Dec 20, 2015; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) escapes from pressure brought by Cleveland Browns outside linebacker Paul Kruger (99) during the first quarter at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
Now, if you are an aggressive team like the Steelers, this opens up a huge amount of potential for blitzing schemes. You effectively have four-fifths of the offensive line occupied and the ability to rush with any combination of four linebackers and a strong safety. This now reveals the fatal flaw in the Browns system – they simply don’t blitz!
Just like the running game, you can’t blitz once, get frustrated and then quit. Blitzing requires constant pressure, constant aggression, constant inevitability. With the 3-4 scheme, you are choosing who is coming and from where. The offense only knows that you are going to be blitzing at least one linebacker each play, but who and where is an unknown until the ball is snapped.
That is, unless you are the Browns, who drop both Kruger and Orchard into the flats, have Karlos Dansby trail the tight ends while the other linebacker disappears – he might be getting a tan or a drink with the two unknown defensive ends for all we know.
To compound the ineptitude of the scheme blunders, by investing so much into a 3-4 system, you forget about the core truth of the NFL: it is a passing league!
Most teams function with three wide receivers and a tight end on the field. That’s four receivers and a passing set on almost every down (regardless of if it is a run or pass play). This means that you are forced out of the base 3-4 set and into a nickle or dime scenario several times a game, forcing the defense to change linebackers into corners and shift into a four-man front.
It’s really worse than it sounds. Nose tackles typically can’t play defensive tackle, which is why the Browns decided to let Ahtyba Rubin and Phil Taylor leave in free agency as they were defensive tackles, not nose tackles.
So by switching to the nickle package, the Browns’ top draft pick runs off the field and lighter tackles run on. We have no idea what O’Neil does with the heavy defensive ends when switching to the nickle and, frankly, it’s probably not good anyway, so who cares?
While we have not watched the Steelers play enough to see what they do, we do recall when the New York Giants were killing it they would run as many pass rushing defensive ends out on the field as they could at all times. It seems like it would make sense that guys like Kruger and Orchard would become the defensive ends in the nickle, allowing them to chase after the quarterback.
Next: The wrong moves?