Opinion: Green Bay Would Be Well Suited for a Switch Back to the 4-3 Defense
The Packers had the 32nd overall defense in 2011, dead last in the NFL. It's no secret that the Packers are trying to address the issue this off-season. Ted Thompson has done some bargain shopping of late, adding some pieces to the defense that may be contributors next season. Having added defensive end Anthony Hargrove, defensive tackle/end Daniel Muir and possibly outside linebacker Dave Tollefson, the Packers are making an effort to improve their horrid pass rush.
But what if the Packers took a different route? Rumors are swirling that they are flirting with the idea of going to a 3-4/4-3 hybrid defense, much like the New England Patriots employ. I, for one, am 100% behind the idea of the merge. It will be a tough transition for players to adjust, but what if the Packers went back to the 4-3 scheme? Granted, this article is pure opinion and am no way advocating firing Dom Capers to hire a coach known for running the 4-3 scheme.
I do believe however, that the Packers defense is better suited to be a 4-3 defense and have the pieces to successfully transition back to the 4-3 defense.
In this slideshow, I will breakdown my reasoning for the switch, and the starters at each position, based on the switch to the 4-3 defensive scheme.
So, Why the Switch?
The Packers defense has some outstanding players including defensive tackle B.J. Raji, outside linebacker Clay Matthews, middle linebacker Desmond Bishop and corner back Charles Woodson. The Packers switched to the 3-4 before the 2009 campaign and drafted the likes of Raji and Matthews to help with the transition.
In my opinion, I do believe that the personnel on the Packers defense is just as well suited to play the 4-3 as they are the 3-4.
In the 3-4 defense, the defensive ends are usually converted defensive tackles that are big-bodied run-stuffers used to set the edge. The linebackers are the ones mostly used to create pressure on the quarterback. In the 4-3, the defensive tackles are usually lighter than their 3-4 counterparts. The defensive tackles in the 4-3 are there to create the pressure, and the linebackers are usually decent in coverage and sometimes used to get to the quarterback.
Here is my depth chart based on the move to the 4-3.
Left Defensive End: Anthony Hargrove
Hargrove, listed at 6'3'' 282 pounds, would be the left defensive end in the Packers 4-3 scheme. Known for his high motor and ability to get to the quarterback, Hargrove would be an ideal end in the Packers new defense. According to Nathan Jahnke of Pro Football Focus, in 2011, Hargrove has 20 pressures on 232 pass rushes, that would qualify as the best QB rush ability among the Packers current defensive lineman. Without starting a game for Seattle in 2011, Hargrove had 18 tackles and 3 sacks.
Vic So'oto (6'3" 263 lbs): former college defensive end, would move back to his normal position and put his pass rush abilities back to work.
Jarius Wynn (6'3" 285 lbs): Wynn is the backup to Hargrove and So'oto. Based on his body size, Wynn could also move inside in certain packages.
Defensive Tackles: B.J. Raji and Ryan Pickett
B.J. Raji (6'2" 337): Raji moves over to create some more space for the even bigger-bodied Ryan Pickett. From the inside in the 4-3 scheme, Raji would team up with Pickett to wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks and stuff the run.
Ryan Pickett (6'2" 340): Pickett is a defensive clog that should excel next to B.J. Raji in the new defensive front for Green Bay. Known as an excellent run defender, Pickett would be the immovable force to compliment Raji's pass rush abilities.
Daniel Muir (6'2" 312)
C.J. Wilson (6'3" 290)
Mike Neal (6'3" 294)
Lawrence Guy (6'4" 304)
Johnny Jones (6'4" 310)
Right Defensive End: Clay Matthews
At 6'3'' 255 lbs, Clay Matthews would also excel with his hand in the dirt in the 4-3 scheme. Although Matthews has played linebacker through college and his first 3 years in the NFL, he would have no problem putting his hand on the ground and getting to the quarterback. Matthews has a wide array of pass rush moves that could make him the next Jared Allen in the 4-3.
Jarius Wynn (6'3" 285)
Frank Zombo (6'3" 254)
Will Linebacker: Brad Jones
Listed at 6'3" 242, Jones would move to the weak side linebacker position in the 4-3. Although Jones lacks ideal cover ability, he is capable of maintaining a level of play that would translate to success for the Packers.
Jamari Lattimore (6'2" 230)
Ryan Taylor (6'3" 254)
Desmond Bishop would maintain his starter status in the 4-3 scheme. His position status is relatively unchanged. Bishop has proven that he is an excellent linebacker after waiting in the wings behind Nick Barnett.
A.J. Hawk (6'1'' 247)
Robert Francois (6'2" 255)
Sam Linebacker: D.J. Smith
Although spending his first season in Green Bay at middle linebacker, Smith showed flashes of speed, cover ability and ball skills that would be a nice fit on the strong side in the new scheme. Smith plays with intensity and is a good tackler. Even at only 5'11", Smith would be fine in pass coverage.
Jamari Lattimore (6'2" 230)
Robert Francois (6'2'' 255)
Charles Woodson (6'1" 202)
Tramon Williams (5'11" 191)
Sam Shields (5'11" 185)
Davon House (6'0" 195)
Jarrett Bush (6'0" 200)
Brandian Ross (6'0" 190)
The cornerbacks go unchanged through the transition phase to the 4-3. Woodson is one of the top corners in the league and will maintain that label. Tramon Williams is hot and cold but when he is hot, he is an outstanding corner. Sam Shields steps in as the number three corner, and hopefully will make more significant strides this season. The newcomer to the group in Davon House, a first year player in whom the Packers have high hopes for.
Strong Saftey Morgan Burnett (6'1" 209)
Free Safety Nick Collins (5'11" 207)
Strong Safety Charlie Peprah (5'11" 203)
Free Safety M.D. Jennings (6'0" 187)
Much like the corners, the safeties remain the same as they did in the 3-4. Morgan Burnett is a ball-hawk with unlimited potential, all he needs is a little more experience. Nick Collins would remain at free safety if he was cleared following off-season surgery.
Please remember, this is just my opinion on the Packers and a switch to the 4-3. I am in no way advocating a move, but I do believe they could make a relatively smooth transition with the makeup of their existing roster.
Please feel free to comment, and based on my recent articles, a lot of you will disagree with this which is fine and understandable.
I just want to get my theory out there.