If you’re like me (and Ricky Bustle, for that matter), you’ve spent some of the offseason trying to get a handle on this newfangled, one-gap 3-4 defensive scheme that Todd Grantham has imported into Athens.
It’s from an unlikely source – an NFL fantasy football site – but here’s as good an analysis of the primary defensive schemes that have been deployed in the NFL over the past twenty-five years, including the 3-4, as I’ve read (h/t socomfort1 @ DawgPost message board). It’s quite long, but there’s a lot you’ll get out of it, particularly if you’re interested in learning the differences between the two-gap and one-gap versions of the 3-4.
And as you’re reading Marc Weiszer’s article about why the coaches are pleased about Justin Anderson’s development at nose tackle, keep this passage in mind:
… Parcells liked the 2-gap 3-4 for many reasons. Its design makes it more difficult for the offensive linemen to get an angle on his defenders. It makes it easier to drop eight men into coverage and prevent big plays. It makes it easier for an OLB in a two point stance to get an angle in pass rush and generate pressure with just four rushers and avoid the coverage risk of an all-out blitz.
But the 2-gap 3-4 front is more difficult to play in today’s NFL. Those planet-like defensive linemen are getting harder and harder to find. Players generated by today’s college defenses are built for speed. How many can hold the point of attack against a monstrous OT and control two gaps? Not many. How many 245-250 pound linebackers are agile enough to elude a guard on every play and still close down on a RB with 4.45 speed? Very few.
As a result, the majority of the 3-4 fronts gaining favor today are based on the 1-gap schemes designed by Bum Phillips or those that use other wrinkles to bring pressure and disguise coverage. Other than Parcells’ Cowboy and Dolphin teams in recent seasons, every other contemporary 3-4 has strayed from the 2-gap 3-4 in one way or another. The true 3-4 front has become a dinosaur of sorts as an every down defense.