Defensive Shift Looming?

From the NE Patriots Draft Vault: This article was originally printed on 4/28/09. After watching the first preseason game, I think we might have been on to something.

If one could ask Bill Belichick why he has predominantly employed the 3-4 defense over his years as a head coach, he would primarily mention the knowledge he has learned from Chuck Fairbanks (Former Pats Coach) and his disciples (Parcells, Collier, Bulloughs). However, another huge factor has been the dearth of teams using the 3-4 up until the last three or four years, Pittsburgh and New England excepted. Continued…

As the Belichick coaching tree expanded, 3-4 teams started spreading to New York, Cleveland, Denver, and other places. As the number of teams using the 3-4 defense proliferated, the scarcity of players suited to play in that system has increased; Vince Wilfork doesn’t just come around every day. In that vein, 3-4 prospects are becoming a much hotter commodity. Belichick stated on Sunday:

I think there’s an awful lot of teams playing the 3-4 defense now, certainly compared to 2000 when I came to new England. It was
pretty much us and Pittsburgh. And now you have teams in our division, many teams in the AFC, a couple of teams in the NFC, you’ve probably got 8-9-10 teams basing out of a 3-4 defense.

Evidence of this lies in the fact that the Kansas City Chiefs, who are switching to a 3-4 defense for the 2009 season, had to reach for a five-technique defensive end (Tyson Jackson) with the #3 pick in the NFL Draft. Five years ago, Jackson could probably have been acquired in the teens, a la Ty Warren.

With the departure of Mike Vrabel and the draft-day decisions made by the Patriots front office, the Patriots might be signaling a change in their defensive scheme. As John Madden puts it, the Patriots rarely use just one defensive base:

“You’ll think he’s a 3-4, then he plays a 4-3 the whole game. His is adjusted, adapted and changed every week. He’s told me, and I’ve seen it. Every game is a different entity.”

However, perhaps this might be the year where the 4-3, or 4-2-5 (Big Nickel), formations becomes more the rule rather than the exception. For the first time in years, the Patriots seem to have more down linemen than linebackers that need to be on the field. Wilfork, Seymour, Warren, and Brace all need to be on the field, while Thomas and Mayo are the only linebackers that are still playmakers.

While it is still preposterously early to say, Patrick Chung seems to be a good fit for the hybrid LB/SS position that Rodney Harrison played so well. With two of the Patriots suddenly super stable of cornerbacks, Chung, Meriweather, and Sanders backing up the front six, the defense seems like it would be fit to take on the world–on paper at least.

What formation would you like the Patriots to use primarily in 2009?

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11 Responses to “Defensive Shift Looming?”

  1. Anonymous says:

    @Bobley
    Looks like you were the idiot

  2. Anonymous says:

    I agree that the 4-2-5 will not be a maintstay as the 4-3 or 3-4… However… I am always concerned about our ability to cover a great TE. Guyton showed promise, has a long way to go, but we’ll see…. (Alexander showed promise too until he was forced into a playoff game and got torched!)

    Can Chung cover the TE?

  3. Admin says:

    Alrighty then.

  4. Bobley says:

    I think your idea is absolutely retarded.

    The 4-2-5 is a sub-package. Just like the 3-3-5. Just like the 2-3-6 or the 3-2-6.

    If the Patriots like the 4-2-5 a lot, maybe they will use it more. But our base defense is the 3-4. That’s what our team is built for, that’s what we’ll run.

  5. Admin says:

    No Brace/Wilfork at all? I can see rotating Big Sey and Warren inside on passing downs, but I think the big boys could play a part as well.

    Would you put Chung or Guyton over the TE?

  6. Anonymous says:

    I’d like to see Big Sey move back inside on a front 4 look. Jarvis, Sey, Wilfork, and Warren? Yes, please.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I think Chung gives them the versatility to play a more effective 4-2-5 against primarily passing teams, specifically with good TEs. I remember the 2007 game @ Indy when the Pats used it exclusively with Harrison shadowing Dallas Clark. I can see them playing that more often as more teams employ the spread type offenses (Denver, New Orleans, Indy, KC, even SD at times last year). I don’t think Brace plays into that though. Here’s how this year’s 4-2-5 would look:

    DL: Green, Seymour, Warren, Crable/Thomas
    LB: Mayo, Thomas/Guyton
    Roaver: Chung
    S: Meriweather, Sanders
    CB: Bodden, Wheatley (Just a guess @ CB).

  8. Admin says:

    Yeah, the 4-2-5 was used last year, but definitely wasn’t the featured scheme. I think you are right that Tank Williams/Rodney being injured might have limited that somewhat.

  9. Anonymous says:

    It’s definitely an interesting thought. BB always adjusts the gameplan each week… So I definitely think there may be some weeks that they will go to a 4-2-5… But I am certain that they were doing that last year. Maybe he even envisioned using it more with the Tank Williams signing last year (though it didn’t work out).

    I think the Brace signing was a steal. The only difference between him and Raji is Raji is a penetrator and gets to the QB. We don’t ask our DT’s to do that… so Brace’s large body, occupying tacklers, and defending the run is prefect.

  10. pats#1 says:

    Wilfork and Brace would be like the Williams’ in Minnesota

  11. Anonymous says:

    I think the Patriots should use the 3-4 still, but definitely use the 4-3 (with Thomas, Mayo, and Guyton) and 4-2-5 often.

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