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3-4, 4-3, or Nickel? Is It Time For The Redskins To Start Drafting 4-3 OLBs?

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Alabama v Mississippi Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

We all know the general story about how the Redskins defense transformed into a 3-4 defense. Mike Shanahan was named coach in 2010 and with our old friend Jim Haslett he transitioned the team from a 4-3 base defense to a 3-4. A lot of interesting stuff happened while Shanahan was coach but defense was never a strength for the Redskins during his tenure. Jay Gruden entered as Head Coach in 2014 and the 3-4 base defense had been largely retained under former Defensive Coordinator Jim Haslett and current Defensive Coordinator Joe Barry.

We don’t run a strict 3-4 though. If you’ve watched any Redskins games you’ll notice that the team plays in some 3-4 looks, a lot of nickel packages (2 DL with Kerrigan usually having his hand in the dirt, 2 LBs and either Smith or Murphy usually rushing off the edge. 3 CBs, 2 S. There is quite a bit of variation in this package but this set up is what I see most of), and even some 4-3 looks. In spite of the changes in defensive base being somewhat unconventional it has also drawn the ire of some fans because it has not produced results on the field. A popular question I noticed around here earlier in the week was “What kind of defense are we”?

One of my criticisms which might seem silly as you continue reading is that Murphy, Smith, and Kerrigan are about a step too slow in a lot of instances when trying to get to the QB. It’s a nitpick given their production. Would a leaner more explosive player really make a difference outside?

I think what some fail to acknowledge is that in terms of team sacks the Redskins are actually ranked 5th right now with 34, while the leader the Carolina Panthers have 39. That production is hardly anything to scoff at. So how does adding a smaller quicker OLB help the defense if the team is already producing well in the sacks department? How does adding a 4-3 OLB help in our worse defensive statistic: 3rd Downs? Morbid and hilarious gif’s aside it’s time the Redskins nail down the problem and invest and address the defense with the appropriate personal to correct the issue.

Cue my two cents.

Scot McCloughan had the right idea when he went out and signed Junior Galette. Galette was formerly a 4-3 OLB in New Orleans defense and before he got injured with the Redskins one of the top OLB’s in the NFL. Galette would have in theory, allowed the Redskins defense to be even more flexible and adaptive. While I think, Trent Murphy, Preston Smith, and Ryan Kerrigan are all great they have some clear limitations physically and in coverage that Galette and other 4-3 OLBs don’t have.

There is some argument as to if Galette would have taken snaps away from Preston Smith had he been healthy and the answer is probably yes. That isn’t a bad thing though. There are fewer and fewer players that are required to be on the field for every single play these days. Having a strong and fresh rotation of pass rushers when possible is always a plus.

The question of if the Redskins blitz enough has been discussed ad nauseam and there has been a lot of finger pointing. Some think the Joe Barry doesn’t have a firm grasp on game situations and strategy and plays too conservatively, others point out that there isn’t enough talent on the team to blitz how we should, others think that the players aren’t doing their jobs with the level of consistency they should. The truth is probably a mix of all those points and a few other nuances.

If the Redskins have built their defense around 3-4 OLB’s why do we even need to consider 4-3 OLB’s? Well, if you think the defensive side of the ball lacks the talent to get home adding a couple 4-3 OLBs could significantly up the athleticism, speed, and versatility of the defense.

Focusing on adding a 4-3 OLB to the passing rushing crew is not just about getting sacks. It’s about creating constant pressure with speed and quickness off the edge. That constant and hopefully consistent pressure will help out things in the secondary. It’s about having an OLB that is able to successfully drop back in coverage while our 3-4 linebackers have the option to rotate in and out of a DE position and rush the passer with their hands in the dirt.

Cue another comparison that may not be looked upon in favor: The San Diego Chargers. The Chargers are worse than us on defense but as far as personnel I wouldn’t be surprised if Joe Barry has a similar mold in mind. Barry after all studied under Joe Pagano (San Diego’s Defensive Coordinator) and was the linebackers coach there.

The Chargers also operate out of a 3-4 base but run some 4-3 and nickel as well.

But take a look at their depth chart and personnel on it. From a physical stand point there is no reason the Redskins have to keep going after 270lb OLBs and 310+ DT’s. Another team that runs out of the 3-4 base but has a slightly heavier build in the middle but still has 4-3 OLB’s are the Chiefs.

If there Redskins were to look in the draft for OLB help there are a few names to keep an eye on:

Tim Williams | 6’3’’ 252 | Sr | Alabama

Ryan Anderson | 6’2’’ 253 | rSr | Alabama

Takkarist McKinley | 6’2’ 258 | Sr | UCLA

Jordan Willis | 6’5’’ 258 | Sr | Kansas State

What do you think? Should the Redskins even consider 4-3 OLBs given all our other defensive woe’s?

Do you think it will make a difference?

Should the Redskins bring Galette back or try and look for OLB help in this draft?

Should they look to free agency?

There is an old saying “you can never have too many pass rushers”.