It's time for the annual 4-3 vs 3-4 discussion that flies around here before the draft. I'm sure there is bound to be a much better and informed post on this not too long from now, but here's one man's perspective.
I really have been trying to fight away all feelings towards making the switch for a couple of different reasons, but there is some pretty interesting perspectives. When trying to form my own opinion, the critera I'm using comes down to a couple of different questions.
1-Do we have the talent more suited for 4-3 or 3-4?
Given the money and draft picks we have already spent on our defensive line, and the disgusting-at-best group of linebackers we're currently under contract with (except of course D. Smith), my initial response is the 4-3. Fixing the linebackers seems like a much easier task than actually making a switch on defense.
2-Can we utilize the talent we already have more effectively in the 4-3 or 3-4?
Actually, now that I think about things more...let's take a look at who might be more effective in this scheme. I remember going into last year, Derrick Harvey looked like he was going to have a great year. One of the reasons many thought he could potentially be a star was how he started to adapt to the hybrid we were running in 09. Sure, he wasn't worth, and isn't worth, the money we're paying him, but what's to say he couldn't pick up where he left off.
If you remember, Daryl Smith was great in any spot 3-4 or 4-3 which provides some flexibility. I also remember Vic saying that Terrance Knighton closely resembles the prototypical 3-4 DT. Tyson Alualu was considered a 3-4 DE by many going into last years draft, and he could be supported by D'Anthony Smith. Between Mincey and Lane, the LDE position in a 3-4 could find a solid starter. What about guys like Larry Hart and Aaron Morgan? I would think that (even though they're still developing) playing the pass rushing linebacker would put them in position to at least be as significant as last year, which wasn't much by the way. Even LB Russel Allen might find a spot worthy of depth at MLB in the 3-4. The only man I see with a real issue at making the switch is Aaron Kampman, but after a second consecutive trip to the IR, I don't see his opinion making an impact.
3-Is there more talent available to us throughout the draft in the 4-3 or 3-4?
As Alfie mentioned earlier, Kerrigan could provide a hybrid type DE/LB that could play to his strengths and find a real starter in the front 7. Other guys such as Ayers, Clayborn, Heyward, Ballard, Aldon Smith and Watt are all said to be able to play the strengths of the 3-4 and some to both defenses...again making a hybrid defense a way to give one of these guys a safe starting spot where they can make a strong impact someplace. In the opinion of many mock draft websites, most of the top end 4-3 talent will be taken in the top 14 spots, including Cameron Jordan.
4-Would a change of coaching plan affect us?
Here is the piece that sells me on the 3-4 ticket. There will most likely already be a change of terminology and focus on gameday, anyways. Mel Tucker is supposed to be calling the shots on defense next year and this is already going to cause some changes. Who better to direct the flow of incoherence to brilliance than a 3-4 "mastermind."
So as I have tried and tried to fight off the tempting, maybe sexy, change to the 3-4 defense, I keep seeing more and more reasons to say "Why not" instead of "definitely not." Perhaps making the switch would require the acquisition of less talent then revamping our entire LB corps and finding a pass rusher. I'm not saying we should for sure, but I'm definitely going into this draft with an open mind to a change of scheme.
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