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Hogs Haven: Redskins Dump 3-4 Defense to Bring More Pressure Against Jaguars

My friend (I met him once) Kevin Ewoldt posted a thorough breakdown of the Washington Redskins plays against the Jacksonville Jaguars over at Hogs Haven. Our own Greg Trippiedi, who does this for Redskins Hog Heaven, is taking a holiday. So we urge you to peek at Kevin’s work.

I take issue with Kevin’s contention that the ‘Skins abandoned the 3-4 set** to rush five or six players at the Jags, but he has done a nice piece of work that shows how our guys pulled off the win. Go take a look. We’ll be here when you get back.

Let me admit my bias in favor of the 3-4 defense. That’s quite a change for me, an old-schooler who loves east coast smashmouth defense and the Coryell Downfield Offense. But this is the 21st Century. Pro football made great strides since the Millennium towards the spread offense with multiple wide receiver sets and linemen more mobile than muscular. Yes, Virginia, real football has moved closer the video football in the never-ending search for the big play.  

The 4-3 defense is the game you play in run-first football. The 3-4 defense, or the 3-2-5 defense, or the 2-3-6 defense, is what you do when facing a pass-first offense, especially when the passes may go to anyone in any situation.

The spread offense and the reactionary 3-4 defense call for youth over years. That’s another concession to the modern game by a writer who once believed that old age and cunning trumped youth and strength every time. The Redskins as they are now are more competitive than the veteran-laden team that began the season.  

Like it or not, the 3-4 is the defensive trend in football because the spread offense is expanding in the pros. The New York Giants, our next opponent and oldest rival, are the last team playing Beastball. They couldn’t stop the new age offenses of Philadelphia and Green Bay. What are you going to do? The 3-4 is something the Redskins have to do well.

As my friend (never met him; bought his books) Zig Ziglar says, “Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly, until you learn to do it well.”  

**Some of the video Kevin used for his write-up shows three down linemen and a stand-up linebacker on the line. That’s a 3-4 set, even if the linebacker rushes the passer instead of dropping into coverage. In fact, a linebacker at the line forces the quarterback, the center and the tackle to guess what the ‘backer is up do. Odds are that one of them will get it wrong. The resulting error can lead to a QB hit, or busted play or turnover for the defense. It’s pressure from defensive scheme rather than great individual defensive play–the point Albert Haynesworth tried to make. (Haynesworth is a great individual player who considers his talent wasted as a great 3-4 D-ineman.) 

Of course, a linebacker who cannot cover is no real threat and will be exposed by studying video of five or six games. the odds of guessing right, in that case, swings back to the offense. That’s one of the problems in the 3-4. Pro teams tend to convert college defensive ends to outside linebackers for the 3-4. College defensive ends don’t drop into pass coverage often enough to be good at it. The player must be a superior athlete to have a shot at a successful conversion. Keep that in mind at Draft time.