all offer interesting... options, but none of them scream dominant pass rusher off the edge.

We've seen how stiff Acho can be coming off the edge. His ability to play the run is good, but he's shown consistently to be better dropping into coverage, rather than rushing the passer, and in a 4-3 defense, especially if the Cardinals decide to go with an under front, Acho has to be an answer opposite Campbell in pass rush situations.

Then there's Schofield. While Scho has shown signs of being able to carry a pass rushing load, he's never been able to stay on the field enough health wise to put it all together.

Maybe this 4-3 defense can be the answer for him. If the Cardinals use a rotation of Acho and Schofield at the defensive end opposite Calais, they could get a bigger impact from Schofield by diminishing what he does overall.

The guy with maybe the most upside as a pass rushing defensive end on the roster is Alex Okafor. While I am not overly excited about Okafor as a 3-4 OLB, especially on a down by down basis, I think his ability as a pass rusher when singled up, whether it's standing up or with his hand in the dirt is... intriguing.

He has a good get off, uses his hands well, and knows how to use a strong bull rush.

The problem is he lacks secondary moves, and if he's consistently stoned on his first move, he's rather ineffective. He is incredible relentless though, and even if he is stoned ten times a game, there's a chance the other 2-3 times on pass rushing plays he gets pressure.

In the end the fit seems to be more with a traditional 3-4 defensive line, with the Cardinals are moving Shaughnessy in for Dockett. With Dockett in the mix the Cardinals look to be set up to better succeed in a 4-3 under defensive front four, even if they lack a pass rusher to put in the "Leo" position.

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