Face it. Change is likely coming to Rams Park next year, whether we like it or not. This season has been a major disappointment, and Spagnuolo and Billy Deveany are likely gone. I think Kroenke would go hard after a coach who would hold players accountable. There are quite a few candidates fitting that description, but what if a new coach runs a 3-4 defense? What if he hires someone like Rob Ryan? How would the personnel look next year on defense? Hit the jump to find out.
First, let me explain the basic basic concept of a 3-4 defense. The "3" stands for the three down lineman, a RDE (right defensive end), a NT (nose tackle), and a LDE (left defensive end). The nose tackle is arguably the most important position in this scheme, and we currently have no players capable of playing the position on the roster. The nose tackle is usually the biggest player on the line, is required to be able to handle double teams with ease. They need to hold of the "A" gaps (the areas between the centers and the guards), and typically line up over the Center. These players do not exactly grow on trees. The defensive ends need to be able to control the "B" gaps ( the areas between the guards and tackles) and do not get the glory that the 4-3 defense ends typically do. These players are typically bigger than 4-3 defensive ends and if put in a 4-3, they would probably play defensive tackle.
The "4" stands for the four linebackers. There are two outside linebackers and two inside linebackers. The outside linebackers are typically rush linebackers, and they must be able to get after the QB with ease. These linebackers typically are around the size of a 4-3 defensive end or maybe a little smaller ( although there are exceptions on both ends of the spectrum). Their main job is to get after the quarterback, but they can be dropped into coverage to confuse the opposing offense. The inside linebackers are typically bigger and they must be able to get off of blocks and make tackles in the run game, as well as provide coverage on TE's and some receivers.
The secondary functions similarly to the 4-3 defense, but is perhaps more aggressive, due to the aggressive nature of a 3-4 defense. The coverage shells (cover 1, cover 2, cover 3, etc) remain intact. There is a mix of zone and man coverage and the strong safety is still a big part of the run defense. The free safety is still an integral part of the guarding against the big play.
Now, on to where each current player on the defense would fit in a 3-4 scheme, and whether he is a player to keep:
Chris Long: Long would be a great 3-4 defense end in the mold of Justin Smith of the 49'ers ( I think they have a similar playing style). He would definitely be someone to keep. He also has experience playing in a 3-4 from his college days at Virginia.
CJ Ah You: Ah You is not someone who I would feel comfortable starting, but he would fit in as a 3-4 defensive end, and he would be a good depth guy. He is someone who we could keep.
James Hall: He would be a little undersized, and he is in the twilight of his career, but I see no major reason not to keep him with a switch to a 3-4. This locker room will still need some veteran leadership next year as I expect us to get younger after most, if not all, of these veterans with one year deals are let go.
Eugene Sims: Not sure why he is on the roster right now, and he would not really fit in as an OLB. First cut of the day! Can you feel the excitement?
Robert Quinn: Quinn could be a premier pass rusher as a 3-4 OLB, and he is a definite keeper.
Justin Bannan: He has experience as a 3-4 defensive end, and he was a solid one at that, so - Keeper.
Fred Robbins: This is a tough one. I know I said that there aren't any nose tackles on the roster, but he could be a a decent backup at that spot. I guess he's a keeper unless we can find better NT's through the draft or free agency.
Gary Gibson: He is a 4-3 DT only, so he's our second cut of the day.
Darrell Scott: I wouldn't keep him even if the next coach has a 4-3 defensive scheme. You sir, are cut.
Brady Poppinga: He has valuable experience in Green Bay's 3-4 so - Keeper.
Ben Leber: He doesn't really fit in as a 3-4 OLB, so he's gone.
Chris Chamberlain: He is versatile, and he's a special teams demon so he makes the cut as a backup/ special teamer.
James Laurinaitis: He is the leader of the defense and the best tackler on the team, so he obviously makes the cut.
Josh Hull: He could be a decent backup, and he makes the team unless a better option presents itself in the draft or free agency.
I'm going to leave the corners and safeties alone for the rest of this post. I'm not sure how the injured players are doing in their recovery, and we would likely keep the same group in both a 3-4 and a 4-3.
This leaves us with the following needs for the front seven:
NT x 2 (one starter, one backup)
DE (not nearly as important as NT)
OLB x 2 (one starter, one backup)
MLB x 2 (one starter, one backup)
Personally, I am all for the switch to a 3-4. I think there are some nice pieces in place for it to happen, and seeing some new faces and having some players relegated to backup duty or losing their jobs altogether might just be the kick in the ass that this team needs. What do you guys think about switching defensive schemes?