Will the Packers Switch to a 4-3 Defense?

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Green Bay Packers defensive end

Mike Daniels

(76). Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Packers Defense in a 4-3 Alignment

Defensive End: Datone Jones, Nick Perry, Andy Mulumba, Nate Palmer, Mike Neal?

Jones has the build (6-4, 290) for left end in a 4-3 defense. He could hold the edge against the run, not have to worry about two-gapping like in a 3-4, and will be freed up to rush the passer.

Perry would be able to go back to his natural position as a six-technique defensive end rushing from the right edge. Perry was far more effective rushing from the right during the regular season, and this seems to be his natural position.

Mulumba and Palmer were also college defensive ends and would make the transition back to their old position.

If the Packers could re-sign Neal, he would then contend with Jones and Perry for playing time at defensive end. Neal may come at a reasonable price, especially if the Packers don’t have to spend the money on re-signing Raji.

Defensive Tackle: Mike Daniels, Josh Boyd, Jerel Worthy, Ryan Pickett?

Daniels would be the perfect three-technique defensive tackle in a 4-3 defense. This position is supposed to generate interior pressure and Daniels has already performed well in this role in the Packers nickel package.

Boyd could be the one-techinque defensive tackle that clogs up the middle of the line and is there to stop the run. Worthy could provide depth at the position and even contend for playing time. He seems better suited as a 4-3 tackle than a 3-4 end anyway.

Pickett may come back on the veteran’s minimum and could split snaps with Boyd. With two interior lineman in the 4-3, having a top-notch nose tackle becomes less of a priority and the Packers could afford to let Raji walk.

The Packers could also draft guys like Pittsburg’s Aaron Donald or Florida State’s Timmy Jernigan, who are great interior rushers as defensive tackles but would be awkward fits in a 3-4 alignment.

Linebacker: Clay Matthews, A.J. Hawk, Brad Jones, Sam Barrington, Jamari Lattimore, Victor Aiyewa

At linebacker, Hawk could remain in the middle, but in a 4-3 he wouldn’t have to take on guards as often and consequently wouldn’t get washed out of plays as frequently. Hawk played both in the middle and on the weakside in the Packers 4-3 defense in his first three seasons, and this seems to be a better fit for him.

Matthews’ role would change the most with the scheme switch. He would probably play as a strongside linebacker and rush off the left edge on passing downs. Capers could use him in a linebacker/rush backer hybrid role, similar to how Denver uses Von Miller in their 4-3/3-4 hybrid defense.

Jones and Barrington could compete for the weakside linebacker position. They’re both faster linebackers that would fit well in this spot, and they also wouldn’t be asked to take blockers head on as frequently as in a 3-4 defense.

The Packers could also draft a guy like Alabama’s C.J. Mosley or Ohio State’s Ryan Shazier and play them as the weakside backer.

Secondary: Tramon Williams, Morgan Burnett, Micah Hyde, Casey Hayward, Davon House, Jarrett Bush, Sam Shields?

The secondary would change very little in a 4-3 alignment, but the switch may allow the Packers to use the players they already have on their roster to shore up their front seven so they can use their early draft picks to address the safety position or find a starting-caliber corner if they fail to re-sign Shields.