THE 4-3 UNDER SCHEME
WHILE it hasn’t been officially announced that we’re running a 4-3 Under on Defense, I figured I’d break the monotony by starting a discussion about what we may be rooting for, to those who don’t specifically know what it is, but don’t want to look like they’re the only one who doesn’t. (Relax. You wouldn’t be.)
Basically it looks kind of like a 5-2 or a 3-4 as there are 5 guys at the line even before adjustments are made. First, here’s how they’re different:
In a 5-2 you have 5 D-lineman, one of which is a NT. That carries an inherent disadvantage of having no one to run with a RB who flexes out, or simply goes in motion, leaving you to move a Safety down to cover, which would leave a CB out on an island. This opens up the potential to give up big plays downfield. (This is why you never see a 5-2 alignment outside of the redzone.)
In a 3-4 you only have 3 D-linemen, which is fine if you get an early lead or play ball control offense. But if the other team gets the lead and/or features a power running game, your LB’s will wear down taking on those O-linemen. (That’s why there’s a formula for beating Pittsburgh for example. They’ve done the same thing on both sides of the ball since the 1970’s and only dumb teams haven’t figured it out.)
The 4-3 Under gives you the 4 D-linemen, and a LB who can run with the “flex”, plus you can even “shift” your LB’s to match the Offense if it attempts to unbalance a side. So it’s very much like a 4-3, right? Yes, except when Offenses try to play it straight up. That’s where this Defense starts to shine.
In a traditional 4-3 the DT’s play either over the A-gaps, or directly “over” the G’s. Sometimes you’ll even see an A-gap DT next to an “over” DT. Either way the DT’s are in that G-C-G box. In the Under, the Weakside DT moves outside of that box and plays the B-gap between the G and the T, not the A-gap between the C and the G. The Weaskside DE now has the OT mano-a-mano, with no help to come unless the Offense calls a “Back stay” (to block) or goes to a Max Protect.
Now the bit that makes the whole thing special is that the SLB is now primarily a passrusher. He isn’t a blitzer. He doesn’t shadow TE’s. He’s a pass rusher. Similar to what you’d see in a 3-4, but with more size and strength backing him up on the line. He could be called upon to cover, but won't often. So it's 5 rushers on most downs.
So this system would use the best parts of what we have and turn a weakness into a potential strength. By this I mean the fact that we have 2 good LB’s in Mychal Kendricks and DeMeco Ryans and everyone else is so-so. If Brandon Graham (or Phillip Hunt) can cover underneath well enough to get moved out to SLB, we’d already (pre-Draft or Free Agency) be set with our front seven.
I’ve seen the Raiders use it effectively. I’ve seen the 49ers win the 1994 Super Bowl with it (they called it the Elephant). We have way more talent up front than either one of those teams did when they used it. So if we’re running this, we should be good up front.
Now about that Secondary…
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