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View Full Version : What is the next Defensive Evolution?



Pops8
06-26-2012, 10:06 PM
The talk around these parts about the defense giving up drives at critical times got me to thinking about D in general. Over the history of football, defenses have evolved to meet changes in the offense. The 6-2 gave way to the 5-3 and 5-2 Okie. Those defenses gave way to the 4-3 and 4-3 slide. Then came the cover-2 (and later Tampa 2) and the zone blitz. As we all know, the rules are quickly changing to favor high powered passing attacks. Defenses will have to adapt and find new ways (and they will, they always do). So here is the question - how are defenses going to adapt? Are they going to focus on rushing the passer and blitz schemes? Will they look for fast defensive backs with big vertical and can play the ball rather than rely on bump/run? Will teams continue to base more out of nickle packages or will there be some radical change to coverage Safety or coverage type LB? What say you - how should defenses adapt to the pass happy rules and the new "contact" rules?

oh - and to keep it Steeler related - how would you apply your changes to the Steelers? Use specific examples (like move Timmons to MLB and go to 4-3, etc).

D Rock
06-26-2012, 10:20 PM
The 0-11 defense will be king.


But really, I think fast coverage LBs may become much bigger parts of defenses. Hopefully Timmons and Spence can lead that change.

SidSmythe
06-26-2012, 10:24 PM
The 0-11 defense will be king.


But really, I think fast coverage LBs may become much bigger parts of defenses. Hopefully Timmons and Spence can lead that change.

With today's TE's becoming the rage, an answer to them will be a must. LB's will have to be able to cover ... or big CB's/SS's

Pops8
06-26-2012, 10:42 PM
I agree also that Big TE's create a match up problem. The days of the Thumper LB are long gone. Speed and ball skills have to be king now. Smaller faster LB's might become the rage. In that vein, Spence could well be an interesting guy to watch this year. I certainly will be interested to see if DL can come up with something to use him. Anyway, I could see at least one LB becoming more SS like (smaller/faster) while the SS would spend more time out of the box in coverage (and thus become a smaller faster type player). One of my thoughts is to move Troy P. to FS into more of a coverage/ball hawk role. M2M is suicide these days so I have to believe Zone coverages will still rule, but I believe the DB corps have to become faster and have the vertical hops. Physical CB's (the kind DL favors) may be passe.

Blitzes seem to easier to beat with the new rules; I think defenses will have to find ways to create pressure from the DL (perhaps the 43) to free LB's for more coverage.

Slapstick
06-26-2012, 10:53 PM
I think that, eventually, the Nickel will become the base defense for all intents and purposes...

For the Steelers, it might be a 3-3-5 type of alignment...

You would still have your 3 down linemen, a NT and two 5-Tech DEs, to be stout against the run and absorb blockers...

You would have three fast, athletic LBs, like are required in a Tampa-2 defense...

You would then have 5 DBs...but, the 5th would be a DB/LB hybrid type player...in the Ohio State Buckeyes defense, for example, that player was called the Star...it is a player that can hit like a LB but cover like a DB...

I don't think that more physical DBs will necessarily become passť, because WRs are tending to become bigger and more physical themselves...

Flasteel
06-27-2012, 01:55 AM
This why we drafted Spence. A guy who can diagnose, will stick you, and has the speed to cover TE's and backs. I can see this guy being an extra Mack LB in 3rd down situations or against those two TE sets. He seems like he will be great in the box and can drop into coverage...kind of like Polamalu is used.

I think flexilbility is the next "evolution" for NFL defenses. Base alignments can be changed with minimal substitution and players have the skill set to match-up against different threats. Not only does Spence represent a coverage upgrade from Foote (in certain packages, of course), I think it could give us nickel capability with more of a base look. With the ability of our corners to play both man and zone coverage, we are going to have an extremely versatile defense.

Oviedo
06-27-2012, 07:10 AM
I agree also that Big TE's create a match up problem. The days of the Thumper LB are long gone. Speed and ball skills have to be king now. Smaller faster LB's might become the rage. In that vein, Spence could well be an interesting guy to watch this year. I certainly will be interested to see if DL can come up with something to use him. Anyway, I could see at least one LB becoming more SS like (smaller/faster) while the SS would spend more time out of the box in coverage (and thus become a smaller faster type player). One of my thoughts is to move Troy P. to FS into more of a coverage/ball hawk role. M2M is suicide these days so I have to believe Zone coverages will still rule, but I believe the DB corps have to become faster and have the vertical hops. Physical CB's (the kind DL favors) may be passe.

Blitzes seem to easier to beat with the new rules; I think defenses will have to find ways to create pressure from the DL (perhaps the 43) to free LB's for more coverage.


Are you suggesting that fans won't be able to use their favorite criticism of any LB they don't like, or not from Penn State, like "isn't stout against the run?" I agree that the "thumper" can stay in high school football where it is relevent.

Seriously though, I agree with what you are saying and I have been saying very much the same for the past two years (with much disdain thrown my way). The Defensive Line has to be turned loose to attack the QB because LB have to used in coverage. Using the DL to control the OL is just plain stupid. Teams are not going to beat you in today's NFL running the ball. You have to stop the pass and that means attacking the QB.

While I hope DL comes up with something innovative for Spence, but I hoped the same for Timmons and I'm afraid that DL's innovation days are behind him and we will see the same template defense put out we have seen for the past several years.

D Rock
06-27-2012, 07:45 AM
Are you suggesting that fans won't be able to use their favorite criticism of any LB they don't like, or not from Penn State, like "isn't stout against the run?" I agree that the "thumper" can stay in high school football where it is relevent.

Seriously though, I agree with what you are saying and I have been saying very much the same for the past two years (with much disdain thrown my way). The Defensive Line has to be turned loose to attack the QB because LB have to used in coverage. Using the DL to control the OL is just plain stupid. Teams are not going to beat you in today's NFL running the ball. You have to stop the pass and that means attacking the QB.

While I hope DL comes up with something innovative for Spence, but I hoped the same for Timmons and I'm afraid that DL's innovation days are behind him and we will see the same template defense put out we have seen for the past several years.


I'm encouraged by the drafting of Spence and also more athletic corners like Cortez Allen and Curtis Brown, who has been said to be the quickest player on the team. I'm going to hold out hope that some innovation to match up against today's passing attacks is on the way.

BradshawsHairdresser
06-27-2012, 09:14 AM
The next big evolution? Forget tackling--they'll have to draft defenders who are good at grabbing those flags that will soon be hanging from players' hips.

Pops8
06-27-2012, 10:04 AM
Are you suggesting that fans won't be able to use their favorite criticism of any LB they don't like, or not from Penn State, like "isn't stout against the run?"

Ooops. Sounds like I stepped in a pile of something by accident. Dang. Now I have to go wash my shoes.


@Slapstick - yea, the 335 does seem to be more along the lines of where we are going. The problem, of course, is that only leaves 6 in the box and the offense can easily block with 5 OL and a big TE. That means a big bruising back could be going up against DB's (thus the need for your star lb)


The next few years should certainly be interesting to watch how defenses begin to evolve and if schemes begin to change. But this then leads to how DL will change. I felt that last year was a change - less blitzing and more coverage (but that is an unscientific and unsupported guess). I have to believe that we will see some changes this year - certainly improvement now that we are healthy at the bookends (and hopefully we stay that way).

@Bradshaw - :tt2

steelz09
06-27-2012, 12:15 PM
Ooops. Sounds like I stepped in a pile of something by accident. Dang. Now I have to go wash my shoes.


@Slapstick - yea, the 335 does seem to be more along the lines of where we are going. The problem, of course, is that only leaves 6 in the box and the offense can easily block with 5 OL and a big TE. That means a big bruising back could be going up against DB's (thus the need for your star lb)


The next few years should certainly be interesting to watch how defenses begin to evolve and if schemes begin to change. But this then leads to how DL will change. I felt that last year was a change - less blitzing and more coverage (but that is an unscientific and unsupported guess). I have to believe that we will see some changes this year - certainly improvement now that we are healthy at the bookends (and hopefully we stay that way).

@Bradshaw - :tt2

The NFL is a passing league but I disagree about the thumper is obsolete concept. I think a great LB needs to do both. If you have only "coverage" linebackers, a team w/ a good running attack will just run the ball down your throat every play. Not being able to stop the run is still the easiest way to lose a football game.

flippy
06-27-2012, 12:15 PM
I say it'll be a 4-7.

Beasts like Mean Joe/Suh/Seymore/JPP on the DLine that can't be blocked and can generate serious pressure without the need to blitz.

All of your LBs and FS/SS become hybrids and you try to get as versatile players as you can find like Woodson/Lake/Polamalu.

And that means your corners probably have to be bigger and more athletic.

It's all about D speed, pressure on the QB, being physical, and forcing the QB to make mistakes and/or hold the ball too long.

Oviedo
06-27-2012, 12:46 PM
The NFL is a passing league but I disagree about the thumper is obsolete concept. I think a great LB needs to do both. If you have only "coverage" linebackers, a team w/ a good running attack will just run the ball down your throat every play. Not being able to stop the run is still the easiest way to lose a football game.

As teams structure their lineups to compete in a pass first league they are not putting the pieces on their rosters to have a dominant running game. Teams that try to do that usually don't have good QB play and they are usually losing teams.

You don't have to be elite to stop the run but you do need to be elite to stop the pass. I'll settle for being #10 against the run if I can be top 5 against the pass.

Shawn
06-27-2012, 12:54 PM
With the move to a more pass oriented O. D's will compensate. I spoke about this before the draft about why I believed we wouldn't select Hightower. While I heard reports the Steelers liked Hightower, I suspect much of it was smoke. Tomlin likes fast athletic LBrs who can cover. While Spence didn't measure out as fast as he looks on film, the guy can cover. He has good instincts with a nose for the ball. The day of the traditional thumpers are gone...and 230-240 pound LBr/DB hybrids, who can keep up with slots and bigger faster TEs will become the norm. I don't think the base packages will change all that much except I see the Steelers able to use less nickle and keep their 3-4 base package more (due to personel Timmons, Spence).

feltdizz
06-27-2012, 12:58 PM
I say it'll be a 4-7.

Beasts like Mean Joe/Suh/Seymore/JPP on the DLine that can't be blocked and can generate serious pressure without the need to blitz.

All of your LBs and FS/SS become hybrids and you try to get as versatile players as you can find like Woodson/Lake/Polamalu.

And that means your corners probably have to be bigger and more athletic.

It's all about D speed, pressure on the QB, being physical, and forcing the QB to make mistakes and/or hold the ball too long.

yep... I think a 4-7 will be the new model... you will still have 3 LB's or 2 LB's but they will be tweeners who can get 20 yards down field and also plug the hole on run plays.

Oviedo
06-27-2012, 01:17 PM
I say it'll be a 4-7.

Beasts like Mean Joe/Suh/Seymore/JPP on the DLine that can't be blocked and can generate serious pressure without the need to blitz.

All of your LBs and FS/SS become hybrids and you try to get as versatile players as you can find like Woodson/Lake/Polamalu.

And that means your corners probably have to be bigger and more athletic.

It's all about D speed, pressure on the QB, being physical, and forcing the QB to make mistakes and/or hold the ball too long.

Totally agree which is why DL needs to let our defensive linemen attack the QB and quit dancing with the OL.

The NFL will more and more mimic the spread we see in college because that is what the talent pool is taught to do and how they are taught to play. Not every team wants to take 2-3 years to "re-educate" their defensive players. Most recognize that is a waste of their time.

SidSmythe
06-27-2012, 01:29 PM
Personally if it were me, i'd stick with a 3-4/2-4...technically everything is based on down and distance.
You'll never see the base 3-4 go away b/c you will never see the 2 back/2TE go away.

Teams will still base their fronts off 1st down sets, but you'll see more of a focus on LBs being athletic and able to cover.

As that defenses evolve so will offenses back to the run....once defenses catch up to the passing game their weakness will be defending the run again

grotonsteel
06-27-2012, 01:42 PM
Totally agree which is why DL needs to let our defensive linemen attack the QB and quit dancing with the OL.

The NFL will more and more mimic the spread we see in college because that is what the talent pool is taught to do and how they are taught to play. Not every team wants to take 2-3 years to "re-educate" their defensive players. Most recognize that is a waste of their time.

:Agree


Steelers drafted a pair a 1st Rd D-linemen. Unleash them. We don't need 1st Rd draft picks just to take on the blockers. We need them to collapse the pocket, rush the QB.

Draft in middle rounds for players to take on the blockers.

RuthlessBurgher
06-27-2012, 01:53 PM
With the passing game continuing to evolve, base defense may need to be thrown out the window completely. If the rules continue to lead to an increasingly pass-happy league year-after-year, then defenses may be in nickel and dime packages almost exclusively whenever you are playing a team with a semi-competant QB.

Here is an idea of what teams might be looking for:

Start with a 4 man front consisting of a run-stuffing NT, a penetrating 3-technique, a well-rounded strong-side DE who is responsible against the run and pass, and a pure pass-rushing terror as your weak-side DE coming in from the QB's blind side.

A true thumper at MLB, then a couple of "tweeners" along side of him (unlike the DE-OLB tweeners like Jason Worilds, I'm talking about LB-S tweeners like Sean Spence). One guy might have been an undersized LB in college (think Carnell Lake), and the other guy might have been an oversized safety in college (think Brian Urlacher). Guys who are strong enough to hold up against the run, but quick enough to counter multiple TE sets without having to substitute (and, of course, blitzing ability wouldn't hurt either, even though this wouldn't be a primary responsibility on most downs). The ideal would perhaps be guys like Derrick Brooks and Sean Taylor in terms of guys who are equally adept at dropping into coverage zones as well as holding up against the run too.

In the secondary, have two outside corners and a slot corner (since 3-WR base offenses are becoming more prevalent) plus a ball-hawking FS patrolling the deep middle.

In this scenario, you'd always have 4 DL and always have at least 4 DB, and the adjustment from base to nickel to dime would depend on how those two "tweeners" would be lined up and used. If they are both down in the box to function as linebackers, it is more of a base look. If both drop back to function as safeties, it is more of a dime look. And if one functions as a LB and the other as a SS, then it would be more a nickel look.

RuthlessBurgher
06-27-2012, 01:58 PM
As teams structure their lineups to compete in a pass first league they are not putting the pieces on their rosters to have a dominant running game. Teams that try to do that usually don't have good QB play and they are usually losing teams.

You don't have to be elite to stop the run but you do need to be elite to stop the pass. I'll settle for being #10 against the run if I can be top 5 against the pass.

Well, last season we were 8th against the rush, but 1st against the pass...

Oviedo
06-27-2012, 02:40 PM
With the passing game continuing to evolve, base defense may need to be thrown out the window completely. If the rules continue to lead to an increasingly pass-happy league year-after-year, then defenses may be in nickel and dime packages almost exclusively whenever you are playing a team with a semi-competant QB.

Here is an idea of what teams might be looking for:

Start with a 4 man front consisting of a run-stuffing NT, a penetrating 3-technique, a well-rounded strong-side DE who is responsible against the run and pass, and a pure pass-rushing terror as your weak-side DE coming in from the QB's blind side.

A true thumper at MLB, then a couple of "tweeners" along side of him (unlike the DE-OLB tweeners like Jason Worilds, I'm talking about LB-S tweeners like Sean Spence). One guy might have been an undersized LB in college (think Carnell Lake), and the other guy might have been an oversized safety in college (think Brian Urlacher). Guys who are strong enough to hold up against the run, but quick enough to counter multiple TE sets without having to substitute (and, of course, blitzing ability wouldn't hurt either, even though this wouldn't be a primary responsibility on most downs). The ideal would perhaps be guys like Derrick Brooks and Sean Taylor in terms of guys who are equally adept at dropping into coverage zones as well as holding up against the run too.

In the secondary, have two outside corners and a slot corner (since 3-WR base offenses are becoming more prevalent) plus a ball-hawking FS patrolling the deep middle.

In this scenario, you'd always have 4 DL and always have at least 4 DB, and the adjustment from base to nickel to dime would depend on how those two "tweeners" would be lined up and used. If they are both down in the box to function as linebackers, it is more of a base look. If both drop back to function as safeties, it is more of a dime look. And if one functions as a LB and the other as a SS, then it would be more a nickel look.

Really!!!!! Did you really just advocate a version of the 4-3 that I've been saying for the past two years and getting a rash of sh!t about???????

Slapstick
06-27-2012, 02:45 PM
Really!!!!! Did you really just advocate a version of the 4-3 that I've been saying for the past two years and getting a rash of sh!t about???????

It's pretty similar to the passing down Nickel defense that the Steelers have used at times over the last few years...

If it's already part of the defense, what are you calling for?

Shoe
06-27-2012, 03:15 PM
The 0-11 defense will be king.


But really, I think fast coverage LBs may become much bigger parts of defenses. Hopefully Timmons and Spence can lead that change.

That's very logical. In previous "eras" of football since I've been watching (as it relates to our 34 defense), the MLB (the Buck?) position was supposed to be manned by a thumper--a guy who could take on big linemen and stuff the inside run. David Little was a prototype for this. Kirkland another. In the past few years, we've manned that post with Farrior at 220 pounds.

I think having fast guys (Sean Spence) is possibly an evolution to our 34. You don't have as much a need to have a thumper in the box.

RuthlessBurgher
06-27-2012, 03:55 PM
Really!!!!! Did you really just advocate a version of the 4-3 that I've been saying for the past two years and getting a rash of sh!t about???????

I was answering a general "What's the next defensive evolution?" question in regards to defending against the evolving pass-happy NFL...I wasn't necessarily being Steeler-specific here...our team is built to win now...only minor "tweaks" are required, not wholesale philosophical changes.

But, yeah, in general, if the league continues to lean more and more on aerial attack, we would also need to counter with more nickel and dime specialty defenses (which have always been 4 man fronts...we can run a 3-3-5 nickel, but it's essentially the same as a 4-2-5 nickel except that one of the pass-rushing DE's is in a two-point stance instead of a three-point stance...playing a "joker" type of role). I was merely suggesting how defenses might evolve using LB-S tweeners in order to morph from base to nickel to dime without requiring substitutions, so a team going no huddle will not be able to keep you in a disadvantageous personnel grouping.

Once upon a time, when the 4-3 was prevalent, DE-OLB tweeners had a reduced value (one or two saavy 3-4 teams could find them in mid-to-late rounds with regularity).

Then, when the league evolved and the 3-4 became en vogue, suddenly the value of DE-OLB tweeners shot up (had to use early round picks to get good ones now).

Now, with the league evolving again, I am predicting that LB-S tweeners will gain value moving forward...that's all. Guys who did not have a position in base defense will suddenly be valued because of how they could allow a team to seemlessly transfer from one specialty defense to another even when the other team does not allow you to sub in new bodies. The LB-S tweener will be the answer to the multiple TE trend, which has been causing matchup problems for defenses over the last couple seasons. Don't worry...I'm not becoming a 4-3 man (unless, of course, we find the second comings of Joe Greene, Jack Lambert, Jack Ham, Mel Blount, etc.).

Oviedo
06-27-2012, 04:16 PM
I was answering a general "What's the next defensive evolution?" question in regards to defending against the evolving pass-happy NFL...I wasn't necessarily being Steeler-specific here...our team is built to win now...only minor "tweaks" are required, not wholesale philosophical changes.

But, yeah, in general, if the league continues to lean more and more on aerial attack, we would also need to counter with more nickel and dime specialty defenses (which have always been 4 man fronts...we can run a 3-3-5 nickel, but it's essentially the same as a 4-2-5 nickel except that one of the pass-rushing DE's is in a two-point stance instead of a three-point stance...playing a "joker" type of role). I was merely suggesting how defenses might evolve using LB-S tweeners in order to morph from base to nickel to dime without requiring substitutions, so a team going no huddle will not be able to keep you in a disadvantageous personnel grouping.

Once upon a time, when the 4-3 was prevalent, DE-OLB tweeners had a reduced value (one or two saavy 3-4 teams could find them in mid-to-late rounds with regularity).

Then, when the league evolved and the 3-4 became en vogue, suddenly the value of DE-OLB tweeners shot up (had to use early round picks to get good ones now).

Now, with the league evolving again, I am predicting that LB-S tweeners will gain value moving forward...that's all. Guys who did not have a position in base defense will suddenly be valued because of how they could allow a team to seemlessly transfer from one specialty defense to another even when the other team does not allow you to sub in new bodies. The LB-S tweener will be the answer to the multiple TE trend, which has been causing matchup problems for defenses over the last couple seasons. Don't worry...I'm not becoming a 4-3 man (unless, of course, we find the second comings of Joe Greene, Jack Lambert, Jack Ham, Mel Blount, etc.).

You are singing my tune. My point all along has been that as more teams went to the 3-4 the "monopoly" we had finding those tweener DE/OLBs was lost and we therefore lost an advanatage. Coupled at the same time with the league becoming a "pass first and pass often" it only made sense to get more pressure from the DL because LBs were going to be forced into coverage and therefore not putting pressure on the QB. That pressure has to come from the DL.

I don't think you need to be talking a "what if" here. TThis emphasisi on the pass isn't going away so staying with our current scheme just doesn't make sense. Let's be leaders to the next defensive scheme versus hanging on to what we will have to move away from.

This is all being driven by the spread in college so let's not waste 2 years of a players limited NFL career "converting" him and bring him in and use him like he was used in college to stop a offense very similar to what the NFL is becoming more like. I think we need to be looking at how we do it now. Woodley could be a pass rushing DE in a four man front tomorrow.

steelz09
06-27-2012, 09:52 PM
I'm in agreement that base defenses may become more obsolete and the nickell may play a much larger role.

However, I still say that if you don't have a ILB that is really strong in run defense, (in a base 3-4).. you are in trouble.

I disagree that the Steelers wouldn't have drafted Hightower. Colbert basically said it after the draft that he was rated very high. That's not a smokescreen. Why would they do a smokescreen after the draft. It was crystal clear that the Steelers rated Hightower very high even though a lot of people on this board can't live with it.

I forgot who said that elite passing teams don't have a solid running attack. Wrong.... New Orleans have some pretty good running backs last time I checked. Houston does as well.