The 3-4 defense isn’t as easy as it looks

The old saying, “Actions speak louder than words,” is true, especially in sports.

In the NBA, after coach Phil Jackson won his sixth league title with the Bulls, everyone wanted to try to run his triangle offense. But that experiment didn’t last long because players had to be able to execute it.

In the NFL, the bar has been set with the recent success of the Cowboys, Patriots, Ravens, Chargers and Steelers’ 3-4 defenses, and now it has become vogue to run the scheme. As many as 15 teams are either making the switch or infusing elements of the 3-4 defense.

It’s one thing to talk the talk, but can transitioning teams walk the walk? Here are five key ingredients that will make or break the transition to the 3-4:

1. Football IQ: The 3-4 requires players to have a reasonable football IQ, and it can’t be mastered overnight, even if the defensive coordinator knows the scheme like the back of his hand. The Tampa 2 was the last trendy defense to take the NFL by storm, but for all its wonderment, the byproduct was turning players into robots.

2. Elephant: This is the NFL’s equivalent of a hybrid. He is part defensive end, part linebacker, and is athletic enough to have limited coverage skills and physical enough to dominate an offensive tackle. DeMarcus Ware, Adalius Thomas, Terrell Suggs, Shawne Merriman and LaMarr Woodley are examples.

3. Sidekick: This is another outside linebacker (like Greg Ellis, Mike Vrabel, Shaun Phillips and James Harrison) who has coverage skills but also can dominate a running back and occasionally beat an offensive tackle.

4. Power pig: A 3-4 defense must have a nose guard who commands a double team on run plays. He has to be the master between the guards.

5. The 5 Techniques: You need two defensive ends who can control the line of scrimmage. They need to be able to beat one-on-one matchups on pass plays but must be dominant in stopping the run.

Does your team have what it takes to make the transition? What pieces is your team missing?

Leave a comment below or send me a tweet @jamiedukes.

— Jamie Dukes

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