Adjusting to the 3-4

Posted: January 7th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 79 Comments »

As we talk about ways to improve the defense, we have to remember that this was an odd year. The 3-4 system was new to most of these guys. Connor Barwin had played in the 3-4 in Houston. Same for DeMeco Ryans, but remember that was a 1-gap system. Mychal Kendricks played some 3-4 in college. Moving to Bill Davis 2-gap version of the 3-4 was essentially new to the entire front seven.

Playing in the 3-4 is vastly different than the 4-3, especially for the DL. As a rookie, Fletcher Cox was taught to attack gaps. If blockers got to him, his job was to shed the block and get to his gap. There were times when he had to take on double teams, but that kind of thing wasn’t a regular occurrence. Cox finished the year with 5.5 sacks, 5 TFLs and a FF. He made his share of plays. This season Cox had 3 sacks and 1 TFL. Cox didn’t get worse. He had to adjust to a new role.

This very well may have been the first time in his life that Cox was coached to engage blockers and read plays. It takes time to adjust to this style of play, especially as a new guy adjusting to the NFL. As a rookie, Chargers DL Corey Liuget played 3-4 DE for the first time in his career. He had 1 sack and 2 TFLs. In 2012 he had 7 sacks and 6 TFLs. Calais Campbell was a 3-4 DE as a rookie and had no sacks and 2 TFLs. That jumped to 7 sacks and 3 TFLs the next season. Since then, he’s emerged as one of the best 3-4 DEs in the league.

Not all guys develop like this. Some players never pan out in the 3-4. Cox does seem like a player who can fit any system. We watched him make some plays on the run this year where your jaw just hit the floor. Big guys shouldn’t run like that. And he’s not just a finesse player. Cox can take on blockers, hold his ground and disengage. The raw skills are there. You just have to think about what Bill Davis mentioned over and over…technique.

3-4 DEs must use the right technique to do their jobs effectively. They must use their hands correctly. They must move their feet correctly. They must play with the right leverage. They need to do all this in a quick, natural way. They can’t be thinking about technique since they need to be reading the offense to find the football. It takes time to become natural at the 3-04.

Cox had a good year. He didn’t make many plays, but was a good run defender. He pressured the passer. The Eagles official team stats actually had him leading the squad in QB pressures with 21. If Cox can take the next step and become a playmaker next year, it will be like adding an impact player to the defense. I think Fletch can do this. He’s got the size, speed and strength. He just needs to keep working on his technique and getting used to the 3-4.

Cedric Thornton and Bennie Logan should also get better, but neither of them has the same ceiling as Cox. Thornton made tremendous progress from 2012 to 2013. He was an outstanding run defender. He does need to improve as a pass rusher, but the primary thing you want from him at LDE is stopping the run. I’m not sure what Logan’s ceiling is. He played better this year than I anticipated. He’s proven he can be an effective starting NT. Can he become a flat out good player?

ESPN has Logan with 7 TFLs this year. They show that as the top spot on the team. Logan had 2. If you check out the Eagles official stats, they are a bit different. While Thornton only had 1 sack, he did show the ability to get in the backfield on run plays.

Vinny Curry is a player I am curious about. He reminds me a bit of Ray McDonald of the Niners. McDonald was a 4-3 DE/DT in college. He came to the NFL and became a 3-4 DE and Nickel DT. It took him a while to find his niche, but he’s now a very important player for SF. Curry is quicker and more explosive than McDonald, but isn’t as heavy or strong. Curry made huge progress this year. I’m really interested to see what he does with a full offseason. I don’t know that Curry would ever start for a 3-4 team, but he could become a critical backup/role player.

I’m less enthusiastic about Damion Square and Clifton Geathers. Square might develop into a good backup DL. He’s got limited potential, but is a try-hard guy that is smart and coachable. Those are key qualities in a backup. Square must get stronger so he can hold the point of attack better on run plays as a NT. I don’t know what to say about Geathers. He flashes good potential at times, but I sure wouldn’t trust him as a starter.

I hope Joe Kruger is able to seriously challenge Geathers for a spot.

Kruger is a good athlete. He can rush the passer. Him getting up to 290 is a good sign. Kruger was on IR this year so he didn’t get to practice, but he was there for meetings. He’ll know the scheme.

I trust Jerry Azzinaro to work with the young D-linemen and get them where they need to be by next year. That doesn’t mean it will suddenly become a dominant unit, but this is a young talented group that should get better and be the foundation for the defense moving forward.

* * * * *

Need a laugh?

The gift that keeps on giving.

_


  • http://iKillRats.com/ Charlie Kelly

    i like the DL.. cox i have confidence in him improving, throton and logan idk yet… thorton def showed what he got this year, but whats his ceiling? same thing with logan, he isnt a freak athlete or anything and he is undersized for the NT.. so i worry about his ceiling.. they are def a smart group, esp with gap integrity.. i feel so confident in playing vs mobile QBs… connor barwin is the best LB i have ever seen at not letting RBs get the edge on him.. what a great signing he was.

    • Erik Richardson

      Personally after seeing him drafted and play for 2 years, I don’t think Cox will be a “playmaker” or a “dominant” DLinemen. Call me crazy. But, I just have a feeling Cox will never be more than Mike Patterson. A good player, never dominant and never ascending to a star. He has time. But, I would think Cox would show more playmaking abilities than he has.

      • http://iKillRats.com/ Charlie Kelly

        i think he is already more then mike patterson lol..

        • Erik Richardson

          In potential only… Not in Production yet.

          • http://iKillRats.com/ Charlie Kelly

            huh? patterson NEVER had more then 4 sacks in a season.. cox had 5.5 as a rookie and 3 this year, cox has more sacks in his 1st year then patterson had his 1st 2 years.. cox had 7 pass defelctions his 1st 2 years mike had 2… not only does cox have way more potential but he has also out produced him… lol..

  • http://iKillRats.com/ Charlie Kelly

    geathers didnt flash for me at all.. hes just big.

    Def hope kruger can turn into something, when watching star loutulali (however u spell that) he would always flash… little concerned that he couldnt make the team tho…

  • Baloophi

    SEND TOMMY TO THE SENIOR BOWL!
    *** UPDATE: CHALLENGE COMPLETED! ***
    *** DOUBLE UPDATE: LAEAGLE ALSO DONATED! ***

    • Ark87

      Damn holidays have me scraping by until Friday, then Imma live large and donate, remind me!

  • Swifty

    Kruger is one of the players I’m most excited about. I an really hoping he can become a solid DE for us. He’s got the physical tools.

  • GENETiC-FREAK

    haha is that really Joe Banner?

  • GENETiC-FREAK

    Some tape on Kruger.. Good motor n hussle, good length n athleticism.. Sort of like Trent Murphy from Stanford
    http://youtu.be/NNUc_waKMrU

    • Anders

      I do think Kruger can be very good for us.

      I also think Murphy’s future in the NFL is as an 3-4 DE, but he could become very good there.

    • Mitchell

      He was giving that LT fits. Activate Kruger.

  • deg0ey

    I wouldn’t be at all surprised if one of the big guys from ND (Nix or Tuitt) ends up being BPA when the Eagles are on the clock. I think they could do a lot worse than bringing one of those guys in to play NT and make Logan more of a situational guy.

  • Frencheaglesfan

    I’ll be ok if thornton hit his ceiling, having a star DE like cox plus a guy like thornton, I don’t know what else to ask from the DE position.

    • Anders

      having JJ Watt, Wince Wilfork and Bruce Smith as your 3 down DL.

      • Frencheaglesfan

        Aha, ok makes sense, jokes aside, I don’t understand the need of some fans to ask for a mobile qb. What do you expect from foles, is talented enough to give us a W. He’s a human being, stop asking for Sangoku. (Anders I don’t say that for you :) ).

        • Joseph Dubyk

          I dont get the obsession w/ mobile qbs either

          • bill

            It’s a common logical fallacy. They mistake a subjective personal preference (they enjoy watching mobile QBs play) with objective reality (there are other ways to win in the NFL, and other ways to have an entertaining offense). Almost everyone, at some point in time (and likely very often) mistakes their own personally preferred solution as “the only legitimate solution.” It isn’t just a phenomenon in sports.
            I wish there was a better way of saying it, but “There’s more than one way to skin a cat” is a concept that more people really need to take the time to understand and use (obviously not literally, or Ms. Macur’s grandchildren will be writing nasty obituaries about you years from now).

          • 47_Ronin

            I read this and for some reason commentator “Shah8″ popped in my mind….

        • Anders

          For me, wanting a mobile QB simply comes from the fact that they often can extend a dead play (remember I became a fan when McNabb was playing at a HOF level) and our current scheme is based on the zone read (even with Foles did we run it much more than any other team) and there was several plays during the season where Foles simply couldnt get a first down because he wasnt fast enough.

          I do know that the ultimate QB is some sort of unicorn in the football world tho a guy like Steve Young or Aaron Rodgers (and now Andrew Luck and a few of the next wave of QBs is there) is pretty close to the ultimate QB.

          I actually think McNabb anno 2001-2009 would have been flat out unfair in Chip Kelly’s system. He had the mobility to execute zone read, he had the build to withstand the hits, he had over all good accuracy (He had sloppy footwork that AR never worked with him on, but McNabb did have the record for most completions in a row in the NFL history) and he was very smart with the football (super low int% for his whole career).

          • bill

            One of my critiques of the many arguments in favor of mobile QBs is this mantra of making plays when things break down. I admit, it’s great when a QB (or really any player) can do this. But it’s only a winning formula when it is in addition to being able to make plays within the offensive plan. If the coach can’t prepare his team with a plan to execute that attacks the weaknesses of the other team, you’re basically turning the game over to luck, in that you’re hoping your guy can be a one-man show. I can’t imagine offensively minded coaches like that approach – they tend to be control freaks, and have confidence in their own ability to scheme up good plans.
            So, while I enjoy the antics of the guys who are great at making plays when things break down, the guys who are really amazing, and the ones who tend to win SBs, are the QBs that can execute extremely well within the offensive scheme. If they can make plays outside of it, that’s gravy, not the main course, for me.

          • Anders

            100% and that is why guys like Steve Young or Tony Romo is so rare (and yes I did just compare Tony Romo to Steve Young)

  • Pingback: The Linc – Where do the Eagles go from here? | Sports Feedr

  • Corry

    I like Logan but I think he should be more of a rotational guy. I think ideally he would be your top backup and likely able to play all 3 spots on the defensive line. And honestly with him in that role, I think you could rotate the whole line pretty frequently.

  • ChaosOnion

    I keep hearing Curry is a liability in the run game. Is it his size or did offenses gash us when Curry was playing. Maybe I am only remembering the highlights, but Curry always seemed to find a way into the backfield and be disruptive when he was in the game. Was he just too aggressive?

    • mtn_green

      Curry would forget his assignment shoot the gap and leave a gaping hole. He got much better as season went on.

  • dave H

    PTI ripped fat Andy for his constantly passing in the 2nd half and continually stopping the clock; continually giving the colts the chance to have plenty of time on the clock to come back!! he COST THEM THE GAME!

    • CrackSammich

      To be fair, I have to imagine the game plan went out the window as soon as Charles got hurt.

      • ChaosOnion

        And then Knile Davis. And then Donney Avery. (And while not on offense, losing Brandon Flowers did not help either.)

        • dave H

          good points except that PTI didnt acknowledge that / instead they opined “that’s been going on in Phila for past 13 years!!!! — at that point his biggest opponent WAS THE CLOCK! — AND WHAT THE HECK WAS FAT ANDY CALLING A TIMEOUT FOR JUST AFTER THE 2 Minute Warning ??!!! what he couldn’t figure it out in 2 minutes??”
          ..so why doe she even have them on his roster then???
          id suggest that to keep it fair, that the 2nd 3rd & 4th RBs didnt faze a much smarter coach that him in Payton!

          • dave H

            (not meaning to use my Caps — sorry – im not intending to YeLL at you so to speak – oops/thanks)

          • CrackSammich

            Sure, the time out was unforgivable. But still, you should not run the ball if you can’t get a first down running the ball. And that would have been a hard thing to accomplish with RB1 and RB2 out of the game.

  • scratcherk

    Would be upset to see Gamble leave for the Dolphins. At least give us a couple seasons Tom!

    • 47_Ronin

      I’ve read that the Dolphins owner has past relations with former Chiefs GM Carl Peterson and he’ll likely get the job.

  • Rage114

    In an ideal world, Logan can provide depth at all three DL positions and the starting NT position would go a big more traditional player. He did well but as Tommy noted, this is more of a true 2-gap system and I think Logan will be limited in that capacity for a long period of time. Sqaure is a nice story but also limited.
    Geathers was a good experiment and I am glad they gave him 16 games here to show what he can do but he appears to have reached his ceiling. I hope Kruger can be a better player.

    • theycallmerob

      I agree with this a lot. A big NT added to the front (my man Zach Kerr from the greatest school in America, Delaware) and a second DL of Logan, Curry, Kruger. Any of those 3 can play any spot on the line in passing downs, especially if Davis uses a few hybrid fronts like this year. And it’d still be the youngest DL in the league

  • CrackSammich

    I’m already tired of hearing about Byrd.

  • RobNE

    I know we’ve seen that pic before, but is that really Andy Reid and another 12 year old? Like they are both 12? How is that possible? Reid was like 6’2″ and 250 as a 12 year old?

    ho hum who to root for this weekend? I like to secretly root against NE. And for the Broncos b/c all I hear on sports radio here is how Manning is one of the bottom 10 QB’s to ever play the game.

    • Anders

      That is Andy Reid as very young kid

    • ChaosOnion

      Andy Reid was in a Punt, Pass and Kick competition. All the contestants were lined up together and he was the final contestant in his age group. If I remember correctly, the next age group were 8 year olds.

  • Mike Roman

    What sucks about the transformation from the 4-3 to the 3-4 is that it set Cox back a year if you think about it. You’d like to see a player with his talent and draft position be pushing the Pro Bowl boundaries by his 2nd year. I’m not so sure he’ll ever achieve his full potential as a 3-4 DE. He was a natural 1 gap DT.

    As for Thornton, I think you got a good run stuffing DE, which you need in a 3-4. If he can develop his pass rush skills you have a really, really good player. Logan is serviceable and has upside. Maybe he can add some bulk to his frame and be a long-term solution.

    I can’t help but think about free agency and the draft. The sports media buzz in Philly is ORAKPO. I don’t know. If you throw out 2012, in which he only played two games, he averages 10 sacks a year. That is good production from an outside rusher but not great. I don’t know if he’s going to be worth the contract he’s going to demand.

    Jairus Byrd is another one. DRC and Nmadi have me scared shitless about bringing in a high profile DB. We do need at least two safeties though so he might be worth the gamble.

    • Anders

      What about Troy Vincent and Asante Samuel before those two? Both high priced FAs who worked very well for us.

      • A_T_G

        I don’t know. I think each of them lost a step. I would rather see us sign a younger guy.

        • Anders

          I think Vincent might still be better than NA is right now :)

          • A_T_G

            I remember watching games where I would sit front in my chair any time they threw deep against Vincent, confident that he had a better chance of catching the pass than the receiver.

        • 47_Ronin

          I also would like for the Eagles to sign one of the younger FA safeties, some names I would consider: Chris Clemons (Mia), Darian Stewart, and Duke Ihenacho.

          • gherbox

            I would much rather prefer this than handing a boatload of money to Byrd.
            And Orakpo? Pass. He is going to also want more money than I would be willing to pay.

      • Mike Roman

        I can’t argue that, although the landscape of the organization was much different when those acquisitions happened. Then again, I think we’re in a much better place than we were in the end of the Reid / Banner regime. In hindsight, it looks like the NA and DRC signings were desperate attempts to fix the defense when we didn’t have any other answers. Hopefully if we do make a play for Byrd, it’s because we did our due diligence and know he’s the right fit.

        • bentheimmigrant

          DRC wasn’t a signing. Him and a second rd pick for Kolb was pretty great value.

          • Mike Roman

            Right on. He sucked, nonetheless. ;)

        • Anders

          my point was that just because 1 bad FA CB blew up on us under a different GM, coach and system, we shouldnt ever go after another FA DB.

          • Mike Roman

            Right, I understand. It is a valid argument. The NA thing just left a bad taste in my mouth. (That’s not intended to sound dirty)

      • BobSmith77

        Ditto Runyan and Watters too. The Eagles actually have had a pretty damn good run at signing and getting good/very good production out of their high-priced FAs since Lurie became the owner.

        • Insomniac

          He who shall not be named was the biggest turd though. Took the 12 million and ate lunch in his car.

          • BobSmith77

            Always going to have some misses/hits but it did surprise me about how many stories leaked out after Nnamdi was gone about what anti-social a-hole he basically was.

      • suthrneagle

        debatable about samuel
        for as much good as he did,
        he produced an equal amount of bad results

        • suthrneagle

          Nnamdi Assomugha is who i was thinking of,

          my bad

    • Insomniac

      What scares me the most is that there are people who think Byrd deserves cornerback money (9-10mil) a year. Remember that Goldson deal? The Bucs ares stuck with an above average safety for a long time.

      • Mike Roman

        Yeah, no way. I think we can feel pretty safe that Roseman wouldn’t do that deal. He’s a good player .. a very good player and an upgrade over anyone we have now. But he isn’t a special player. He’s not Dawkins or Ed Reed.

      • bentheimmigrant

        Bear in mind how good being “stuck with an above average safety” sounds to Eagles fans right now.

        • Insomniac

          Look no further than the Dallas Cowboys, where above average earns you 150% more money. I rather not sign someone who’ll be out of their prime soon that’ll make more money than almost all of the players on the team.

          • bentheimmigrant

            Oh I’m with you, it just struck me as funny. As for Dallas, I’m looking forward to their next two offseasons almost as much as ours.

          • Insomniac

            Sometimes I want to feel bad for them but then I realized it always comes back to their “HOW MANY SUPERBOWLs DO YOU HAVE??!!!!!!!!” replies. They deserve to be where they are now.

          • bentheimmigrant

            I have never felt bad for them. Frontrunners.

    • Jason

      As an Eagles fan living in DC, I vehemently oppose Orakpo as an option. He is inconsistent — even in this contract year — and is frequently cited for not showing up against top flight OTs. He’s just a good — not a great — player. Let another team overpay for him, hoping he eventually reaches the potential he was thought to have coming out of Texas.

      • Mike Roman

        Exactly. And he’s already entering his 6th year (how time flies), if he’s not great by now he never will be.

        • BreakinAnklez

          He’s always nicked up too. Torn pec twice…but didn’t seem to bother him this year

  • Tumtum

    Are SD and Az 1 or 2 gap 3-4s? I feel like I’ve heard SD is 2, but not sure.

    • Anders

      arizona is 1 gap this year but was 2 gap under Ray Horton

  • ICDogg

    I don’t think Gamble will want to join the Dolphins after becoming aware of the situation down there. Read for further elaboration: http://miamiherald.typepad.com/dolphins_in_depth/ and read timeline of
    @ArmandoSalguero

    • SteveH

      Oof, This Dawn Aponte lady sounds like the worst. People who climb the corporate ladder at the expense of the corporation are so cancerous.

      Of course Stephen Ross is a total moron for enabling all that drama as well.

      I should add, all of this is great news for us because its such an unappealing situation for Gamble to move into.

      • Insomniac

        If this is true then how many people do you think she….*cough* to get there?

        • SteveH

          None, actually. She just seems like the typical corporate shark willing to do anything to advance her own career, even if it hurts the organization she works for. Really people like that only get ahead if the people at the top of the organization (Ross) are stupid enough to enable them. It sounds like she gained his ear and confidence and now exercises influence over him.

          People in Philly who complain about Lurie have no idea how good we have it.

        • Ben Hert

          Come on. Just because she’s a woman in a position of power you assume she slept her way there?

          And they say sexism is dead…

      • Mike Roman

        I just did a google image search. She looks like a stone cold bitch.

    • Corry

      That…would make for some excellent TV.

      (And Gamble would do well to stay the hell away from that)

    • Rage114

      If this is true, then this is all a show and Aponte will be the next GM of the Dolphins.

  • austinfan

    One thing to remember, Davis spent a lot of time with Dom Capers, but also spent a few years under Wade Phillips. In Arizona, he was more one gap with Campbell and Dockett at DE, same in SF with Bryant and Oliver. I think he would like to combine aspects of both systems.