clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Revenge Of The Birds Football 101: The 3-4 Defense

Just like any offseason goes, it can become bland, slow, and seem never ending. Luckily we do our best to bring in new content and make football a part of your lives even in the month of April. Since draft talk can become overwhelming and you may find your brain turning into a dribbling pile of mush, I thought I'd mix things up.Image and video hosting by TinyPic

If you're like me, then you love your team, you love the sport, and you can never get enough of it. But even the most dedicated followers don't know everything, which is why every week I'll be discussing a new topic. Whether it be a football term, a formation, a rule, or even a position - I'll try to go over all the details so that we are experts by the time the season begins. The first topic will be the 3-4 defense, fitting since the Cardinals run a 3-4.

The 3-4 defense was originally invented by Bud Wilkinson from the University of Oklahoma in the 1940s. Chuck Fairbanks learned the defense from Wilkinson and brought it to the NFL. Since then, it's spread like wild fire with many teams abandoning the 4-3 and changing to the 3-4 scheme. The 1971 Dolphins were the first team to win a Super Bowl with the 3-4 defense. As the 1990's passed, less teams used the scheme, as the NFL was a run-first league, requiring more down defensive lineman. Although during the last few seasons, more teams have made the switch due to the growing high-octane passing attacks. More on the different positions after the jump...

The 3-4 Positions

The term 3-4 stands for three defensive lineman and four linebackers, opposed to the traditional 4-3 defense. Most casual fans don't realize what defense the Cardinals run, let alone what position is most important. The center of the 3-4 defense revolves around the nose tackle. The nose tackle is alone in the middle of the defensive line and is responsible for occupying both A gaps by himself. Nose tackle and defensive tackle are not the same position. Nose tackles are usually built lower to the ground but must be heavy enough to draw the double team. A good nose tackle will contain the A gaps, draw the double team, and keep the offense from reaching the linebackers. Without a good nose tackle, the 3-4 defense will not work. There's been a lot of talk about potential draft pick Terrence Cody and if he'd fit in the 3-4. He's certainly big enough but his height could be a problem. He's claimed that he can draw triple teams and that he was the primary reason Rolando McClain was so successful in college - I guess we'll have to wait and see. Currently, Gabe Watson is the only nose tackle signed to the roster and he's recovering from a knee injury. Although many feel the Cardinals will draft a linebacker in the first round, defensive tackle could be a serious possibility.

The defensive ends are different then those in a 4-3 defense. Instead of being speed rushers off of the edge, they're responsible for occupying both the B and C gaps. 3-4 ends usually need to be bigger and heavier then traditional ends, which is why Calais Campbell and Darnell Dockett fit the scheme perfectly. They don't generally have a high number of sacks because they're drawing more attention from the offensive line.

The linebackers are the bread and butter of the 3-4 defense. They consist of two outside linebackers and two inside. The first outside linebacker is the SAM, who lines up on the Strong side of the defense(the strong side is where the tight end usually lines up). The SAM must be stronger due to the added blocker/receiver in the tight end, but still must be able to rush the passer. The other outside 'backer is the JACK. The JACK lines up on the weak side(the side with no added blocker) and their primary job is to rush the passer. The inside linebacker that lines up closer to the strong side is the MIKE(It's MIKE because they're often called the middle linebacker). They handle more of the run defending duties. The other inside 'backer is the WILL, because they line up closer to the weak side. They must be quick and more athletic as they are used in open space more often.

The 3-4 is built to defend against the pass by adding the extra linebacker in coverage. Defensive coordinators have more options for rushing the passer since the linebackers can be interchanged and defensive ends can line up almost anywhere on the line. There are two things that will keep the scheme from working however: Poor play from the nose tackle and a non-existent pass rush from the linebackers. If the Cardinals can find a very good nose tackle and an efficient linebacker in the draft, they have the potential to have a very good 3-4 defense next season.

NFL Term of the Day: Stunt

     Image and video hosting by TinyPic
  • The act in which two defensive lineman cross paths in order to confuse both the quarterback and the offensive lineman and engage different blockers. During most stunts, one lineman will cross behind the other in order to go unblocked to the quarterback or the ball carrier.

If you have any requests on terms, schemes, formations, penalties, positions, or rules you'd like discussed, leave a comment below and I'll try to get to them as soon as I can.