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Old 11-09-2008, 05:31 AM   #1
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Default TUCK'S TAKES: The real NFL supermen are 3-4 outside linebackers

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The nouveau supermen of the National Football League are capable of both dropping back into pass coverage and bull rushing offensive tackles. They can race around linemen like they are stuck in quicksand, yet jack up tight ends at the line of scrimmage and toss them aside like rag dolls. They are the most feared defensive players in the game today for a variety of reasons and they all have one thing in common: They play outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense.

Monday night's contest between the Redskins and Steelers was just the latest example of physical specimens with ornery attitudes with the Steelers' LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison having a tremendous impact on the outcomes of games. The duo wreaked havoc all night, combining for 3.5 sacks and a boatload of pressures. If you need further evidence into the dominance of these hybrids just look at the current sack leaders around the league. Names like the Dolphins' Joey Porter and the Cowboys' DeMarcus Ware join Harrison and Woodley among the top 10, and the outside 'backers for New England and Baltimore are not far behind.

What makes their stats even more impressive is that outside linebackers in a 3-4 scheme are often only in position to rush on obvious passing downs and have to take turns getting after the quarterback with their partner on the other side during early down and distance snaps. The flip side, however, is that opposing offenses often don't know which of the two will be rushing, making it a guessing game that often results in the outside linebackers being matched up one-on-one against tight ends and running backs, matchups that a superb pass-rushing outside linebacker should win 90 percent of the time. Offensive coordinators wake up in a cold sweat thinking about those nightmarish scenarios.

The problem is it is very difficult, if not impossible, to put together a pass protection package that puts an offensive lineman on both players in every passing situation. It simply can't be done, and if you attempt to fan out the offensive lineman on both sides to take care of the defensive ends and outside backers, you leave yourself extremely vulnerable to an inside blitz from a guy like the Steelers' James Farrior or the Patriots' Tedy Bruschi.

Coordinators who run a 3-4 also have a lot more blitz options at their disposal than the typical 4-3 offers. That means there is a much better chance that the offense's pass protection unit will get confused by a Dick Lebeau or Rex Ryan stunt that allows one of the outside linebackers to come free and get a clean shot on the quarterback. This schematic advantage, combined with an opportunity to get more leaner, faster athletes on the field, is yet another reason why I anticipate more and more teams to think about incorporating some 3-4 principles into their defense if not switching to a 3-4 entirely.

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Old 11-09-2008, 07:31 AM   #2
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Default Re: TUCK'S TAKES: The real NFL supermen are 3-4 outside linebackers

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This schematic advantage, combined with an opportunity to get more leaner, faster athletes on the field, is yet another reason why I anticipate more and more teams to think about incorporating some 3-4 principles into their defense if not switching to a 3-4 entirely.
We are incredibly dominant in a 3-4 right now but last year we weren't lighting up the boards with sacks and pressures. Hmmmmm. Also, I would imagine (as stated) that teams may consider simply "incorporating" more of the 3-4 principles, but can you expect them to be as effective if you don't have the 3-4 type players? I would honestly like to know what people think..
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Old 11-09-2008, 08:33 AM   #3
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Default Re: TUCK'S TAKES: The real NFL supermen are 3-4 outside linebackers

I can only HOPE that more teams DON'T decide to incorporate the 3-4 defensive scheme. That would definitely water down the talent pool during the NFL draft especially in the area of the so-called "Tweeners". Most 4-3 teams will let the tweeners slide down the draft boards. The Steelers have been fortunate enough to gobble up a few of those players, most recently DE/OLB Lamarr Woodley.

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Old 11-09-2008, 08:37 AM   #4
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Default Re: TUCK'S TAKES: The real NFL supermen are 3-4 outside linebackers

I'm amazed that the 3-4 works so well against the run.
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