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Former Redskin Matt Bowen: Remain Patient with the 3-4

Since Jason Campbell is gone, Redskins fans (myself included) need something to endlessly bitch complain and debate. This's the 3-4 defense versus the 4-3. ESPN had a nice post yesterday explaining the history of defenses in the NFL:

Twenty years ago, the 3-4 was the most common NFL defense -- Super Bowl XXV between the Giants and Bills matched two 3-4 defenses. Roughly by the year 2000, NFL offenses had figured out how to counter the 3-4, and defensive coordinators began to rediscover the 4-3. The disruptive, Super Bowl-winning Baltimore and City of Tampa defenses of this phase were conservative 4-3 schemes...Then coaches and quarterbacks got a good handle on the 4-3, and defenses started reverting to the 3-4. Within a few years, the 3-4 will be understood again and teams will switch to the 4-3 as the hot defense. Tactics matter, but players are more important. Give me a 4-3 defense with good players over a 3-4 with poor players any day of the week.

That last line is what I've been harping on all pre-season. The NT, the most important part of the 3-4 defense, is non-existent for the Redskins. Guards are running free in the secondary and off the snap the line of scrimmage is immediately 2 yards further downfield for the RB. We've been debating this to no end, so I decided to ask Ken Meringolo someone who knows what they're talking about. Former Redskin and National Football Columnist, Matt Bowen, graciously took some time to shed some light on the Skins predicament and how the Redskins can defend the Eagles:

Kevin: Shanahan again defended the personnel is fine for a 3-4 after the Rams' loss, yet they have no Nose Tackle that can hold the line of scrimmage and they're using converted DEs as OLBs (Andre Carter), who do not have the agility to move, tackle or cover in space (Lorenzo Alexander has been OK).

Bowen: At the Nose: We all know the issue there. Hayensworth can be dominant at the position. Great feet, can use his hands at the point of attack and has the size/power to take on a double team--and split that double team to get in to the backfield. The two inside linebackers in the 3-4 are at their best when they can pursue to the football and attack downhill. Got to have a player at the Nose who is consistent, can hold up for four quarters and play within the scheme of the defense. Not a box score position in terms of numbers, but crucial to the success of the team. 

I guess my issue at NT is they continually put Ma'ake Kemoeatu at NT and he's consistently getting pushed back 2-3 yards off the line of scrimmage and Guards are going into LB group untouched (which is why every single team has shredded the Redskins up the middle running).

Bowen: Haynesworth has a 100 mil contract. Put him there...

If only it was that easy. Am I missing something or do you see this 3-4 continuing to be a disaster (league worst for every game so far this year)? 

Bowen: When you switch to a 3-4 you are essentially using 4-3 personnel for that first season. No other way around that. Carter does have the athletic ability to play OLB, but can get too tall in his drop and does look stiff at times. I think the scheme works, and it will improve as the season progresses even with this personnel. Haslett is too good of a coach for the downward play to continue. 

With the tackling and zone coverage woes so far, I shudder to think how the Redskins will handle the Eagles' speedsters (Vick, Jackson, McCoy, Maclin)...spying Vick with Landry seems like a must.

Bowen: Have to play zone against the Eagles--especially in third and medium to third and long situations because of Vick. Want your defenders to drop to a landmark so they can see the QB if he escapes pressure and gets out of the pocket. Would expect some zone blitzing as well--try to bait Vick into throwing a ball into a player dropping into coverage. 

In the west coast system of Andy Reid, the Eagles run inside breaking routes and the ball is usually thrown between the numbers and the hash.

So, that settles it on the 3-4 debate, right Redskins fans? Time will tell versus the Eagles. Carlos Rogers, London Fletcher, Phillip Daniels all had quotes this week that they're still trying to "gel." Not what I want to hear...I mean, the Redskins have never had continuity and the ONE strength the Redskins had last year they broke apart. 

But let's be reminded of something, before the Redskins ever stepped on the field we knew this year would be a work in 8-8 team at best (Gibbs went 6-10 his first year cleaning up Spurrier's mess). We simply don't have patience for losing even when we know we're suppose to. 

Special thanks to Matt for taking the time to talk to Hogs Haven as he always has. You can read his fantastic work at NFP, where he's consistently breaking down film and explaining schemes.