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The future of the Patriots 'D' and the 3-4 tipping point

Discussion in 'PatsFans.com - Patriots Fan Forum' started by livinginthe past, May 20, 2009.

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  1. livinginthe past

    livinginthe past Rookie

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    One of the storylines of the draft was the teams making the transition to the 3-4 defense - Denver, Green Bay etc.

    Bill Belichick is a guy who obviously regards himself as someone who is 'ahead of the curve'.

    This makes me wonder when the Patriots will move away from the 3-4 and back to a 4-3 formation - or maybe something more (r)evolutionary.

    Teams like Pittsburgh and New England made a killing in the early part of this decade at draft time - being able to select so-called 'tweeners' for their OLB position in later rounds - due to the fact 4-3 teams didn't value them so highly.

    Now we see a shift on 2 fronts - opposition offenses figuring out the 3-4 and more teams moving to the 3-4 - the latter will surely only hasten the former.

    When does the 'tipping point' arrive whereby its more beneficial, and better value, to draft/recruit guys who fit the 4-3 better than the 3-4 - 2010, 2011?

    As noted by many draft day prognosticators - there are only so many 3-4 NT tackles out there.

    I realise that there is more than just a single 3-4 defence and that different guys suit different schemes better but, looking ahead, the playing field and talent base are going to become more stretched as time goes by.

    Any thoughts?
    Last edited: May 20, 2009
  2. maverick4

    maverick4 Banned

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    There are too many teams who continue to use the 4-3 and will for the future.
    There wouldn't be a shift to becoming a 4-3 team, but more teams using 3-4 will remove the draft or FA advantage they used to enjoy, but it won't be a disadvantage.
  3. Pats726

    Pats726 Rookie

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    The team has more players that are suited for 3-4 defense...so it will be the base for teh future..will they use MORE 4-3?? maybe...maybe the big nickel 3 safeties?? possibly...who knows...
  4. ivanfears

    ivanfears Banned

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    anything would be better than that defense last year, horrible in red zone, and third down , come to think of it it was that defense that couldnt stop the giants in 07, and really was soft coming down the strech in 07, ie eagles,ravens and giant regular season games, and go back to 06 that defense cost us another superbowl when they couldnt stop manning and the colts, over all that defense the last 3 years has not been something to be proud of, something has to change
  5. Spiral

    Spiral PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    I know this sounds like it should be true, but how many of these type players have the Patriots actually drafted since BB became coach? I can think of TBC, who I don't think the Patriots make a killing on. Who else?
  6. Pat the Pats Fan

    Pat the Pats Fan Rookie

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    The Pat's D will continue to rebuild and evolve. It has to. I for one look positively at the current defense, but time and the season will tell.

    It's a shame, but the defense has had one key negative game in each of the last three years that cost them dearly.
    1. Unable to close out the Colts in '06 AFCCG. Couldn't go to SB
    2. Unable to stop Giants in '07 SB. Cost them a moment in history
    3. Unable to stop Jets in OT game in '08. Cost them the division and a playoff berth.
  7. jmt57

    jmt57 Moderator Staff Member PatsFans.com Supporter

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    I think one thing to keep an eye on with the talks of extending the regular season schedule is the possibility of expanding the size of the roster as well. That to me could be a catalyst for a change in philosophy of the defense.

    Due to the current size of the roster, Bill Belichick places a premium on versatility - specifically players who can fill more than one role or can play multiple positions. Expand the roster size and I could see a shift to more specialists, which could lead to more sub packages designed either for a specific down and distance, or for a specific team and the type of offense they run.

    That may not be the tipping point that signals the end of the 3-4 based defense, but it could alter the defensive formations that we see in any given game in the near future.
  8. pats_premi

    pats_premi Rookie

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    I was thinking of the same thing. As a Patriot's fan it is hard to admit that BB's defense can be this bad.
  9. RayClay

    RayClay Rookie

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    They haven't.

    They have a great nose tackle, which is really what you need for a 3-4.

    The DE/OLB tweener picked up on the cheap and converted to successful starter is a myth. Woods would be the first. All the players who have started at linebacker have been third, second and first round picks, except Colvin, who we acquired after two 10.5 sack seasons.

    Some have been college linebackers, some played both in college and some were converted to LB in the NFL.

    You draft or acquire them same as any other position. I think the discipline is the hardest part, as college LBs in a 4-3 chase plays, while we train players to never chase a play.

    Career LBs like Phifer and Seau have adapted. I think young players want to go after tackles and would therefore struggle.
  10. Box_O_Rocks

    Box_O_Rocks PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    I see no drift away from the current base 3-4 and no reason to expect one in the near term.

    With the addition of Brace and Prior, plus reports claiming Wilfork is happy with the pace and scope of the negotiations to date, it would appear the Pats' NT issues were carefully considered and have been addressed for the near term.

    The strength of the DL pool and the questions surrounding the LBs has once again fooled some into seeing a base 4-3 in NE's future. BB has shown time and time again that he puts a great deal of emphasis on building his D-line "first," and this offseason reflects no change in that philosophy. The number of teams moving to a base 3-4 may have one effect on this preseason, with the strength at the back of the DL roster, I wouldn't be surprised to see at least one trade to grab one of NE's castoffs 'before' they hit the waiver wire.
  11. spacecrime

    spacecrime Rookie

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    Good point.

    The switch to 4-3 because everyone else is going to 3-4 is ESPN-think.

    BB will use the formation he believes will give him the best chance to win. He will then sign FAs and draft people to fit what he wants to do.

    But so many people are thinking "PATS are 3-4" when that is so false. THey play a LOT of 4-3. I don't think they lined up with DE-NT-DE, OLB-ILB-ILB-OLB one single time in the Philly superbowl. It was ALL 4-3 or sometimes a 5-man DL.

    The one think BB does is use BIG DE's. Seymour played NT his rookie year, and sometimes DT in a four man front. Warren was a basic NT-style DT who BB moved to DE. Wright and Wilfork and Smith are NTs who often play DE.

    Availability of big DTs who will play DE for the Pats will always be plentiful. THe hardest job will be selecting one who will transition to the pros, not finding one.

    Likewise, there is no shortage of lighter college DEs who fit BB's profile of an ideal OLB. There were 8-10 of them in this last draft. BB took NONE of them. I don't care how many teams are looking for those guys. It won't matter because BB isn't drafting them anyway.

    The Pats and Colts and Steelers and Ravens will continue to do well year after year because they evaluate talent well. Maybe we can add KC to this mix, but there are plenty of players every year who are difference makers that were passed by every team at least once in the draft, and plenty of first round picks who go nowhere. The key is to hit on your top picks more often than you miss, and have one or two late round picks/UDFAs make the team most years. The Pats do that well.

    Don't worry about the lack of players because other teams are going 3-4.
  12. satz

    satz Rookie

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    We keep drafting DT who are taller to play end in our 3-4 or a NT type player .Yet every one thinks we will be base 4-3 .

    tell me that when we draft a 280 lb DE who can only play DE in a 4-3.
    Last edited: May 20, 2009
  13. Deus Irae

    Deus Irae PatsFans.com Retired Jersey Club PatsFans.com Supporter

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    A lot of people seem to be operating under this misconception. It's a markedly different approach under Belichick than it was under Parcells and the Parcells model that yielded a grand total of ZERO Super Bowl victories.

    In the 4 Parcells years, the Patriots drafted at least one linebacker in every draft, and each year featured a linebacker drafted in the 3rd round or higher: Slade, McGinest, Johnson, Bruschi. In contrast, the only D-lineman taken in the 3rd round or higher was Ervin Collier. This system netted both Bruschi and Johnson for the Patriots, and got the team to a Super Bowl, so I wouldn't call it a failure, but it was certainly not the success that the Belichick approach has been. In fact, it hasn't been as successful in any of the Parcells stops during the salary cap era as the Belichick approach has been.

    Belichick has taken a different approach, and it's yielded 3 Super Bowl Victories, 4 Super Bowl appearances, 5 AFCCG appearances and a 16-0 regular season. What Belichick has done is draft just the opposite of Parcells: DL is the prime focus and linebackers are drafted in late rounds. The starters under BB have been veterans from around the league, and the low round draft picks (and UDFA) have filled out the roster depth. It's been an absolutely brilliant strategy, but it's had one problem: injuries. As I pointed out in another thread comparing the Patriots plan for linebackers with that of the Steelers, the Steelers have been amazingly fortunate with injuries. In his first year as a Patriot, Colvin missed just 2 games fewer than all the Steelers' starters have missed from that same season to the present. In fact, if you add up his 2003 and 2007 games missed due to injury, Colvin alone has missed more games than the entire starting linebacking corps of the Steelers since 2003.

    The Patriots have their NT. What they need is to be able to bring in linebackers and not have them get injured as often as they have done. Concussions, strokes, hip injuries and the like have shortened careers and lessened playing ability, and that's been the problem. I do wonder if there will be enough veterans who can make the 4-3/3-4 switch to successfully fill out all the new 3-4 rosters in the next few seasons, but I also trust Belichick to generally be able to spot those most likely to make the transition.
  14. ctpatsfan77

    ctpatsfan77 PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    Minor quibble, but Wright is a DE—6'4", 295#—who often plays NT. (He might be a good 4-3 DT, though.)
  15. NoCal Patriot

    NoCal Patriot Rookie

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    First offf ,I don't believe the notion that The Patriots are solely a 3-4 Defense.Bill has always played with flexablilty to suit the situation and We'll continue to do this.What I've seen is 2 man fronts ,3 man fronts ,4 man fronts ,and even no man fronts.If Bill thought that He needed 7 Defensive Linemen,He'd play them.I think that You are overthinking this premise.
  16. Pats726

    Pats726 Rookie

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    I think u are getting the design of the defense mixed up with the execution...but that is OK...
  17. JoeSixPat

    JoeSixPat Rookie

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    I think you've raised a very good topic worthy of exploration... and whether its by design or bad luck and injuries, if a coach doesn't have the personnel for a certain scheme they need to adapt to the players they do have.

    My feeling is that you are going to see more 4-3 schemes this season - with part of that intended to keep opposing teams off-balance.
  18. Pats726

    Pats726 Rookie

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    He often plays NT giving the D a bit quicker player there...which is good..esp with Wilfork and Brace..The latter will wear the line out so Wright can be quicker and show something different. I agree he could play outside as well..or as a DT in a 4-3. I do like him as a change of pace NT.
  19. ivanfears

    ivanfears Banned

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    lets not get technical about it, the bottom line is the defense sucks and it needs to de fixed
  20. Palm Beach Pats Fan

    Palm Beach Pats Fan Rookie

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    Question: why are teams switching to the 3-4?
    A: Because they think it is more effective and versatile

    Q:Why do they think that?
    A: Continued success of 3-4 teams in building and maintaining top defenses

    Q: Who are the people the are emulating?
    A: The winning teams that have relied on top D to win Super Bowls

    Q: Who do we know that is one of the top 3 gurus of 3-4 defenses?
    A: Bill Belichick

    Q: Why do you change what you do best, what you have relied on to win three Lombardi trophies, what everyone else is copying, what you are an expert on?
    A: You don't!
  21. Rob0729

    Rob0729 PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    A few things:
    1.) There are only about a half dozen teams running the 3-4 and the rest are running 4-3. Most of the remaining 4-3 teams will never switch to the 3-4. There is still less competition for talent for 3-4 players than the 4-3.
    2.) That brings me to the flipside of the increasing number of 3-4 teams argument. With more teams running the 3-4, there will be more free agents in a few years with 3-4 experience who can come in and contribute immediately. Yes the competition for free agents will be greater, but so will the pool of free agents available that will fit into the system.
    3.) Belichick was schooled in the Chuck Fairbanks 3-4 defense and has been a disciple ever since. I seriously doubt he is going to change his philosophy because there are more teams doing what he does. Now if offenses figure out a way to exploit the defense like they have with the Tampa 2 (hence why that defense is slowly going the way of the dinosaur), then Belichick might consider changing philosophies. But the Steelers have been running the 3-4 for longer than the Pats have and eventhough a few teams have figured out how to exploit it, but overall it has been one of the top defenses year in and out.
    4.) Just because a team is running a 3-4 defense, it doesn't mean they are running the same 3-4. An one gap, penetrate 3-4 defense like San Deigo runs is almost as different a defense from the Pats' two gap, read and react 3-4 defense as some 4-3 defenses are. Teams like San Deigo, Pittsburgh, and Arizona look for different players to run the 3-4 than the Pats do in a lot of cases.
  22. AndyJohnson

    AndyJohnson PatsFans.com Veteran PatsFans.com Supporter

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    Not too mention that if we shifted to a 4-3 if would still be a 2gap, so we would need exactly the same kinds of players, only in slightly different quantities.
  23. AndyJohnson

    AndyJohnson PatsFans.com Veteran PatsFans.com Supporter

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    Belichick has no relation to Chuck Fairbanks other than both coached the same franichise 30 years apart.
    He never worked for Fairbanks, and is in no means a disciple of him.
    Fairbanks ran a 3-4 alignment like BB, but did not run a 2gap system.

    BB has a 2gap philosophy, that he currently employs a 34 alignment for.
    His is not a 34 philosophy that he currently employs a 2gap technique for.
    There is a HUGE difference.

    Fairbanks brought the 3-4 to the NFL to get more speed and mobility into his defense, mostly to defend outside runs. BB uses the 34 for very different reasons, in a very different NFL.
  24. bokonon

    bokonon Rookie

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    I tend to agree with others saying the 2 gap 3-4 will always be the staple. But, for the sake of argument, why assume the tipping point, if there is one, would be towards a 4-3. Given personnel, a situational 3-3-5 seems just as feasible, and maybe more so in a pass-happy league.

    I think most college teams that use the 3-3-5 (some call it 3-5-3 or "odd stack", "30 stack", etc.) have 1 gap responsibilities for the DL, but I see no reason why this must be so. As long as you have 2 "in the box" safety types and a free safety with range, you could do any number of things with 3 DLs and 3 LBs. Consider that the pats had Tank Williams at LB last year in TC, and have previously employed the 3 safety look in their "big nickel". Consider also that (I think) the Pats played a lot of cover 3 the last few seasons. Makes sense.

    This could be a really fun defense to watch:

    ................................................Meriweather
    .....Chung.................Thomas............Mayo...................Bruschi?.................Sanders
    Springs.....................Seymour........Wilfork..................Warren..................Bodden?


    Looks.....versatile.
  25. florazona

    florazona Rookie

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    In a 2007 press conference Belichick said the following of Fairbanks: "I think Chuck has had a tremendous influence on the league as well as this organization in terms of nomenclature and terminology and those kinds of things. I'm sure Chuck could walk in and look at our playbook and probably 80 percent of the plays are the same terminology that he used - whether it be formations or coverages or pass protections. We were sitting there talking yesterday and he was saying, 'How much 60 protection are you guys using? How much 80 are you using?' All of the stuff that was really the fundamentals of his system are still in place here even, again, to the way we call formations and plays and coverages and some of our individual calls within a call, a certain adjustment or things that Red (Miller) and Hank (Bullough) and Ron (Erhardt) and those guys used when they were here."
  26. Rob0729

    Rob0729 PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    Both Parcells and Ron Erhardt worked under Fairbanks in New England and they brought the system to the Giants in the 80s and 90s was developed from Fairbank's 3-4 defense. That is the defense that Belichick learned from. Belichick and Fairbanks have a very strong connection because he runs both a defense AND an offense (Perkins/Erhardt offense) that were originally developed in New England in the seventies when Fairbanks was the head coach. I think you need to brush up on your Chuck Fairbanks coaching tree and the coaching staff that were with the Giants when Belichick was there. You will see several key names that are on both lists.

    Also, the Fairbanks 3-4 was most certainly a two gap system. Technically, it was a one gap when Fairbanks introduced it to the NFL, but Hank Bollough modified it to a two gap while he was the defensive coordinator of the Patriots under Fairbanks. So technically Belichick is a disciple of the Fairbank-Bollough's 3-4 defense. Both he and Parcells have modified that defense over the years to adapt to the changes in the game, but the basic principles are the same as the Pats ran in the late 70s and the Giants ran in the 80s and 90s.

    P.S. do you always have to try to prove me wrong every time you respond to me. I am trying to be civil this time, but if you are just going to try to shoot holes in everything I say I want nothing to do with you.
    Last edited: May 20, 2009
  27. Rob0729

    Rob0729 PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    You look at the Giants coaching staff in the 80s and there were a lot of assistants from the Patriots' coaching era including Parcells and Erhardt. Parcells was out of the Fairbank's coaching tree and Belichick was out of the Parcell's coaching tree. Fairbanks' and Bullough's DNA are firmly implanted on the Belichick defense.
  28. florazona

    florazona Rookie

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    Red miller and Joe collier were with the Broncos during the Orange crush days. BB was in Denver for one season (78) before moving on to the Giants. Joel Colliers son was on the Pats staff last season and is now with KC.
  29. Rob0729

    Rob0729 PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    Here is a history lesson:

    Pro football: 3-4 becoming NFL's 'in' defense | wausaudailyherald.com | Wausau Daily Herald


    Ok, I know Wikipedia is not the best source for information all the time, but this section is well cited:

    New England Patriots strategy - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Sorry to highjack the thread, but I am done.
  30. AzPatsFan

    AzPatsFan Rookie

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    Deus,

    I think you make the same mistake others do.

    When Belichick took the reins he looked at what he had. Tuna had invested in the LB corps as Tuna had to do. The Tippett, Blackmon, Nelson generation had aged, and needed to be replaced. Tuna's new LBs were just coming into their Prime.

    So Bill Belichick had NO NEED to invest in LB corps he inherited. He simply let them play, while he invested in less talented areas, like the Defensive and Offensive line. He augmented the LB crew every once in awhile, importing an already trained Pro and paid big dollars for them.

    You or I would do the same, in his stead.

    After addressing and investing in virtually every other position on the Team, the LB crew is growing old and feeble, so he HAS BEEN investing in rebuilding his LB corps, for three years.

    Many here seem to think nothing has been done; but lots have been done. Mayo is a new Foundation rock. Guyton appears to be a fortunate find, Woods was patiently trained; and now is the incumbent starter at SOLB, in stalled late last season. And AD Thomas inherited the mantle as dean of the LB corps at his position of WOLB. I actually think another draft is needed for finishing touches, but the next generation LB corps is essentially in place, and playing. :rolleyes:
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