No Scheme Change in Kansas City

Now that the Kansas City Chiefs have decided to stick with the 3-4 defense, it has some fans questioning if this is the correct path to take. Obviously, there are a lot of arguments to go on both sides of the fence. There is no cut and dry answer and like any game plan, you have to be able to adapt and use your personnel to the best of their abilities. Let’s examine the big differences between the 4-3 and 3-4 base packages.

(Photo Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports)

In the past, 4-3 defenses have been more of the traditional package used in the league. One of the biggest difference between the two schemes is the position that will be responsible for getting pressure on the quarterback. The 3-4 relies heavily on the outside linebackers coming off the edge and creating mayhem in the backfield.  Conversely, in the 4-3 defense, the responsibility for quarterback sacks moves to the defensive ends. With the personnel that are currently on the Chiefs roster, it would have been a very hard transition to the 4-3 defense. While neither Dorsey nor Jackson has lived up to their lofty draft status, they have proved to be serviceable defensive ends in a 3-4 scheme. Neither one is known for their pass rush off the outside. On the other hand, Tamba Hali was a very mediocre defensive end when entering the league. He was too small to go man to man and stuff the run, and didn’t have the quickness off the edge when his hand was in the dirt.

Another big difference in the schemes is the coverage obligations. In our current system, our linebackers are more aggressive and blitz a lot more than a typical 4-3 structure. In a 4-3 defense, they are more likely to be found dropping into coverage. The defensive tackle position is by far the biggest difference in the two schemes. It is very hard to find a big space eater to take up multiple offensive linemen in the middle.  Since the 3-4 only has one tackle, he needs to be able to hold down the middle. There aren’t many men that size that can still be agile and move around.  Luckily, to the dismay of some fans this year, we picked up a very nimble 350 pounder in the draft. If we had not taken Poe in the 2012 draft, many fans would have been more open to the switch. I think the Memphis alumni is exactly what any 3-4 team craves at defensive tackle and the Chiefs will benefit from this draft pick for many years to come.

Looking back over the last five years of the Chiefs defense vs. the Eagles defense, there is no way to equally compare them. Again, the personnel on both teams were drastically different.  The last year that the Kansas City Chiefs ran the 4-3 defense was 2008. The Chiefs finished the season 31st in total yards allowed with 6,291. They gave up 440 points to opposing teams that year ranking 29th in the National Football League. For comparison sake, the Eagles finished that year 3rd in total yards allowed and 4th in total points.

Over the years, Andy Reid has had a lot of success in the 4-3 defense. But, it takes a good, intelligent coach to switch directions and realize how to put his players in the best position to succeed. To me, this was a big move for Andy and shows that he is willing to do whatever it takes to take this team to the next level. Many coaches would opt to stick with the defense that they feel most comfortable with. Handing the reigns over to a DC that has had success in this scheme is a great decision and should make many Kansas City Chiefs fans very happy!

Topics: Andy Reid, Kansas City Chiefs

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  • Joel Wagler

    Nice article, Chip. I agree – with our personnel, sticking with the 3-4 was the best decision. Our linebackers are the strongest unit on the team.