Will the Packers Switch to a 4-3 Defense?
By Dan Dahlke
Green Bay Packers defensive endB.J. Raji
(90). Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
Reasons for switching to a 4-3 defense
To some degree it does make sense four-man fronts make it easier to defend against the run, especially if you don’t have linebacking talent of teams like San Francisco. But it’s always best, whether it’s the 3-4 or the 4-3, to find the scheme that can best use the talent on your team.
In his closing season interview with the media, Dom Capers made this very point. When asked about the defense going into next season, Coach Capers said, “we’ll design the defense based on what the group is going to be.”
With defensive linemen, B.J. Raji, Ryan Pickett, Johnny Jolly, and C.J. Wilson all set to hit free agency in March, it sure sounds like Capers is willing to adjust his scheme if these players aren’t re-signed this offseason.
In fact, these four defensive linemen are the majority of the Packers linemen fit for the 3-4 defense. Datone Jones, Jerel Worthy, and Mike Daniels all seem better suited as 4-3 defensive linemen. The exception here is second-year player Josh Boyd, who seems to be the only player left under contract with the size to play on the line in a 3-4 base.
The linchpin here seems to be Raji and whether or not the Packers sign him to be their nose tackle going forward. All early indications show there hasn’t been any progress in contract negotiations and there were several hints last season that Raji wasn’t pleased with his role and opportunities in the Packers defense.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Raji decides to test the free agency market. The Packers also will want to be careful not to overpay a guy that has underperformed the past two years.
If the Packers don’t re-sign Raji and don’t bring back Pickett, then one has to wonder if Green Bay is seriously considering a switch to the 4-3.
Add to this, the loss of outside linebacker coach Kevin Greene this offseason. The Packers announced on Friday that inside linebackers coach Winston Moss will coach all the linebackers next season.
Moss had this role from 2006 to 2008 before Capers became the defensive coordinator and the Packers still implemented a 4-3 defense.
Moss’s promotion to also coach the outside linebackers would be peculiar if the Packers decide to stick with the 3-4 scheme. 3-4 outside linebackers specialize in pass rushing, and you’d think the Packers would bring in a coach, like Greene, with experience as a pass rusher.
Not to say Moss can’t do the job, but he just seems better suited coaching a traditional linebacker position, whether it be inside linebackers in a 3-4 or all three linebacker positions in a 4-3.
Now that I’ve made my case that this might be the season the Packers actually make the switch from a 3-4 to a 4-3 defense, let’s have a little fun and discuss what the Packers defense would actually look like in a 4-3 alignment with the players they currently have under contract.