Re: Marcus Forston
posted at 8/6/2013 12:07 PM EDT
To nobody in particular,
We should really stop saying Belichick runs a 4/3 or has run it exclusively in the past, the only year we ran a true 4/3 (and it was only for about half the regular season) was 2003.
The linebacking corps got hit with the injury bug, Ted Johnson was out after 8 games (only starting the first two), Rosie Colvin was limited to two games, Mike Vrabel, Willie Mac and others missed time.
The only rocks that year were Bruschi and Roman Phifer. Being that BB had one undersized middle linebacker in Bru and a couple of all purpose LB's like Phifer at his disposal but a plethora of healthy DT's, it made perfect sense to switch, but in fact it was the only choice he had.
2001 and 2004 we ran a 3/4, we ran a 3/4 back in 1996, Belichick ran a 3/4 with the Browns and Giants. There were times along the way, against huge physical offensive lines or when injury dictated that Belichick fielded a 4/3 look for a single game, but let's not rewrite history here...
Today we run a big nickel package as our base, two defensive tackles, 5 linebackers and 4 defensive backs, sometimes subbing a safety in place of a linebacker. Belichick made the "switch" a few years ago at the start of the defensive rebuild, he did it because he had the youngest defense in the entire NFL and the only veteran free agents brought in were Andre Carter and Mark Anderson, both of whom's strengths were rushing the passer.
With a completely green, young group of defenders and shortened camp due to labor negotiations it was impossible to teach them all how to play an intricate 3/4 defense requiring most of them to make decisions on the fly, instead he eschewed it in favor of a simple upfield rush nickel package as his base. It was out of necessity...
The truth is that we've always run these nickel packages going back to the early years, BB always had these packages but they were usually used on obvious passing downs. Belichick was the first to have one DT on the field with a whole bunch of linebackers and pass rushers standing, kind of walking around confused, until the ball was snapped then they rushed upfield to confuse the opposing QB. He always fielded fast pass rushers and allowed his DT's, who were usually relegated to playing two gap, the opportunity to get after the QB.
Something else to consider is that the league has changed and so has Belichick, passing and no huddle have been shoved down our throats by Goodell. You can only carry so many behemoth DT's on your roster now because they usually don't get too heavily involved in special teams, there is now a premium on players who can play every snap.
The way offenses are set up nowadays, even though we still run a 3/4 base, you would only ever see three DT's on the field on a first down or a third and short situation anyhow. The big DT position has been marginalized by the league.
With all this being said if Armstead is healthy, available and most of all as talented as he appeared in Canada, then Wilfork at nose with Kelly and Armond at ends is as good a 3/4 base as you'd find in the league.
They are certainly thin behind those three, perhaps Fortson is the best available because he has a low center of gravity enough to fill in at nose tackle when Vince and Kelly are unavailable but is also mobile enough where he could fill in at end. All this could change if BB decides to pick up a vet free agent DT after camp cuts but I don't think he will unless someone wildly talented is available. There are only so many roster spots available and using one on somebody who would only play two downs a game is unlikely, also they may not be an upgrade over the 4 DT's we'll end up carrying.
We've never run a 4/3 by choice, it was always out of necessity or because we gained an advantage in a matchup against a specific offense. This season BB drafted another every down linebacker in Collins, the first signing of the season was a 3/4 end DT in Armstead, Chandler Jones has been practicing standing on two feet ala Willie McGinest in camp... we've always run a 3/4 and this year it will be the same (health provided) but the difference should be a substantially improved roster and pass rush.