Could Eagles switch to 3-4 defense?

Philly still does not have a defensive coordinator in place, and with Andy Reid having so little say in the defense, the new direction of this unit is still wide, wide open. I would think that the Eagles would prefer to stay in their base 4-3, but if the best defensive coordinator candidate specializes in a 3-4, it’s a move the Eagles must consider. In a league where to beat elite teams the ability to confuse their quarterbacks is essential, mixing in some 3-4 looks may end up being very helpful. However, do the Eagles have the flexibility on their roster to seamlessly transition to a 3-4?

Defensive line: In a 3-4, defensive linemen are asked to engage and occupy gaps instead of penetrating and rushing the quarterback. Obviously, I oversimplified this, but essentially, defensive linemen are usually responsible for one gap in a 4-3 but two gaps in a 3-4. The Eagles are one of the few teams that run a two gap scheme out of a 4-3 though, meaning that the technique would not change all that dramatically should the Eagles choose to go in the 3-4 direction. What does change is where players must line up. Our stoutest, most powerful player must man the nose tackle spot, where he must control the line of scrimmage. Mike Patterson and Antonio Dixon would be the two players rotating in and out at this spot. The big questions are on either side of them. Who will play the five technique and use their long arms to be able to play two gaps at once while being a disruptive force in rushing the passer? Brodrick Bunkley and Trevor Laws are really the only two Eagles who could fill these spots, and only Bunkley is starting material. This would be a position we address in the draft, where I really like Temple’s Muhammad Wilkerson in the second round. Here’s the projected depth chart here:

LDE: Antonio Dixon (6’3″, 325), Trevor Laws (6’2″, 305)

NT: Mike Patterson (6’0″, 295), Antonio Dixon (6’3″, 325), Jeff Owens (6’1″, 305)

RDE: Brodrick Bunkley (6’2″, 305), Jeremy Clark (6’3″, 295)

The Eagles have a ton of undersized, athletic pass rushers who could be great 3-4 rush linebackers. They would also only have two off-the-line linebackers instead of three in this scheme, which could eliminate one of the weaknesses from a year ago. Really, the linebackers are not the issue here, it’s the defensive end spot. Here’s the projected depth chart for linebackers.

LOLB: Darryl Tapp (6’1″, 270), Brandon Graham (6’2″, 265), Ricky Sapp (6’4″, 260)

LILB: Jamar Chaney (6’1″, 245), Moise Fokou (6’1″, 235)

RILB: Stewart Bradley (6’4″, 260), Keenan Clayton (6’1″, 230)

ROLB: Trent Cole (6’3″, 270), Juqua Parker (6’2″, 250), Daniel Te’o-Nesheim (6’3″, 265)

It’s clear that the Eagles’ current personnel is best suited for the 4-3, and tampering with it too much could really damage our run defense. Many think that by switching to a 3-4, the defense will magically transform into something like Pittsburgh’s or Baltimore’s unit. That simply is not the case, though I would not be opposed to occasionally flashing some 3-4 looks to keep opposing passers on their heels.

  1. #1 by Ty martin on January 21, 2011 - 10:20 am

    i researched last Super Bowl winners since 1988. they have 3 things in common.. 1) run 28 x a game 2) 2 players with 10 sacks or more(usually 1 or both are LBs) right there Andy reid was not big on LBs OR running the ball. 3) qb 65 passing % or more and less than 11 int

  2. #2 by Ty martin on January 21, 2011 - 10:20 am

    FIRE REID !!!!!!! did U KNOW Westbrook heading into the Super Bowl ave 5.1 as carry pats ran Dillon 28 times Reid ran 14 times. Reid in playoffs against Packers ran MCcOY 12 TIMES ….this mcCoy ave 5.2 yds a carry. Reid does not give his team a chance

  3. #3 by Ty martin on January 21, 2011 - 10:27 am

    Andy should have ran west coast O like Bill Walsh did. Walsh had Montana and Rice and still ran 28 times a game Craig 22 and Rathman 6 carries. Montana in 1 SB was 22-24 so Walsh ran 28 times and threw 24 with best qb in game. if that was Reid he would have joe throw 50 times like he did mcnabb in Sb and only ran westbrook 13 times. we know #5 threw 3 picks was 30-51 ……remember Manning and Brady only SB losses only ran 16 times. Manning SB win Colts ran 42 times and Pats AVE 28 in wins

  4. #4 by Ty martin on January 21, 2011 - 10:33 am

    4-3 or 3-4 does not matter …Lb’s that rush qb are what Super Bowl teams have like Harrison, Woodley(steelers)Mcginest, Vrabel(pats) vrabel,bruishei (pats) steelers in Big bens first Sb but forget the 2 lb with 10 sacks or more…..Sb teams have 1 player with 10 sacks but not 2…..Giants who beat high power Pats had De with 10 Stahan with 9 Lb with 10…..EAGLES need a harrison,vrabel,romanowski, or Mathews type LB WHO SACK QB TO WIN THE SUPERBOWL. this year eagles LB WITH most sacks was Sims with lol 2 sacks

  5. #5 by hope4superbowl on January 21, 2011 - 10:45 pm

    I would have to disagree with you there. Really, to win the Super Bowl, you have to play to your strengths. Had we run LeSean McCoy behind the offensive line we had against the Packers 28 times, we would have been punting a lot more. Don’t think that just because we hand it off more often that we will become a more efficient offensive team. Also, you’re absolutely correct that we need more out of our pass rushers. That’s why I’m so excited about Washburn coming to town. However, the teams who have 10 sack linebackers are 3-4 rush linebackers, not 4-3 linebackers.
    I would also argue that teams that run a lot have the luxury of running or do so to keep the lead. Against Green Bay, we fell behind 14-3, and sticking with the ground game would have been a poor strategy in our race against time. Most teams who run a lot pad their stats by slowing down games to try to protect leads. When you play from behind, that’s not really possible. That also explains why when Brady and Manning lose, their teams do not run as often. Really, playcalling is scripted for a drive or two, but the flow of the game really dictates the rest, regardless of how the gameplan was originally drawn up.

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