Carolina Panthers Not Switching to a 3-4 Scheme, but More 3-4 Looks Are Expected

Knox Bardeen@knoxbardeenNFC South Lead WriterJuly 25, 2012

Head coach Ron Rivera plans to use the 3-4 more in 2012, but not exclusively.
Head coach Ron Rivera plans to use the 3-4 more in 2012, but not exclusively.Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Carolina Panthers are built to play in a 4-3 defensive scheme.

But the Internet almost exploded Tuesday when Michael Lombardi of said the Panthers were switching to a 3-4 scheme. He later amended those words to read that Carolina was mixing in some 3-4 in 2012.

Carolina head coach Ron Rivera confirmed that statement on the team’s official website.

“When teams have to prepare for more than one type of defense, that helps. It’s the same thing as how we want defenses preparing for an offense that’s multi-faceted,” Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said Tuesday after the second day of a three-day camp leading into training camp.

“The biggest thing is that we have some guys that have some ability to play linebacker and defensive end for us, and we’ve got to look at utilizing their talents and their abilities. That may mean us playing a little bit of 3-4. We’ve got to be flexible and keep our options open.”


The Panthers seem to have the front-seven personnel to play in a hybrid situation. Two of the Panthers’ defensive ends—Antwan Applewhite and Jyles Tucker—played for Rivera when he was the defensive coordinator in San Diego. The Chargers played a 3-4 then, and in fact, Rivera led that defense to a No. 1 ranking in the NFL.

Eric Norwood played in the 3-4 scheme in college, and four linebackers—including first-round pick Luke Kuechly—have the versatility to play in a 3-4 scheme, according to the Panthers website.

The one thing Rivera didn’t expand upon was how much “a little bit of 3-4” actually is.

The Panthers didn’t show 3-4 looks much in 2011. In Carolina’s trip to Atlanta for its Week 6 game, the defense showed the 3-4 alignment exactly three times.


But Rivera and defensive coordinator Sean McDermott know the value of the 3-4.

Rivera "feels very confident in the 3-4 and what it brings to the table. He knows its strengths and weaknesses, and has shared them with me," McDermott said. "That's part of the reason, quite frankly, that I came down here - so we could get together and merge our systems together. I think in due time you'll see that and you'll see the effectiveness of both."

Apparently the 2012 season is the year that Rivera and McDermott will do more merging of their philosophies. The Panthers still don’t have all the pieces on defense to convert completely to a 3-4 scheme, but it sounds like that’s not the plan anyway.

It sounds as if Carolina is going to mix in a combination of the two schemes to slow down the potent offenses in the NFC South. After the 2011 season where the Panthers on defense ranked 25th against the run and 27th overall, a change is welcomed.