Cleveland Browns: Planning for Philadelphia’s Wide 9 defense
By Joel W. Cade
Like any defensive alignment, the Wide 9 has several advantages and disadvantages.
One of the advantages of is the ability of the defensive ends to rush the passer. The advantage is particularly acute for the Eagles with speed rushers Brandon Graham, Connor Barwin and Vinny Curry. By lining them up far outside of offensive tackles Joe Thomas and Austin Pasztor, the Eagles will look to have a more direct route to the quarterback against big linemen who potentially struggle to slide protect.
The Browns will have an advantage in this situation with Thomas. He may not have invented the slide back step, but he has certainly perfected it. It would be rare to see Thomas beaten by a speed rusher in a Wide 9 technique.
Pasztor is another story. He has struggled the entire preseason with pass protection, particularly with speed rushers who can convert speed rush into power. Pasztor will need help in pass protection this week.
The Wide 9 also has significant disadvantages. It leaves the middle of the defense exposed to the run, particularly if the defensive tackles line up over the offensive tackles. Such an alignment leaves the middle of the defense exposed.
Schwartz may be able to mitigate against such a weakness due to the presence of Fletcher Cox. Cox will be a thorn for the Browns the entire game and his presence will require significant game planning. The Browns will need to double team Cox or run the ball away from him.
It should be remembered that the Wide 9 is a formation off of a base 4-3 defense. Fans should expect to see the base 4-3 most of the game. When Schwartz looks to rush the passer or create exotic looks, that is when Browns’ fans can expect the Wide 9 to appear.
Next: Eagles Plan of Attack