Let's talk about the 3-4 defense today. Sean McDermott said in the Eagles Chalk Talk the other day that he may use it from time to time in 2010. I don't recall us running a true 3-4 look at all last year. I could be off on that, but nothing comes to mind.
People have a habit of mistaking a 3-man defensive line for a 3-4. We use a 3-man line on a regular basis. It is part of our Nickel and Dime packages. The most common version is a 3-3-5 look we use. That is 3 linemen, 3 linebackers, and 5 defensive backs.
Why mix in some 3-4? Basically, to give opposing QBs something else to have to deal with. Throw an odd look at the QB in a key game and see if you can catch him off guard. The Saints played a lot of 3-4 in the Super Bowl. It didn't stop the Colts or Peyton Manning. He still went 31-45-333. The weird look did affect him. He only threw one TD and the Colts only scored 17 points. Clearly the Saints offense had a lot to do with that game because of their ability to sustain drives and keep Manning on the sideline. Still, that defense wasn't what Peyton had planned for. He focused on the Saints 4-3 base D. Peyton is good enough as a QB to keep the chains moving when caught off guard, but 432 yards of offense only led to 17 points. The 3-4 scheme had something to do with that.
Before you focus on the fact it was the 3-4 remember that the game before Peyton had shredded the Jets #1 defense and their 3-4 scheme. He was 26-39-377 with 3 TDs and 30 points. Peyton studied their game tape thoroughly and wasn't caught as off-guard.
The point isn't to run a 3-4 necessarily, but rather to mix up what you do. We run a base 4-3 defense. We do a lot of exotic stuff in Nickel and Dime packages. The one way left for us to get creative is to adjust the base with some 3-4 looks.
How will we line up? We can only guess at this point. Here's a possible line-up:
RE Brodrick Bunkley
NT Antonio Dixon
LE Trevor Laws
ROLB Trent Cole
RILB Moise Fokou
LILB Stewart Bradley
LOLB Juqua Parker (or Brandon Graham)
Dixon has the size and strength to be a good NT. Bunk is athletic enough to push the pocket. Laws played 3-4 DE as a Senior in college. We could use Patt or Bunk at NT if wanted. Abiamiri, if healthy, would be a good DE.
Cole, Parker, and Graham would be the primary pass rushers. They are athletic enough to drop back and cover as well. You can't have the LBs rush upfield on every play. You have to keep the QB guessing.
Bradley is clearly fine for ILB. I put Fokou in the other spot. I'm not sure Ernie Sims would be a good fit for ILB. We could also put Akeem Jordan, Omar Gaither, or Joe Mays in that spot.
I need to write out a long post on the new offense. There is a lot to consider. We know the Eagles offense of Donovan McNabb as the QB. We've seen Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg mix things up with different QBs on the field. The question that we face this time around is what they will do with Kevin Kolb running the show. He's not McNabb, but he is the chosen starter. Other QBs were on the field due to injuries. That forced the offense to change. With Kolb as the starting QB by design we don't know what kind of an attack we'll see.
Anyone hoping for a significant change is going to be disappointed. Andy and Marty are passing coaches. We have a great set of pass catchers. We will throw the ball. That said, I do hold some hope that we will be more balanced. I'll get into that more in the long post.
One thing to keep in mind in regard to the upcoming season...it will be a learning experience for the players, coaches, fans, and media. The playbook will basically be the same, but the plays that we focus on will change somewhat. And Kolb's execution of a given play will be different from McNabb. Think of different musicians playing a set of notes. Each guy will put his spin on things. The sheet music doesn't change, but the music will sure sound different.
RE: Vick trade?
Not likely. I"m hearing real good things about Mike. He looks completely different than he did last season. Spending a year as part of a football team is apparently a better way to prepare than being at a half-way house. We do need a quality backup QB. It sounds like Vick has that role for 2010. It is possible to deal him and then sign a vet QB to replace him. I'm not so sure that's likely. I don't think any team will give up much compensation for Vick. That could change if he looks great in the preseason, but don't count on it. Big Red loves his QBs. He's only going to deal Vick if someone makes us a strong offer. I don't anticipate that happening.
RE: 3-4 NT...have to be big?
We can be creative with our 4-3 looks. Dallas used Jay Ratliff at NT and he's nothing like most of the big guys. We could try any number of guys. The closest thing we have to Ratliff in terms of size, build, and skill set is probably Victor. And he has the mentality to be solid at NT for a limited amount of snaps per game.
I'm hearing that Daniel Te'o-Nesheim will play mostly DT this year in the Nickel and Dime. He also could maybe get NT snaps in certain looks. Teo certainly has the toughness and motor to hand the job. I know some of you will focus on the lack of size. When you mix in a special defensive package you don't need players with standard size and a normal skill set. After all, your goal is usually to do something different. Remember, we're talking about mixing in some 3-4. Could be 2 or 3 snaps or maybe 15-20. This isn't the base defense that will be on the field for 30-40 snaps.