We have all been witnesses on how the 3-4 defense can cause utter chaos for an opposing offense, with the prime example being the 2009-10 New York Jets. The Detroit Lions are a team that is in a perfect opportunity to switch to the 3-4 this offseason. Even though head coach Jim Schwartz has always ran a 4-3 defense going back to his days in Tennessee, this transition is necessary.
First, Julian Peterson was a pro-bowl caliber player when playing a 3-4 in Seattle and so far in the 4-3 system, he has been a disappointment. Second, if we draft Ndamukong Suh with the second overall pick in the 2010 draft, he is the perfect defensive tackle to occupy space in the 3-4 defense. Newly acquired Kyle Vanden Bosch and Corey Williams could anchor the ends of the defensive line, therefore moving Cliff Avril to outside linebacker to provide more of a pass rush. Avril, who had 5 sacks in 2009, has shown growth in his pass rush ability and by standing him up at outside linebacker, this total is bound to soar.
Our Linebackers would then include Levy, Peterson, Sims, and Avril. Even though it would be taking Ernie Sims out of his natural position at outside linebacker, we have began to see a decline in his speed as injuries have plagued his short career. By putting him inside, the amount of times that he will be singled out by a slot receiver or a running back will be cut down significantly.
The only re-occurring issue that I see by switching to the 3-4 is our ever-struggling secondary. Even though we have made some upgrades such as acquiring cornerbacks Jonathan Wade and Chris Houston. Even though these two aren't as formidable as Revis and Cromartie in New York, it is a significant upgrade for the Detroit Lions. We definitely would have to keep our safeties back in coverage for the most part instead of blitzing them like the Jets do.
The last issue we come to is what to do with the second round pick in the draft. Most project the lions to go after defensive end Brandon Graham of Michigan. Instead, I believe that offensive line help is needed, particularly left tackle. Jeff Backus is still capable of contributing to our offensive line, but not at left tackle anymore. We could draft a tackle in the draft such as Trent Williams of Oklahoma or Bruce Campbell of Maryland. Even if we pass on a tackle in the second round, Jared Valdheer of Hillsdale, who many pick to be a sleeper in this year's draft, could be an option for the Lions. Once we get one of these tackles, we could then move Jeff Backus to guard and use him more for run blocking, which is more his forte. This switch would not only make opponents plan for the Lions more, but it would also allow our athletes on the defensive side of the ball to impose their will more freely on opposing offensive lines.