I’ve said it before in my Xs and Os columns but I’ll say it again to start this one: the 3-4 is the best defense in football.
This is why I was thrilled when the 3-4 defense was introduced to Green Bay in 2008. I’ve written several articles over the 3-4 and how the Packers use it, but there is always so much more to dive into when discussing this defense. It can be as simple or complex as you want it to be. Just to reiterate, here are some of the reasons I love the 3-4 so much:
- Pressure can be brought from multiple angles
- You can play elements of the 4-3 with 3-4 personnel
- It is flexible
- You can disguise pressure
My fourth point is what I’m going to be going over in this edition of Xs and Os. I’ve touched on it briefly before, but this week we’re going to go to the film and really show what it means to disguise pressure. Mike Pettine is one of the best in the league at doing it, which I believe will give the Packers an advantage as the defense starts to take shape in Pettine’s second year as the Packers defensive coordinator.
In this first clip, I want you to keep an eye on Blake Martinez. Usually, his depth is anywhere from 5-7 yards off the line of scrimmage. Here, he is lined up on the line of scrimmage in Pettine’s over front in the dime package.
The 3-4 defense can cause a lot of confusion for offensive lineman. Some teams are used to facing a base team with 4 down lineman, all with their hands in the dirt. To me, this is too predictable. The offensive lineman know from the get-go who is rushing and who isn’t. It makes their lives easy in pass protection because they have a good idea of who they are picking up unless a twist stunt is ran.
In this look, it puts a lot of pressure on the center. Not only does he have to deal with Martinez lined up over his nose, but in the back of his mind, he has to be thinking about how he is going to pick up the shaded 1 tech to his right. The offensive line usually will have to make all sorts of checks in order to know who is picking up who.
Then there’s the snap. Martinez gives a two hand punch and drops into coverage. The secondary is showing a man coverage look presnap with no deep safety. Stafford might be thinking he has a shot at a quick slant or something underneath. Martinez then gains good depth and bats down the throw. Everything is timed up perfectly.
Even with no player lined up on the line of scrimmage, players can still be adjusted slightly before the snap of the ball to get pressure on the passer. That is exactly what happens here from the slot corner.
Notice the slight take off from Breeland before the ball is snapped. Stafford again has no idea who is rushing, but this time from a different perspective. From what I saw on film, Mike Pettine has brought more pressure from the slot corner that what I have seen from previous years. Personally, I love the idea of it. The biggest thing that separates Mike Pettine from Dom Capers is that Pettine knows when to bring pressure from his defensive backs. Capers, on the other hand, relied too heavily on it and ended up getting burnt.
The pressure here is just enough to force a quick throw from Stafford and ends up being incomplete.
The double-A front has become a staple in Pettine’s playbook when he has nickel or dime personnel on the field. It has become widely popular across the league, being run by both 4-3 and 3-4 teams. I love the look. Again, it stresses the center as to who is going to block and who is picking up who.
The double-A front has the interior defensive lineman lined up in 3 techniques, which means both players are shaded outside of the offensive guard. The Sam and Will linebackers (edge players) are lined up outside of the tackle or tight end and are responsible for playing force, or forcing the play back to the inside. And of course, the Mac and Buc (inside) linebackers are lined up in the A gaps.
The reason the double-A has become so popular is the limitless blitzes you can run from it. Here, Pettine could rush one linebacker and drop another, rush both, drop both, rush one and drop an edge, and so forth. You get the idea.
On this play, both the Mac and Buc players are showing rush. Look at their stance and how they are staggered. At the snap, both drop and get in their underneath zones, leaving a 4 man rush. This pass is completed, but the thing I want you to focus on is the look up front, not necessarily the result in the secondary.
A look that was run, what seemed more often than not, this year from Pettine was one ILB playing over the top while the other was rolled up on the line of scrimmage. This told me that he was comfortable letting Martinez rome the middle and allow him to play tackle to tackle. It is also a great way to disguise who is rushing and who is dropping.
Notice the situation created by walking up one inside linebacker. The edge, interior defensive lineman and inside linebacker all create a tough situation on the guard and tackle. Essentially, it is a 3 on 3 situation. The tackle, guard, and running back all have to be on the same page if they know all three players are rushing. The Packers show rush but drop at the last second. The defense is in a good position but sadly, did not execute on it. The coach can only do so much to put players in position to make plays. It is up to the players to execute it.
I know I’ve said it before, but the defense has a lot of potential this season. Mike Pettine is going to have some new key additions on defense that I feel with fit right in with this scheme. With practice and repetition, we could be seeing a dominate defense in Green Bay this season.
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