3-4, 4-3.. from Bill

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    3-4, 4-3.. from Bill

    Elucidating bit from Bill vis-a-vis the entire 34-43 debate and discussion that has been ongoing. The focus of media questions, and the back and forth talk here, and the speculation really bear little relation to what actually goes on when you are writing up plays in either a 3 or 4 man front. I would like to higlight the parts where Bill notes that the idea that you are 34 or 43 is a "media fabrication," "over-rated" as a concept, and that it is overly simplisitic to rely on what a "flipcard" says, or what position a player is in (standing or in three point) to start the play.

    BB collects players like tools, and uses them in various situations. The 3-4 vs 4-3 debate is irrelevant, and not only because is so often in four man fronts, and not only because even when in 3 man fronts they ae basically treating their OLBs like DE (Willie McGinest, for instance) but because the difference between the two, once you start elaborating on the most basic (i.e., Madden video game style) shells, the differences erode rather quickly.

    Here is the full text:

    FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The hot topic in Bill Belichick's afternoon news conference was defense, with chatter on 3-4 and 4-3 alignments.

    Belichick took issue when a questioner asked him what endears him so much to the 3-4 defense, pointing out that his Browns teams played a 4-3, and that he's been with teams that won two Super Bowls playing the 4-3.

    The alignments have been an early storyline in camp, with the Patriots playing more of a traditional four-man line instead of the 3-4.

    "Honestly, most people thought we played a 4-3 at the Giants. Lawrence Taylor did a lot more rushing than he did pass-dropping; probably 80-90 percent of the time he was the rusher in the defense," Belichick said.

    "It wasn't always a pass, but certainly in passing situations and a lot of pass plays, he was the designated fourth rusher, which really put us in what amounts to a 4-3.

    "Honestly, I think that's something that is a media fabrication. There are a lot of different alignments out there. You see 4-3 teams use odd spacing. You see 3-4 teams use even spacing. You have 11 players, you can put them in various positions. Whether you want to put it on the pre-game depth chart as one thing or another, I think is a little bit overrated.

    "You play different fronts, you play different spacing, and you teach the techniques of your defense. That is what consistent, techniques that are taught in different defensive systems, whether those teams go from three-man line to a four-man line, or a four-man line to an odd spacing line, or overs to unders, or unders to overs, or over-wides, whatever you want to call it. They will continue to play the same fundamental techniques as they've been teaching for the entire year, for the most part. I think that's what teaching defensive fundamental football is about. It's about fundamentals. Wherever you put them, you've got to people other people in complementary places, however you decide to do that.

    "It's pretty straight-forward really ... It's more the teaching, techniques and fundamentals you teach your defensive players, more than it is the 4-3, 3-4 lineup that is so important to put on the flip card."
     
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    Re: 3-4, 4-3.. from Bill

    Great to post this Z.  I read this last night on patriots.com where they had the full transcript of the press conference.  I've posted the full discussion below, just because I think it was so interesting to hear BB comment on this 4-3, 3-4 thing.  What I've posted below repeats some of what you posted from the Globe article, but it has more detail. BB gets accused of not being cooperative with the press, but when asked good questions, he often can be quite expansive.  The transcripts (and video) of his press conferences are among the most interesting things you can read if you really want to understand what's going on with the Pats.  

    _______________

    Q: What is it about the 3-4 defense that has been near and dear to you throughout your coaching on that side of the ball?

    BB: At the Browns we played a 4-3.

    Q: Other than the Browns, what is it about the 3-4?

    BB: We won two Super Bowls playing a 4-3. In '01 and [‘04]. Second half of the '01 season, we played 4-3 after Bryan Cox and [Ted] Johnson got hurt.

    Q: 3-4 has been historically presumed to be your preferred defense.

    BB: In all honesty, most people thought we played a 4-3 at the Giants. Lawrence Taylor did a lot more rushing than he did pass dropping. He was probably 90 percent of the time, 80 to 90 percent of the time he was the rusher in the defense. Now not every play was a pass, but certainly in passing situations and on a lot of pass plays, he was the designated fourth rusher which really put us in what amounts to a 4-3. I think honestly that's something that's a media fabrication. There are a lot of different alignments out there, you see 4-3 teams use odd spacing, you see 3-4 teams use even spacing. You have same… look, you have 11 players. You can put them in various positions. Whether you want to put it in the pregame depth chart as one thing or another I think is a little bit overrated. You play different fronts, you play different spacings and you teach the techniques of your defense and that is what is consistent. The techniques that are taught in the different defensive systems, whichever ones you want to talk about, are consistent within those systems. And those teams go from a three-man line to a four-man line or a four-man line to a odd spacing line or overs-to-unders or unders-to-overs or over-wides or whatever you want to call it. They'll continue to play the same fundamental techniques that they've been teaching for the entire year, for the most part. I think that's what teaching defensive fundamental football is about. It's about fundamentals. Wherever you put them, you have to put other people in complementary places however you decide to do that. It's pretty straightforward really. You can't have them all over here and none over there. You have to balance it off at some point. It's more the teaching and techniques and the fundamentals that you teach your defensive players more than it is the 3-4, 4-3 lineup that is so important to put on the flip card.

    Q: Would it be more accurate to look at it as a two-gap versus a one-gap then?

    BB: It's all the fundamentals and sure, that's part of it. There are techniques in terms of how to play your front, how to defend the number of gaps and the ways that the offense can attack you, particularly in the running game. So how you want to do that? In a normal set you have eight gaps - seven blockers and eight gaps - so how do you want to defend that? Do you want to defend it with seven people or do you want to defend it with eight? That's really what it comes down to. And every time you spread a guy then the defense spreads a guy, so eight becomes seven. Then seven becomes six. Depending on how many guys are detached from the formation, then that's how many gaps you have. You decide defensively how you want to defend them in the running game. Do you want to defend them with gap control? Do you want to two-gap? Do you want to try to overload the box with extra guys and play eight against seven or seven against six? Those are all the choices you make. With every decision, there's going to be an upside, there's going to be a downside. There will be advantages to playing certain things, there will be disadvantages to playing [them]. So every system has multiple coverages, multiple fronts to adjust to, different problems that the offense presents.

    Q: If 3-4 and 4-3 is overrated like you said, is the important thing to look for players that have skills that can match up against a variety of things that you'll see throughout the season?

    BB: Again I think there's certainly a lot to be said for flexibility. There's also a lot to be said for playing well at one position. I think if a player plays one position very well, there's a lot of value to that. If a player plays multiple positions at a good level, maybe not quite as good as a guy who plays one position at a little bit of a higher level, that versatility is worth a lot as well. How do you value those? I don't know. I think you have to have both. We've had plenty of good players who really just did one thing - Ted Washington, Steve Neal, guys like that. They never did anything but play one position for a long time… well Ted was only here a year, but throughout his career or throughout the time he was here, he did one thing [and] he did it pretty well. Great. Other guys, the Mike Vrabels of the world, the Rodney Harrisons, guys like that, Troy Brown, those guys did a lot of things. They did them pretty well too. A football team is comprised of a lot of parts, certainly a lot of moving parts. You need a lot of different things through the course of a season, through the course of a game. Some guys provide one thing, other guys provide others things. In the end you just have to comprise your team so you can put the best group together that you can. That's the only way I can explain it.

     
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    Re: 3-4, 4-3.. from Bill

    Iprolate: I hadn't seen that whole transcript--thanks for posting it.  What caught my eye was this:
    "You play different fronts, you play different spacings and you teach the techniques of your defense and that is what is consistent. The techniques that are taught in the different defensive systems, whichever ones you want to talk about, are consistent within those systems. And those teams go from a three-man line to a four-man line or a four-man line to a odd spacing line or overs-to-unders or unders-to-overs or over-wides or whatever you want to call it. They'll continue to play the same fundamental techniques that they've been teaching for the entire year, for the most part. I think that's what teaching defensive fundamental football is about....
    There are techniques in terms of how to play your front, how to defend the number of gaps and the ways that the offense can attack you, particularly in the running game. So how you want to do that? In a normal set you have eight gaps - seven blockers and eight gaps - so how do you want to defend that? Do you want to defend it with seven people or do you want to defend it with eight? That's really what it comes down to. And every time you spread a guy then the defense spreads a guy, so eight becomes seven. Then seven becomes six. Depending on how many guys are detached from the formation, then that's how many gaps you have. You decide defensively how you want to defend them in the running game. Do you want to defend them with gap control? Do you want to two-gap? Do you want to try to overload the box with extra guys and play eight against seven or seven against six? Those are all the choices you make. With every decision, there's going to be an upside, there's going to be a downside. There will be advantages to playing certain things, there will be disadvantages to playing [them]. So every system has multiple coverages, multiple fronts to adjust to, different problems that the offense presents."

    The significance between defensive systems isn't 3 linemen or 4 lineman, but the concistently taught technique, and the philosophy of how you chose to defend the gaps in the run game. What's important about the Pat's "3-4 system" isn't 3 lineman (we regularly show different fronts), but the fact that lineman have to control two-gaps, and that the ends play a 5 technique.  I don't know what the technical term for run containment is for LBs ("run containment?") on the eddge, but that's what we've done a good bit of in the past.
    That's why I think there's value in talking about the Fairbanks 3-4, the Arnsparger/LeBeau/Capers 3-4 "safe-pressure" 3-4, etc.  What the two systems have in common is the gap control philosophy, but the rest is completely different.

    My guess is that we are shifting to a defense that that has single gap responsibility.   Our player personel and (so far) training camp mean the defense will "continue to play the same fundamental techniques that they've been teaching for the entire year."

     
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    Re: 3-4, 4-3.. from Bill

    In Response to Re: 3-4, 4-3.. from Bill:
    [QUOTE]Iprolate: I hadn't seen that whole transcript--thanks for posting it.  What caught my eye was this: " You play different fronts, you play different spacings and you teach the techniques of your defense and that is what is consistent. The techniques that are taught in the different defensive systems, whichever ones you want to talk about, are consistent within those systems . And those teams go from a three-man line to a four-man line or a four-man line to a odd spacing line or overs-to-unders or unders-to-overs or over-wides or whatever you want to call it. They'll continue to play the same fundamental techniques that they've been teaching for the entire year , for the most part. I think that's what teaching defensive fundamental football is about.... There are techniques in terms of how to play your front, how to defend the number of gaps and the ways that the offense can attack you, particularly in the running game. So how you want to do that? In a normal set you have eight gaps - seven blockers and eight gaps - so how do you want to defend that? Do you want to defend it with seven people or do you want to defend it with eight? That's really what it comes down to. And every time you spread a guy then the defense spreads a guy, so eight becomes seven. Then seven becomes six. Depending on how many guys are detached from the formation, then that's how many gaps you have. You decide defensively how you want to defend them in the running game. Do you want to defend them with gap control? Do you want to two-gap? Do you want to try to overload the box with extra guys and play eight against seven or seven against six? Those are all the choices you make. With every decision, there's going to be an upside, there's going to be a downside. There will be advantages to playing certain things, there will be disadvantages to playing [them] . So every system has multiple coverages, multiple fronts to adjust to, different problems that the offense presents." The significance between defensive systems isn't 3 linemen or 4 lineman, but the concistently taught technique, and the philosophy of how you chose to defend the gaps in the run game. What's important about the Pat's "3-4 system" isn't 3 lineman (we regularly show different fronts), but the fact that lineman have to control two-gaps, and that the ends play a 5 technique.  I don't know what the technical term for run containment is for LBs ("run containment?") on the eddge, but that's what we've done a good bit of in the past. That's why I think there's value in talking about the Fairbanks 3-4, the Arnsparger/LeBeau/Capers 3-4 "safe-pressure" 3-4, etc.  What the two systems have in common is the gap control philosophy, but the rest is completely different. My guess is that we are shifting to a defense that that has single gap responsibility.   Our player personel and (so far) training camp mean the defense will "continue to play the same fundamental techniques that they've been teaching for the entire year ."
    Posted by USMCM1A1[/QUOTE]

    This is too reductive. You are making the assumption that every play or most plays everyone is two gapping or single gapping.

    On any given play you could have one player two gapping, and three players single gapping. Or two players two gapping, and two players single gapping. Or no players two gapping.

    And every team, for the most part, teaches both fundamentaly, while some run one more than the other.

    If you came out and ran nothing but double gap responsibility with three lineman you would get abused because the other team would adapt their blocking scheme rather quickly. How many gaps a person mans depends on the reads they make at the line and how the offense sets up -- I know, I played the position (DT/NT/DE). Some plays if the offense had seven men on the line you might be looking at two gaps from nose, but if they had seven on the line and no FB, you might be setting up under. That is the essence of what is being comunicated -- by BB here.

    Adding Albert Haynesworth will probably change nothing fundamental about the defense. Like everyone on the NE patriots since BB got here, he will do some single gap, some two gap. Only counting running downs of course, otherwise he is headed uphill.

    He will probably fill the Seymour role, which wasn't primarily manning two gaps in run control, but often relied on help from his right to set the edge while he penetrated the line.

    The idea that 34 teams double gap and 43 teams single gap is as mythic as the idea that the two systems are completely different.
     
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    Re: 3-4, 4-3.. from Bill

    I think what really stood out from this is the fact that people on here say that Bill will never go to a 43 or has never coached a 43 before. Ridiculous! 
     
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    Re: 3-4, 4-3.. from Bill

    Uh ... well I mean, doesn't one front usually involve 3 guys that weigh more than 300 pounds, and the other involve only 2? 
     
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    Re: 3-4, 4-3.. from Bill

    In Response to Re: 3-4, 4-3.. from Bill:
    [QUOTE]Uh ... well I mean, doesn't one front usually involve 3 guys that weigh more than 300 pounds, and the other involve only 2? 
    Posted by themightypatriotz[/QUOTE]

    Uh ... well, um, not necessarily Mighty.

    Pittsburgh ran a line of Casey Hampton (320), Brett Keisel (285), and Aaron Smith (290). San Diego's standard line always includes Luis Castillo who is 290. The Cowboys ran a roster including the 295 pound Spears and 285 lb Canty.

    Stack Harrison or Merriman or Ware at the other end (all of whom are rushing or setting an edge most often) and there is little fundamental difference between that or a line like the Giants 4-3 roster from the mid-2000s that had Strahan (275), Cofield (310), Robbins (325), Umenyiora (260), or the 2001 Patriots' 3-4 that had Mitchell (290), Pleasant (285), Seymour (310), Hamilton (280), and Willie Mac (standing or not 270). On any given down that 4-3 Giants' line would be bringing two 300+ guys and NE would be bringing just one. Julius Peppers is 288 and he is a 4-3 DE.
     
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    Re: 3-4, 4-3.. from Bill

    To nobody in particular...

     

    The reason it's silly to volley around a conversion from one system to another is because Belichick has run the 4/3 for the last 2 decades, often against teams with a strong overwhelming ground game or simply because our linebacker depth was thin due to injury.  Not by choice but by necessity...

     

    If your D Line is healthy and loaded with 3 pro bowlers, you play different than when you only have two dominant guys.  This is what we've had since Seymour left and Warren got hurt, as a result we've seen more 2/4/5 nickel than true 3/4 anyway, just because Bill gets a bunch of guys who are outside linebacker size, puts them at defensive end and calls them as such doesn't make it so.  We haven't had Dwight Freeny and Robert Mathis sitting on our bench.

     

    All this conversion talk in the press is just lazy reporting, parroting what Mike Reis or whomever is reporting or maybe its genuine gamesmanship by Belichick.  What you want is the ability to run both formations, mainly because you have healthy players. I'm sure everyone will feel vindicated to some degree with BB's vague answer but with a full healthy roster let's see if he comes out playing shoot the gap 4/3, somehow I doubt it...  

     
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    Re: 3-4, 4-3.. from Bill

    Ok so some teams use guys in the 280-290 range and there are some elite players out there who can play different roles but in New England for the past few years we can pretty much say on each play, "There are 2, 3 or 4 big uglies out there" and I think most of the speculation on this board has been that there will be 2 big uglies on most plays (Vince and Al) this season but I get that it's pretty much meaningless to say that a line of Wright-Albert-Wilfork-Cunningham is a 3-4 or a 4-3.
     
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    Re: 3-4, 4-3.. from Bill

    i have some reservations about bb's comments. it seems like he's drafted a lot of guys with 34 specific skillsets and minimal 43 versatility, frequently choosing 34 fit instead of top prospect available. cunningham over dunlap was a major major bonerr, and when asked to explain this choice, bb said he took cunningham because dunlap played the wrong position. for a team seriously lacking a pass rush, and supposedly frequently lined up in something that could be called a 4 man line, passing on such a force still irks me big time. then we took Spikes, a great 2 down 34 ilb but worthless in any other role. the year before, Brace was chosen not because the pats rated him that high, but because they saw him as a last ditch effort insurance policy for Wilfork as a nose. this year, Bowers was passed on for yet another cb. given the utter dearth of competent 43 des on the roster, year after year, and given bbs famously impossible standards for 34 olbs, why would he never draft a stud 43 de with some other versatility? i d say the roster bb has put together has been exceptionally 34 specific, and now we're scrambling to assemble talent around a wilfork/haynesworth front. haven't drafted a decent 43 olb capable talent in a long time either. plenty of dbs and running backs though...
     
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    Re: 3-4, 4-3.. from Bill

    BB doesn't run a strict 34 or 43 but he does run more 3 man fronts then any other front. He also runs more sub packages then he runs base packages.

    What does this mean? BB is very fluid with his approach to not only situations but also personal depending on either. He ran a lot of 2 man fronts last year in nickels because a ton of teams were throwing against him given the injuries to the line. But, for the most part BB has typically employed 3 man fronts with multiple variations including 43 looks.

    He's very adaptive and looking at the roster you see a lot of hybrid players that fit his fluid style. Almost every DE also plays DT, every OLB can play DE, almost all his ILB's can flex to OLB which gives him the ultimate flexibility on the line
     
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    Re: 3-4, 4-3.. from Bill

    I'm going to have to respectully disagree with you z :)  Do you see how what you're saying is reductive?  You're arguing there's no differentiation between defensive systems: everyone does everything.  On the contrary, because different systems have a different conception about how to balance pressure vs. coverage, different systems end up needing different types of players (think how radically different the bodies in the Dungy era Tampa-2 ends were from Belichick's favored ends), and different techniques.

    'Course, you and I can argue endlessly on the boards :)  Time will tell--we'll have a chance during the season to see if there's been a shift in our defense.
     
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    Re: 3-4, 4-3.. from Bill

    Brick killed a guy
     
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    Re: 3-4, 4-3.. from Bill

     I've been meaning to talk to you about that. You should find yourself a safehouse or a relative close by. Lay low for a while, because you're probably wanted for murder.
     
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    Re: 3-4, 4-3.. from Bill

    The press are a bunch of idiots...  they keep asking the same question to get the answer THEY want all to make themselves "look" smart and they got the scoop!  BB basically said 34 - 43, either way doesn't matter as the alignments vary all the time.  Once again the press trumps up something to make a mountain out of a mole hill!
     
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    Re: 3-4, 4-3.. from Bill

    the biggest change that ah's addition will be a much stronger 3-man rush that bb likes doing on 3rd and long situations while pats have the lead. hopefully they don't anymore give the opposing qb 6 seconds to throw the ball.

    otherwise, the d has been okay with whatever formation they have been running on first and second down. that's how they get into so many of those 3rd and longs that kill them.
     
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    Re: 3-4, 4-3.. from Bill

    In Response to Re: 3-4, 4-3.. from Bill:
    [QUOTE]I'm going to have to respectully disagree with you z :)  Do you see how what you're saying is reductive?  You're arguing there's no differentiation between defensive systems: everyone does everything.  On the contrary, because different systems have a different conception about how to balance pressure vs. coverage, different systems end up needing different types of players (think how radically different the bodies in the Dungy era Tampa-2 ends were from Belichick's favored ends), and different techniques. 'Course, you and I can argue endlessly on the boards :)  Time will tell--we'll have a chance during the season to see if there's been a shift in our defense.
    Posted by USMCM1A1[/QUOTE]

    There's truth to what both of you are saying really.  In any defense--and in BB's in particular--multiple fronts and techniques are used, so it oversimplifies things to say a defense is just a 3-4, two-gap system or just a 4-3, one-gap system.  At the same time, particular types of players fit better with particular schemes, and so all (well-managed) teams tend to end up with players that match a particular scheme or with schemes that match particular players. In the past, the Pats have picked DLs and LBs that tend to fit well with 3-4 two-gap. And not surprisingly, the Pats have played a lot of 3-4, two-gap defenses, though they vary what they're playing extensively from game to game and within individual games.  

    My take on what's happening is that BB is looking at getting away from schemes that rely as heavily on 3 very big DLs up front and 2 big and versatile OLBs.  Linked with this, he's probably looking to rely a little less heavily on OLBs to produce a pass rush and to try to get more pass rush from elsewhere. My guess is he's thinking of using Haynesworth and Wilfork as the big bodies (just two of them, instead of three) and then using lighter, faster players in other spots around them.  Whether those lighter, faster players are lined up as down linemen or two-point LBs is still to be seen.  I also suspect he's going to attack single gaps more and use a little less two-gap.  In fact, I could see alignments where one of the Wilfork/Haynesworth pair is two-gapping and the other is penetrating a gap, with Spikes and Mayo complementing what's happening up front.  If teams bring extra blockers to the middle to control these four, then guys like Cunningham or Moore will bring more of an edge rush.  My guess is that BB sees Wilfork/Haynesworth (and maybe Spikes) as an unmanageable and distruptive force in the middle of the field which offenses are going to have to counter by devoting more blockers to the middle of the field (freeing up the edge defenders to rush) or by taking the chance that Wilfork, Haynesworth, and Spikes will blow up the pocket or penetrate the backfield to stop runners dead in their tracks at the LOS. 

    Of course, I'm not a coach and I have no idea what's in BB's mind . . . but that's my guess looking at the players we've got.  



     
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    Re: 3-4, 4-3.. from Bill

    In Response to Re: 3-4, 4-3.. from Bill:
    [QUOTE]i have some reservations about bb's comments. it seems like he's drafted a lot of guys with 34 specific skillsets and minimal 43 versatility, frequently choosing 34 fit instead of top prospect available. cunningham over dunlap was a major major bonerr, and when asked to explain this choice, bb said he took cunningham because dunlap played the wrong position. for a team seriously lacking a pass rush, and supposedly frequently lined up in something that could be called a 4 man line, passing on such a force still irks me big time. then we took Spikes, a great 2 down 34 ilb but worthless in any other role. the year before, Brace was chosen not because the pats rated him that high, but because they saw him as a last ditch effort insurance policy for Wilfork as a nose. this year, Bowers was passed on for yet another cb. given the utter dearth of competent 43 des on the roster, year after year, and given bbs famously impossible standards for 34 olbs, why would he never draft a stud 43 de with some other versatility? i d say the roster bb has put together has been exceptionally 34 specific, and now we're scrambling to assemble talent around a wilfork/haynesworth front. haven't drafted a decent 43 olb capable talent in a long time either. plenty of dbs and running backs though...
    Posted by arodrambone[/QUOTE]

    I think what you are saying is absolutely true. BB can say all he wants but he's drafted for a specific d since he's been here and he hasn't been able to get the kind of guys he wants outside of Mayo and Spikes for 4 + years. I think he sees guys who are better suited to the 4/3 being plain available and he's starting to go with it. 

    As for the Giants here's the crux. A guy like Taylor could be your linebacker and end. BB likes big OLBs who can play both situations. Those guys can't be found where the Patriots draft and he has not been able to bring in anyone except for old has beens who don't pan out. I think what BB is realizing is that he's not going to get that versatile player and he's going to have to get some guys who fill roles and situations.

    A BB 3-4 team has ALWAYS been better against the run than a 4-3. That is why it has always been the main focus. I did notice though that last year BB was much more willing to be softer against the run in favor of an attempt to be stiffer against the pass. Not that they were able to stop the pass, they were not but they tried. The real shift quite honestly is to contain the run but to stop the pass first. In fact they would like to stop the run with the sub packages against the pass which is why BB likes guys like Chung. To me that has been the real change in focus for the team. 
     
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