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View Full Version : Football 101: 4-3 vs 3-4


JayCee
03-07-2007, 04:39 PM
Just been reading the thread of the signing of Danny Clark and it got me thinking - what are the advantages / disadvantages of a 4-3 & 3-4 defense?

I understand the basic concepts that in a 4-3 the DE rush the QB, and in a 3-4 the OLB rush the QB.

Why would a team pick a 3-4 formation over a 4-3?

TEXANS84
03-07-2007, 04:40 PM
Why would a team pick a 3-4 formation over a 4-3?

Disguise.

Ole Miss Texan
03-07-2007, 04:45 PM
basically you have the 4 guys up front rushing the whole time...against 5 OL. In a 3-4, you have the 3 guys up front rushing the whole time. you then have 4 linebackers...so the offensive line doesn't know where the 4th rusher is coming from...left middle or right.

personally, i like the 4-3 we've switched to better.

Texan_Bill
03-07-2007, 05:03 PM
basically you have the 4 guys up front rushing the whole time...against 5 OL. In a 3-4, you have the 3 guys up front rushing the whole time. you then have 4 linebackers...so the offensive line doesn't know where the 4th rusher is coming from...left middle or right.

personally, i like the 4-3 we've switched to better.

^^^^^ what ole miss texan said ^^^^^^^

The 3-4 can be very successfull, but you need all the right pieces. As witnessed, the Texans could never get those pieces put in place. They tried using 'tweener' players to try to make that work (i.e. Peek, Babin). The 3-4 can be effective in pursuit (sideline to sideline) but another downfall of the 3-4 can be that a strong offense that can run effectively between the tackles, can run right at you...

thunderkyss
03-07-2007, 05:12 PM
a 4-3 usually consists of a 4 man front, where a 3-4 consists of a 5 man front.

With a 3-4, although you gain one man on the front, you lose size, but pick up speed. Generally speaking, DLmen are larger & slower than LBs.

Even in a 4-3, a DE can drop into coverage, and a LB could be used to pressure the QB. This should be as confusing as any 3 man fronts. However finding a DL that is big enough to "push" OTs & athletic enough to actually drop in coverage isn't as easy as finding 2 LBs with enough speed to get around the edge, and pressure the QB.

IMHO, and it's just my opinion, But the 5 man front gives the 3-4 an advantage against the run..... the extra speed (with the extra LB) gives it an advantage in pass protection.

But your players have got to be smart & selfless.

thunderkyss
03-07-2007, 05:33 PM
^^^^^ what ole miss texan said ^^^^^^^

The 3-4 can be very successfull, but you need all the right pieces. As witnessed, the Texans could never get those pieces put in place. They tried using 'tweener' players to try to make that work (i.e. Peek, Babin). The 3-4 can be effective in pursuit (sideline to sideline) but another downfall of the 3-4 can be that a strong offense that can run effectively between the tackles, can run right at you...

Tweeners wouldn't be a word, if it weren't for the 3-4. The goal is to find "tweeners" to play the 3-4.

You need the speed of a LB, with the strength of a DE.

That's Merriman, Porter, & McGinnest...... & Babin. That's Marcus Spears, Chris Canty, & Olshansky... And Mario Williams

Tweener is not a four letter word, they're usually some of your better athletes.

JayCee
03-07-2007, 05:34 PM
a 4-3 usually consists of a 4 man front, where a 3-4 consists of a 5 man front.

With a 3-4, although you gain one man on the front, you lose size, but pick up speed. Generally speaking, DLmen are larger & slower than LBs.

Even in a 4-3, a DE can drop into coverage, and a LB could be used to pressure the QB. This should be as confusing as any 3 man fronts. However finding a DL that is big enough to "push" OTs & athletic enough to actually drop in coverage isn't as easy as finding 2 LBs with enough speed to get around the edge, and pressure the QB.

IMHO, and it's just my opinion, But the 5 man front gives the 3-4 an advantage against the run..... the extra speed (with the extra LB) gives it an advantage in pass protection.

But your players have got to be smart & selfless.

So what makes a LB good in a 3-4 but not in a 4-3? I take it since it has been said that Orr would suit a 3-4, he was the speed to get around the edge, but why isn't he suitable for 4-3?
What I'm struggling to understand is why would a LB be good in 3-4 but not in 4-3 where it appears to me that in a 3-4 they have more of an demanding role (main pass rusher, stop the run and coverage).

Cheers for the advice though guys - I am truely starting to get addicted to this game!

thunderkyss
03-07-2007, 05:46 PM
So what makes a LB good in a 3-4 but not in a 4-3? I take it since it has been said that Orr would suit a 3-4, he was the speed to get around the edge, but why isn't he suitable for 4-3?
What I'm struggling to understand is why would a LB be good in 3-4 but not in 4-3 where it appears to me that in a 3-4 they have more of an demanding role (main pass rusher, stop the run and coverage).

Cheers for the advice though guys - I am truely starting to get addicted to this game!

If I'm not mistaken, Orr is a converted DE. In the NFL, he's not big enough to play DE. He's also not athletic enough to play LB. We've got him on the strong side, but he can't hang with a TE.

True, that the role is more demanding. Peek should be a LB, but he supposedly can't be taught how to play the position. I don't know what that's about.

texasguy346
03-07-2007, 05:48 PM
So what makes a LB good in a 3-4 but not in a 4-3? I take it since it has been said that Orr would suit a 3-4, he was the speed to get around the edge, but why isn't he suitable for 4-3?
What I'm struggling to understand is why would a LB be good in 3-4 but not in 4-3 where it appears to me that in a 3-4 they have more of an demanding role (main pass rusher, stop the run and coverage).

Cheers for the advice though guys - I am truely starting to get addicted to this game!


An OLB in a 3-4 is generally closer in size with a 4-3 DE (250-270lbs). The coverage responsiblities of a 3-4 OLB is less demanding than those coverage responsibilities for a 4-3 OLB. For example a 4-3 OLB might be expected to cover the TE or slot WR in man coverage. You'd never expect a 3-4 OLB to cover a slot receiver. The 3-4 OLB are generally much better pass rushers & for the most part are converted DEs from the college ranks.

Texan_Bill
03-07-2007, 05:52 PM
So what makes a LB good in a 3-4 but not in a 4-3? I take it since it has been said that Orr would suit a 3-4, he was the speed to get around the edge, but why isn't he suitable for 4-3?
What I'm struggling to understand is why would a LB be good in 3-4 but not in 4-3 where it appears to me that in a 3-4 they have more of an demanding role (main pass rusher, stop the run and coverage).

Cheers for the advice though guys - I am truely starting to get addicted to this game!


LOL.... So that tells me that Orr isn't either one. He can always be a special teams demon... lol

*Edit* late in the day, I meant to quote TK about Orr....

nunusguy
03-07-2007, 05:53 PM
Tweeners wouldn't be a word, if it weren't for the 3-4.
It may have origionated as the term to describe players who were too small
to be DEs and not agile or quick enough to be LBs in the 4-3, but ideal
as 3-4 OLBs. Who knows, maybe some clever coachs conceived the scheme to take advantge of tweeners. I dunno, was it the chicken or the egg ?
But it also is used for other players who have some skils/characteristics for
2 different positions but not enough to be well suited for either.
For example: SS/LB, DE/DT, TE/WR, etc.

Texan_Bill
03-07-2007, 05:57 PM
Tweeners wouldn't be a word, if it weren't for the 3-4. The goal is to find "tweeners" to play the 3-4.

You need the speed of a LB, with the strength of a DE.

That's Merriman, Porter, & McGinnest...... & Babin. That's Marcus Spears, Chris Canty, & Olshansky... And Mario Williams

Tweener is not a four letter word, they're usually some of your better athletes.

Thats kind of what I was trying to say... But after I re-read my post it sounds like I was saying just the Texans were looking for 'tweeners' and somehow implied thats why it didnt work for the them.. But you are right, the term tweener wouldn't exist without the 3-4....

I also agree that when you find the right tweener, they are some of the better athletes on the field...

Carr Bombed
03-07-2007, 05:57 PM
Its much easier to find talent in the 4-3 than it is in the 3-4.

Thats why I like the 4-3, this team being a expansion team should of never got fancy. I think messing around with the 3-4 when it was clear this team was lacking in the talent department put this team behind, especially when you have a GM that can't even find talent to fit in it.

The 4-3 is much safer.

MojoX
03-07-2007, 05:59 PM
Here are some useful links:

http://www.footballoutsiders.com/2005/06/16/ramblings/strategy-minicamps/2665/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_England_Patriots_Strategy

I'm a big fan of 3-4 defenses.

There are different ways of executing out of a specific formation. There is a diffence between what Capers was doing in Houston and what Wade was doing in San Diego. I remember Belichick once saying there is very little difference between the 3-4 and 4-3 zone blitz schemes. Can't find a link but here is something to chew on:

Bill Belichick on the differences between 3-4 and 4-3 (http://www.allthingsbillbelichick.com/quotesfootball.htm):

"I think it depends on what type of defense you're playing against. There are a lot of different versions of a 3-4 and a 4-3. You have 4-3 teams that are over and under teams, that are blitz zone teams, that are man-to-man coverage teams, that are pretty much zone teams that mix them. Same thing with 3-4 defenses. So I think it really depends on not so much what front they line up in, but what style of play they have and what you're going to try to do with it how to attack it from a coverage standpoint and how to deal with the pass protections and your assignments in the running game. And again, that to me really depends a lot more on how they play it than what they initially line up in."

The style thing is really important. That is why a cat like Foley could leave Capers and look All Pro under Wade and probably why Peek might finally break out now that he is with the Browns.

thunderkyss
03-07-2007, 06:50 PM
Its much easier to find talent in the 4-3 than it is in the 3-4.

Thats why I like the 4-3, this team being a expansion team should of never got fancy. I think messing around with the 3-4 when it was clear this team was lacking in the talent department put this team behind, especially when you have a GM that can't even find talent to fit in it.

The 4-3 is much safer.

I thought our defense was pretty stout in our early years... offense was the problem... or the bigger problem.

Navy_Chris
03-07-2007, 07:03 PM
Just been reading the thread of the signing of Danny Clark and it got me thinking - what are the advantages / disadvantages of a 4-3 & 3-4 defense?

I understand the basic concepts that in a 4-3 the DE rush the QB, and in a 3-4 the OLB rush the QB.

Why would a team pick a 3-4 formation over a 4-3?

3-4 is much more complex for an offense to read and conquer. Richard Smith would like to run out of the 3-4 'occasionally' to catch offenses off guard. Haven't seen much of it though.

dbspi
03-07-2007, 07:16 PM
Its much easier to find talent in the 4-3 than it is in the 3-4.

Thats why I like the 4-3, this team being a expansion team should of never got fancy. I think messing around with the 3-4 when it was clear this team was lacking in the talent department put this team behind, especially when you have a GM that can't even find talent to fit in it. The 4-3 is much safer.

If you have good GM and coaching staff who excel in evaluating players and are good then it is not too difficult to find the personnel. Bottom line is that We had awful coaching staff and the GM who were just very bad when it came time to evaluate players and this is the reason we struggled so bad. Look at Dallas, SD, NE, or any other team play 3-4, they always find the players they need. Dallas built their 3-4 defense within 2 years where as we struggled during Capers time period.

Look at our drafts and personnel move and that will tell you how awful our coaching and administrative staff were to begin with. Capers and Casserley were total ineptitude when it came time to evaluate players.

Personally speaking I wished we still had 3-4 defense. I am not a big fan of 4-3 defense.

Navy_Chris
03-07-2007, 07:33 PM
If you have good GM and coaching staff who excel in evaluating players and are good then it is not too difficult to find the personnel. Bottom line is that We had awful coaching staff and the GM who were just very bad when it came time to evaluate players and this is the reason we struggled so bad. Look at Dallas, SD, NE, or any other team play 3-4, they always find the players they need. Dallas built their 3-4 defense within 2 years where as we struggled during Capers time period.

Look at our drafts and personnel move and that will tell you how awful our coaching and administrative staff were to begin with. Capers and Casserley were total ineptitude when it came time to evaluate players.

Personally speaking I wished we still had 3-4 defense. I am not a big fan of 4-3 defense.

True. Very few teams in today's NFL excel at running the 3-4. When I say excel, I mean dominate. lol. I would prefer a 4-3 if I was DC of my team. I may throw in the occasional 3-4 wrinkle, but that's about it. I think the 3-4 exposes you to the run a lot more, also. That's a big downside to it, and a big reason I think only a handful of teams dominate with a 3-4.

Stros5Texans80
03-07-2007, 07:44 PM
Would Mario Williams be able to play in a 3-4 Defense? Don't the DE need to be alittle on the big side to play that style?

Navy_Chris
03-07-2007, 07:45 PM
Would Mario Williams be able to play in a 3-4 Defense? Don't the DE need to be alittle on the big side to play that style?

He gets dominated by double teams already. He would fit in perfectly in a 3-4 defesnse.

Stros5Texans80
03-07-2007, 07:46 PM
Who would we look for anyway if we did say switch into a 3-4 this year? Would we have gone after Adalius Thomas?

Erratic Assassin
03-07-2007, 07:47 PM
The biggest problem with the 3-4 is that you pass on Julius Peppers because he doesn't fit your system and you give the shop away to get a smallish DE like Jason Babin then force him to play out of position.

Is it too late to trade David Carr for Julius Peppers?

Navy_Chris
03-07-2007, 07:52 PM
The biggest problem with the 3-4 is that you pass on Julius Peppers because he doesn't fit your system and you give the shop away to get a smallish DE like Jason Babin then force him to play out of position.

Is it too late to trade David Carr for Julius Peppers?

I'm thinkin' maybe.

A Texan
03-07-2007, 08:02 PM
If run correctly, the 3-4 can be very effective. Teams like the Pats and the Steelers have really put themselves on the map with it and don't forget Bum Phillips with the Oilers used it. Since DE's in a 3-4 are really just tackles, a 3-4 team would not draft DE's like Peppers or Mario.

Navy_Chris
03-07-2007, 08:20 PM
If run correctly, the 3-4 can be very effective. Teams like the Pats and the Steelers have really put themselves on the map with it and don't forget Bum Phillips with the Oilers used it. Since DE's in a 3-4 are really just tackles, a 3-4 team would not draft DE's like Peppers or Mario.

True, but Mario would fit in well as a 3-4 DE in my opinion. He's not the 'traditional' fit, but he'd be worth a shot.

dbspi
03-07-2007, 11:30 PM
In 3-4 defense, you really have to have really stud linebackers and your DL line has to be big with massive NT in the middle.

It's shame that Capers never found any linebackers to his liking in 3 years where as other teams who run 3-4 defense were able to find the personnel to run their defense. If you look at the Dallas team, they switched to 3-4 defense after us but they were able to find all the personnel in the draft and FA to effectively run 3-4 defense.

We wasted our draft picks for the first three years when we had 39 draft picks between 2002 - 2005. All we have to show for is DRob and AJ.

This should tell you exactly how good of personnel evaluator Capers and Casserley were.

South Texan
03-07-2007, 11:53 PM
I thought our defense was pretty stout in our early years... offense was the problem... or the bigger problem.

I remember it that way too. Of course that was before we traded away Glenn and Sharper and picked up P-Buch. <sigh>

JayCee
03-08-2007, 02:20 AM
So pretty much every team would be playing a 3-4 if they had the talent available to them? Well, thats the impression I got from the links that MojoX posted (cheers for that by the way, really helpful).

Actually I have a question about Peppers - why wouldn't he be suited plaing OLB in a 3-4? From all the highlights I've seen him play, he looks freak'n fast and obviously he's strong enough to shed blocks.

Carr Bombed
03-08-2007, 03:25 AM
I thought our defense was pretty stout in our early years... offense was the problem... or the bigger problem.

The players on that defense were nothing but fillers in the last few productive years of their careers. I really don't even recognize most of them as Texans anymore, they were just "loaners". Payers just holding down spots waiting for Casserly to find a replacement for them and when he couldn't and most his FAs and draft picks flopped the bottom fell out from underneath the defense and team.

Its not all Casserly's fault though, Caper's played a equally big role. He tried to build us the same way he started with the Panthers, its just too bad he didn't learn from his Panther years.

The team we have now is our first "home grown" team, since now all the expansion players are gone. (well most of them, I think McKinney is the only one left) We are just now starting to build a good young nucleus on defense, but still have never achieved a Identity on offense, hopefully that changes this offseason.