Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Could a 3-4 Defense Work in Seattle?

By Chris Sullivan

After hearing yesterday that Aaron Curry has been taking some practice snaps at Defensive End, I started thinking about the Seahawks defense might look in years to come (I'm not sure why -- Curry would undoubtedly remain a LB if the Hawks did move to a 3-4, but whatever). We have noted before on here that a number of the new defensive coaches have some, if not most, of their experience operating from a 3-4 defense. Do the Seahawks have the pieces to run a hybrid 4-3/3-4 defense?

The Line

The Seahawks bolstered their defensive line this year by adding nose tackle Colin Cole and Defensive End / DT Cory Redding. They also made an attempt to acquire Chris Canty, the standout 3-4 DE from Dallas. If the Hawks were looking to move to a 3-4 defense, these two additions would seem to be key. I imagine the line would be Cory Redding - Colin Cole - Patrick Kerney/Lawrence Jackson. Jackson has the ability to slide in and play DT in 4-3 and has the size (and frame to add more bulk) that you look for in a 3-4 End.

The problem here is that Cole would be the main cog on the defensive line in the 3-4. The Hawks will not intentionally take Brandon Mebane out for more than a few plays each drive. Though Mebane has proven that he can be a very good nose tackle, it appears that his best fit is in the three-tech position. If he can get 6.5 sacks with two blockers on him just wait until next year, right?

The Linebackers

Well, not a whole lot changes here. OLBs will remain Curry and Hill and they will likely continue their less-than-typical lineup with the Weakside--Hill--being the dominant pass-rusher and Curry dropping into coverage more frequently against the TE on the strongside. The roles are fluid though, as both Hill and Curry will be asked to cover and to rush the passer. Inside Linebackers would be Tatupu (obviously) who would remain the QB of the defense, and likely DD Lewis or Will Herring. Herring brings cover skills that none of the other linebackers can match, which would take some of the pressure off the OLBs despite that not frequently being the main role of the ILBs. Lewis and Tatupu are both good against the run, so they would likely be the guys.

Long Run Prospects?

I'd say that the likelihood of us seeing a lot of 3-4 is fairly minimal this year. The guys are learning an all-new system anyway, so throwing wrinkles in doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Still, in the coming years it would present an opportunity for the Seahawks to show another look to offenses and to bring the versatility that we keep hearing about to another level. In order for the Seahawks to flash a lot of 3-4 in coming years, the two positions that would need to be filled are a second Inside Linebacker with a rush-stopping specialty and a second large defensive end to fill in for the likely-departing Cory Redding.

What are your thoughts? Where am I wrong?