http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1520 ... r-bowl-run
also a blast from the past:
INDIANAPOLIS -- At one point in the early years of this millennium, two teams -- the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers -- used a 3-4 scheme as their base defensive front.
At least 10 teams, nearly a third of the NFL, plan to run different forms of the 3-4 scheme in 2009, a product of the success of the aforementioned Patriots and Steelers, who have won the Lombardi Trophy five times out of the nine awarded this decade.
That kind of success makes it easy to understand why so many have gone to the 3-4.
Finding the correct players isn't quite so simple.
In the same way the proliferation of spread offenses in college makes evaluations difficult on that side of the ball, defenses built to stop them are forcing a slew of NFL teams to "project" more than ever.
"I don't see very many teams play a 3-4 against a spread, and I'd have to go back and look at the USC film, from the perspective of scheme rather than people, to see if they played it," Indianapolis Colts president/GM Bill Polian said. "Off the top of my head, I think more people go to the '4' front against it and use the fast rushers, so that makes it tougher for the 3-4 people."
The differences come in alignment and spacing.
Most college defensive ends project to be outside linebackers in the 3-4, a position that is more of a stand-up end than anything else.
Taller defensive tackles project as the NFL ends, and the stout tackle prospects play on the nose. On top of that, just about all linebackers stationed off the line of scrimmage likely wind up at inside linebacker in the pros.
In general, ideal front-seven players in the 3-4 are bigger and need to take on and defeat blocks more often in the running game.
The projection is problematic since, more and more, collegiate fronts are filled with players built to rush and cover and get into gaps, rather than control them, to stop the run.
That's why today's college linebacker might be yesterday's safety, and guys who would've been ends years ago are now at tackle. Which is, to say, finding the bigger players often associated with the 3-4 isn't easy.
"There is some risk involved, particularly when you're talking about hybrid linebackers," said Arizona Cardinals GM Rod Graves, whose team runs a hybrid 3-4/4-3 front. "You've got to get out and work those guys out, you've got to send your coaches out and make sure those guys fit what you're hoping they can accomplish on the field.
"And even in the style of defense that they're in, you don't get an idea whether that ability fits what you're trying to do. That puts greater emphasis on getting out there and working that kid out."
It's taking Brian Orakpo or Everette Brown and putting him in coverage. It's seeing how Peria Jerry or Ziggy Hood might look playing on top of the offensive tackle. It's making a judgment on how a B.J. Raji can absorb double teams in the middle of the line.
Not all 3-4 schemes are the same, either. The Bill Parcells/Bill Belichick model is based on defeating blocks. The Steelers' model gets players upfield. The Ravens' model is built to confuse opponents.
But whether it's Parcells or Belichick or Dick LeBeau or Rex Ryan or Wade Phillips calling the shots, if done right, they all cause similar problems.
"It just gives some more balanced rushes. You never feel like you're out of whack in terms of the rotation," said Denver Broncos coach Josh McDaniels, whose defensive coordinator, Mike Nolan, will start transitioning players into his own 3-4. "You don't have to do certain things based on the formations the offense lines up in because you're pretty much balanced.
"When you cut it right down the middle, it is what it is. There are as many guys on this side as there are on that side, and it gives you more flexibility. The challenge is finding the players that fit really well in it, and that's what we're after."
And so Denver starts the process now, looking at college players as much for what they can be as what they are.
As Graves said, there's risk. But as those in New England and Pittsburgh know, the rewards can be great.
"First of all, Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick, the Steelers, they know how to find them, for sure. Their records indicate that," Polian said. "Secondly, yeah, you can find them, you just have to project them away from what they're doing at the college level and to your level. For example, Brian Cushing is a perfect 3-4 outside linebacker, to pick one player.
"And there are equally good defensive tackles that can be 3-4 defensive ends. It's really not very difficult to see. And the people who use that defense, and I'll use Bill Parcells as the prime example, because he went in and completely revamped Miami, he knows exactly what the template is and he's going to go in and get it right."
Staff writer Albert Breer covers the NFL for Sporting News. E-mail him at email@example.com