When I first heard that the 3-4 was coming to Green Bay I was a little skeptical. Many teams have employed the defense in recent years and have had varying success with it.
A lot of this has to do with players on the team, and their ability to perform no matter what the scheme. Lets look at what fans were forced to watch, and what to watch for this year.
For the past few years the Packers have been primarily a man-to-man team. While fairly effective against most clubs, offensive coordinators had a much easier time preparing for Green Bay's defense.
Injuries began to take their toll on the defense early, and the final knock out punch to Bob Sanders' scheme came in the thumping we received from New Orleans. Faced with a team that had unusual alignments, and so much movement before the snap, the defense finally broke.
It simply was not flexible enough. The single play that best sums up the 2008 season came against Jacksonville. About ten yards from the goal line, defensive end Mike Montgomery somehow ended up in man to man coverage against scary quick running back Maurice Jones-Drew.
Needless to say, it was a touchdown for Jacksonville, and a pink slip for Sanders.
Now riding to the team's rescue is the 3-4 defense. Blitzburgh style. Green Bay will deploy a three-man defensive line and four linebackers. So, it will be harder for opposing QBs to know who is coming on a blitz.
Also, expect a fair amount of "zone blitzes." For example, the front three will rush as usual, and then LOLB Aaron Kampman and ILB A.J. Hawk will blitz, while OLB Clay Matthews and ILB Nick Barnett drop into zones. The players will not be forced to chase a particular player around the field. Their job will to be to attack whoever runs into their zone responsibility.
Front seven positions in the 3-4
3-4 Nose Tackle (Zero technique): This is the most important piece of a 3-4 defense. The NT must demand a double team—if he does not, then expect the defense to fall apart.
Projected Nose Tackles on Packer roster—B.J. Raji, Ryan Pickett.
3-4 Defensive End (Five technique): A defensive end in a 3-4 should be from 280 lbs to 320 lbs. It is preferable that the player have long arms, and be relatively tall.
Projected 3-4 DEs on the Packer's roster—Cullen Jenkins, Justin Harrell, Johnny Jolly.
3-4 Outside Linebacker: Must rush the passer like a defensive end, drop into coverage like a safety, and hit like a linebacker. This position demands an athlete more than any other.
Projected OLBs—Clay Matthews, Aaron Kampman, Brady Poppinga, Jeremy Thompson.
3-4 Inside Linebacker: Inside linebacker in a 3-4 is the glory position. While the NT and DEs tie up linemen at the line, the ILBs are able to run freely and make tackles in bunches. ILB in a 3-4 defense is more about being able to shed blocks, and hit with power than anything else. Coverage responsibilities are usually pretty limited as well, so the position demands more instinctual, big linebackers.
Projected ILBs—A.J. Hawk, Nick Barnett, Danny Lansanah, Desmond Bishop.