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What the 3-4 Defense Needs

Jamie Dukes is not my favorite NFL writer, but his five key ingredients needed for a 3-4 defense didn't sound crazy so I thought I would see if the Packers have got what Dukes thinks it takes:

1. Football IQ: The 3-4 requires players to have a reasonable football IQ, and it can’t be mastered overnight, even if the defensive coordinator knows the scheme like the back of his hand. The Tampa 2 was the last trendy defense to take the NFL by storm, but for all its wonderment, the byproduct was turning players into robots.

2. Elephant: This is the NFL’s equivalent of a hybrid. He is part defensive end, part linebacker, and is athletic enough to have limited coverage skills and physical enough to dominate an offensive tackle. DeMarcus Ware, Adalius Thomas, Terrell Suggs, Shawne Merriman and LaMarr Woodley are examples.

3. Sidekick: This is another outside linebacker (like Greg Ellis, Mike Vrabel, Shaun Phillips and James Harrison) who has coverage skills but also can dominate a running back and occasionally beat an offensive tackle.

4. Power pig: A 3-4 defense must have a nose guard who commands a double team on run plays. He has to be the master between the guards.

5. The 5 Techniques: You need two defensive ends who can control the line of scrimmage. They need to be able to beat one-on-one matchups on pass plays but must be dominant in stopping the run.

  1. This is why defensive coordinator Dom Capers said FS Nick Collins should have attended all the voluntary offseason work. Although I expect he'll be just fine by the start of the season.
  2. Elephant is the new role for LB Aaron Kampman. Obviously he can play like a defensive end, but we'll have to see if he's part linebacker too.
  3. LB Clay Matthews was drafted to fill this role, but he missed most of the minicamp with a bad hamstring. LB Jeremy Thompson played in his place, but he's still working on the transition from defensive end. It's possible LB Brady Poppinga and rookie 7th round LB Brad Jones could compete for the job too. LB Brandon Chillar seems locked in as the top backup at middle linebacker.
  4. Right now the Power Pig is NT Ryan Pickett, but Greg Bedard doesn't expect Pickett is in the team's plans long-term. The future is NT B.J. Raji, and he could become a great anchor in the middle of the line.
  5. While the future for Raji is in the middle, his present is outside at defensive end, along with DE Cullen Jenkins. They both should be able to handle the duties of run stopper and effective pass rusher.

There are some question marks here. Will Collins learn the defense? Can Kampman make the transition? But all of the expected starters have either been successful (Collins, Kampman, Pickett) or are highly regarded rookies (Raji and Matthews). There are going to be bumps in the road, but the pieces are in place to make the 3-4 defense work.