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Constructing An Effective Falcons Defensive Line...

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Constructing an Effective Falcons Defensive Line

Jul 02 2015 12:00 AM | Views: 145 | Darren Helley in Atlanta Falcons


With the Dan Quinn era well established throughout OTAs and mini camps, now is a great time to headline the most effective allocations for Falcons personnel inside the new-look 4-3 LEO scheme.

The Falcon's defense features some exciting new additions, yet remains a very similar group of personnel coming out of the 3-4 last season. How defensive coordinator Richard Smith aligns and allocates his players is going to be a very important factor towards the extent of success witness on defense come the regular season.

What's very important to note about the LEO scheme is that players are allocated towards the strength of the offense.

For example, an I-formation with the tight end on the right side is known as strong left (from the view of the defense). This will dictate where players line up before the snap of the ball.

Arguably, the most affected group is the defensive line--with the presence of the LEO position drastically changing the gap assignments across the new four-man front. The LEO himself, most likely to be 2015 eighth overall pick Vic Beasley or former Seahawks veteran O'Brien Schofield, will act as the 9-tech and play well outside the opposing tackle.

He acts as a hybrid outside linebacker/defensive end, who can line up out of the two-point and three-point stances, giving defensive coordinators much more versatility and flexibility in calling different formations.

Remember, the LEO will line up on the weak side of the offense, thus giving him a one-on-one matchup with the Tackle and penetrating the D-Gap. So many names outside of these two favorites have been thrown into the mix; Kroy Biermann, Adrian Clayborn, Malliciah Goodman, Stansly Maponga and Brooks Reed all have legitimate shots of finding at least some reps out of the LEO and causing mayhem on that weak-side outer edge.

So how does the LEO get into a one-on-one battle at the line of scrimmage? Given all of the attention and acclaim surrounding the position and the personnel assigned to the role, you would have thought double-teaming by the offensive line would be in order. This is where the defensive linemen are assigned different compared to a regular 4-3 scheme. You would be surprised how often that is overlooked in the LEO scheme.


Essentially, the 4-3 LEO scheme features three 3-4 defensive lineman with the addition of the LEO as a 9-tech playing very wide. The 1-tech in this scheme will have two gap assignments, both of which are the A-Gaps either side of the center. Dependent on the strength of the offense, his primary aim is to create a double-team scenario for the offensive line. It's the 1-tech's job to occupy more than one lineman on him at the line of scrimmage.

Falcons nose tackle Paul Soliai is our go-to 1-tech in the LEO scheme for 2015, but watch out for rookie defensive tackle Grady Jarrett out of Clemson to get some playing time with his hard-nosed, penetrating style of play from this position. Ra'Shede Hageman might also get some playing time at the 1-tech due to his 6'6", 315 lb. frame.

To Soliai's left will be the 5-tech, acting as the strong-side defensive end and the second defensive lineman to be assigned to two gaps, being the B and C Gaps either side of the opposing Offensive Tackle. In an ideal world, the 1-tech can double-team the Center and the weak-side guard and the 5-tech will double-team the strong-side guard and tackle. Just with a 3-4 defensive end playing in either the 4 or 5-tech spot, he needs to have size and power.

Tyson Jackson did not have a very productive season last year, but he is the Falcons most experience player out of this technique on the line of scrimmage. No doubt Jackson gets the nod come Week 1 against Philadelphia but watch out for Adrian Clayborn getting reps in this spot too given his larger frame compared to the typical pass-rushing defensive end.

That leaves us with the 3-tech defensive tackle, who plays on the weak side in between the LEO and the 1-tech. He is arguably the most well-off player on the defensive line given the double teaming assignments to his left and the overloaded attention towards the man to his right.

The 3-tech is assigned to the B-Gap and will play off the inside shoulder of the weak-side tackle. If either of the double teams on the strong side falter, the 3-tech will pick up the free guard on his side in order to accommodate the one-on-one matchup for the LEO.

But it is very important to note that the 3-tech can manoeuvre around the Defensive Line and cause some real headaches for opposing offensive line coaches. Defensive line coach Brian Cox can so easily slot the 3-tech right in between the 1-tech and the 5-tech to create an 'over' shift in the 4-3 formation.

This would pair the 3-tech up with his opposing number in the strong side guard, essentially overloading onto the strong side of the offensive front in attempts to force errant throws and to give the LEO a lot of space on the weak side edge.


Long-time fan favorite Jonathon Babineaux will more than likely split reps with sophomore Ra'Shede Hageman in the 3-tech spot. Babineaux has had so-so campaigns under the 3-4 scheme as a 5-tech, so bumping him back inside and seeing him go up against opposing guards will hope to bring back some of his finesse pass-rushing capabilities.

In 2009, Babineaux tallied 6 sacks out of the 4-3 and followed that up with 4 sacks in 2010 shortly before Mike Nolan took charge of the defense; look for a sack total close to those sort of numbers in 2015.

Hageman will give Babineaux every reason to fight for his reps, however. The former second-round rookie out of Minnesota progressed so much down the stretch in 2014 and is on the cusp of having a breakout year in 2015.

There is plenty of competition up in the air surrounding every one of the four defensive lineman spots heading into training camp. But what is important to take out of this is the importance of every lineman position under the LEO scheme; it's not just that sole pass-rusher making the difference outside of your typical 4-3 scheme.

They may not get a lot of notoriety, but there is a huge amount of dependability resting on the shoulders of those who occupy the 1-tech and the 5-tech spots on the Falcons' defensive line


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Expecting big seasons from Hageman and Vic. Two physical freaks, Quinn has something up his sleeve for these guys. Hageman especially, he is just so much bigger and stronger than most he should be able to go out there and just dominate them. If Quinn instills some 'nasty' in us, I would hate to have the gameplan for that guy.

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