A big shot was fired today in the Pats/Jets war, as New England signed the former New York defensive lineman today. This continues the trend of players and coaches swapping the green and white for the red, white, and blue, and vice versa. Seriously, have two bitter rivals ever been as inbred as the Patriots and Jets?no comments
For years, the standard defense at all levels of football has been the 4-3. This consists of four defensive linemen and three linebackers as the front seven. While there have been countless defensive ends who have wrecked havoc on quarterbacks from the traditional end position (Reggie White, Dwight Freeney, Deacon Jones), in today’s game, many NFL teams are implementing a 3-4 defense. While a few teams, notably the Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots have used this base defense throughout the past decade, as we head into the 2011 season, half the teams in the NFL have some form of a 3-4 defense. We’ll examine the basic concepts of each defense and highlight some necessities to playing each position in both defenses.
What is the 4-3 defense?
In the 4-3, the defense’s success is very much tied to the middle linebacker and defense end. In the 4-3, the middle linebacker is responsible for calling out plays, making adjustments, and making tackles while also having to drop back into coverage. Some notable middle linebackers who have had tremendous success over the past decade include former Miami Dolphin Zack Thomas, Chicago Bear Brian Urlacher, and Baltimore Raven Ray Lewis. All three of these players share a few characteristics – tremendous vocal leadership, intensity, and intelligence. Urlacher and Thomas are former NFL Defensive Players of the Year and Thomas was a perennial Pro Bowler during the 2000s.
Getting after the QB: Defensive End
In addition to the middle linebacker, the 4-3 defense is predicated on having a great pass rushing defensive end. Since the linebackers are often asked to play in pass coverage, the defensive line is responsible for creating most of the pass rush. Typically the right defensive end is the team’s best lineman whose job is to attack the quarterback’s blind side. Some of the best pass rushers in the NFL over the past decade are right defensive ends including the Indianapolis Colts’ Dwight Freeney, former Carolina Panther Julius Peppers, and Minnesota Viking Jared Allen. Because today’s left tackles are athletic and have long arms, it is equally important for the right defensive end to have the right blend of size, power, and speed. Mario Williams, the first overall pick in 2006 fits the mold of the ideal defensive end at 6’6, 280 lbs. with 4.7 speed and great strength. Even though former USC running back Reggie Bush was thought to be the best talent in the draft, the Texans proved everyone wrong by selecting Williams with the first pick to create havoc against Peyton Manning and the Colts. With the Texans’ move to a 3-4, it will be interesting to see if Wade Phillips can harness Williams’ athleticism as an outside linebacker.
Men in the Middle: Defensive Tackle
In terms of run defense, the middle linebacker’s ability to make tackles relies much on the two men in the middle – the defensive tackles. One has to look no further than Lewis to see how important this concept is. Early on in his career when the Ravens played a base 4-3 defense, Lewis benefitted from having two huge defensive tackles – Sam Adams and Tony Siragusa tying up the guards and center on the opposing team’s offensive line. In doing so, Lewis was allowed to flow freely to the ball carrier or quarterback with little interference from blockers. The two defensive tackles are typically lined up with one at the “one-technique” which is between the guard and center and the other at the “three technique” which is over the outside shoulder of the other guard. Warren Sapp is considered the quintessential three technique defensive tackle because of his tremendous interior quickness which he used to explode up field into the opponent’s backfield.
On the edges: Outside linebackers
The other linebackers in a 4-3 defense are known as the “Will” and “Sam”. The will, or weak-side linebacker is usually the fastest of the three linebackers and uses his sideline-to-sideline speed to prevent running backs from breaking the ball to the outside. They are typically a bit undersized, around 230-250 lbs. but usually with 4.5-4.6 speed. Examples of weak-side linebackers in the NFL today are Thomas Davis of the Panthers, Quincy Black of the Buccaneers, and Chad Greenway of the Minnesota Vikings.
The sam, or strong-side linebacker is lined up on the tight end’s side and are typically stronger at the point of attack and play closer to the line of scrimmage. They may be asked to man up with the tight end and are typically above 250 lbs. with 4.6-4.7 speed. They are also called on to blitz so they must have above average pass rush skills. Some notable strong-side linebackers in the NFL today are Brian Cushing of the Houston Texans, James Anderson of the Panthers and Rey Maualuga of the Cincinnati Bengals. no comments
So this isn't exactly a "play" per se, but how can you choose just one of Chung's spectacular plays and put them above the rest? Patrick Chung strung together one of the most epic performances in Monday Night Football history and all his finest moments are chronicled in the clip above. Remember, and enjoy!
Past Top Plays
Around the NFL is a weekly offseason feature on Foxboro Blog offering an irreverent (and sometimes humorous) look at some of the top news stories in the NFL. Read at your own risk!
- This week's free agent frenzy was supposed to be a big week for the entire league, but the ESPN universe has revolved around the Patriots due to the big trades for Albert Haynesworth and Chad Ochocinco. As soon as the Ochocinco news broke, I'm pretty sure every member of the Boston media experienced simultaneous orgasm. Chad could probably land a lucrative local endorsement deal from Vaseline or Kleenex.
- I don't know how much Ochocinco is going to have to pay Aaron Hernandez for the right to wear #85, but I'm pretty sure the second-year TE will have more than his fair share of leverage in the negotiations. Money isn't good enough here. He should make Ochocinco commit to riding another bull on pay-per-view while wearing a Hernandez jersey, a speedo and pink boots. Half of the money goes to charity, the other half goes to Albert Haynesworth's legal defense fund. Make it happen fellas!
- Upon hearing of his trade to New England, Albert Haynesworth reportedly did the one thing he always dreamed about doing since he first joined the Redskins -- he ate Santana Moss. He would have consumed John Beck too, but he had trouble finding him because nobody knows what John Beck looks like.
- Rumors are still swirling that the Jets will sign CB Nnamdi Asomugha. I'm not sure how closely those folks are looking at the Jets' cap situation. Unless he's willing to sign a deal that pays him a ball of twine and two packs of Juicy Fruit, I can't see him coming to New York.
- The biggest trade of the week (at least in terms of compensation) was a deal that sent Kevin Kolb to Arizona. The Eagles received an All-Pro CB and a second round pick for a guy with more career picks than TDs. I think it's safe to say that unless Rodgers-Cromartie's plane crashes on the way to Philly, the Eagles front office pulled a Roethlisberger on this deal.
- Speaking of Big Ben, the big lovable oaf got married this week. And to answer the next logical question of our degenerate readers, yes, she's hot. On behalf of all of us here at Foxboro Blog, I would like to congratulate the new couple. We could all take a lesson from these two -- it doesn't matter how doofy you look, because if you have enough money and indiscriminately assault enough women, you may someday find that one special girl who is willing to consent to eventually take half of your stuff.
- Reggie Bush was traded to the Dolphins yesterday, becoming the second overrated high-profile pro athlete to take his talents to South Beach in the past year and a half. But at least his mom didn't get plowed by Delonte West. So he still has that going for him.
Ever since the lockout ended, it has felt like Christmas in July for NFL fans as free agents have been going fast each day this week. For the New England Patriots, they are compared to your youngest sibling who gets the best gifts as stocking stuffers. Each team in the division has made at least one significant move so far this week and could be on the verge of making more moves. Let’s start with the Buffalo Bills.
Brad Smith to the Bills: On Thursday, the now former New York Jets’ Punt returner/Kick Returner signed up north with the Bills for 4 years, $15 million. Smith had to feel insulted that the Jets did not even present him an offer due to the Nnamdi Asomugha craze that is sweeping New York City. The value of the QB from the Jets’ Seminole package could decrease due to the NFL now starting kickoffs from the 35-yard line. I expect Chan Gailey to still find a way to use him in some wildcat formations because he can throw being a former quarterback from Missouri as well. He could also catch passes out of the slot from Ryan Fitzpatrick. Overall, I like the addition for Buffalo who gets him on the cheap.
The Bills also re-signed Drayton Florence to a 3 year, $15 million deal and signed QB Tyler Thigpen to a 3 year deal to at least be a backup to Fitzpatrick. However, they lost their ILB Paul Posluszny who signed a 6 year deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Reggie Bush to the Dolphins: With Miami in all likelihood losing their running back duo of Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams, they resorted to take the former number two pick from a few years ago. They hope to strike gold in a trade they made with the Saints where they gave New Orleans S Jonathan Amaya in exchange for Reggie Bush. After the trade, they signed Bush to a new two year, $10 million deal. Before I get into more on Bush, I got a tweet from PhinsPhocus.com in a response about the trade. “Like it, don't love it. I think it depends on if D. Thomas becomes a productive workhorse. If so, Bush fits like a glove.”
I thought Miami would go after Ahmad Bradshaw from the New York Giants to counteract their 2nd round pick Daniel Thomas from Kansas State. Bradshaw was too expensive, so they got Bush. If he can buy the concept of team and fit into the secondary role, I think Bush can excel. He is still a threat on special teams. I say Miami got a good deal because he can catch out of the ball field, but they have to get a quarterback.
During Thursday, the Dolphins were on the verge of a deal for Broncos’ QB Kyle Orton, but Denver is still trying to figure out the draft pick they are going to get. With Vince Young off the market, Orton is Miami’s last option to find someone to compete with Chad Henne.
Three years ago, he was the best defensive player in the game.
Two years ago, he was paid like it.
A year ago, he was the biggest headache in the league.Today, he is a New England Patriot.
The Washington Redskins rid themselves of perhaps the worst free agent signing in league history by flipping the disgruntled Albert Hayneswsorth to the Patriots for a fifth-round pick in 2013.
In 2009, the Redskins signed Big Al to a record seven-year, $100-million contract, including $41 million guaranteed.
This year, the Patriots are on the hook for only $5 million, according to Adam Schefter.
While Haynesworth didn’t nearly live up to his contract (he recorded only 6.5 sacks in 20 games), the mammoth defensive tackle is not short on talent.
Prior to taking his services to Washington, he earned Sporting News Defensive Player of the Year Honors after recording a career-high 8.5 sacks for a 13-3 Titans team.
In New England, Haynesworth will fill the role of Richard Seymour as the right defensive end in the base 3-4 defense.
Much like Seymour, Haynesworth is a tall, powerful defender who commands constant double teams.
On nickel situations, the 6-foot-6, 335-pounder should slide to the three-technique and could be a matchup nightmare…provided he is motivated.
Because Washington paid most of his bonus money already, the Patriots can rid themselves of Haynesworth if he becomes a problem, but his addition could make for a tremendous front three with Vince Wilfork and Ty Warren.
Scout’s Inc. Matt Williamson also tweeted the addition of Haynesworth could signal some 4-3 alignments with Wilfork playing the one-technique, Jerod Mayo at weakside linebacker, Spikes in the middle and Cunningham at strongside linebacker or weakside end.
This flexibility and talent upgrade proves Bill Belichick is still one of the shrewdest talent collectors in the game, and the Patriots defense has the potential to be great this year.
Provided Big Al buys into the Patriot Way.
This miraculous grab by Randy Moss may have been higher if it weren't for the fact that Moss wore out his welcome last year and the Patriots lost this game anyway. Still, this was a tremendous display of talent by Randy as he effectively blew up Revis Island.
Past Top Plays
Around the NFL is a weekly offseason feature on Foxboro Blog offering an irreverent (and sometimes humorous) look at some of the top news stories from the NFL. Read at your own risk!
The lockout could be over … or not. Despite not having a firm agreement with players on a number of issues, owners voted unanimously to approve a new CBA on Thursday. The approval set up a high-stakes vote by the players as early as today that could either end the lockout or imperil the season. No pressure, guys.
It is somewhat encouraging that a new CBA is at least halfway done. Say what you will about the NFL, but they’ve still proven to be more functional than Congress.
The CBA was approved by the owners 31-0. The Raiders abstained from the vote, presumably because the agreement did not include an Al Davis-backed clause that allows owners to pay head coaches in chickens and shit on their desk with impunity.
Kenny Britt was handcuffed again this week, but this time it wasn’t by police (I’ll graciously accept my nomination for Teaser Lead of the Year, thank you very much). Britt was handcuffed to a pole on stage while wearing a pink boa as part of a Britney Spears concert in Nashville this week. No word on whether she shaved his head or beat him with an umbrella.
Chad Ochocinco was pulled over by police for the illegal tint of his car windows. He was disappointed to learn the encounter would not be featured on the Real Police Women of Cincinnati. But hey, wasn’t it still worth the risk on the off chance of being chased down and mounted by Mandy Curfiss? I think so.
R.I.P. Myra Kraft, wife of Pats owner Bob Kraft. By all accounts, she was an extraordinary woman dedicated to numerous charitable causes in the community. All of us at Foxboro Blog extend our deepest sympathies to the Kraft family during this difficult time.
As the third quarter began to wind down on Thanksgiving Day, there weren't too many happy Patriots fans. Their team was trailing the lowly Lions and seemed to be headed towards an embarrassing loss on the National stage. Then Tom Brady found Deion Branch, who orchestrated a zig-zagging run towards the end zone. After The Pats hung seven on the board to tie things up, they never looked back. They capped off the game with an explosive fourth quarter, that had all of New England thankful for their football team.
Past Top Plays
On Monday, one of the top Patriots’ linebackers of the last decade decided to retire from the NFL and take on a new role. Mike Vrabel, who played for the Patriots from 2001 to 2008, has now become the new linebackers’ coach at the Ohio State University. Vrabel will return to help his alma mater to help a program that is in dire straits with Jim Tressel out as the head coach and interim coach Luke Fickell at the helm.
We all remember the great memories that Vrabel gave Patriots’ fans. He was always a tight end in goal line formations making touchdown receptions in some of the biggest games in franchise history. Whether it is the Super Bowl against Carolina or the Super Bowl against the Eagles, Vrabel stepped up and made the plays.
Just look at the numbers: In addition to the ten touchdowns, he contributed on the defensive side of the football with 48 sacks, 11 interceptions and 13 forced fumbles over the course of his Patriots’ career. However, beyond the numbers, he is a guy who is always associated with winning.
In addition to his three Super Bowl rings, Vrabel was a winner on the collegiate level. As a Buckeye, Vrabel was a two-time All-American (’95-’96) and went 22-3 over the course of his career. However, the only blemish on his resume in Columbus was two losses to their most hated rivals, the Michigan Wolverines.
I’ll give you this guarantee. Vrabel might not affect the program in terms of wins right away, but he will bring character to this program for the first time in a long time. He will make these linebackers bring 110% to every practice and have them thinking about teamwork rather than which guy has the nicest tattoo.
We at Foxboro Blog wish Vrabel the best of luck and we want to say Thank You to him for all the great memories he gave Patriots fans over the course of nearly ten years!no comments