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Anatomy of the Best 3-4 Defenses

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  • Anatomy of the Best 3-4 Defenses

    Here is a look at the front-seven personel of the best 3-4 defenses in the NFL over the last few seasons, and how the Broncos will try to match up.

    1.) The Pittsburgh Steelers

    The No. 1 factor in the success of the Steelers defense in my opinion is DC D LeBeau. The guy is a mad scientist that has had his defense in place for several seasons, and all of his players fit what he wants to do, and know their assignments on a PhD level. While the Steelers have good players, they don't overwhelm you with their overall talent, but no body plays together better as a complete unit.

    NT Casey Hampton (6'1"-325) Former 1st round DC, 8th yr, Texas
    One of the best pure 3-4 NT's in the business.

    LDE Aaron Smith (6'5"-298) Former 4th round DC, 10th year, Northern Colorado....an under-rated player that holds the edge like a Pro Bowler for the Steelers.

    RDE Brett Kiesel (6'5"-285) Former 7th round DC, 8th year, BYU
    An example of a role player in the Steelers scheme that is not physically imposing or ultra-talented; he just gets the job done.

    LOLB LaMarr Woodley (6'2"-265) Former 2nd round DC, 3rd year, Michigan
    Woodley basically red-shirted his rookie season to learn the system, and was a very good player for the Steelers in his second year.

    LILB James Farrior (6'2"-243) Former 1st round DC (NY Jets), 13th year, Virginia. Very good player and leader of the defense signed as a FA from the Jets, and converted from a 4-3 OLB.

    RILB Lawrence Timmons (6'1"-234) Former 1st round DC, 3rd year, Florida St.
    Closer to a disappointment than a player, Timmons will replace another very average player in Larry Foote, the starter last season

    ROLB James Harrison (6'0"-242) Undrafted FA, 6th year, Kent St
    Like Joey Porter and Greg Lloyd before him, fits the role of what the Steelers want as an outside pass rusher. Self-made player as an undrafted FA that became the NFL's defensive MVP last season.

    The obvious wild card is the play of SS Troy Polamalu, who is an unbelievable presence in the Steelers 'D' and takes them to another level. Few team have a safety that can match his skills.

    2) Baltimore Ravens
    The Ravens continue to play the 3-4/4-3 hybrid defense Mike Nolan introduced after Marvin Lewis left to become HC of the Cincinnati Bengals.

    NT Kelly Gregg (6'0"-310) 6th round DC (Cincy), 9th yr, Oklahoma
    Former wrestler with great leverage will try and rebound after missing last season due to injury. Vet Justin Bannan (6'2"-310) filled in admirably for Gregg last season.

    LDE Haloti Ngata (6'5"-340) 1st round DC, 3rd yr, Oregon
    Beast of a man that holds the edge in the 3-4, and can drop down to a 4-3 DT.

    RDE Trevor Pryce (6'5"-290) 1st round DC (Denver), 13th yr, Clemson
    Found a new lease on life in B-more after being released by Mike Shanahan.
    Started to show his age a bit last season.

    LOLB Jarrett Johnson (6'3"-265) 4th round DC, 7th yr, Alabama
    Perfect example of a role-player in the defense that does not 'wow' anyone.

    LILB Ray Lewis (6'2"-250) 1st round DC, 14th year, Miami
    Best ILB in the history of the NFL, IMO, that was rejuvenated last season...play had been slipping prior to that, however. How much does he have left?

    RILB Tavares Gooden (6'1"-235) 3rd round DC, 2nd yr, Miami
    Second year player will try to replace Bart Scott.

    ROLB Terrell Suggs (6'3"-260) 1st round DC, 7th year, Arizona St
    Huge new contract keeps the converted DE with the Ravens.

    Like the Steelers, the Ravens have a future Hall of Famer in Ed Reed that contributes far more than what goes on the stat sheet on the back end of their defense.

    3.) Dallas Cowboys
    Wade Phillips still has a top ten defense in the NFL with the Cowboys. DeMarcus Ware is the big factor, as the rest of the front seven is not overly impressive.

    NT Jay Ratliff (6'3"-298) 7th round DC, 4th year, Auburn
    Converted DE proof you don't need a monsterous NT to run a solid 3-4 defense.

    LDE Marcus Spears (6'4"-302) 1st round DC, 4th year, LSU
    Career underachiever will likley be playing his last year in Dallas.

    RDE Igor Olshansky (6'6"-308) 2nd round DC (San Diego), 5th year, Oregon
    Under-rated player that will probably replace Spears on the left side in 2010. Very solid run defender.

    LOLB Anthony Spencer (6'3"-255) 1st round DC, 3rd year, Purdue
    Finally gets to establish himself as a starter in the wake of Greg Ellis' departure.

    LILB Bradie James (6'2"-239) 4th round DC, 6th year, LSU
    Solid player in the inside for the Cowboys.

    RILB Keith Brooking (6'2"-242) 1st round DC, 11th year, Georgia Tech
    Cerebral vet familiar with Phillips defense...how much does he have left?

    ROLB DeMarcus Ware (6'4"-257) 1st round DC, 4th year, Troy St
    Along with Merriroid, the most dominant outside pass rushing force in the NFL.

    TBC in next post
    Last edited by MindField; 08-04-2009, 11:23 AM.

  • #2
    Under construction

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    • #3
      So, I take it in a year or two, the Broncos defense will look a lot like the current Baltimore defense?
      sigpic
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      • #4
        4.) San Diego Chargers
        The system Wade Phillips implemented under Shottenhiemer will be tweaked by current DC Ron Rivera, and helped by the return of pass rushing monster Shawne Merriman.

        NT Jamal Williams (6'2"-348) 2nd round DC, 11th year, Oklahoma St
        The best NT in the biz sets the front for the Chargers.

        LDE Luis Castillo (6'3"-295)
        Good, solid, if somewhat over-rated player on the defensive line.

        RDE Jacques Cesaire (6'2"-295) Undrafted FA, 6th yr, So. Conn. St
        Will compete with Ryon Bingham (6'3"-303) for the starting job.

        LOLB Shaun Phillips (6'3"-262) 3rd round DC, 6th yr, Purdue
        Exposed for being somehting less than an elite player in Merriroids absence last season.

        LILB Stephen Cooper (6'1"235) Undrafted FA, 7th yr, Maine
        No one benefits more from the presence of Williams than Cooper.

        RILB Tim Dobbins (6'1"-245) 4th round DC, 4th yr, Iowa St
        Will compete with former Cowboy Kevin Burnett for the starting spot.

        ROLB Shawne Merriman (6'4"-272) 1st round DC, 5th yr, Maryland
        Monster pass rusher inspires his teammates, and takes them to another level.

        5.) New England
        The Patriots have the best front three of any 3-4 defense, but it did not save their defense from slipping last season.

        NT Vince Wilfork (6'2"-338) 1st round DC, 6th yr, Miami

        LDE Ty Warren (6'5"-300) 1st round DC, 7th yr, Texas A&M
        Holds the edge for the Patriots on the strong side. Under-rated player.

        RDE Richard Seymour (6'6"-310) 1st round DC, 9th yr, Georgia
        Big name player has been living off past reputation more than anything else in recent years.

        LOLB Adalius Thomas (6'2"-268) 6th round DC (Baltimore), 10th yr, So. Miss.
        Former Raven hasn't had the impact expected when he signed with the Pats.

        LILB Jerod Mayo (6'2"-241) 1st round DC, 2nd yr, Tennessee
        Defensive Rookie of the Year made the instant impact Pats needed.

        RILB Tedy Bruschi (6'1"-247) 3rd round DC, 14th yr, Arizona
        Last Patriot holdout from Parcells/Belichick era and SB XXXI.

        ROLB Pierre Woods (6'5"-250) Undrafted FA, 4th yr, Michigan
        Unproven player one of the question marks of the front seven.


        The other two defenses I will take a look at are the Miami Dolphins, who continue to use the same 3-4 sets Parcells and Belichick used back in the
        80's with the NY Giants, and the NY Jets, who will bring in Rex Ryan's system this year, and who expect to be a good defense.

        Conclusion

        The first thing I noticed about these defenses is the stability of the systems that have been brought to them by the coaching staff, particularly the DC's.
        Obviously, that is something that has been missing for the Broncos for several seasons with their seemingly revolving door at DC.

        This comparison is not intended to favorably compare the Broncos personnel to what these defenses have, but to simply serve as a road map as to what they have to become, and the kind of stability they need in philosophy if they are going to improve from the depths of the defensive rankings.

        I do believe the Broncos have some parts in place, but the ultimate success of their switch to the new defense depends on some unknown qualities in players like first round draft choice Robert Ayers, the development of convered d-linemen like Elvis Dumervil and Tim Crowder, and if other players like Marcus Thomas can live up to their potential.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by SheerCold View Post
          So, I take it in a year or two, the Broncos defense will look a lot like the current Baltimore defense?
          It would be far too presumptuous to assume anything like that.

          This is just a look at these defenses, and they type of personnel they have, the systems they have and how they were built.

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          • #6
            FYI Haloti Ngata plays Nose Tackle for the Ravens now if I'm not mistaken.

            Also, your assessment of Lawrence Timmons is unfair and unjustified. Did you see the kind of stats he posted as the #3 inside linebacker??? That's why the Steelers were more than happy to part with Larry Foote, because Lawrence Timmons is an upgrade in ALL areas at that second inner linebacker position.


            sigpic


            FA Targets: DT Jason Jones, DT Pat Simms, S Reggie Smith, LB Dan Connor



            :cool:

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            • #7
              Oh and you should probably post up the San Francisco 49ers defense, because our defense is almost an exact replica of what they are doing over there.

              Elvis Dumervil- Parys Haralson

              Robert Ayers- Justin Smith

              DJ Williams- Patrick Willis

              Renaldo Hill- Mark Roman

              etc. etc.


              sigpic


              FA Targets: DT Jason Jones, DT Pat Simms, S Reggie Smith, LB Dan Connor



              :cool:

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              • #8
                Originally posted by SheerCold View Post
                So, I take it in a year or two, the Broncos defense will look a lot like the current Baltimore defense?
                I personally thinkl that our D will look more like the steelers. The ravens have much better 'individual' talent than we do currently, whuile the steelers have more no-namers who do their jobs extremely well. either way we should be in good shape eventually.


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                • #9
                  Originally posted by daspeedster View Post
                  I personally thinkl that our D will look more like the steelers. The ravens have much better 'individual' talent than we do currently, whuile the steelers have more no-namers who do their jobs extremely well. either way we should be in good shape eventually.
                  lol no-namers. The steelers d is far from a bunch of no-namers. I think denver's going to need some young good players to be there, because, as it stands now the defense (at least the secondary) is relatively old. And just because a team has a bunch of no-namers on D (there are plenty around the league) doesn't mean they'll look like the steelers D. Maybe just the no-name aspect will be similar but that's about it lol
                  Congratulations...

                  @ Week 11: Chargers took it.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by daspeedster View Post
                    I personally thinkl that our D will look more like the steelers. The ravens have much better 'individual' talent than we do currently, whuile the steelers have more no-namers who do their jobs extremely well. either way we should be in good shape eventually.
                    Steelers have the best defensive coordinator ever. Broncos have Nolan.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      i'd say the thing you need most to be a great 3-4 defense, truely great

                      is a good to great safety, or very competent safety play

                      san diego , that's been keeping them back (well aside from last year when merriman's injury kept them back) from appraoaching ravens pitt status

                      now that NE doesn't have rodney, they're going to have to have some safety step up if they're going to get back to elite D status


                      pitt and baltimore, as long as their safeties are healthy, are fine

                      we've seen both pitt and baltimore fall off for a season when polamalu and reed missed time due to injuries

                      as for dallas, they also need a safety

                      what's been keeping them from elite status was the rapid decline of roy williams before they released him (he was declining for YEARS) and pat watkins flat out sucked at times. maybe he'll get better


                      IMO having competent safety play, or a great safety, will make alot of difference


                      and of course you have to have a good dline, that's a no brainer
                      sigpic

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Chiefs > You View Post
                        Steelers have the best defensive coordinator ever. Broncos have Nolan.
                        I would say Nolan is one of the best out there..probably top 10 or so. You say this like we have Bob Slowik as our DC. Fortunately for us and unfortunately for you Slowik is not coming back to coach the defense, and Nolan is. Ya, I'm going to say that Nolan is better than Lebow cause he isn't, but he's still one of the better ones in the business.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by abernardo View Post
                          lol no-namers. The steelers d is far from a bunch of no-namers. I think denver's going to need some young good players to be there, because, as it stands now the defense (at least the secondary) is relatively old. And just because a team has a bunch of no-namers on D (there are plenty around the league) doesn't mean they'll look like the steelers D. Maybe just the no-name aspect will be similar but that's about it lol
                          im saying that their D doesnt have the big names that other teams have like baltimore and dallas. im not saying people dont know theyre name. tell me, whose name on the steelers D is bigger than ray lewis or ed reed? troy polomolu is the closest. Our D can be similar because were picking up hungry defenders who will play their position well, not big names.

                          its the same in new england, the D isnt filled with big names across the board.


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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by jcdavey View Post
                            i'd say the thing you need most to be a great 3-4 defense, truely great

                            is a good to great safety, or very competent safety play

                            san diego , that's been keeping them back (well aside from last year when merriman's injury kept them back) from appraoaching ravens pitt status

                            now that NE doesn't have rodney, they're going to have to have some safety step up if they're going to get back to elite D status


                            pitt and baltimore, as long as their safeties are healthy, are fine

                            we've seen both pitt and baltimore fall off for a season when polamalu and reed missed time due to injuries

                            as for dallas, they also need a safety

                            what's been keeping them from elite status was the rapid decline of roy williams before they released him (he was declining for YEARS) and pat watkins flat out sucked at times. maybe he'll get better


                            IMO having competent safety play, or a great safety, will make alot of difference


                            and of course you have to have a good dline, that's a no brainer
                            I don't really think that having great safetys make your defense great, I think they just put the icing on the cake. The front 7 makes your defense great. Pitt had (IMO) one DB that was above average (granted that was Troy P and he is elite) but still, the other 3 guys looked like pro bowlers because of that front 7. Pitt would constantly be forcing oppenents into 3rd and long (obvious passing situations) and then just put there nose down and get after that QB, usually with only 4 or 5 guys coming at the most. I just think as long as you don't have terrible safety play (Roy Williams in coverage), a truly dominant front 7 is the key to a great defense.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by getlynched47 View Post
                              FYI Haloti Ngata plays Nose Tackle for the Ravens now if I'm not mistaken.

                              Also, your assessment of Lawrence Timmons is unfair and unjustified. Did you see the kind of stats he posted as the #3 inside linebacker??? That's why the Steelers were more than happy to part with Larry Foote, because Lawrence Timmons is an upgrade in ALL areas at that second inner linebacker position.
                              Ngata plays NT, DT and DE in the Ravens defense, depending on what they are running.

                              Also, if Timmons was such a good player last season, why did Foote start over him at all?

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