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Old 01-26-2009, 10:22 AM   #1
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Default Joe Collier explains art of 3-4 defense

heres my 3-4 thread..
eat it!

Former Broncos defensive coordinator Joe Collier explains the roles of the players in the 3-4 defense. "The nose tackle is probably the single-most important guy," he said.

Former Broncos defensive coordinator Collier explains art of 3-4 defense

Scheme would require Broncos to change roster
By Jeff Legwold, Rocky Mountain News (Contact)
Published January 23, 2009 at 10:21 p.m.

It had been more than four decades since the Broncos surrendered more than 400 points in back-to-back seasons.

But newly hired Broncos coach Josh McDaniels has inherited a team that had done just that, with 409 points allowed in 2007 to go with a staggering 448 allowed this past season. And while McDaniels has been mum about his specific blueprint to repair that, his recent additions to his coaching staff, to go with his own resume, point to a 3-4 defense in the Broncos' future, possibly as soon as the 2009 season.

And to build that will take a considerable roster commitment, according to one of the men who knows it best - former Broncos defensive coordinator Joe Collier.

Collier, who spent 20 seasons (1969-1988) with the Broncos and still lives in the Denver area, is the one who put the 3-4 into the pages of the franchise's history. He's also the one Patriots coach Bill Belichick, McDaniels' former boss, often has credited with first showing him the defense.

"And you build it from the inside out," Collier said. "The nose tackle and the inside linebackers, those are three guys that are very important. But when you go through it, the nose tackle is probably the single-most important guy.

"He has to hold it all together and make it so the guards can't get out on the inside linebackers. Let me put it this way - the nose tackle can make the inside linebackers look pretty good, and if your inside linebackers look pretty good, you're going to play pretty good defense."

McDaniels has said he and defensive coordinator Mike Nolan would evaluate the team's personnel before making any formal decisions about schemes. But Broncos vice president of football operations/player personnel Jim Goodman said at the Senior Bowl this week the Broncos already knew what kind of personnel they were looking for.

And it's clear the Broncos have no one on their current roster to play the centerpiece position in the 3-4.

Dewayne Robertson, listed at 308 pounds, is the Broncos' biggest defensive lineman and has played nose tackle in his career.

But he repeatedly has said he did not enjoy his time on the nose in the New York Jets' 3-4 before his trade to the Broncos, and that was one of the reasons he wanted a trade.

He's also far lighter than 325- pound Vince Wilfork and 325- pound Casey Hampton - both likely play at heavier weights than are listed - who are considered two of the best nose tackles in football in the two best 3-4 defenses in the league in New England and Pittsburgh, respectively.

"But that guy is the first guy you have to get," Collier said. "He has to be physically capable of playing the position and mentally tough enough to do it over the long haul. I used to ask Rubin Carter's son, Andre, all the time where he wanted to play in the NFL and he'd always say, 'Anywhere but nose tackle, because I saw how my dad walked around the house on Mondays.'

"The nose tackle, all three guys up front, have to play with that physical side and they have to be unselfish, powerful and ready to deal with the fact they have to do their jobs well so other people may make the tackles, force the fumbles, get the sacks and interceptions."

Tall order

The two defensive end spots traditionally are filled by players with the body types the Broncos don't have on their roster. The Steelers and Patriots start defensive ends who are at least 6-foot-5 and at least 285 pounds. New England starts two 300 pounders in Ty Warren and Richard Seymour.

Backup defensive tackle Nic Clemons (6-6, 300) is the only lineman on the current Broncos roster who stands taller than 6-4 and also is 300 pounds.

"Those ends, especially the guys on the strong side, have to be able to hold the ground," Collier said. "He's going to get

double-teamed almost every time, and he can't dig in 8 yards down the field; he's got to hold at the point (of attack) so that linebacker can come around the bend behind him to make the play."

The two outside linebacker spots require some work as well. The weak-side linebacker on the outside, who lines up away from the offense's tight end, usually on the defensive right, is the primary pass rusher.

This often is a former college defensive end. The Steelers feature the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year in this spot in James Harrison, who is 6-foot, 240 pounds, but is a refined rusher who also can hold up in the run game if necessary.

This is the spot where Elvis Dumervil (5-11, 260) and Jarvis Moss (6-6, 265) likely would have to make the transition into a 3-4 if they are going to have active roles in the defense.

In the other outside linebacker spot - the strong side - the Patriots and Steelers play 260-pound players there. The Steelers line up LaMarr Woodley, another refined pass rusher who played end for two of his four seasons at Michigan and had two sacks in the AFC Championship Game, who checks in at 6-2, 265.

The Patriots have played the 261-pound Mike Vrabel, a former defensive end at Ohio State, in that spot as well.

The Broncos have only one linebacker in excess of 240 pounds, the 263-pound Mario Haggan, who split time at middle linebacker as this past season drew to a close.

Easier transition

Collier said the two inside linebacker spots have to be filled by players who can move well enough to get to both sides of the field. But he added that if the work is done correctly in front of them, those two players often can make the transition the easiest from a 4-3 defense they have played in college or elsewhere in the NFL.

The Steelers have played some lighter players inside, like the 239-pound Larry Foote, in their attacking scheme. The Patriots have two 240-pounders on the inside in Jerod Mayo and Tedy Bruschi; Bruschi was a defensive lineman in college at Arizona, having even played nose tackle at times, and was converted to a linebacker by Belichick.

"But in the end, a 3-4, it's not the answer to everything," Collier said. "You play a game, you figure you have 60 plays or so on defense. You might be in the straight 3-4 about 20 or so plays of the 60. The rest of the time, you're going to be in down-and-distance situations where you might take a linebacker and put him in a three- point (stance), or add a defensive back, go with five or six defensive backs. You have packages.

"So it's just part of the defensive scheme, just one of the things you're going to be doing and not everything. But it's like anything, it takes some continuity to be good at it. The Steelers and Patriots, they've been playing it a while. And 75 percent of our success when we did it was that guys played in the same system 10, 12 years."

Shopping list

If the Broncos want to go 3-4 on defense - three linemen and four linebackers - here's what longtime defensive coordinator Joe Collier said is needed to play some of the more important spots in the defense that differ from a traditional 4-3 look.

* Nose tackle (plays over the center): "He has to be strong, have good balance and be willing to battle in there all the time. No plays off. He makes it go."

* Defensive ends: "Also have to be strong, really strong. They're going to be head up on a lineman most of the time, so when they get double-teamed, they can't get pushed off the ball. If they do, you have some situations and they aren't going to be good."

* Outside linebacker (weak side, away from the tight end): "He's the rusher, he's the speed guy. Has to be good enough in the rush to beat tackles one-on-one enough to make plays and always beat any backs who try to block him."

* Outside linebacker (strong side, directly across from the tight end): "This is a tough position to play, because he has to be quick enough to help you in the rush and drop out and cover that tight end or back a lot. But he's also got to be strong enough to get in there against the run, because most teams are going to be dominant to the strong side in the run game."

* Inside linebackers: "These guys have to move in space, work off the battles in front of them, find the openings and get to the ball. And if the guards do get to them, they have to get off the block and make the plays."

Different deals

The Steelers and the Patriots - they were the No. 1 and No. 10 defenses in the league during the regular season - are considered to have the best 3-4 defenses going in the league. But they are different in their approaches.

* Steelers: An attacking zone blitz look. They will drop defensive linemen into coverage and add players in the rush in a wider variety of looks. They blitz two defensive backs at times and rush them alongside two outside linebackers or put one defensive lineman down in a three-point stance and rush three other players from unexpected spots along the line of scrimmage.

* Patriots: Former Broncos defensive coordinator Joe Collier, whose son Joel coached under Bill Belichick with the Patriots for a time, said Belichick is far more traditional in his attempt to win the line of scrimmage. Most often he lets the big guys fight the battles up front. "He'll add some unexpected things in the rush at times, but when he does some things, it's more from the secondary and in coverages than (the Steelers). The Steelers attack the quarterback," Collier said.
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Old 01-26-2009, 10:27 AM   #2
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I just wanna see some sort of improvement
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Old 01-26-2009, 10:34 AM   #3
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Joe must be bummed that that Danbury Mint piece he is holding does not include Rubin Carter.
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Old 01-26-2009, 11:03 AM   #4
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Joe was a Defensive Genius ....... I dont think there will be another one like him in my life time ( and if I keep lipping off to the wife , wont be a long one )
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