The emergence of defensive hybrids changes everything…or will it?

As we laid out in several pieces covering the defense and its formations, there are two types of traditional defenses: a 4-3 and a 3-4. You can click the above link for a page containing many posts on the subject.

A defense’s base formation goes to the personnel (and DC). If they have four stout linebackers, they’ll want a 3-4. Maybe. Under Wade Phillips, this was our scheme because of Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware. He thought they were wasted in the 4-3 we had run under Jack Del Rio. Standing Ware up changed everything.

Shane Ray was supposed to be the guy to take over the SAM (strong side) spot; however, his wrist injury dampened that. This forced DC Joe Woods into more 4-3 and 5-2 line ups using Bradley Roby as the nickel. On top of that, Wolfe was injured creating even more variations and changes.

He also went away from a traditional Cover 2. As a result, our defense, as a whole, wasn’t as good. Our run stop was aces at the LOS, but after that, we faltered. Zone didn’t seem to be our forte, but as written above, the injuries of Ray and Wolfe altered whatever plans they may have had.

With the amount of dual players in this year’s draft, Woods and Elway have a choice: keep morphing or draft a straight linebacker like, Tramaine Edmunds. Of course, at his age (19), he could be coached to play more roles.

If they pick someone like Minkah Fitzpatrick or Derwin James who’s a safety/corner/linebacker, they could continue to lean away from a standard base defense and go purely on the play.

There are two trains of thoughts on this. First thought is: if you have two or three hybrids and play per personnel, then do you have jacks of all trades and masters of none? The other is, if you only have masters at one role, do OCs turn this against you?

Bilichick has used this to a great degree of success when it comes to how he employs his running backs. You line up in your traditional coverage, Brady moves his halfback and bam, the D is caught out. His speediest guy matches up vs your slowest linebacker. If you have these hybrid types, you have less chance of bad match-ups because they can swap roles.

One thing is certain, when it came to stopping tight ends and runners around the edge or backfield receivers, we were caught flat footed. Verse slots, runners up the middle, receivers down the side, we were aces. But a speedy back or tight end in the middle, not so much. Also, in the red zone, stopping the run anywhere became an issue.

Overall, when it came to allowing TDs to TE’s and RBs, Will Parks was the weakest link. Our safeties gave up nine TDs, but Parks was responsible for 4 (thanks Jeff Essary for looking up the numbers), the linebackers four.

Adding Su’a Cravens should help, but we still need to draft a stud. Whether it’s James, Roquon Smith, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Denzel Ward or another, that player, regardless if he’s a master or jack-of-all trades, needs to give some serious help to our safeties. I know we think our ILBs were the weak spot, but when it came to scoring, the DBs faltered most.

Based on that, James or Fitzpatrick might be a great adds over Smith and Edmunds (that hurt to write). Which player they choose, could tell us where we’re heading–back to basics, or more cutting edge. Or maybe, we see a little of both. Some old school Bears 46 (look it up) with new school players.

Who knows, but this year’s crop of top defensive players at linebacker and DB give Woods and Joseph a lot of choices. With Ray and Wolfe healthy, we could blend the best of both worlds. I can’t wait to see what they do.

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