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Old 01-26-2009, 09:07 AM   #1
montrose
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Default Clearing things up regarding Mike Nolan's 3-4 scheme in regards to our 2009 defense

I've noticed in more than a few threads that in discussing the move to the 3-4 next year, many are using the Ravens as a comparison. The present Ravens defense is a really bad comparison as to what our 3-4 might look like. They currently run one of the most unconventional fronts in league history with exotic zone blitzing. In contrast, Mike Nolan's 3-4 is actually a bit of a hybrid 4-3. I've studied much of Nolan's defense in Baltimore, a little bit in Washington and a bit in San Francisco (although Singletary was coordinating that unit). I wanted to help clarify a few things as regards to positions, alignments and personnel.

Nolan likes true 3-4 DL than can keep OL off of the LBs. His DE's are usually in 4 techniques (head up on the OT) and his NT's are usually head up on the C. This is because Nolan's not a huge fan of DL shading and prefers to allow the success and failure of the defense to come down to those guys ability to maintain their gaps and let the LBs flow. Shading can help a defense "cheat" to one side but it creates better blocking and double teaming angles for OL which allows blockers to get up on the LBs and at the point, the 3-4 is ****ed.

Nolan's not a guy who comes up with crazy blitzes every play, he'd mix things up from time-to-time and bring the occasional safety blitz or outside fire but he's not Rex Ryan. In fact, most of his pressure on the QB is expected to be brought by the WOLB. Nolan's WOLB (Peter Boulware and Terrell Suggs) would play in a 7-technique to the outside of the weakside tackle or tight end. He'd occasionally put his hand on the ground but would often serve as a stand up defensive end. He was rarely put into pass coverage and when he was, it was usually a soft, underneath zone. The SOLB (Adalius Thomas) needed to be extremely versatile as he was asked to play in a lot of space, jam and defend tight ends, contain the outside run and occasionally blitz. He is also moved around to several different areas including a 9 technique (outside the TE or strongside OT) and a 7 technique (inside eye of the strongside OT or TE). I personally believe the SOLB is the most important of the 4 LBs in Nolan's scheme. The SILB (Edgerton Hartwell) is what one might call the "thumper" or "train wreck" as his responsibilities are largely to blow up lead blockers and to be a very sound tackler without much room for acceleration. Hartwell excelled at this and was a major part of the Ravens defensive unit. Nolan occasionally stacked the SILB over a DE or stood him up in a gap opened by a shading NT or DE, but was usually aligned behind the NT off the inside eye of the strongside guard in the A gap. The WILB (Ray Lewis) had several different alignments, but Nolan's favorite was stacking him behind a DE with a slight shade to the strong-side in the B gap. He'd occasionally align head up over the weakside guard, stacked off the NT slightly shading the A gap or even directly stacked over the NT. However, the WILB was most often shaded to the strong-side in the B gap stacked off a DE. This gave him great angles to explode for tackles and allowed him to be versatile in pass-coverage. The WILB has many opportunities for interceptions and pass-defenses in Nolan's scheme and is also the most active tackler on the field.

I've included an illustration below of Nolan's most-often used 3-4 alignment. Keep in mind that in obvious passing situations, the SILB would leave the field for a nickelback and in long passing situations the SOLB would also come off in favor of a dimeback. Nolan rarely played with a 4th DL except in goal-line defenses, choosing rather to put the S in the box (Ed Reed) and to walk-up the SOLB and SILB into their gaps. He'd also sneak in DT's in place of DE's on occasion in short-yardage situations. Many of those elements will depend on our personnel.

I looked through some of our personnel to try and see who could fit some of these rolls based on my time watching Nolan's defense in Baltimore.

DE (Marques Douglas and Anthony Weaver): Right now Marcus Thomas would probably be best fit to play one of these positions. He'd have to learn to make better use of his arms as he'd be a bit undersized (frame-wise) as a 3-4 DE in most schemes although his frame measures up favorably with Weaver and Douglas. If Kenny Peterson were resigned, I believe he could learn to play the position, however it would also require a lot of work and considering he's a FA - I'd expect the F.O. to rather go with someone familiar with the scheme.

NT (Kelly Gregg and Ma'ake Kemoeatu): We don't have a true NT on our roster right now. Thomas could beef up to be a very solid #2 NT which is very important in this defense as the #1 NT wears down and is often replaced on passing downs. At this point, we're looking at needing at least 2 NTs to be brought in.

WOLB (Peter Boulware and Terrell Suggs) - There are a few guys who could fit this position. Elvis Dumervil has the natural pass-rush abilities to fit Nolan's scheme, but it's been shown that he wears down easily when attacked in the running game and we have no idea how he'd play in space - albeit limited. His success would be very dependent upon the DE play to his side. Jarvis Moss could be another candidate but again, we don't know how he'd play in space and with him, it's still unknown if he has the explosiveness off the edge to put pressure on the QB. One guy I think could play the position very well is Wesley Woodyard. He's just raw enough to be taught the position and while he'd need to be developed on the pass-rush side of the role, his athleticism and instincts could make him a nice fit. I could see Woodyard playing the position on 1st and 2nd downs to be replaced by Dumervil on passing downs as a possiblity too.

WILB (Ray Lewis) - DJ Williams best fits this position and it's where I expect to see him play. DJ takes great angles and should love playing the position if the Broncos can find a NT to keep blockers off of him. DJ's greatest weaknesses are fighting off blockers and blitzing - two things that Nolan's defense should help protect him in quite a bit. DJ's skills are angles, tackling and zone coverage - skill sets necessary to succeed in this position. Woodyard could also play this position with some increased size but I'd expect DJ to play this role very well.

SILB (Edgerton Hartwell) - Right now I'd say Spencer Larsen would be the most natural to fill this role although I'm a bit concerned about his size. I think Woodyard could transfer into the role but it would take a lot of time and strength work. Not to mention taking him out of what he does well, playing in space. Like DJ, a successful DL (in this case DE) would allow Larsen to play well. Larsen is a very sound tackler and doesn't need a ton of space to bring ball carriers down. I'd still expect this to be a spot looked at heavily in the offseason but I consider the DL spots far more critical at this juncture.

SOLB (Adalius Thomas and Jarrett Johnson) - This is such an important position. Honestly, Boss Bailey is likely the best fit to play this spot right now as he carries many of the traits necessary (TE coverage and jamming, outside contain, occasional blitzing). However with his injury history, I think it's unrealistic to count on him at all. This is another spot (surprise!) that I think Woodyard could play although it would necessitate major strength building and a lot of work on outside containment. I actually think Moss translates a bit to the position as he's underrated at keeping contain and holding up against the point of attack - however we have no clue how he would be in coverage and it's not very reasonable to ask a career DE to step in and handle all that this position demands without a lot of help. Tim Crowder has the measurables to fit here as well, but I haven't seen enough of him to know if he could do all this position requires.

It'll be interesting to see what happens over the next few months but I wanted to clarify that Nolan's 3-4 unit is much different than Ryan's, LeBeau's and Collier's - all of which I've seen referenced often. Thanks guys.


Last edited by montrose; 01-26-2009 at 09:50 AM..
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Old 01-26-2009, 09:19 AM   #2
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Thanks for sharing. It sounds like we are in need of quite a bit especially since we don't have a quality safety either. We are really missing quite a few pieces to this puzzle, and this thing won't be fixed in one season.

How does Nolan's style compare to how Bellicheck and the Pats run their D. I expect McDaniels to bring some of the Pat's style since he coached with the Def as well.
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Old 01-26-2009, 09:21 AM   #3
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well done sir
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Old 01-26-2009, 09:21 AM   #4
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Fabulous post. Great breakdown of information.
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Old 01-26-2009, 09:24 AM   #5
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How does Nunnely's DL style mesh with Nolan's?
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Old 01-26-2009, 09:39 AM   #6
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I think this is just a great place to start the discussion. Thank you for taking the time and effort to do such a wonderful breakdown. I am truly impressed with all that went into making that happen. I do not have the time right now to get into some of this, but at least it will give some people here an ideal 3-4 that Nolan would like to run if he can acquire the right personnel before the season.

Keep up the great work montrose!
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Old 01-26-2009, 09:39 AM   #7
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Great Post! Lots of information. Now correct me if I'm wrong, but it sounds like Nolan doesn't put together complex schmes and realizes mostly on the talent of his players to get the job done, kind of simlar to what Jim Bates does. Is that not the defination of Vanilla?
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Old 01-26-2009, 09:45 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SoDak Bronco View Post
Thanks for sharing. It sounds like we are in need of quite a bit especially since we don't have a quality safety either. We are really missing quite a few pieces to this puzzle, and this thing won't be fixed in one season.

How does Nolan's style compare to how Bellicheck and the Pats run their D. I expect McDaniels to bring some of the Pat's style since he coached with the Def as well.
It's going to take time to make the conversion, although I think Nolan's scheme will take less time than the more exotic philosophies of LeBeau, Ryan, Collier, etc.

Per New England, I haven't seen a ton of their defense so I feel a little on-edge comparing them. I just don't have experience breaking down their system. From the bit I've seen their appear to be some similarities, particularly on the DL (although Vince Wilfork, Ty Warren and Richard Seymour are far more talented than any of Nolan's previous DLs) as well as the SOLB spot which isn't surprising since it's Adalius Thomas. I think there are some synergies in terms of role but not necessarily alignment. Again, I haven't seen much of New England's defense beyond a few nationally televised games so its unfair me to give a complete breakdown whereas I saw nearly every game of Nolan's time as a DC in Baltimore (many of which I was at in-person while I lived in Charm City).

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How does Nunnely's DL style mesh with Nolan's?
Again, I don't think I've seen enough of San Diego to make a direct statement although from what I've seen of Luis Castillo, Igor Olshansky and Jamal Williams - they've been coached to penetrate a bit more than Nolan's DL have - however those guys are more talented than anyone Nolan's ever had to work with so I imagine that with that kind of talent he'd love for his DL to blow up plays every now and then so long as they're not doing it at the expense of letting LBs get blocked. Nunnely's been around for a while, I'm sure he'll coach those guys to play as Nolan wants them to fundamentally.

Last edited by montrose; 01-26-2009 at 10:13 AM..
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Old 01-26-2009, 09:51 AM   #9
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Nice post, montrose. All of your info on the positons in regards to Nolan are excellent.
However, your comparing DEN players to BALTs makes me want to throw up.
CLEARLY LARSEN is the only LB DEN has that can play in this system. DJ at WILB is a complete joke, and Woodyard just isnt big enough to play inside either. Moss, dumervil and Boss(sighs in disgust) are total question marks and have underpreformed in a very simple base 4-3. Lets all just face facts, DEN doesnt have the personel right now. But hopefully they will in the near future, and then Montrose can fit those players into his 3-4 explanation, which was brilliant! Again, great breakdown of the positions, Montrose. Nice job.

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Old 01-26-2009, 10:02 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by hilife View Post
Great Post! Lots of information. Now correct me if I'm wrong, but it sounds like Nolan doesn't put together complex schmes and realizes mostly on the talent of his players to get the job done, kind of simlar to what Jim Bates does. Is that not the defination of Vanilla?
I wouldn't call Nolan vanilla in terms of Bates or Slowik. He's just not as exotic with his alignments as Ryan and his blitzes as LeBeau. Nolan will bring different types of pressure and my guess is that with his limitations in personnel, he'll have to. I'm sure the guys will be well versed in several different blitzes, Nolan is just more frugal in when he brings them. However when the game is on the line, he won't hesitate to bring pressure in unique ways. With that, Nolan's scheme is at its best throughout a game when (in pass defense) a great pass-rush from the WOLB results in a sack or forces the QB to step up into a collapsing pocket forced by the DL. This isn't to say Nolan will exclusively rush 4, he will bring heat from the other LBs, S and CBs on occasion - just don't be expecting some the crazy stuff you see from Rex Ryan and Dick LeBeau.

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Nice post, montrose. All of your info on the positons in regards to Nolan are excellent.
However, your comparing DEN players to BALTs makes me want to throw up.
CLEARLY LARSEN is the only LB DEN has that can play in this system. DJ at WILB is a complete joke, and Woodyard just isnt big enough to play inside either. Moss, dumervil and Boss(sighs in disgust) are total question marks and have underpreformed in a very simple base 4-3. Lets all just face facts, DEN doesnt have the personel right now. But hopefully they will in the near future, and then Montrose can fit those players into his 3-4 explanation, which was brilliant! Again, great breakdown of the positions, Montrose. Nice job.
I don't even know if Larsen would fit into this scheme. I was simply trying to find where some of our current personnel would have to be slotted in because - it's just unrealistic to think we're going to be able turn over in entirely new front 7 in one offseason. I disagree with you that I think DJ can play very at WILB in Nolan's scheme if he's got a solid DL in front of him. DJ wasn't a true MLB in the 4-3, but Nolan's WILB in the 3-4 is actually quite similar to a 4-3 WLB. There are certainly differences, but it's one of the more natural transitions from last year's Slowik defense to this year's Nolan unit. Again, I totally agree that Denver doesn't have all of the right personnel right now - but they're likely going to have to make do with some used parts until they can complete the transformation by 2010 hopefully.

Last edited by montrose; 01-26-2009 at 10:08 AM..
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Old 01-26-2009, 10:13 AM   #11
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3 DL, 4 LB. So THAT'S what they mean by 3-4!!! And all this time....


Just kidding, good work.
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Old 01-26-2009, 10:13 AM   #12
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I wouldn't call Nolan vanilla in terms of Bates or Slowik. He's just not as exotic with his alignments as Ryan and his blitzes as LeBeau. Nolan will bring different types of pressure and my guess is that with his limitations in personnel, he'll have to. I'm sure the guys will be well versed in several different blitzes, Nolan is just more frugal in when he brings them. However when the game is on the line, he won't hesitate to bring pressure in unique ways. With that, Nolan's scheme is at its best throughout a game when (in pass defense) a great pass-rush from the WOLB results in a sack or forces the QB to step up into a collapsing pocket forced by the DL. This isn't to say Nolan will exclusively rush 4, he will bring heat from the other LBs, S and CBs on occasion - just don't be expecting some the crazy stuff you see from Rex Ryan and Dick LeBeau.



I don't even know if Larsen would fit into this scheme. I was simply trying to find where some of our current personnel would have to be slotted in because - it's just unrealistic to think we're going to be able turn over in entirely new front 7 in one offseason. I disagree with you that I think DJ can play very at WILB in Nolan's scheme if he's got a solid DL in front of him. DJ wasn't a true MLB in the 4-3, but Nolan's WILB in the 3-4 is actually quite similar to a 4-3 WLB. There are certainly differences, but it's one of the more natural transitions from last year's Slowik defense to this year's Nolan unit. Again, I totally agree that Denver doesn't have all of the right personnel right now - but they're likely going to have to make do with some used parts until they can complete the transformation by 2010 hopefully.
Thats weird cause i think Larsen fit really well. Or at least of all the guys who could actually play well in the 3-4 he more than likely could, which is alot more than what i can say for the rest.

If you want, i would love to see your overall starting defense including FA and the draft. Just for $h!ts and giggles. and no, i dont want to rip it apart.And hopefully no one else will either, cuase thats not the point. I just want an accessment from someone who knows the 3-4. Just what you think could be done in one offseason. Alot of folks have really high expectations for current players as well as FAs. Plus theres not alot going on today.
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Old 01-26-2009, 10:28 AM   #13
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Quote:
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I wouldn't call Nolan vanilla in terms of Bates or Slowik. He's just not as exotic with his alignments as Ryan and his blitzes as LeBeau. Nolan will bring different types of pressure and my guess is that with his limitations in personnel, he'll have to. I'm sure the guys will be well versed in several different blitzes, Nolan is just more frugal in when he brings them. However when the game is on the line, he won't hesitate to bring pressure in unique ways. With that, Nolan's scheme is at its best throughout a game when (in pass defense) a great pass-rush from the WOLB results in a sack or forces the QB to step up into a collapsing pocket forced by the DL. This isn't to say Nolan will exclusively rush 4, he will bring heat from the other LBs, S and CBs on occasion - just don't be expecting some the crazy stuff you see from Rex Ryan and Dick LeBeau.
I wasn't really excited about the Nolan signing. I live in the D.C. area and I just don't remember the Ravens defense being as good after Marvin Lewis and before Rex Ryan. During that time they were feared and caused a lot of turn overs. When Nolan got there they kind of disappeared...or atleast to me they did. I also remember Ray Lewis wasn't as effective durning Nolan's time and did some complaining about it. I think that might have been mostly because they were moving to the 3-4 and didn't have the right NT for the job. Hopefully, Nolan will come in and change my view of him and create a very good defense.
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Old 01-26-2009, 10:38 AM   #14
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Thats weird cause i think Larsen fit really well. Or at least of all the guys who could actually play well in the 3-4 he more than likely could, which is alot more than what i can say for the rest.
He could, I just haven't seen enough of Spencer to make that judgment. He played a lot against Atlanta, and played pretty well to me. He was hurt against Oakland and never seemed to get back into the lineup for prolonged time as the coaches preferred Webster and Haggan. I do think he seems like a good fit at the SILB spot on paper, but we just haven't seen a lot of the guy play.

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If you want, i would love to see your overall starting defense including FA and the draft. Just for $h!ts and giggles. and no, i dont want to rip it apart.And hopefully no one else will either, cuase thats not the point. I just want an accessment from someone who knows the 3-4. Just what you think could be done in one offseason. Alot of folks have really high expectations for current players as well as FAs. Plus theres not alot going on today.
No problem. Here's a very realistic thought of what we could do to make the most out of 2009.

DE: Marcus Thomas, Mike Wright (FA signing from NE)
NT: BJ Raji (with the #12 pick), Ronald Fields (FA signing from SF)
DE: Dwan Edwards (FA signing from BAL), 1st Day Rookie Draft Pick
WOLB: Wesley Woodyard, Elvis Dumervil, Jarvis Moss
WILB: DJ Williams, 2nd Day Rookie Draft Pick
SILB: Spencer Larsen, Edgerton Hartwell (sign as a FA, out of football in 2008)
SOLB: Boss Bailey (restructured), 1st Day Rookie Draft Pick, Tim Crowder
CB: Champ Bailey, Josh Bell
CB: Dre' Bly (restructured), Allen Rossum (sign as a FA from SF), Jack Williams
FS: James Sanders (sign as a FA from NE), 2nd Day Rookie Draft Pick
SS: Dawan Landry (acquired as a RFA from BAL), Josh Barrett

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I wasn't really excited about the Nolan signing. I live in the D.C. area and I just don't remember the Ravens defense being as good after Marvin Lewis and before Rex Ryan. During that time they were feared and caused a lot of turn overs. When Nolan got there they kind of disappeared...or atleast to me they did. I also remember Ray Lewis wasn't as effective durning Nolan's time and did some complaining about it. I think that might have been mostly because they were moving to the 3-4 and didn't have the right NT for the job. Hopefully, Nolan will come in and change my view of him and create a very good defense.
Lewis won a DPOY under Nolan and Reed won the award the following year. Nolan suffered a bit from not having as strong of a DL as he would've liked while trying to transition a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 defense. They were still very successful however (I'd kill for our defense to play that well this year, but that's not going to happen).

Last edited by montrose; 01-26-2009 at 10:42 AM..
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Old 01-26-2009, 10:43 AM   #15
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He could, I just haven't seen enough of Spencer to make that judgment. He played a lot against Atlanta, and played pretty well to me. He was hurt against Oakland and never seemed to get back into the lineup for prolonged time as the coaches preferred Webster and Haggan. I do think he seems like a good fit at the SILB spot on paper, but we just haven't seen a lot of the guy play.



No problem. Here's a very realistic thought of what we could do to make the most out of 2009.

DE: Marcus Thomas, Mike Wright (FA signing from NE)
NT: BJ Raji (with the #12 pick), Ronald Fields (FA signing from SF)
DE: Dwan Edwards (FA signing from BAL), 1st Day Rookie Draft Pick
WOLB: Wesley Woodyard, Elvis Dumervil, Jarvis Moss
WILB: DJ Williams, 2nd Day Rookie Draft Pick
SILB: Spencer Larsen, Edgerton Hartwell (sign as a FA, out of football in 2008)
SOLB: Boss Bailey (restructured), 1st Day Rookie Draft Pick, Tim Crowder
CB: Champ Bailey, Josh Bell
CB: Dre' Bly (restructured), Allen Rossum (sign as a FA from SF), Jack Williams
FS: James Sanders, 2nd Day Rookie Draft Pick
SS: Dawan Landry (acquired as a RFA from BAL), Josh Barrett
You have 3 1st day picks but there are only 2 rounds on the first day. FYI. Over all it looks realistic. Although Edgerton Hartwell being out of football in 2008 might be a little out of shape, but as a backup and a low cost signing it couldn't hurt.
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Old 01-26-2009, 10:46 AM   #16
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He could, I just haven't seen enough of Spencer to make that judgment. He played a lot against Atlanta, and played pretty well to me. He was hurt against Oakland and never seemed to get back into the lineup for prolonged time as the coaches preferred Webster and Haggan. I do think he seems like a good fit at the SILB spot on paper, but we just haven't seen a lot of the guy play.



No problem. Here's a very realistic thought of what we could do to make the most out of 2009.

DE: Marcus Thomas, Mike Wright (FA signing from NE)
NT: BJ Raji (with the #12 pick), Ronald Fields (FA signing from SF)
DE: Dwan Edwards (FA signing from BAL), 1st Day Rookie Draft Pick
WOLB: Wesley Woodyard, Elvis Dumervil, Jarvis Moss
WILB: DJ Williams, 2nd Day Rookie Draft Pick
SILB: Spencer Larsen, Edgerton Hartwell (sign as a FA, out of football in 2008)
SOLB: Boss Bailey (restructured), 1st Day Rookie Draft Pick, Tim Crowder
CB: Champ Bailey, Josh Bell
CB: Dre' Bly (restructured), Allen Rossum (sign as a FA from SF), Jack Williams
FS: James Sanders (sign as a FA from NE), 2nd Day Rookie Draft Pick
SS: Dawan Landry (acquired as a RFA from BAL), Josh Barrett



Lewis won a DPOY under Nolan and Reed won the award the following year. Nolan suffered a bit from not having as strong of a DL as he would've liked while trying to transition a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 defense. They were still very successful however (I'd kill for our defense to play that well this year, but that's not going to happen).
I'd kill to have Ray Lewis and Ed Reed on the team, or at the very least badly wound.
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Old 01-26-2009, 10:50 AM   #17
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You have 3 1st day picks but there are only 2 rounds on the first day. FYI. Over all it looks realistic. Although Edgerton Hartwell being out of football in 2008 might be a little out of shape, but as a backup and a low cost signing it couldn't hurt.
I'd like to see us pickup another 1st day pick. Maybe in a deal for Dumervil plus a draft pick. Per Hartwell, he'd come in on a minimum contact knowing the defense. If he's out of shape let him go.

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Old 01-26-2009, 10:52 AM   #18
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Ed Hartwell's too busy making jewelry for his wife to think about football.
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Old 01-26-2009, 10:55 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by montrose View Post
He could, I just haven't seen enough of Spencer to make that judgment. He played a lot against Atlanta, and played pretty well to me. He was hurt against Oakland and never seemed to get back into the lineup for prolonged time as the coaches preferred Webster and Haggan. I do think he seems like a good fit at the SILB spot on paper, but we just haven't seen a lot of the guy play.



No problem. Here's a very realistic thought of what we could do to make the most out of 2009.

DE: Marcus Thomas, Mike Wright (FA signing from NE)
NT: BJ Raji (with the #12 pick), Ronald Fields (FA signing from SF)
DE: Dwan Edwards (FA signing from BAL), 1st Day Rookie Draft Pick
WOLB: Wesley Woodyard, Elvis Dumervil, Jarvis Moss
WILB: DJ Williams, 2nd Day Rookie Draft Pick
SILB: Spencer Larsen, Edgerton Hartwell (sign as a FA, out of football in 2008)
SOLB: Boss Bailey (restructured), 1st Day Rookie Draft Pick, Tim Crowder
CB: Champ Bailey, Josh Bell
CB: Dre' Bly (restructured), Allen Rossum (sign as a FA from SF), Jack Williams
FS: James Sanders (sign as a FA from NE), 2nd Day Rookie Draft Pick
SS: Dawan Landry (acquired as a RFA from BAL), Josh Barrett



Lewis won a DPOY under Nolan and Reed won the award the following year. Nolan suffered a bit from not having as strong of a DL as he would've liked while trying to transition a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 defense. They were still very successful however (I'd kill for our defense to play that well this year, but that's not going to happen).
Great breakdown, and thank you for making the potential roster/wishlist realistic. I'm so tired of seeing these rosters with Peppers and Suggs and other break-the-bank, unrealistic signings.
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Old 01-26-2009, 11:10 AM   #20
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Great breakdown, and thank you for making the potential roster/wishlist realistic. I'm so tired of seeing these rosters with Peppers and Suggs and other break-the-bank, unrealistic signings.
we have the cap room...

so i wouldn't mind seeing us go after just 1 big ticket to help anchor the defense...
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Old 01-26-2009, 11:12 AM   #21
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No problem. Here's a very realistic thought of what we could do to make the most out of 2009.

DE: Marcus Thomas, Mike Wright (FA signing from NE)
NT: BJ Raji (with the #12 pick), Ronald Fields (FA signing from SF)
DE: Dwan Edwards (FA signing from BAL), 1st Day Rookie Draft Pick
WOLB: Wesley Woodyard, Elvis Dumervil, Jarvis Moss
WILB: DJ Williams, 2nd Day Rookie Draft Pick
SILB: Spencer Larsen, Edgerton Hartwell (sign as a FA, out of football in 2008)
SOLB: Boss Bailey (restructured), 1st Day Rookie Draft Pick, Tim Crowder
CB: Champ Bailey, Josh Bell
CB: Dre' Bly (restructured), Allen Rossum (sign as a FA from SF), Jack Williams
FS: James Sanders (sign as a FA from NE), 2nd Day Rookie Draft Pick
SS: Dawan Landry (acquired as a RFA from BAL), Josh Barrett
excellent work montrose...

i'd personally like to see at least one of the OLB starters be a person with accomplished pass rushing ability...
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Old 01-26-2009, 11:20 AM   #22
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excellent work montrose...

i'd personally like to see at least one of the OLB starters be a person with accomplished pass rushing ability...
In Nolan's scheme, the WOLB is the real pass rusher. Again, Dumervil fits the bill there but I just don't know how effective he'd be on running downs at that spot. I like Woodyard at that spot on running downs with Dumervil coming in on obvious passing situations. Also, I think Woodyard to develop as a pass rusher with the right coaching. Per the SOLB spot, Nolan has never been one to blitz that spot much. It's a necessary skill, but Thomas was never a major blitzer under Nolan. I think Boss has the skills to hold the spot until a rookie is ready to take over following Boss' inevitable injury.
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Old 01-26-2009, 11:22 AM   #23
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Great Post. Really looking forward to seeing it on the field.
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Old 01-26-2009, 11:26 AM   #24
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I've noticed in more than a few threads that in discussing the move to the 3-4 next year, many are using the Ravens as a comparison. The present Ravens defense is a really bad comparison as to what our 3-4 might look like. They currently run one of the most unconventional fronts in league history with exotic zone blitzing. In contrast, Mike Nolan's 3-4 is actually a bit of a hybrid 4-3. I've studied much of Nolan's defense in Baltimore, a little bit in Washington and a bit in San Francisco (although Singletary was coordinating that unit). I wanted to help clarify a few things as regards to positions, alignments and personnel.

Nolan likes true 3-4 DL than can keep OL off of the LBs. His DE's are usually in 4 techniques (head up on the OT) and his NT's are usually head up on the C. This is because Nolan's not a huge fan of DL shading and prefers to allow the success and failure of the defense to come down to those guys ability to maintain their gaps and let the LBs flow. Shading can help a defense "cheat" to one side but it creates better blocking and double teaming angles for OL which allows blockers to get up on the LBs and at the point, the 3-4 is ****ed.

Nolan's not a guy who comes up with crazy blitzes every play, he'd mix things up from time-to-time and bring the occasional safety blitz or outside fire but he's not Rex Ryan. In fact, most of his pressure on the QB is expected to be brought by the WOLB. Nolan's WOLB (Peter Boulware and Terrell Suggs) would play in a 7-technique to the outside of the weakside tackle or tight end. He'd occasionally put his hand on the ground but would often serve as a stand up defensive end. He was rarely put into pass coverage and when he was, it was usually a soft, underneath zone. The SOLB (Adalius Thomas) needed to be extremely versatile as he was asked to play in a lot of space, jam and defend tight ends, contain the outside run and occasionally blitz. He is also moved around to several different areas including a 9 technique (outside the TE or strongside OT) and a 7 technique (inside eye of the strongside OT or TE). I personally believe the SOLB is the most important of the 4 LBs in Nolan's scheme. The SILB (Edgerton Hartwell) is what one might call the "thumper" or "train wreck" as his responsibilities are largely to blow up lead blockers and to be a very sound tackler without much room for acceleration. Hartwell excelled at this and was a major part of the Ravens defensive unit. Nolan occasionally stacked the SILB over a DE or stood him up in a gap opened by a shading NT or DE, but was usually aligned behind the NT off the inside eye of the strongside guard in the A gap. The WILB (Ray Lewis) had several different alignments, but Nolan's favorite was stacking him behind a DE with a slight shade to the strong-side in the B gap. He'd occasionally align head up over the weakside guard, stacked off the NT slightly shading the A gap or even directly stacked over the NT. However, the WILB was most often shaded to the strong-side in the B gap stacked off a DE. This gave him great angles to explode for tackles and allowed him to be versatile in pass-coverage. The WILB has many opportunities for interceptions and pass-defenses in Nolan's scheme and is also the most active tackler on the field.

I've included an illustration below of Nolan's most-often used 3-4 alignment. Keep in mind that in obvious passing situations, the SILB would leave the field for a nickelback and in long passing situations the SOLB would also come off in favor of a dimeback. Nolan rarely played with a 4th DL except in goal-line defenses, choosing rather to put the S in the box (Ed Reed) and to walk-up the SOLB and SILB into their gaps. He'd also sneak in DT's in place of DE's on occasion in short-yardage situations. Many of those elements will depend on our personnel.

I looked through some of our personnel to try and see who could fit some of these rolls based on my time watching Nolan's defense in Baltimore.

DE (Marques Douglas and Anthony Weaver): Right now Marcus Thomas would probably be best fit to play one of these positions. He'd have to learn to make better use of his arms as he'd be a bit undersized (frame-wise) as a 3-4 DE in most schemes although his frame measures up favorably with Weaver and Douglas. If Kenny Peterson were resigned, I believe he could learn to play the position, however it would also require a lot of work and considering he's a FA - I'd expect the F.O. to rather go with someone familiar with the scheme.

NT (Kelly Gregg and Ma'ake Kemoeatu): We don't have a true NT on our roster right now. Thomas could beef up to be a very solid #2 NT which is very important in this defense as the #1 NT wears down and is often replaced on passing downs. At this point, we're looking at needing at least 2 NTs to be brought in.

WOLB (Peter Boulware and Terrell Suggs) - There are a few guys who could fit this position. Elvis Dumervil has the natural pass-rush abilities to fit Nolan's scheme, but it's been shown that he wears down easily when attacked in the running game and we have no idea how he'd play in space - albeit limited. His success would be very dependent upon the DE play to his side. Jarvis Moss could be another candidate but again, we don't know how he'd play in space and with him, it's still unknown if he has the explosiveness off the edge to put pressure on the QB. One guy I think could play the position very well is Wesley Woodyard. He's just raw enough to be taught the position and while he'd need to be developed on the pass-rush side of the role, his athleticism and instincts could make him a nice fit. I could see Woodyard playing the position on 1st and 2nd downs to be replaced by Dumervil on passing downs as a possiblity too.

WILB (Ray Lewis) - DJ Williams best fits this position and it's where I expect to see him play. DJ takes great angles and should love playing the position if the Broncos can find a NT to keep blockers off of him. DJ's greatest weaknesses are fighting off blockers and blitzing - two things that Nolan's defense should help protect him in quite a bit. DJ's skills are angles, tackling and zone coverage - skill sets necessary to succeed in this position. Woodyard could also play this position with some increased size but I'd expect DJ to play this role very well.

SILB (Edgerton Hartwell) - Right now I'd say Spencer Larsen would be the most natural to fill this role although I'm a bit concerned about his size. I think Woodyard could transfer into the role but it would take a lot of time and strength work. Not to mention taking him out of what he does well, playing in space. Like DJ, a successful DL (in this case DE) would allow Larsen to play well. Larsen is a very sound tackler and doesn't need a ton of space to bring ball carriers down. I'd still expect this to be a spot looked at heavily in the offseason but I consider the DL spots far more critical at this juncture.

SOLB (Adalius Thomas and Jarrett Johnson) - This is such an important position. Honestly, Boss Bailey is likely the best fit to play this spot right now as he carries many of the traits necessary (TE coverage and jamming, outside contain, occasional blitzing). However with his injury history, I think it's unrealistic to count on him at all. This is another spot (surprise!) that I think Woodyard could play although it would necessitate major strength building and a lot of work on outside containment. I actually think Moss translates a bit to the position as he's underrated at keeping contain and holding up against the point of attack - however we have no clue how he would be in coverage and it's not very reasonable to ask a career DE to step in and handle all that this position demands without a lot of help. Tim Crowder has the measurables to fit here as well, but I haven't seen enough of him to know if he could do all this position requires.

It'll be interesting to see what happens over the next few months but I wanted to clarify that Nolan's 3-4 unit is much different than Ryan's, LeBeau's and Collier's - all of which I've seen referenced often. Thanks guys.

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Old 01-26-2009, 11:31 AM   #25
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Daaaaaamn!

Are you sure your not an intern for the Broncos??
Please don't tease me. I've been trying for years to get a job in that building. I'd hand wash John Engelberger's jock strap if it gave me the chance to work my way up into Jim Goodman's office.
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