4–3 defense

In American football, a 4–3 defense is a defensive alignment consisting of four down linemen and three linebackers. It is called a "base defense" because it is the default defensive alignment used on "base downs" (1st and 2nd downs). However, defenses will readily switch to other defensive alignments (such as a nickel) as circumstances change.

43BaseDefense
4–3 base defense

History

The Giants employed a 6-1-4 basic formation when they shut out the Browns in 1950, but on many plays this became a 4-1-6 in reality, when the ball was snapped, because the ends dropped off the line to afford extraordinary coverage on passes, Steve Owen, My Kind of Football, 1952, p. 183

Early in the history of the NFL, teams stacked the defensive line of scrimmage with seven linemen, typically using a 7-diamond or the 7-2.[1] With the liberalization of the forward passing rules in 1933, the defenses began to evolve along with the offensive changes, and by the later 1930s, the standard defense in the NFL and college was the 6-2.[2][3] The successes of the T formation and the introduction of free substitution (abolishing the one-platoon system) in the 1940s led to the almost universal adoption by 1950 of the five-man line.[4] There were two versions popular in the NFL. The 5-3 was an older defense that remained popular through the 1940s and early 1950s. But by the late 1940s, Greasy Neale's defense was creating problems for offenses with a five-man line and four-man secondary. Roughly concurrently, Paul Brown had developed a vertical timing offense. The Browns won every championship of the rival All-America Football Conference from its inception in 1946 through 1949. In the first game of the 1950 season NFL Commissioner Bert Bell had the newly admitted Browns play the champion Philadelphia Eagles on a Saturday ahead of the rest of the league's scheduled Sunday games. The Browns handily won the game in Philadelphia 35–10 and showed they were a force to be reckoned with.

Defenses knew they had to find a way to stop the spread-out vertical offense of the Browns. New York Giants head coach Steve Owen came up with his umbrella defense which showed a 6–1–4 alignment before the snap but could flex (drop back) its two defensive ends into pass protection. The defense was successful, and the only two losses by the Browns in 1950 came at the hands of the Giants. While the concept belonged to Owen, the newly acquired defensive back, Tom Landry, explained and taught the defense.[5] While the defense was a precursor to the traditional 4–3–4 of today, it was not yet evolved into what one would call a traditional 4–3 defense. That took an additional six years.

Other NFL teams came to a version of the 4-3 via a different route. Despite the success of the Browns in the single game with the Eagles, the 5-2 Eagle became more popular, and more teams began to switch to it from the older 5-3 defense.[4] Because the 5-2 lacks a middle linebacker, it was vulnerable to passes over the middle. As a consequence, 5-2 teams experimented with pulling their middle guards back, and many teams were trying this new approach by 1954.[6] In 1956, Landry became the first defensive coordinator to switch to the 4-3 as a base defense. As the 1956 Giants won the NFL Championship, this gave the 4-3 enormous exposure, and just about the whole NFL converted to the new system the following season.[6]

In the original version of the 4–3, the tackles lined up over the offensive guards and the ends lined up on the outside shoulder of the offensive tackles, with the middle linebacker over the center and the other linebackers outside the ends. In the mid-1960s, Hank Stram developed a popular variation, the "Kansas City Stack", which shifted the strong-side defensive end over the tight end, stacked the strong-side linebacker over the tackle, and shifted the weak-side tackle over center. At about the same time, the Cleveland Browns frequently used a weak-side shift. Landry developed a "flex" variation, in order to take advantage of the quickness of his Hall of Fame tackle, Bob Lilly.[7] In Landry's original 4–3 defenses (4–3 inside and 4–3 outside), both defensive tackles were flexed.[8] In the "flex", on a pro set right, with defensive keys showing a run to the right, the right defensive tackle would be flush on the line and was supposed to penetrate.[9] The right defensive end and left defensive tackle were flexed two feet off the line of scrimmage, the right defensive end now head-on with the left offensive tackle (i.e. a 4–2–2–5 front instead of the more common 5–2–2–5 front). This gave the defense a "zig zag" look unlike any other of its day. The 'flex' was developed to counter option blocking by the offensive lines which had learned to move their heads up defensive linemen to either side to create holes. The running back would then patiently run to daylight. The Flex allowed two defensive linemen to read and react better to the option blocking. The other two linemen could either attack upfield or hold their single gap like the flexed linemen and wait for the ball to come to them. These concepts of shooting the gap and shoot and hold the gap are integral parts of today's more modern versions of the 4–3 which include the Tampa 2 scheme, the Seattle Seahawks shoot and hold defense and the 4–3 slide.

Defensive line

DefTackle43
Two defensive tackles split the center in the base 4–3 defense.
Defensive tackles

There are two defensive tackles in the 4–3 scheme. Teams whose base front is an "over" or "under" front will have a nose tackle in this scheme. In schemes whose base set is an even 4–3, there is no nose tackle. Instead there is a left and right defensive tackle. When teams don't have a nose tackle, the tackles line up face on the offensive guards. The nose tackle is generally slightly larger and stronger and plays a shade or head-up technique in which he lines up on either the outside shoulder of the center or in the middle of his body depending on which way the strength of the play is going. The nose tackle's primary job is to stop the run and take on the double team (which is getting blocked by both the center and the weak-side or pulling guard) thus freeing up the linebackers to make a play. The second defensive tackle (simply referred to as the defensive tackle, under tackle or three tech) is generally a bit quicker and faster than the nose tackle, ideally weighing close to 300 pounds (140 kg) but quick-footed enough to shoot through a gap at the snap.[10] He plays a three technique, meaning he lines up on the outside shoulder of the strong side offensive guard. The job of a three tech is to prevent the run, keep the guard off linebackers, and rush the quarterback on pass plays.

DefensiveEnd43
The defensive ends flank the tackles.
Defensive ends
Teams that want to use a standard 4–3 scheme often face a dilemma: there aren't enough great defensive ends to go around. Players like Julius Peppers or Dwight Freeney come along about once per year in the draft.
— Mike Tanier, analyst for NFL on Fox.[10]

The defensive end's primary role in the 4–3 defense is to get to the quarterback and create pressure. The 4–3 DEs are the smallest of all of the defensive lineman due to their emphasis of speed over strength. They still need to be strong enough to fight their way past offensive tackles, yet quick enough to pursue the running backs on runs to the outside. Ideal 4–3 defensive ends are athletic and agile and their strength is getting up the field quickly and they usually weigh between 265 and 295 pounds (120 and 134 kg).[11] Right ends, who line up against the offensive left tackle and attack from the blind side of a right-handed quarterback, are usually the best athletes on the line, combining a 275-pound body with quickness and agility to outflank blockers who are bigger and heavier.[10] Defensive ends generally play the 1 gap technique, though will occasionally be forced to play a 2 gap in the event of a TE pinching in to block on run plays. In most schemes, they are also responsible for keeping the quarterback from rolling out of the pocket to make big running gains.

Variant

Some teams, like the Seattle Seahawks, Denver Broncos, Cincinnati Bengals and Oakland Raiders, use an alternative sort of the 4–3 defense. They like to use a big, strong, 280-plus-pound strong-side defensive end to stop the run on their base formation, and on passing downs they kick inside at defensive tackle to insert a pass rush specialist. But players like Von Miller, an elite and undersized defensive end, play strong-side linebacker on first and second downs and use their pass-rushing ability on passing downs by lining up at stand-up defensive end to bring pressure on the quarterback.

Linebackers

Linebacker
Linebackers in the 4–3 base defense
Middle linebacker

There is only one inside linebacker in the 4–3 scheme, so he is called the middle linebacker (MLB), sometimes known as the "Mike" linebacker. He must be as smart as he is athletic, acts as the "quarterback of the defense" and is often the defensive leader.[10] The primary responsibility of the "Mike" is to stop the run, though he will often be asked to fall back in zone coverage in pass protection; man to man pass coverage has him assigned to the fullback typically. The MLB is often the largest and strongest of all of the linebackers.

The 4–3 defense relies on having a sure tackler at the middle linebacker spot. Most notably, Monte Kiffin's "Tampa Cover 2" scheme makes high demands on the MLB, requiring him to have above-average speed, and additional skills to be able to read the play and either maintain his central position to help the outside linebackers cover short passes, drop behind the linebackers in coverage and protect the zone of the field behind the outside linebackers from 11–20 yards out, or run up to the line of scrimmage to help assist in stopping the runs. Luke Kuechly is a prototypical "Mike" linebacker.

Outside linebackers

As in the 3–4 defense there are two outside linebackers in the 4–3. These outside backers are known as the strong-side and weak-side linebackers. The strong-side, or "Sam" linebacker, is so named because he typically sticks to the strong side of the defense, across from the tight end. The "Sam" does his fair share of blitzing, however he also needs to play the run and take on blockers, making him a bigger linebacker on average than the weak-side linebacker. He will usually be relied upon to cover the tight end or potentially a back out of the backfield.[12] Anthony Barr is a prototypical "Sam" linebacker. The weak-side, or "Will" linebacker, will generally play on the weak side and has more freedom than the other LBs, often blitzing the quarterback or guarding against the screen. He also has heavy coverage responsibilities, making a good number of today's Will linebackers former safeties.[13] Lavonte David is a prototypical "Will" linebacker.

Secondary

The 4–3 defense generally uses four defensive backs. Two of these are safeties, and two of them are cornerbacks. A cornerback's responsibilities vary depending on the type of coverage called.

Coverage is simply how the defense will be protecting against the pass. The corners will generally line up 3 to 5 yards off the line of scrimmage, generally trying to "Jam" or interrupt the receivers route within the first 5 yards. A corner will be given one of two ways to defend the pass (with variations that result in more or less the same responsibilities): zone and man-to-man. In zone coverage, the cornerback is responsible for an area on the field. In this case, the corner must always stay downfield of whomever he is covering while still remaining in its zone. Zone is a more relaxed defensive scheme meant to provide more awareness across the defensive secondary while sacrificing tight coverage. As such, the corner in this case would be responsible for making sure nobody gets outside of him, always, or downfield of him, in cases where there is no deep safety help. In man coverage, however, the cornerback is solely responsible for the man across from him, usually the offensive player split farthest out.

The free safety is responsible for reading the offensive plays and covering deep passes. Depending on the defensive call, he may also provide run support. He is positioned 10 to 15 yards behind the line of scrimmage, toward the center of the field. He provides the last line of defense against running backs and receivers who get past the linebackers and cornerbacks. He must be a quick and smart player, capable of making tackles efficiently as well as reading the play and alerting his team of game situations. The strong safety is usually larger than the free safety and is positioned relatively close to the line of scrimmage. He is often an integral part of the run defense, but is also responsible for defending against a pass; especially against passes to the tight-ends.

Teams currently deploying the 4–3 defense

NFL teams that use the 4–3 defense as of 2019 include the Dallas Cowboys, Atlanta Falcons, Minnesota Vikings, Carolina Panthers, Cincinnati Bengals, Jacksonville Jaguars, Oakland Raiders, Detroit Lions, Cleveland Browns, New England Patriots, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Seattle Seahawks, Buffalo Bills, Philadelphia Eagles, Los Angeles Chargers, Miami Dolphins, New Orleans Saints, San Francisco 49ers, Indianapolis Colts and Kansas City Chiefs. The Philadelphia Eagles returned to running a 4–3 defense for the 2016 season, after switching to the 3-4 at the start of 2013. The New York Jets used variations of the 4–3 for the 2012 NFL season against spread offenses, but will stick with the 3-4 defense as its base. The Patriots run a hybrid defense including elements from both the 4-3, and 3-4 defense.[14] The Lions began using a hybrid defense starting in 2018, when former Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia became head coach.

The Cardinals will return to the 3-4 under new defensive coordinator Vance Joseph in 2019. Arizona ran the 3-4 under coordinators Todd Bowles and James Bettcher from 2013-17.

The Kansas City Chiefs will switch to a hybrid 4-3 defense in the 2019 season,[15] with the hiring of new Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo.

The Vikings have run the 4-3 continuously since 1986, the longest current run in the NFL. Minnesota briefly switched to the 3-4 from 1982-85 before coach Jerry Burns and defensive coordinator Floyd Peters returned to the base defense in which the Purple People Eaters of the 1970s flourished.

As of March 2019 both the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Carolina Panthers have been considering a change to a 3-4 defense or a hybrid defense for the coming season, but neither team has confirmed a change as of yet as they continue to evaluate their personnel.

Clemson, winners of the College Football Playoff in 2016 and 2018, is the most prominent college program currently running the 4-3. Tigers defensive coordinator Brett Venables learned the 4-3 as a player and assistant coach under Bob Stoops at Kansas State in the early 1990s.

SpreadOptionFormation
Army's defense (in black) is lined up in a base 4–3 set against the Navy's offense in the 2008 Army–Navy Game.

References

  1. ^ Owen, Steve, p. 177
  2. ^ Halas, pp. 167–170
  3. ^ Owen, Steve, pp. 178–179
  4. ^ a b Total Football II, chapter 17.
  5. ^ Tom Landry: an Autobiography ISBN 0-310--52910-7
  6. ^ a b Zimmerman, p. 128
  7. ^ Golenbock, p. 233
  8. ^ Lombardi, pp. 173–185
  9. ^ Golenbock, pp. 232-240.
  10. ^ a b c d Tanier, Mike (2006-08-28). "The 4–3 vs. the 3–4". NFL on Fox.
  11. ^ Smith, Michael (2004-12-15). "Defensive linemen do the dirty work in 3-4". ESPN.com.
  12. ^ Football 101: Linebacker Assignments and Alignment
  13. ^ Football 101: Players and Positions: Defensive Ends and Linebackers
  14. ^ [1]
  15. ^ [2]

Bibliography

  • Carroll, Bob, Gershman, Michael, Neft, David, and Thorn, John, Total Football II: The Official Encyclopedia of the National Football League, Harper Collins, 1999, Chapter 17.
  • Halas, George, Morgan, Gwen, and Veysey, Arthur, Halas by Halas, McGraw-Hill, 1979.
  • Lombardi, Vince, "Vince Lombardi on Football", New York Graphic Society, 1973.
  • Owen, Steve, "My Kind of Football", David McKay, 1952.
  • Golenbock, Peter, "Cowboys Have Always Been my Heroes", Warner Books, 1997, Chapter 20.
  • Zimmerman, Paul, "The New Thinking Man's Guide to Pro Football", Simon and Schuster, 1984, Chapter 6.
  • Piascik, Andy, The Best Show in Football: The 1946-1955 Cleveland Browns – Pro Football's Greatest Dynasty, Taylor Trade Publishing, 2006 [ebook]

External links

1995 All-Pro Team

The 1995 All-Pro Team is composed of the National Football League players that were named to the Associated Press, Pro Football Writers Association, and The Sporting News All-Pro Teams in 1995. Both first and second teams are listed for the AP team. These are the three teams that are included in Total Football II: The Official Encyclopedia of the National Football League. In 1995 the Pro Football Writers Association and Pro Football Weekly combined their All-pro teams, a practice which continued through 2008. In 1995 all three All-pro teams returned to a 4-3 defense, picking only one middle linebacker.

3–4 defense

In American football, the 3–4 defense is a common defensive alignment consisting of three down linemen and four linebackers. It is a called a "base defense" because it is the default defensive alignment used on "base downs" (1st and 2nd downs). However, defenses will readily switch to other defensive alignments (such as a dime) as circumstances change. Alternatively, some defenses use a 4–3.

46 defense

The 46 defense is an American football defensive formation, an eight men in the box defense, with six players along the line of scrimmage (4 playing line technique, 2 in a linebacker technique). There are two players at linebacker depth playing linebacker technique, and then three defensive backs. The 46 defense was originally developed and popularized with the Chicago Bears by their defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan, who later became head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles and Arizona Cardinals.

Unlike most defensive formations that take their names from the number of defensive linemen and linebackers on the field (i.e. the 4–3 defense has 4 linemen and 3 linebackers), the name "46" originally came from the jersey number of Doug Plank, who was a starting strong safety for the Bears when Ryan developed the defense, a role typically played in the formation as a surrogate linebacker.

5–2 defense

In American football, the 5–2 defense is a defensive alignment consisting of five down linemen and two linebackers.

Bill George (linebacker)

William J. George (October 27, 1929 – September 30, 1982) was an American football player. He played professionally as a linebacker for the Chicago Bears and the Los Angeles Rams of the National Football League (NFL).

George was born in Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, about 50 miles south of Pittsburgh. He is among numerous legendary football players born in football-rich Western Pennsylvania. He attended college at Wake Forest University, and was the Bears' second-round draft pick in 1951. He began his pro football career the following year as a middle guard in the then-standard five-man defensive front. He was selected to play in eight consecutive Pro Bowls, from 1954 to 1961.

George is credited as the first true middle linebacker in football history and, inadvertently, the creator of the 4–3 defense. Noting during a 1954 game with the Philadelphia Eagles that his tendency to hit the center right after the snap led to the quarterback passing right over his head, he began to drop back from the line, not only enabling him to intercept and otherwise disrupt several passes from that game forward but also creating the familiar 4–3 setup (four linemen and three linebackers).

In addition to his 18 career interceptions, George also recovered 19 fumbles, and in 1954 scored 25 points on 13 PATs and four field goals. In 1963, he led the Bears defense when they won the NFL Championship.George was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1974. The Bears retired his uniform number 61. In a 1989 article, in which he named his choices for the best athletes ever to wear each uniform number from 0 to 99, Sports Illustrated columnist Rick Reilly not only chose George for number 61, but called him "the meanest Bear ever," no small thing considering the franchise's long history and reputation for toughness. In 1999, he was ranked number 49 on The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Football Players. George was killed in an automobile accident in Rockford, Illinois on September 30, 1982.

Buster Ramsey

Garrard Sliger "Buster" Ramsey (March 16, 1920 – September 16, 2007) was an American football player who starred at William and Mary and was the first head coach of the American Football League's Buffalo Bills in 1960. Prior to coaching the Bills, and after a stint in the United States Navy during World War II, Ramsey played for the Chicago Cardinals of the National Football League (NFL) from 1946 to 1951 and a member of the 1947 NFL Champions. In 1951, Ramsey became a player-coach for the Cardinals before becoming the defensive coach for the Detroit Lions in 1952. During his tenure with the Lions, Ramsey is credited with devising the 4-3 defense, a staple of modern football, and being the first coach to blitz linebackers, a package he called Red Dog. The Lions won three World Championships in the 1950s with Ramsey running the defense. He developed Lions greats such as Yale Lary, Jack Christiansen, Jim David, and many others. In 1960, he was lured to the new American Football League as coach of the Buffalo Bills. Though fired by Bills' owner Ralph C. Wilson Jr. after the 1961 AFL season, Ramsey is credited for laying the foundation of one of the best defensive teams in the history of the AFL. He also had a brother, Knox Ramsey, who also starred for the College of William and Mary, the Chicago Cardinals, and the Washington Redskins. Ramsey was elected into the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame in 1974, and the College Football Hall of Fame in 1978.

Cowboys–Giants rivalry

The Cowboys–Giants rivalry is a National Football League (NFL) rivalry between the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants. The beginning of this rivalry is difficult to trace, but is perhaps best defined by the first game the two teams ever played back in 1960, which resulted in a 31–31 tie. In the early 1960s the New York Giants were beginning to wind down as an NFL powerhouse. After having been arguably the most dominant team in the Eastern Conference through the 1950s and early 1960s the Giants entered a period of poor play where they did not make the playoffs from 1964–81. While the Giants dominated the Cowboys in the first few years of the rivalry, the Cowboys picked up steam and took control from the mid-1960s to the early 1980s, winning 17 of the 20 meetings between the 2 teams in the 1970s. In the 1980s however the Giants struck back, and the rivalry has been relatively even handed ever since with intermittent spurts of dominance (the Giants in the late 1980s and the Cowboys in the early 1990s). This is a unique rivalry in American sports in that no other Texas area team is in the same division as a New York area team, or has a consistent rivalry with one, most likely due to the relatively far geographical distance between the two regions (though during the 1960s, the New York Jets were division rivals with the Houston Oilers in the American Football League East Division).

Another important facet of this rivalry is Hall of Fame coach Tom Landry. Landry was one of the most fateful figures in the history of both franchises. Drafted by the Giants in 1947, it would be three more years before he actually played with them. He played multiple roles – defensive back, halfback, and quarterback – and in those roles he recorded one rushing touchdown, one passing touchdown, two touchdowns off fumble recoveries, and three touchdowns off INTs. He made one Pro Bowl as a player, in 1954, the same season he joined the Giants' coaching staff. After he retired as a player at the end of the 1955 season, he became the Giants' defensive coordinator inventing the 4-3 Defense, serving in that role through 1959. In 1960, he became head coach of the first-year Cowboys and in his 29 seasons went 35–17–2 against the Giants.

Defensive end

Defensive end (DE) is a defensive position in the sport of American and Canadian football.

This position has designated the players at each end of the defensive line, but changes in formations over the years have substantially changed how the position is played.

Defensive tackle

A defensive tackle (DT) is typically the largest and strongest of the defensive players in American football. The defensive tackle typically lines up opposite one of the offensive guards. Depending on a team's individual defensive scheme, a defensive tackle may be called upon to fill several different roles. These roles may include merely holding the point of attack by refusing to be moved or penetrating a certain gap between offensive linemen to break up a play in the opponent's backfield. If a defensive tackle reads a pass play, his primary responsibility is to pursue the quarterback, or simply knock the pass down at the line if it's within arm's reach. Other responsibilities of the defensive tackle may be to pursue the screen pass or drop into coverage in a zone blitz scheme. In a traditional 4–3 defense, there is no nose tackle. Instead there is a left and right defensive tackle. Some teams, especially in the National Football League (NFL), do have a nose tackle in this scheme, but most of them do not.

Hardy Nickerson

Hardy Otto Nickerson (born September 1, 1965) is an American football coach and former player. He played as linebacker for four teams over 16 seasons, from 1987 to 2002, in the National Football League (NFL). Nickerson spent the prime of his career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The hiring of head coaches Sam Wyche and Tony Dungy allowed Nickerson to play in the middle in a 4–3 defense for both coaches; Nickerson played in a 3–4 defense with the Pittsburgh Steelers. While playing in the 4–3, Nickerson went to five Pro Bowls, and was selected for the National Football League 1990s All-Decade Team.

John Ray (American football)

John W. Ray (June 4, 1926 – November 14, 2007) was an American football player and coach. He served as the head football coach at John Carroll University from 1959 to 1963 and at the University of Kentucky from 1969 to 1972, compiling a career college football record of 39–39.

Ray was a native of Detroit, Michigan and grew up in South Bend, Indiana. He played football at Notre Dame and at Olivet College. After graduating Ray was the head football coach at Sturgis High School and Three Rivers High School, both in Michigan, and then was an assistant coach at the University of Detroit and head coach at John Carroll University from 1959 to 1963.

From 1964 to 1968 Ray served as an assistant coach and defensive coordinator at Notre Dame under Ara Parseghian. He oversaw a 4-4-3 defense that gave up a measly 3.8 points a game in 1966, leading Notre Dame to an undefeated national championship that season.

Ray became the head coach at the University of Kentucky in late 1968, replacing Charlie Bradshaw. In his second game, Kentucky upset quarterback Archie Manning's highly regarded Ole Miss team, which was ranked #8 in the AP poll, by a score of 10–9. Ray also coached the Wildcats to a 16–3 win over #13 ranked Kansas State in 1970. The Wildcats also lost close games to ranked teams such as #9 Tennessee (31–26 in 1969), at #5 Ole Miss (20–17, 1970), at #15 LSU (14–7, 1970) and #12 LSU (17–13, 1971). However, Ray's teams played very solid defense but consistently lacked the players to play well on both sides of the ball. Over his four years as head coach, Kentucky won only 10 games while losing 33. In 1969 Kentucky finished 2–8; in 1970, 2–9; in 1971 and 1972 the Wildcats' final record was 3–8 each season. Ray's contract was not renewed after the 1972 season and he was replaced by Fran Curci.

During Ray's tenure, Kentucky's recruitment of African-American players increased, notably with star running back Sonny Collins. Ray brought more African-American players to Kentucky than any previous coach, and did so at a time when African-American players were rare in the Southeastern Conference. Also during Ray's tenure plans were made and construction undertaken for Commonwealth Stadium, the current home of the Wildcats. While at Kentucky Ray coached future NFL players such as Dave Roller and Joe Federspiel.

After leaving Kentucky Ray was an assistant coach in the NFL including as defensive coordinator for the Buffalo Bills.

Ray died at his home in Granger, Indiana at age 81 on November 14, 2007.

John Roper (American football)

John Alfred Roper (born October 4, 1965 in Houston, Texas) is a former American football linebacker in the National Football League for the Chicago Bears, Dallas Cowboys and the Philadelphia Eagles. He was on the Cowboys' Super Bowl XXVIII championship team that beat the Buffalo Bills. He played college football at Texas A&M University.

Linebacker

A linebacker (LB or backer) is a playing position in American football and Canadian football. Linebackers are members of the defensive team, and line up approximately three to five yards (4 m) behind the line of scrimmage, behind the defensive linemen, and therefore "back up the line". Linebackers generally align themselves before the ball is snapped by standing upright in a "two-point stance" (as opposed to the defensive linemen, who put one or two hands on the ground for a "three-point stance" or "four-point stance" before the ball is snapped).

The goal of the linebacker is to provide either extra run protection or extra pass protection based on the particular defensive play being executed. Another key play of the linebacker position is blitzing. A blitz occurs when a linebacker acts as an extra pass rusher running into any exposed gap. When a blitz is called by the defense, it is mainly to sack or hurry the opposing offense's quarterback.

Linebackers are often regarded as the most important position in defense, due to their versatility in providing hard hits on running plays or an additional layer of pass protection, when required. Similar to the "free safety" position, linebackers are required to use their judgment on every snap, to determine their role during that particular play.

Miami 4–3 defense

I believed, and still do, in creating upfield pressure from a 4–3 stack formation

The Miami 4–3, also called the 4–3 slide, is a scheme closely associated with the Jimmy Johnson-led Miami Hurricanes, and taken by Johnson to the Dallas Cowboys. Built around Jimmy Johnson's notion of "upfield pressure", it is a penetrating, swarming defense, with a "get there firstest with the mostest" mentality. The focus is to cause opponents to make mistakes, even if the defense might give up a big gain or two. Compared to older 4–3 defenses, such as Tom Landry's 4–3 inside, the defensive line assignments are simpler. Linemen don't read then react, they act then read. Linebackers fill the gaps the linemen leave behind, ignoring gaps away from the play. Coverages are simple, and the playbook small and easy to learn.

The base Miami front is an "over" front, with a nose tackle shaded weak side to the center, a defensive tackle shaded outside the strong side guard, a defensive end shaded outside the tight end, and the weakside end outside the offensive tackle. Each lineman is assigned one gap. Linebackers are stationed about 4 to 4.5 yards behind the line of scrimmage. This differs from the old Landry 4–3 defenses, in which linebackers are within 1.5 yards of the line of scrimmage.The Miami 4–3 uses smaller, faster players than other standard defenses. Defensive ends for the Miami 4–3 are often former linebackers. Outside linebackers are often converted safeties. Players are chosen for speed and aggression more than size and power. The middle linebacker is the one true linebacker, the tackles the two true linemen in this defense.

New England Patriots strategy

The New England Patriots generally run a modified Erhardt-Perkins offensive system and a Fairbanks-Bullough 3–4 defensive system, though they have also used a 4–3 defense and increased their use of the nickel defense.

Packers sweep

The Packers sweep, also known as the Lombardi sweep, is an American football play popularized by Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi. The Packers sweep is based on the sweep, a football play that involves a back taking a handoff and running parallel to the line of scrimmage before turning upfield behind lead blockers. The play became noteworthy due to its extensive use by the Packers in the 1960s, when the team won five National Football League (NFL) Championships, as well as the first two Super Bowls. Lombardi used the play as the foundation on which the rest of the team's offensive game plan was built. The dominance of the play, as well as the sustained success of Lombardi's teams in the 1960s, solidified the Packers sweep's reputation as one of the most famous football plays in history.

Sam Huff

Robert Lee "Sam" Huff (born October 4, 1934) is a former professional American football linebacker in the National Football League (NFL) for the New York Giants and the Washington Redskins. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1982. He played college football for the West Virginia Mountaineers football team and is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.

Starting lineup

In sports, a starting lineup is an official list of the set of players who will participate in the event when the game begins. The players in the starting lineup are commonly referred to as starters, whereas the others are substitutes or bench players.

The starters are commonly the best players on the team at their respective positions. Consequently, there is often a bit of prestige that is associated with being a starter. This is particularly true in sport with limited substitutions like baseball or soccer. In both baseball and basketball, it is common for players' positions to be denoted by a number as well as by a name. In that instance, the associated number is used as well. If a common abbreviation is known, the abbreviation is listed after the associated number.

Tom Landry

Thomas Wade Landry (September 11, 1924 – February 12, 2000) was an American football player and coach. He was the original head coach of the Dallas Cowboys in the National Football League (NFL), a position he held for 29 seasons. During his coaching career, he created many new formations and methods, such as the now popular 4–3 defense, and the "flex defense" system made famous by the Doomsday Defense squads he created during his tenure with the Cowboys. His 29 consecutive years from 1960 to 1988 as the coach of one team are an NFL record, along with his 20 consecutive winning seasons, which is considered to be his most impressive professional accomplishment.

In addition to his record 20 consecutive winning seasons from 1966 to 1985, Landry won two Super Bowl titles in VI and XII, five NFC titles, and 13 Divisional titles. He compiled a 270–178–6 record, the fourth-most wins all-time for an NFL coach, and his 20 career playoff victories are the second most of any coach in NFL history. Landry was also named the NFL Coach of the Year in 1966 and the NFC Coach of the Year in 1975.

From 1966 to 1982, Dallas played in 12 NFL or NFC Championship games, a span of 17 years. Furthermore, the Cowboys appeared in 10 NFC Championship games in the 13-year span from 1970 to 1982. Leading the Cowboys to three Super Bowl appearances in four years between 1975 and 1978, and five in nine years between 1970 and 1978, along with being on television more than any other NFL team, resulted in the Cowboys receiving the label of "America's Team", a title Landry did not appreciate because he felt it would bring on extra motivation from the rest of the league to compete with the Cowboys. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1990.

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Defensive strategy
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