Fight For Old DC Looks At Our Formations

3-4

How it looks on TV:

When Do We Use This Formation:  When teams put a fullback or 2+ tight ends on the field; the 3-4 is our “heavy” or “big boy football” formation:

  • DT:  McGee, Hood, McClain
    • Backups:  Ioannidis, Lanier, Allen (injured)
  • OLB:  Kerrigan, Smith
    • Backups:  Galette, Anderson
  • ILB:  Foster (injured), Brown
    • Backups:  Compton, Spaight, Harvey-Clemons
  • CB:  Norman, Breeland
    • Backups:  Dunbar, Moreau
  • SS:  DJ Swearinger
    • Backups:  McClure, Everett
  • FS:  Nicholson
    • Backups:  McClure, Everett

At the line:  McGee lines up over the tight ends and tackles (5-Tech), Hood lines up over the center and guards (Nose), and McClain lines up over guards and tackles (3-Tech.)  Teams can motion to make McGee and McClain switch positions.  Those guys are flanked by the outside linebackers to make this a 5-man line and tough to run against.

Linebackers:  In the picture above you can see two DTs and one OLB lined up on the line in front of Zack Brown.  Those four will usually line up away from the TE.  Putting those three guys over the center, guard and tackle in front of Brown does a couple of things:

  1. Keeps Brown clean from offensive line blocks and allows him to be a star.
  2. Makes it near impossible for teams to pull offensive lineman on that side since we can shoot into the backfield if that happens.  It limits the type of runs they can call.  Versus our 3-4 most teams ditch the gap/Power runs and stick to inside and outside zone.

To the strength of the formation (usually where the tight ends and fullback line up) you have McGee and one OLB lined up in front of the other inside linebacker.  That linebacker is usually  Mason Foster Will Compton and we ask him to shed or dodge offensive lineman en route to the football [EDIT:  Foster has been moved to IR.  Life.  Don’t talk to Mason Foster about life.]

Starting Safeties: DJ Swearinger is the only safety that plays in the box and mans up on tight ends, while Nicholson is the deep safety.  Usually those positions are interchangeable but for now the rookie Nicholson is only asked to play deep.  Backup Deshazor Everett has been asked to do all safety duties as well but is rarely asked to take the field.

Nickel

How it looks on TV:

When Do We Use This Formation:  When teams put three or more wide receivers on the field.  We remove one DT from the line and add a cornerback in the slot.  The OLBs become defensive ends.

  • DT:  Ioannidis, Allen (injured)
    • Backups:  Hood, McClain, McGee, Lanier
  • DE:  Kerrigan, Smith
    • Backups:  Galette, Anderson
  • ILB:  Foster (injured), Brown
    • Backups:  Spaight, Compton, Harvey-Clemons
  • CB:  Norman, Breeland
    • Backups:  Dunbar, Moreau
  • Slot:  Fuller
    • Backup:  Holsey
  • SS:  DJ Swearinger
    • Backups:  McClure, Everett
  • FS:  Nicholson
    • Backups:  McClure, Everett

As with the 3-4, Swearinger is asked to make linebacker reads in the box and cornerback reads in man to man coverage while Nicholson is strictly the deep safety.  Depending on alignment, the Slot CB can also be asked to make linebacker reads.

Unlike the 3-4, Mason Foster is backed up by Martrell Spaight instead of Will Compton.  Last year Compton was burned on a lot of zone coverages, so it appears we have tried to minimize that by keeping him out of the Nickel package.

 

Do They Work?

 

Defensive DVOA Ranking:  14th, just above average.

3-4:  We spent our way to a beefier 3-4 line with free agent additions Stacy McGee and Terrell McClain.  The biggest hole remains at nose tackle with Ziggy Hood.  Whether we can rotate him out with a higher frequency remains a question mark.

The biggest improvement in this blog’s opinion was the benching of Will Compton.  Last year, most third down conversions and game winning drives were a result of him being on the field.  With Mason Foster placed on IR, Compton is back as the starter in our 3-4.  I don’t know what to tell you other than perhaps with limited snaps Compton will be able to play above an Arena League level.

He certainly knows the playbook and can diagnose a fair amount of formations pre-snap and is a “locker room leader”, he could excel as a position coach: #PromoteCompton.  C’mon you guys, let’s get that trending worldwide.

Nickel:  The Nickel package features our best talent with Fuller and Ioannidis joining 3-4 carryovers Kerrigan, Smith and Norman.  Injuries have tempered this package’s ceiling a bit; with Allen out teams have found success running on us especially through Ziggy Hood, but the secondary looks as good as it has in a long time.

Where To Improve

For next year, In order:

  1.  Nose Tackle.  Hood has done nothing to show he deserves to come back next year and with Allen out the last two weeks teams have been running it up the middle with impunity.
  2. Inside Linebacker.  We need at least three guys who can start given how physical the position is.  Zach Brown is the star, and next to him we could use one guy to backup Mason Foster.  The jury is still out on Spaight: missed tackles and coverage are his biggest issues to iron out.
  3. DT (one guy to play 3 and 5 Tech.)  We already spent money on Terrell McClain, Stacy McGee and drafted Jonathan Allen, so this probably won’t happen, but it would be nice to have a second guy who like Allen could slot inside in our 3-4 AND play in the Nickel as a rotational player.

It looks like we missed on Hood and McGee with the later at least being serviceable.  Teams that make a living off of attacking the A gaps can control the line of scrimmage and even with Josh Norman shutting down #1 receivers, that is not a formula for winning games.  Unlike last year the starting 11 is strong up the middle, but lose a guy or two (Foster and Allen) and Zeke goes off for 33 carries and 150 yards plus  offenses are not scared to go for it on 4th and 1.

When it comes to 300 pounders in the interior, we need as many bullets in the chamber we can afford.  Two more DT/NT types would cost a chunk of money and with contract talks looming on the other side of the ball I’m not sure how feasible it is, but getting two out of three on this list would be enough to help us soldier through if the injury bug strikes again.

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