Bottom line is this; Kiffin’s scheme asks for a quick attacking defensive line that can put constant pressure on the quarterback, speed and athleticism at linebacker to run down ball carriers and a bend-but-don’t-break secondary that are not afraid to tackle and get messy.
What do we have?
Quick, attacking defensive line?
Can you say DeMarcus Ware! It does not matter if his hand is on the ground or not; you tell D-Ware to go get the quarterback, D-Ware is going to get the quarterback plain and simple. The less he is dropping back in coverage, (3-4 OLB) means the more he is rushing the passer (4-3 DE). What is DeMarcus Ware best at? Exactly!
Jay Ratliff might benefit the most from the change to a 4-3. Everyone was always worried about the wear-and-tear Ratliff suffered playing for those eight years as a 3-4 nose tackle, and now you will have Ratliff playing a gap instead of right over center. Ratliff is most disruptive when he can get a quick release and explode up the field toward the backfield putting immediate pressure on the quarterback, and playing as a 4-3 tackle will allow him to do just that.
Bringing back Anthony Spencer was a great move whether most fans like it or not. You put Spencer (coming off his best season) opposite of DeMarcus Ware on the defensive line allowing BOTH players to attack and rush the passer on every down, along with Jay Ratliff and whoever ends up taking up the other tackle spot (possibly Jason Hatcher) and you have yourself a quick attacking defensive line.
Speed and athleticism at linebacker?
The dynamic duo of Sean Lee and Bruce Carter both coming back healthy present nothing but speed and athleticism. The way in which the 4-3 alignment is designed allows the linebackers more space to roam free and therefore locate and then race down the ball carrier. The more lanes they have to work with, the less they have to fight off blocks from opposing offensive lineman already on their level.
Lee and Carter are both the epitome of sideline-to-sideline linebackers, and this new (old) 4-3 scheme will allow both youngsters to play to their strengths by getting to the ball carrier quickly.
This is really the only question I have. Are Brandon Carr and more specifically, Morris Claiborne both willing and able to play with the kind of aggression necessary to make Kiffin’s system work without a hitch? It will be the cornerback’s responsibility to filter running plays back inside toward the linebackers. So when a running play does spill outside, they have to be capable of making a tough open-field tackle or forcing the runner back inside for the linebackers to then make the play.
The more I think about it, I think the physical style needed from the corners in this scheme will only boost the confidence of Carr and especially the younger Claiborne. They are both better suited for a more physical style of play and playing more press coverage, and this system will call for more of that from them.
As far as the safety position is concerned, there is really no need for elite playmakers at that position within the “Tampa 2” Kiffin will implement this season. Rather, the scheme asks for the safeties playing in coverage and running to the ball. In his system, which has been wildly successful at both the NFL and college level, his players must play with speed and make the offense work to move the ball on you.
There are not a lot of adjustments needed. The defense, for the most part, plays out of one base package. That was the culprit that got Rob Ryan fired; too much thinking going on and not enough reacting…well that and his defense’s lack of turnovers over the last two seasons.
Now players will still have to be extremely disciplined and know their playbooks, but if we are fundamentally sound in 2013, we can expect far more than 16 total turnovers which will result in extra possessions for Tony Romo and Co.
With a healthy talented roster coming back into this system, we can also expect more sacks and pressure on the quarterback. We can hopefully expect our defense closing out games more often. We can expect our defense taking some much needed pressure off of the offense. In other words, we can expect a much improved defense overall in 2013.
Top ranked defense for the first time in a decade? Only time (and health) will tell, but one thing remains 100 percent certain; Monte Kiffin and Rod Marinelli will have fun with this group in 2013.
And if we do boast the league’s top ranked defense this season, you will have those two fathers of both the “Tampa 2” defense (Kiffin) and 4-3 defense (Landry) to personally thank.