As the search for a defensive coordinator continues, we must broach a subject that is bound to stir up controversy. In fact when I told Ed I was writing this post he turned into the Incredible Hulk, punched me in the groin, lit my face on fire and told me he would now refer to me as "Peaches."
Still, we must discuss this lightning rod issue. There is a chance the Giants will once again become a 3-4 defense. Many of you have been clamoring for a 3-4 and today I ask a former Jets scout and college friend to discuss the defense and whether or not it makes sense for Big Blue. Here is our back-and-forth e-mail conversation:
Me -- OK Faz explain to me, as if I was an 8-year-old, what the 3-4 defense even is. Truthfully, I know your limited vocabulary doesn't allow you to speak any other way but I thought I would lower our readers expectations, and BEGIN!
Faz -- I went to college with you and there is no way talking to you like an 8-year-old would cut it. Let me lay it out for you as if you were 5 and we may have a shot. The 3-4 defense simply stated is three down lineman and four linebackers. In order to run the 3-4 system you need these elements to be successful:
Two defensive ends, who are physically more like tackles in a 4-3. Unlike a 4-3 the ends are responsible for two gaps as opposed to one and they must be able to take on two offensive linemen at once.
You MUST have a nose tackle who is an absolute beast. As you commonly write Mr Jacks, you need a lineman who looks like he ate his other fellow lineman to become the top dog. Your nose tackle has to be able to control the line of scrimmage, engage a center and a guard and keep the linebackers clean.
You need two inside linebackers who are very athletic, with the ability to chase down a back, play coverage and take on the occasional offensive tackle.
You need two outside linebackers who are bigger then the inside guys, can dominate a running back, can beat an an offensive lineman, and have limited coverage ability.
The aim of the 3-4 is to have your defensive linemen control the line of scrimmage (a daunting task for three men against five, hence the need for size) while the four linebackers make all the plays. That's pretty rudimentary "Baby Dave (his college nickname for me)," you think you got it?
Me -- Rudimentary seems like far to big a word for you, Faz. In fact you've always had a knack for words. What were those words you used in your scouting report of Vernon Gholston. I believe you called him a "monster" with "jaw-dropping talent." I could have sworn I told you he was a "workout warrior" with "limited talent." Now that I've completely torn down any legitimacy the readers may have thought you had, answer me this; with the current Giant roster do you think they make a seamless switch to a 3-4 defense?
Faz -- Seamless? What's that? Don't use your $20-dollar words on me. Uggh, I knew the Gholston scouting report would come up, rightly so. What you left out is that I graded Jerod Mayo and Chris Johnson well ahead of him, and also noted in my report that "Johnson will be the best player to come out of the 08' draft." So suck on that!
I'll have your readers know you are the same guy who wrote 1000 words about how Aaron Ross would be better then Darrelle Revis. How's that working out? I'm not exactly ingratiating myself to Giant fans, huh? OK, let's get back to the question at hand. Would the Giants roster lend itself to a 3-4 base defense? Well, let's take a look.
Defensive end -- As I said you need two guys who can be responsible for two gaps (great ability to play the run) and can take on tackles in passing situations and completely control the line of scrimmage. So, who do you have? The two guys who stick out are Justin Tuck and Chris Canty. Canty played end for Dallas in the 3-4, so he knows the technique. Tuck is just a physical freak who could handle the switch, but you certainly wouldn't get the sack numbers you're used to. In fact I think the switch may help to nullify your best player, which to me is Tuck. Then again Tuck is so good you may be able to put him in other spots in passing situations. My other concern is that Tuck and Canty are not as bulky as you'd like. Generally your ends, in a 3-4, are heavier players so they can take on two lineman. Then again both players very strong.
Ideal 3-4 ends -- Aaron Smith and Richard Seymour, you have Chris Canty and Justin Tuck - I'd say your roster is average for this spot.
Nose Tackle -- To me this is the key to the line. Just look at how much the Jets improved with the addition of Kris Jenkins. You must have a beast who can take on a guard and center and still get a push, a Vincent Wilfork type. Scouring your roster there seems to be only one option and that's Barry Cofield. At 6-5, 305 pounds I still don't think Cofield is big enough for the spot. Don't get me wrong, weight isn't everything, but at the nose tackle spot you need the size to take on two linemen and still get a push. Alford is a 4-3 tackle. Bernard ate the other lineman but his skills have eroded. Robbins is old and oft-injured and Canty is a 3-4 end.
Ideal 3-4 nose tackle is Shaun Rogers/ Jamal Williams, you have Barry Cofield. I'd say your roster is below average for this spot, but Cofield has proven people wrong most of his career.
Inside linebacker -- Let's face it, as you wrote in that cute little "bust of the decade" post, your linebackers haven't been this thin in some time. The only player i can see handling this spot is Michael Boley who, when healthy, can play the pass and run quite nicely. Antonio Pierce is probably your second-best option, but his coverage skills are almost gone, and that would kill you. Jonathan Goff may actually be more suited for the 3-4 then most people think, but that's yet to be determined. There really isn't any other option here, please don't even bother embarrassing yourself by mentioning Chase or Wilkinson
Ideal 3-4 inside linebackers are Patrick Willis/Ray Lewis. You have Pierce/ Boley and Goff. I'd say you are below average here.
Outside linebacker -- Since a 4-3 defense requires dominant ends who can pressure the quarterback the Giants have done an amazing job of collecting talented at this spot. The question is can those guys, who are used to playing with their hands in the dirt, stand up and play in a two point stance? I think the majority of them can. Mathias Kiwanuka has some experience playing linebacker under Steve Spagnuolo. He is strong enough to dominate a running back, handle an offensive tackle and has some coverage ability. Clint Sintim played in the 3-4 at Virginia, so he would make the transition seamlessly (see I'm learning). The biggest question would be Osi Umenyiora. I think he could make the switch, but just like Kiwi the question would be his coverage skills. I think it could work for all three of these players and I actually think Tuck could play the spot from time to time as well. Although unlike the 4-3 you don't usually move players around like that, but Tuck and Osi may be exceptions.
Ideal 3-4 defensive ends are DeMarcus Ware and James Harrison, with Osi/ Tuck/ Kiwi/ Sintim I think you are above average at this position.
I have the Giants roster listed as above average at outside linebacker, average at defensive end and below average at both nose tackle and inside linebacker. There are question marks, and almost all of your players will be put into spots they have never played before but there's an outside chance with the current roster. Mainly because I believe your ends could transition well to the outside linebacker spot. If that transition doesn't work then I am totally wrong (it happens once a decade, for example Vernon Gholston). I also said the key in the 3-4 defense is the NT spot and I don't see an answer on your current roster.
Me -- You could easily have won our readers back when you mentioned the ideal outside linebacker who everyone knows is the great LT. But you went with Dallas's DeMarcus Ware, good work Faz. I'm going to ask you about the ideal 3-4 coordinator right now, but before I do let me relay this email conversation to our readers.
This conversation took place right before the 09 season.
Me -- I fear that losing Spags will leave the Giants out of the playoffs in 2009.
Faz -- Nah, Spags was great but that D could run itself, hell if you had Ray Handley running it you'd be fine.
Me - If you mention Handley again I'll eat your first born. Spags was better then you think. Uggh, I like the Rex Ryan choice for the Jets. I think he will move them in the right direction, that's unfortunate.
Faz -- Ryan is gonna be great, Sheridan will be fine you watch.
You're an NFL scout? Unbelievable, it's as if you know nothing about the sport.
OK you can answer now, Faz:
Faz -- Let me be the first to say, you're an ass. And now let me tell your readers the original e-mail subject was "what coaches get too much credit for great talent." Mr. Jacks went with Joe Torre's Yankees, who he swears he could have taken to at least one title, despite never coaching a baseball team at any level EVER. I'm a Yankee fan so I struck back with his beloved Spagnuolo. I still say if Sheridan were even mildly competent (shame on you Miami), this defense should have been fine. There is far too much talent for them to be as bad as they were. Now, on to your question.
3-4 coordinators -- I personally think Crennel would have been a nice choice when it comes to the 3-4 simply because he learned under the master Bill Belicheck, who learnt under the God Bill Parcells (see Jacks, I can ingratiate). With Romeo gone what about Pepper Johnson? The Patriots defensive line coach, is also a Belicheck disciple and more of a rah rah guy. Then again corpses are more rah rah compared to Sheridan. Capers is another 3-4 guru, but I don't think he will be going anywhere soon. Green Bay made the switch from 4-3 to 3-4 under Capers and went from 20th in overall defense to 9th. Bob Sutton has learned from Rex Ryan and right now no one is running it as well as the big man, so he certainly has to be an option. Jim Haslett is another 3-4 guy and he is certainly a good motivator, but a bit of a re-tread. Has anyone even mentioned Jim Mora Jr? His players love him and he certainly can motivate. Still, my vote would be to take from the best and go with Sutton.
Me -- You really don't understand ingratiating yourself do you? Are you actually saying because the Jets won A SINGLE playoff game means they run the best 3-4 defense in the league? You can't be serious? How in God's name did the Jets pay you to scout. There isn't a day that goes by that I thank the Lord the Jets hired you and not the Giants. If anything Belicheck (a former Giant) would have to be considered the best, and therefore Pepper Johnson (another former Giant) would be an even better choice, and ingratiating lessons over.
Lastly, if you were in charge of the hiring process what would you do, taking scheme into account?
Faz -- I'm not sure you could call what the Jets gave me pay (zing, a potshot to my former employee, how's that for ingratiating?) For the record after this e-mail I will never use the word ingratiate for the rest of my life. Here's a question for you. Is it better to transition to the hot defense (8 out of 12 teams in the playoffs were 3-4) or fix your holes (linebacker and safety), get healthy and continue on with a scheme that held one of the best offenses in the modern era to 14 points in 2007.
Me -- Well played, Faz. Let's do this again shortly and maybe next time you won't embarrass yourself. Also, remember this is a Giants blog, and no one cares about the weird little insecure brother who loiters in OUR stadium.
Faz -- Until then. Oh, and next time try and be funny. Isn't that your job here on Big Blue View?