Wednesday, January 6, 2010

On the 3-4

Lots of discussion and, might I say, apprehension about bringing in a defensive coordinator who favors the 3-4 defense, as opposed to the current 4-3 base the Giants currently run.

Okay, so let's talk about it. A bunch of people are running the 3-4 right now. And if you remember, the Giants had great success with it in the '90s under Bill Parcells. The trick to running the 3-4, of course, is having the right personnel to do it with. Which means fleet linebackers who can blitz, cover, and stop the run with equal ease, and a big nose tackle to two-gap around the center.

The Jets do it. Miami does it. Green Bay and Dallas do it. Baltimore does it. So do Pittsburgh and New England. All of those teams generally have pretty fair defenses, wouldn't you say?

So why all the consternation about bringing in, say, a Dom Capers or a Bob Sutton or a George Edwards, or even a Pepper Johnson -- someone of a 3-4 mentality? Well, for one thing, head coaches tend to be slow to change. And the Giants have run a 4-3 base since the days of Dan Reeves, so switching up would represent a tremendous sea change in defensive operation. Still, given the results of this season, perhaps such a drastic change will be deemed necessary.

Besides, the Giants already play a 3-4. Not all the time. But situationally. They did it under Steve Spagnuolo, too. Every once in a while, you'd see the three down linemen and four linebackers, usually in some pass rush situation.

But this would be the base formation, and that's where all the questions about personnel come in. To me, it boils down to a nose tackle and the linebackers. Can Barry Cofield, who plays over the center anyway in the Giants' 4-3, serve as a strong, gap-plugging nose tackle in a straight 3-4?

The answer is, I'm not sure. At 304 pounds, he trends toward the light side. And given his past season, where he was often pushed around, I doubt opponents would have to devote a center AND a guard to block him, which kind of defeats the purpose of the 3-4. Then again, if he could put on 10 or 15 pounds of muscle and get all his strength back from the offseason knee surgery that slowed him throughout the season, maybe he could fit in there.

That leaves the defensive ends. Chris Canty probably could serve as one, given his height and wingspan. And wouldn't you just love to see Justin Tuck in a sort of Leonard Marshall role? He's already shown he can work effectively from a more inside spot, so why not give it a try? Besides, he's quick enough to pick off an offensive tackle from there to keep him away from an outside linebacker, too.

The linebackers are a problem. Mathias Kiwanuka can serve as one outside linebacker, certainly. He stops the run well enough, and has enough pass rush skills that I'd feel comfortable with him on the weak side. But Michael Boley isn't really a strongside guy. And what to do with Osi Umenyiora. Maybe Kiwanuka on the strong side, stand up Umenyiora and let him pass rush from the weak side, and perhaps let Boley play one of the inside positions?

And who takes the other inside position? Remember, in the 3-4, the runs are going to be funneled up the gut, so you need a strong-tackling linebacker there. Did anyone this year show that quality? I like Jonathan Goff, but I'm not sure he's ready to become the team's premier tackler.

Chase Blackburn? No. Bryan Kehl? Not yet. And what if one of them has to drop into coverage? You remember what happened then, right?

Still, if a quality mind comes along and happens to be a 3-4 guy, I say they ought to try it. Throw some pounds on Cofield, and then draft a fast linebacker who can cover at No. 15. That would be a good start if the Giants go in that direction.

Might be worth a shot. Yes? No?



  1. No mention of Sintim. You must not be to high on him, huh?

  2. Sorry. I can't really make up my mind where he'd fit in, as a defensive end or outside linebacker? I just don't think we've seen enough of him to determine anything. A true player in limbo.

  3. I was originally against a 3-4, for some of the same reasons you said: no DT, suspect linebackers and the fear of losing the importance of Tuck as an end.

    But if you think Cofield has the ability to play the nose, Tuck won't lose his impact as a pass-rushing end, Kiwi and Osi can move to a stand up position and they can get a solid tackler at the LB spot, I'll be OK with it.

    But, my concern is, well, there's a lot that has to go right in order for the Giants to have success with this formation.

    With the 4-3 you already have the majority of the pieces, you just need an upgrade. The 3-4 relies so heavily on a solid NT and exceptional LB's. We don't have that.

    All those teams you mentioned have some sort of combination -- Ratliff and Ware and James; Wilfork and Mayo; Clay Mathews and AJ Hawk, among others; Baltimore has that big NT (whose name I can't spell) and Ray Lewis among others; Pittsburgh -- James Harrison and a few others.

    We don't have one player that is in that class with those guys. Tuck is better than Ratliff, but that's it. I just think the 4-3 is easier, unless, as I said Ern, you think the Giants have a nose and suitable linebackers, but I just don't see it.

  4. i cant see the giants current personnel being effective in a 3-4, but then again they arent effective in a 4-3

  5. ernie how would a health jay alford fit in? this year i think they really missed the push he can provide from the inside

  6. Agree that a 3-4 actually makes some sense, but a couple of points. Cofield is not a NT but did play a lot of 3-4 DE in college and would provide some decent depth there. And in many ways Kiwi and Sintim are already somewhat miscast as tweener DE/LBs on a 4-3 team and look more like 3-4 OLBs anyway. And while Osi isn't necessarily a natural 3-4 OLB he would still fit especially on third downs. Rememeber the concept of the 3-4 has changed since the days of Parcells when it was considered primarily a running stuffing D but in recent years the successful 3-4 teams have had quick OLBs who can get after the QB and are sometimes tough to find to block. On the other hand, there realy isn't a true NT on the team and likely would have to find one elsewhere - Cody in the draft although it might be a tad early for - plus they probably could use another LB but need one anyway.

  7. Ernie, The only way we can convert to a 3-4 is with major changes to the front 7. If we decide to go 3-4 getting a true nose tackle via free agency is a must. Counting on Cofield to bulk up and hold up at a new position is just unrealistic. Canty and Tuck would make nice 3-4 ends but converting would almost guarantee a trade of Osi. He just does not fit into a 3-4 defense at all. At least with Kiwi we could move him to LB....again. This poor kid isn't going to know whether he's coming or going for crying out loud. Then we still have to figure out what we're going to do at LB. Just doesn't seem like it's gonna happen unless Mara is really going to be opening up the check book this off season. After Reese's debacle last year I hardly think Mara is willing to do that.

  8. Ernie, did the Giants run a 3-4 under Tim Lewis?

  9. Now that Waffle is gone....who knows?

    Chris B.

  10. Interesting point about Alford. I completely forgot about him. And heading into the season weren't they expecting big things from him? I mean, like Pro Bowl things.

    I wonder if he could be a NT. I guess it's doable now that I think about it. Canty and Tuck on the outside, Alford in the middle. But who would be our LB's? that is my biggest question.

    I guess we would have Osi, Kiwi, Goff, Sintim, Boley, and possibly McClain or some other solid draftee. But where do you play them all?

    Who's ILB with Goff? Boley? We need to have really good OLB's who could rush the passer. Maybe Kiwi. Could Osi stand up? If not they have to trade him. Who's the other OLB? Boley? If Osi can't stand up I think we only have one OLB -- Kiwi. Boley's fast enough, but I don't think he is a good enough pass rusher to play OLB and he's definitely not big enough to play ILB.

    Could Sintim play OLB? He's big enough to play ILB, but I don't know his talent level or if he's fast enough to play outside. I think with Kiwi and Goff you have two solid LB's for a 3-4 and you have two good ends with Canty and Tuck.

    You would still need two LB's and a nose. I guess that would depend on Alford and the draft. They have Boley, but I don't know if Boley fits in a 3-4.

  11. I think a 3-4 with THIS personnel would make us look back at this year as the good ole days. The LBs to play a 3-4 defense don't exist on the Giants roster. Yes, the Giants played 3-4 when we had guys like LT and Harry Carson and Gary Reasons. None of the current LBs are fit to carry LT or Harry's jock. Goff MAY develop into something special, then again, maybe we have already seen his best. So, to cover up the inadequacies at LB, NY will need an elite NT. Cofield as an elite NT?!?!? Ernie, c'mon, you can't believe that even another 10 pounds of muscle will make that transformation possible. Bad idea. All that will mean is next season there will six plus games where the D gives up 50 points or more. Can't make players into something they aren't. This group is NOT a 3-4 defense. Pigs can want to fly, doesn't mean it can actually happen.

  12. No. The Giants ran the god-awful Cover-2 under Timmy boy. Remember his final year? It was 2006, Strahan got hurt and then Osi got hurt. And Lewis refused to blitz because he said the secondary was terrible.

    So by the end they had William Joseph, Kiwi, Robbins and Cofield as their front four.

    But to be fair that team only allowed 362 points, and had some injuries (also finished 8-8), but in the playoffs.

  13. This is crazy talk. No way should we go to a 3-4. 4-3 all the way. Our LBs are terrible, our DE are our strength - these are the guys that should be getting the sacks.

  14. i think that 3-4 isn't a bad idea in general, but with our personnel, at this time, it IS a bad idea. we switch to 3-4 and i don't see us being genuine pla-off contenders for another 2 seasons. which wouldn't matter so much if the whole team was going through changes, but Eli and the O are ready for some play-off action for the next 2 years at least i feel.

  15. there's so much spread offense in the league these days, i think that the three four aint a bad idea. the only thing we really need is a baddass nose tackle, and a strong mlb. we got tons of olb/end hybrids - Osi, Kiwi, Sintim... Sintim and Kiwi are both used to playing pass-rushing linebacker. I almost feel like we're more cut out for 3-4 then 4-3 at this point. Canty and Sintim are both from 3-4's, and Kiwi played strongside.

  16. The D definitely needs a shake up, so maybe a 3-4 isn't a bad idea, but in my opinion we need A LOT of changes for it.

    Cofield, or any other DT on this team, is not set to be an effective NT, so we'd have to acquire one and make Cofield, Robbins, Alford all expendible (I assume Bernard will be gone regardless). Since Osi would be less effective in the 3-4 OLB role, I see him as trade bait to attain a good draft pick for a NT or to land one from another team (I assume all those big name NT FAs will re-sign with their clubs).

    Ernie, I'm shocked that you didn't mention Sintim. His use as both an LB and DE this year makes him a GREAT candidate for a pass rushing OLB in a 3-4 system.

    I'm also not enthused about Kiwi's coverage ability in a 3-4 or Boley in a 3-4.

    There's the matter of Pierce leaving and having to find a quality ILB too.

    I dunno....I love the idea of any big change to shake things up, but I just don't see us moving to a 3-4 with these players.

    Then again, if you're going to rebuild your D into a quality 3-4 system, what better time to do it than in an uncapped offseason???