The Impact of a 4-3 On Our Safety Positions

The impact of a 4-3 on our Safety Positions



If the rumors are true, our team will be implementing a 4-3 Defence this year which will mean that our last line of defence will be revising their responsibilities and tasks.  We will no longer be implementing the “Robber” rather we will be going back to standard base 1 coverage.  How do our current players look in this new formation, let’s break this down.

For all the fans that have been watching our team in years past we have implemented the base 1 coverage, look back to our Wanny era where our safeties were Brock Marion and Sammy Knight.  These two safeties roamed the field with different responsibilities in both run and pass coverage. 

Run and Pass Coverages 3-4 vs. 4-3

In 3 – 4 the strong safety would come down and play a box 1 cover, basically play a LB spot and creating a spy on either the TE, RB or QB (think Vick or Newton).  The premise is to play soft box coverage until the play is called.  Reacting to the pre-set or audible reads.  In most cases the SS would be either mimicking a LB responsibility adding depth in case of run play.  Whereas in the pass plays the SS would be playing his box 1 trying to create mismatches against TE or RB.

The Free Safety in a base call would take the Robber assignment value.  As the SS drops into a box 1 coverage the pre-set read for the Free Safety would be start hovering around in the backfield.  The premise is to rob the QB of any plays.  If a pass is called he is in perfect position to react to quick slants by jumping the route, or provide over the top help in case a CB has lost his jam coverage.  If a run is called the FS would be playing an last line of defence in terms of sweeps or cut 1 back styles. 

In a 4-3

As there is an extra LB in the formation, the SS no longer comes down to play the box 1 coverage rather,  his responsibility is now revised as well as the FS. Assuming a base coverage is called, both Safeties now have the same responsibility playing base 1 coverage.  This style of coverage is similar to the Robber technique in that it  requires both safeties to deploy a soft zone 1 coverage.  The Safeties will deploy a split zone 1 coverage and use their knowledge on pre set calls to either shift the coverage to a strong (closer to the line of scrimmage) or weak (further away to the line of scrimmage) stance.  For a run play both safeties would be playing a strong soft 1 coverage.  If the call is base man coverage look for a FS/SS spy to be called.   A spy is a direct read on a certain player.  Your primary objective is to read and react to only that player.

Now I am not sure who our DC will be but there are different formations that can be used for our Safeties within pass coverage.  One formation that is common around the league is the zebra technique.   If you watch the Eagles or Bengals both safeties room the field using the crossing reference patterns.  The Zebra technique is over/under support, and we saw this with Brock Marion and Sammy Knight.  The premise of this technique is to confuse the QB that a man formation is played throughout the secondary, however switch the ‘type’ after the ball is snapped.

It’s costly if you don’t have the proper players adjusting to the open field, which bring us to the next point, which current players on our team can play in 4-3 D.  Unfortunately, Yeremiah Bell our longest tenured player built himself up to play in Box 1 coverage in a 3-4 D, and with his strong cap hit of 6 million it will be sad to see 37 no longer playing in the aqua and teal.  However, I do think he could still play  and would  like to see him remain on our team, if he is willing to accept a restructured contract.

Culver, Jones and Clemons can and should all be cut.  I am tired of watching them try to play this position.  I think it would be great to see Jimmy Wilson move back to any Safety but he really showed some promise at the end of the year playing CB.

Based on our discussion with other phinphantics on our forum (which you should definitely check out) the consensus is that this is a very weak draft for the Safety position.  The only player worth targeting is Mark Barron from Alabama.

The free agent pool is another story, and if we do sign Cincy DC, guess who is available; Reggie Nelson.  Nelson was a former first round pick of the Jaguars that got traded to Cincy a few years back.  He is an UFA and is trying to shed the bust label.  Perhaps a reunion is in place to bring this former Gator home.

 Either way, the suspense is killing me. I am looking forward to seeing who will be controlling our D.


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  • rayfromnj

    This was a great article who ever wrote this knows there football great breakdown detail. And yes i think j wilson will be a very good secondary player with us shows great promise. Free safety positiin must be addressed its been a while since we had a good one.

  • Swimming Pool Expert

    With free agency and the draft ahead, key players can be picked up to fit the new scheme, but how do you turn those fast a light 3-4 linebackers in to the stubby stoat linebackers needed for a 4-3. In 4-3 you need a good agile run stopping safety as well.

  • rayfromnj

    Good point i think dansby and wake can stop a train if need but i question the strength and weight of our other linebackers. Keep an eye on linebackers as we get into free agaency and draft as well.

  • rayfromnj

    Wake played middle line backer in lro bowl last year and did well. Wake can do it all lets say.

  • Giacomo1

    @Swimming Pool Expert Jimmy Johnson drafted fast linebackers a la Zack Thomas. Thomas was the middle linebacker in the “Hitman” defense that he ran. Dansby is the MLB, Koa an OLB (possibly SLB) with Burnett OLB. The Dolphins are better stacked at LB for the 4-3 now than the 3-4. Depending on the Defensive philosophy, The DT’s keep the OL off of the MLB so he can make tackles sideline to sideline. Wake moves to DE along with Merling. While Odrick (who could also play DE), Olshansky, McDaniels and Stark move to DT. All of this is a base 4-3, but the pass-happy NFL would be more of a nickel Defense.

  • Bahamas

    Thanks my friend

  • OrangeandTeal4Real

    @rayfromnj If the 4 -3 is in order…then I would put Wake strictly as a down lineman. In no way shape or form within the 4 -3 is Wake standing up. Wake did very well against the run and I see similar production next year. His ability to set the edge in run plays was fantastic and we all know how well he can do in passing situations coming off the edge. The hard part is finding another consistent rusher on the other side. Odrick/langford. Soliai is gone. Kendall Langford will flex in heaving run down situations. Shame JT hung em up…could use him from a depth standpoint.

  • OrangeandTeal4Real

    @Giacomo1 @Swimming Pool Expert Olshansky is gone. Good Riddance

  • OrangeandTeal4Real

    @Bahamas Right on with everything. Except 3 of our DB’s Clemons/Culver/Jones won’t be cut…although Jones and Clemons def. deserve to be. Culver has a lot of Special Teams value. Its time for one of those boys to grow up and grow up now….hate to bring in another Gibril Wilson situation.