‘What should we study? … We don’t know what to study.’

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.


Filed under Georgia Football, Strategery And Mechanics

10 responses to “‘What should we study? … We don’t know what to study.’

  1. Nate

    This line from the article I thought particularly reminiscent of previous Georgia defenses:

    “As mentioned above, a Cover-2 that can’t generate pressure goes from a bend-but-don’t-break style of play to one that gives up big plays in bunches when the deep routes come open downfield.”

    Here’s to looking forward to the end of “bend-but-don’t-break” coverage.


    • Agreed. I never liked the idea of bend-but-don’t-break because of the stress and exhaustion it causes defensive players who then become spent by the fourth quarter.
      Then VanGorder came along and showed how it can work when employing multiple blitz packages and violent safety play.
      I was beginning to come around until Martinez ruined that for me forever, and now I am starting to tire of watching the Falcons employ the same defense.


      • Nate

        Yep. It seems like for the last 4 years we were always missing 1 or 2 crucial pieces to the “bend-but-don’t-break” scheme. First it was the D Line, then the secondary, or both. We never seemed to have all the personnel required at the same time. And when we did, we never executed any where near our talent level.
        Here’s what has me excited about the new D. I know there will be a learning curve, and I know we will give up some big plays. Hell, the D will almost certainly cost us a game at some point this season. But they WILL be aggressive. I say that with confidence because the scheme is aggressive by design. Combine that with play-makers like Houston and Rambo and some of the other guys we’ve been hearing good things about and at the very least it should make for a more entertaining, if not frustration free experience.


        • JasonC

          As I was reading the first article about the cover-2 and Tampa-2, I couldn’t help but think that we lacked some of the personnel to make those systems work efficiently. However, if that was the case, then it was Martinez’ responsibility to identify that problem and make the necessary adjustments in scheme to fit the guys we had. That is where I think he failed the most. Second, would be his devotion to certain players (usually upperclassmen) over more talented, but less experience guys.


      • JC in Powder Springs

        There’s nothing wrong with BVG’s coaching, and I’d take him back at UGA in a NY minute. Falcons D personnel for the most part suck – most couldn’t start in Detroit. “Guru” Dimitroff hasn’t brought in much talent – Bierman & Lofton might be worthwhile someday. BVG’s been holding the falcon D together with spit and ducktape. Amazing results considering what he’s got to work with.


  2. 69Dawg

    This very issue is where you learn that a lot of sports writers and analysis are lazy. They hear 3-4 and they think Mount Cody. He played less than 50% of the D snaps at Ala. He is not going to be able to play every down in the NFL. Give me the fast 1 gap and let the O figure out what the heck is going on. For too many years the opposing O knew exactly what we were going to do.


  3. I may be crazy, but I have a feeling our defense is going to be pretty dominant this year.