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Falcons Transition From The 3-4 (Back) To The 4-3 Scheme


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This is a really good read. The dude who wrote it can't spell worth a **** (I corrected spelling the copy/paste blow) and uses some really awkward wording, but I thought still the article insightful nonetheless.

http://profootballspot.com/_/nfl/nfc-south/atlanta-falcons/falcons-transition-from-the-3-4-to-the-4-3-scheme-r9159

Fresh off their first NFL Draft under the Dan Quinn coaching era, the Atlanta Falcons will finally reintroduce their defense back to significance as they return to a base 4-3 scheme. On the heels of a very successful tenure as the Seahawks' Defensive Coordinator- including two Superbowl berths- Quinn brings with him a scheme and approach on defense that should give Falcons fans both optimism and intrigue.

Ex-Defensive Coordinator Mike Nolan was hired under Coach Mike Smith in 2012 to offer the Atlanta Falcons something different, exciting and unfamiliar territory in the 3-4 defense. It was raw but it never developed, and it failed miserably. Last season the Falcons ranked 26th in points allowed (417; 26 avg.) and dead last in yards allowed (6372; 398 avg.). An abysmal 22 sacks turned in by a combination of inexperienced and over peaked defenders saw a huge imbalance in strategy. While the secondary stood up and became accounted for in being ranked 5th in the league for passing touchdowns allowed, opposing tailbacks were able to run right through the incredibly fragile rushing defense; 21 rushing scores allowed in a predominantly passing league was the low-point for Atlanta last year.



Help, however, is finally here. Under the watchful eye of Coach Quinn, new Defensive Coordinator Richard Smith, alongside Assistant Head Coach/Passing Game Coordinator Raheem Morris and new Linebackers coach Jeff Ulbrich, will now be able to rewrite this defensive unit and perform the necessary chess-game maneuvers that naturally comes with such an major shift in defensive strategy.


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The influx of fresh-faced coaches into Atlanta would bring a lot of positive vibes within itself. Richard Smith has recently come out of four seasons as Linebackers coach for John Fox and the Denver Broncos, thriving in developing prospects into elite talents: the pinnacle of such is Pro Bowl LB Von Miller. Die-hard Falcons fans should be familiar with Smith's influence on prosperous Linebackers; previously the Linebackers coach in Carolina over two seasons (09-10) under John Fox once more, we have experienced first-hand his aggressive, versatile use of Linebackers. In 2009, he utilized the athletic Jon Beason which ended up seeing the former Hurricane having a career year (141 tackles, 3 sacks, 3 INT) and achieving Pro Bowl honors.



The handling of the current crop of Falcons Linebackers is the top priority for Quinn, Smith and co heading into the summer. A noticeable change of the landscape at the second level has already been implemented so far in 2015, with former 1st-round pick Sean Weatherspoon departing as injury derailed the end of his contract in Atlanta, as well as the big free agent signing of OLB Brooks Reed coming into the organisation. OLB Vic Beasley, the 8th overall pick in the NFL Draft out of Clemson, puts the cherry on top of the few but highly effective personnel changes in the Linebacker core.




Last year's 3-4 defence saw Paul Worrilow and Jopla Bartu line up as the Falcons' interior Linebackers, with Kroy Biermann lining up on the left-edge and Osi Umenyiora on the right side backed up by Johnathon Massaquoi. Rookie Prince Shembo saw a good amount of time rotating in between the interior positions on occasionally being pushed out on the edge. What will be the most radical change in personnel is the complete absence of that right side pass rush from last season; Umenyiora was cut and Massaquoi being picked up from Tennessee meant an easier personnel transition to the 4-3, for an entire position has been erased. Worrilow is undoubtedly the Mike LB in the 4-3 as he continues his strong tally of tackles (143) and involvement between the hash marks. The young, athletic personas of Bartu and Shembo will see plenty of competition and playing time in the Sam LB spot and improving on covering the outside run. Brooks Reed will be the guy to mount tremendous pressure on opposing Quarterbacks in the Will LB spot on the edge, with highly-touted rookie Vic Beasley slotting right in as the LEO of the Falcons defense.



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Kroy Biermann acts as our figurative transition from the focus on the Falcons Linebackers onto the Defensive Line in the 4-3 scheme. Originally drafted as a Defensive End 154th overall in the 2008 NFL Draft, Biermann will return to his natural position of Left-DE in which he thrived in Mike Smith's 4-3 back in 2010, generating a career-high AV of 7 and becoming an unsung contributor for the Falcons defense. As an OLB/DE in 2014, Biermann also achieved an AV of 7 and was arguably the Falcons leading contributor on defense. It’s a big reason why he was re-signed in the offseason on a one-year, $1.95 million deal; Coach Quinn gets an unsung, dark-horse toy for him to play with between a three-point and two-point stance. Biermann will become a key piece of Quinn's 4-3 scheme the more he gets rotated from LDE to the Will and LEO spots. He was the only starter last season to achieve decent number in the pass-rush (4.5 sacks) whilst causing solid pressure amidst a woeful rushing defense.



Atlanta's Defensive Line in 2014 was somewhat of a mixed bag of veterans and very raw, young talent. Initially, the starting line-up on the 3-4 Defensive Line consisted of free agent acquisitions Tyson Jackson at Left-DE and Paul Soliai at Nose Tackle, capped off by fan favorite Jonathon Babineaux at Right-DE. Despite being in a 3-4 scheme, a combined 3 sacks between these three veterans- all carrying middleweight salary for the season- was a disaster. Neither of the three veterans really excelled in being a different maker inside the box; combine that with the lack of an established, intimidating run stuffer within the Linebackers resulted in Atlanta obtaining the worst rushing defense in the league. The youngsters behind them, however, showcased flashes of potential. Corey Peters, now with the Arizona Cardinals, and Malliciah Goodman both produced some big plays in their limited game time as backups. But the big name the watch out for heading into 2015 is former 2nd-round rookie DT Ra'Shede Hageman. With his questionable work ethic bought to light during Training Camp through HBO's 2014 edition of Hard Knocks, Hageman made great strides in his competitiveness and really stepped up when called upon nearing the end of the regular season last year.

The transition to a 4-3 scheme will undoubtedly shrink the size of the room for the Falcons interior Defensive Lineman. With Vic Beasley and Kroy Biermann rotating in and out of the Defensive End spots, it would be very interesting to see how frequent of a rotation will occur in not only the two Defensive Tackle spots, but if the more versatile interior lineman get pushed out to the Left-DE spot. As of right now, Jonathon Babineaux and Tyson Jackson will start at Defensive Tackle, with Nose Tackle Paul Soliai coming in on short-yardage and goal-line situations to stuff the inside gaps that he has done so well since becoming a starter in 2010. With Peters now gone, 5th-round selection DT Grady Jarrett out of Clemson will see a huge opportunity to contribute right away behind the two veteran DTs. Jarrett, the son of Falcons legendary Linebacker Jessie Tuggle, is a very quick and agile interior lineman (6" 1, 304 lb.; 5.06 40 yard dash) and has the potential to cause mischief in the B gaps and attacking opposing Guards on the outside shoulder; opening up the Defensive Line's pass protection and opening holes inside for budding Linebackers to pounce.


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An intriguing prospect for the 2015 4-3 defense for Atlanta is Malliciah Goodman. 2014 saw the former Clemson Tide standout weigh in at 290 lb. in order to stay in the hunt for playing time on the Defensive Line. This offseason sees Goodman come off a solid finish to the season and the DE is looking to shred 25 pounds in order to transition into a pass-rusher off the edge in a three-point stance. Despite the fact that Goodman has yet to record a sack in his first two seasons in the NFL, we still need to remember his accomplishments at Clemson, including his 9.5 sacks in his final year.Even with the additional weight melted off him, Goodman at around 265 would still resemble an uncannily similar frame and physique to Seahawks DE Michael Bennett. Like with Goodman, it was Bennett's strength and power that saw him rotate from Left-DE to the interior line and sometimes as the LEO in Quinn's scheme in Seattle. Goodman will get the chance to offer the same kind of persona to Coach Quinn in Atlanta; a guy more powerful than what the weight says with an aggressive style coming off the edge. The potential of seeing three recent star Defensive Lineman from Clemson shine in the Falcons 2015 defense can become more realistic as the summer progresses.



So many teams immediately go for a radical change in personnel to reignite a defense. But the Atlanta Falcons are out to prove that all it takes is a simple but effective switch in defensive strategy, and those young, raw, undeveloped personnel can quickly become bidding starters and potential breakout candidates. As the offseason has showed so far in Atlanta, not many big names have been needed to be signed under Coach Quinn and co to turn this defense around. So many pieces needed to create a dominating, dynamic defensive front have been sitting in front of us all along. All we really needed was the right scheme to put these pieces into their perfect place. The idea of this happening throughout the 2015 campaign under Coach Quinn and the 4-3 scheme is more than enough for any Falcons fan to be excited about their defense moving forward.

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I think how easily we are shifting back to the 4-3 highlights the disconnect between Smitty and Nolan's ideas for the defense. Smitty was comfortable with a 4-3 and had TD draft players that fit his ideas while Nolan runs a 3-4 and needed players that fit a different mold than those in Smitty's head.

That difference in philosophy resulted in a mistmatch between personnel and scheme leading in large part to our defensive failures the last two years.

I really think the move back to a 4-3 will show us that some of our draft picks that "weren't very good" are actually much better than we thought when utilized properly (i.e. Goodman belongs at DE).

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I thought the scheme that Quinn brought to us from Seattle is more of a 4-3 Under. In that case, isn't the strong-side DE a 2-gap player at the 4-technique and doesn't do much pass rushing? In other words, more of a 3-4 DE like Tyson Jackson. There's a nose tackle playing the 1-technique and an Under Tackle/Penetrator type at the 3-technique with the LEO lined up wide, rushing from the weak side. The SAM covers the TE at times and rushes the passer from the strong side at other times.

If I have any of that wrong, please let me know.

No mention of Durant? I hope he gets a chance to play a lot. I'm not particularly fond of our linebackers from last year. I'm hoping Worrilow does better in this new system. Big tackle numbers on the worst run defense in the NFL don't really impress me.

Overall, I thought this article was a bit unrealistically optimistic with regards to the current talent and it seemed to make statements of fact which were only assumptions and opinions.

Edited by Mekias
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Interesting.

I think he has the LB slottings wrong, as well as Leo...but who really knows right now.

He has Kroy playing WILL and LDE, when he's likely playing SLB and LEO primarily.

Jackson starting at DT would be a surprise.

Durant will likely be the WILL unless they shift him to the Mike.

Anyway, the points hold...players should be shifted to areas that make sense, and that should help the D.

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I thought the scheme that Quinn brought to us from Seattle is more of a 4-3 Under. In that case, isn't the strong-side DE a 2-gap player at the 4-technique and doesn't do much pass rushing? In other words, more of a 3-4 DE like Tyson Jackson. There's a nose tackle playing the 1-technique and an Under Tackle/Penetrator type at the 3-technique with the LEO lined up wide, rushing from the weak side. The SAM covers the TE at times and rushes the passer from the strong side at other times.

I would generally agree with this but don't think it is a necessity for the SDE to play 2-gap. I know Seattle did that at times with Red Bryant, but Michael Bennett isn't a 2-gap DE. I think you pretty much adapt to personnel and game situations with that part.

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I'm iffy on the article in all honesty. First, we never transitioned to a 3-4. We were mostly a 4-2-5 team running big nickel. It was a hodge-podge defense at best with no clear identity. Second, anyone referring to Hard Knocks to talk about someone's work ethic isn't very solid IMO.

The best reason to embrace the change of defensive philosophy is that it will play to the players strengths instead of trying to make them fit into a scheme...

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The fact that there is still so much confusion about what our defensive scheme was last season speaks volumes as to why we struggled so. Even Smitty and Nolan contradicted each other in AJC articles that came out a week apart just before first game of season.

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This article is sorta generalizing the 4-3 defense. We will probably be running the LEO defense currently being used by Jacksonville and Seattle. The LEO is very similar to the Elephant defenses of the past used by the Patriots, etc...

You may want to check out these articles

Gus Bradley's 4-3 defense and the LEO position

Seattle Seahawks: The LEO Defense; What Is It? How Does It Work?

Edited by *TMo*
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What planet is this guy on? We hardly ever ran any 3-4 last year. Not even sure I can remember running it at all. We ran a little 3-4 in 2013.

We planned to run the 3-4, and even started in it in the 2014 training camp, but quickly switched to a nickel when Spoon got hurt and we found out how raw the other young backers were.

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The fact that there is still so much confusion about what our defensive scheme was last season speaks volumes as to why we struggled so. Even Smitty and Nolan contradicted each other in AJC articles that came out a week apart just before first game of season.

We ran a hybrid defense, primarily using nickel sets. It was clear what we were doing 2 years ago, but you and others couldn't wrap your head around it no matter how many times it was explained to you.

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Yeah not sure i'm a big fan of that read either.

From what i remember, last offseason our "base" defense started off as a 3-4 according to reports from training camp. At one point during the early part season (not sure exactly when) we started using less and less 3-4 and starting using more 4-3 alignments. Not to mention that a high majority of every single teams defensive scheme is a nickel scheme so the "base" defense really may not be that relevant anyways.

So while you can say our defense was 3-4, 4-3, 4-2-5. The truth is (to me) that we were more of a multiple defense than anything else. I don't agree with saying we were a 3-4 defense.

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