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Seahawks 4-3 Under Base Defense: DL (pressure)
Anyone remember the good ole days when an NFL defensive line had 3 positions (Nose tackle, defensive tackle, and defensive end) ? Every once in awhile you'd have a true savant come along and attempt to sub-classify these D-line basics. Nose tackles could be big nose tackles, or ... wait for it... really big nose tackles.
The schemes were fairly basic, and strategy was all about being bigger, faster, and stronger. 250 pound d-linemen were replaced by 275 pound d-linemen. Super-slow big bodies made way to very slow big bodies... and so was the name of the game in the NFL arms race.
At some point however, teams realized there was a point of diminishing returns. 370 pound linemen weren't any better than 320 pound defensive linemen. In fact, many cases showed that they were more of a liability. Teams needed schemes. They needed more advanced technique.
I asked TC (thank you sir) if he would consider an X's & O's section to begin building a good reference of the schemes, and personal philosophies that our Seahawks run. I think it's beneficial when having discussions about the draft, about specific plays, about the teams future, or even in defending against trolls... to have a better understanding of what the Seahawks actually run, and what we are trying to do to other teams in running certain schemes.
I'll start on the defensive side of the ball, with the DL because most view it to be our primary draft need... and will work through the LB's and secondary discussing the basic scheme/personnel concepts to clarifying many of the terms you may hear regularly, but may not understand how they apply to the game.
4-3 Under Base Defense: Defensive Line (generating pressure)
While there are many variants run on any NFL defensive scheme, the following is a basic 4-3U DL alignment.
I want to back up for a second and explain the term 4-3. These numbers refer to defensive players "in the box" (an imaginary box extending from TE to TE and 7 yards deep). A 4-3 means that there are 4 men on the line of scrimmage (normally DL), and 3 other's within that "box" not playing on the line.
Seattle 4-3 under scheme utilizes DL with specialized names (5-tech, 3-tech, 1-tech, and the LEO). Their alignment to the OL is what defines what position he is playing. A "3-tech" DL can play any "tech", depending on where he is positioned.
The diagram above contains small blue letters that describe which tech a DL is playing. For example, If Mebane (labelled above as 1T) is aligned directly over center he would currently be playing the 0-tech for that play.
So what does this alignment mean, and what exactly is Seattle trying to accomplish here?
It's important to first determine whether Seattle is anticipating a run or a pass. In the first example, we will assume a set that is trying to get after the QB (pressure).
Each and every position in this set is critical, and requires a very specific responsibility and skill set. Lets start on the right side of this diagram with Seattle's 5 and 1 tech's.
The graphic above shows Red (5T) and Mebane's (1T) primary roles. These two moves, in conjunction are ABSOLUTELY critical to the success of the play, and ironically, are two of the more misunderstood in DL play.
The basic concept is 2 for 3. Red and Brandon's primary goal is to occupy the center through the RT (a 2 man for 3 man exchange).
5-Tech: First, in Seattle's 4-3U scheme, the 5-tech must be a mountain and MUST maintain gap control over the B and C gaps (G-T & T-TE). Any breakdown in this gap control creates and escape route for either the RB or QB should pressure from the left come.
Our 5-tech must have massive, powerful hands, and extreme torso strength. He cannot get controlled at any point. To accomplish this.. you need to utilize a very special person. He must not only be massive (to avoid being controlled), but must also have lateral dexterity to set a wide edge (should the offense try and extend the C gap beyond our 5T's control). You want to know why Red got paid first dispite very low sack numbers out of a DE? This is why. Nothing else in our scheme works if the offense has an escape route. The 4-3U 5-tech doesn't get sacks... he is the absolute cornerstone that allows others to (we'll see this is a moment).
1-Tech: Think it's a mistake that my diagram has Mebane (1T) skewed like that? Ever been watching a game and seen the 1T (interior DL) lined up all cock-eyed like in my diagram? There is a very specific reason for this. The 1-tech must line over the Guard, but SELL SELL SELL that he is coming after the center.
Again, we are after a 2 for 3 exchange on this play. The 1-tech must chip and engage the guard while blasting into the center, thus forcing his engagement by default (yes... Mebane is begging for a double team).
Often times a 1T will get slightly out of alignment, to where either he wont effectively engage the center... or the guard isn't buying the ploy. This is when... and I'm sure you have seen this a million times... A MLB like Wagner will walk down and tap the DL on the rear, causing a slight re-positioning. Wagner is helping with the hard sell, or playing games with the OL assignments in order to bait the engagement.
So whats the point of a 2 for 3? Lets jump to the other side of the line to see what Pete has cooked up.
LEO: This is your track star. Pete's LEO is charged with setting his hair on fire deep and around the end. He MUST pull that LT with him and not allow any chip/help blocks on our 3-tech. Often times this is why you see Clem or Irvin setup wide... like '9-tech wide'. They really want to tax that LT and force his first move to be away from our 3T. The rush is deep into the backfield to capture a QB trying to escape the back door.
Which brings us to the goal of the under scheme. A one-on-one between our 3-Tech and their LG...
3-Tech: If the LEO is your track star... the 3-Tech in a 4-3U is your rock star. You have a one-on-one matcup, IN SPACE, between (theoretically) the offensive's slowest player, against your 5 tool beast. It's an inside (3T), outside (LEO) festival of mismatches.
If properly ran, it is impossible to double team the 3T, and a nightmare for any offense. Warren Sapp, arguably the greatest 3-Tech to ever play the game... made a Hall of Fame career in Monte Kiffins base 4-3U schemes doing just that.
Once you feel you've gotten inside the OL's heads... you can throw any number of stunts at them.
It starts to become clear then why an undersized guy like Jason Jones is such a force in this base. You don't need to be hulkingly big... because you have space to utilize your tools and speed.
One last point. Why setup the rush on the weak side?
It's a right-handed QB's Blind side.