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The 4-3 defense is by far and away the most utilized defensive formation in all of football, why? Because it accounts for all the gaps by using the down linemen and a single linebacker on every down—freeing up the Mike(McClain, Goethel, Brown)on every down, and either the Sam(Groves, Howard, Davis)or the Willy(Wimbley, Williams) so they can play reactive defense depending on which way the play flows. Sam or Willy will fill either “C” or “D” gap when the play flows their direction(if the DC is on the stick, Sam will usually fulfill this function and Willy can play backside, watching for the RB out in the flat in a dumpoff route). Theoretically, this scheme accounts for all running plays, and should eliminate the screen(the “free” LB's should spot the screen easily).
On passing plays, all three linebackers will drop back roughly 15 yards to their zones, Sam and Willy in the slot, Mike in the middle---on a Sam or Willy blitz, Mike takes the empty spot outside with the SS taking up the slack in the middle, and on a Mike blitz, the outsides cover their normal zones with SS fulfilling the middle zone assignment. Sam ALWAYS hits the TE at the line of scrimmage before committing to his zone(unless he is blitzing, then Mike has the TE). Clear as mud? As far as I'm concerned, the Raiders are looking REALLY good at the linebacker positions, but, when looking at this depth chart, it is easy to see the “dead weight” that could be trimmed this offseason.
In the 4-3, the CB's will generally play a tight zone defense, with the likes of Nnamdi covering the boss receiver. In nickel package, the SS is replaced by a CB, and they generally go to a “cover 1” or man coverage with the FS dropping deep and never allowing anybody behind him.
Routt got picked on a bit last season, but he showed his mettle. If Nnamdi leaves, Routt would find himself filling those enormously big shoes, and that leaves us stuck with CJ, McFadden, or Ware to fulfill the weak side assignment------we need to find a CB either in free agency or in the draft, this should be a defensive priority.
In this scheme, the Strong safety(Mitchell, Branch)is responsible primarily as a run support player, he is to run the lane and smack the dogshit out of the running back, or wreak havoc on a TE catching a short pass. He is a reactive player who keeps his eyes on the QB and the ball. I don't know, but, Oakland looks pretty solid at this position right now, which brings us to the Free safety position.
Huff, Eugene, and Brown. Only one name stand out to me, Michael Huff, the other two are fodder in my humble opinion. The Free Safety position needs to be played by a smart, football savvy, film junkie of a player----the Free safety is responsible for calling the coverage on the field, and he is absolutely responsible for NEVER LETTING ANYONE BEHIND HIM. Huff is the only one we have that can fulfill this responsibility. Oh, look, two more guys who can be trimmed out, freeing up some money. Oakland needs to find a FS this offseason.
The defensive line has been doing an absolutely wonderful job of filling gaps and pressuring QB's. There is one obvious problem, look at the depth chart again, you see? We have but one Defensive End on the strong side—he is a pretty good one, but, he needs desperately to have someone to spell him on the field. Obvious need----Defensive End.
All in all, the defensive side of the ball looks pretty solid, and they are set up to run the 4-3 defense. I hope that some of you guys who call for the 3-4 can see how much that change would disrupt the whole personnel/scheme balance.