Walking The Tightrope


NFL is a copy cat league.  If it worked once, why not try it again.

We saw this first hand in the Wanny Era;  Wanny was trying so hard to mimic the Ravens Super bowl run – have an amazing defence, and solid run game.  Pay no attention to anything else.  We weren’t the only team that tried to mimic this formula either, Carolina, Washington, Chicago are other teams that tried to copycat the success of the Ravens.

So what is the latest trend…switching to the 3-4 defence.


We have a noticed a growing trend in the NFL the past few seasons.  No longer are we seeing the run first offences.  There is a new era in the NFL – the passing era.

Just look at the stats from last year:

 A record 12 quarterbacks threw at least 25 touchdown passes.

 A record 10 men surpassed 4,000 yards.

 A record five topped a 100 passer rating.
Figures extracted from NFL.Com

 More and more teams are starting to focus on fine tuning their offence, in order to optimize their talents into points for. 

The 3-4 Defence allows more playmakers to be on the field.  Best advantage of the 3-4 defence – you cover 9 gaps with 7 players.

But where is the loop whole? How can you expose this style of defence that more and more teams are starting to implement?

We saw one way unleashed two years ago – the Wildcat.  This is where the “evil empire” aka Patriots admitted that they were literally out coached.

But, there is another factor that a few teams are starting to focus on – which is the Hybrid Tight End.

Two NFL players that fit under this criteria – Vernon Davis, and Jermichael Finley.


2009Green Bay Packers135567612.352.062T591291
2008Green Bay Packers1467412.35.33512030

Extracted from NFL.COM/STATS


2009San Francisco 49ers167896512.460.373T13133400
2008San Francisco 49ers163135811.522.457252142

Extracted from NFL.COM/STATS

Just looking at the above data, the most glaring difference is the “Yds.”

Finley – 2008 vs. 2009 (74 vs. 676) – that’s a percentage difference of 89% (-and he played more games in 2008)

Davis – 2008 vs. 2009 (965 vs. 358) – that’s a percentage difference of 70%

As you can see, numbers don’t lie.

So what is going on here…how are these types of players exposing defences?

Let’s go inside the 3-4 defence.

Specifically we are going to focus on the match ups for TE – let’s put the spotlight on Green Bay’s offence.

The Packers love running a weak I lead, One Motion counter left (1 RB, 1TE, 2 WR, 1 FB RUN) 1st and 10 Sidebar – the difference between a weak I and a double I offence formation, is that the double I the RB is lined right behind the FB. Weak I, the FB is position at a 45 degree angle ahead of the RB)

Now we are on Defence

Nolan calls – his base 3-4

Man to man match up all the way – but remember the offence call – there is a motion (-which means Bell can creep up, remember from my last post)

Pre-draft motion – Finley moves from left to right – play is set and the ball is hiked.  Green Bay gains a 3-4 yrds.

What the OC is trying to do, is show this formation to the defence.  Now the OC, will now start calling this formation again and again throughout the game.  What he is trying to do, is show the run, and then do a play action. OR, show the offence set and instead of running it, throw a pass from it.

Basically, trying to bait the defence.

Let’s break the bait down.

Offence calls – right after calling
weak I lead, One Motion counter left (1 RB, 1TE, 2 WR, 1 FB RUN) 1st and 10

Revert (- which means same formation, but flipped meaning right to left) weak I lead, One Motion PA zig fly left (1 RB, 1TE, 2 WR, 1 FB Pass) 2nd and 7

Nolan see the offence set, and thinks, well they love this play, and they are going to be running the same play, but to other side.  Call’s a blitz.

Tiger Mike 3-4, cover umbrella

Once again we are going to see the TE motion…..

Defence see’s this, and thinks same play…let’s get them.  Mike and  Tiger (-mean Dansby and Dobbins will be blitzing, B and C gaps) Umbrella means that the secondary will be creating an umbrella in the backfield – think zone defence)

Aaron Rodgers hikes the ball, play action to Grant (-this bites not only the LB Danbsy and Dobbins to blitz harder, but also baits the secondary, which give Finely free cover)

Rodgers rolls to the left, see’s the zone, Finely is free, 10yrd completion and whatever YAC he gets.

Please understand that this is just one example, and there are many other “scenarios” to take into consideration.   But, I am seeing an increase in repetition on formations.  This is baiting 101.  The OC is trying to play mind games, so he can use his new hybrid TE to expose the 3-4 defence.

The main reason why this works against a 3-4 defence, is because of the “4.”  This means 4 LB’s.  Pop quiz name three LB’s that can keep up with Vernon Davis or J Finley?

Against a 4-3 Defence – you can switch and have a CB or FS cover the TE – so at least secondary can keep up with TE for break routes.

We have to pay attention to the offence calls, and having Nolan an experience DC, will only benefit us, but we have to watch the bait, or it will be our defence that will be walking that tightrope.