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Monday, January 23, 2012
Would a switch to 4-3 mean much?

By Todd Archer

IRVING, Texas -- The Cowboys have been a 3-4 team since drafting DeMarcus Ware in the first round and owner and general manager Jerry Jones has consistently said over the years he wants to stick with that defensive front.

Since the Cowboys’ season ended, however, there have been rumblings about a possible move to a 4-3. Coach Jason Garrett was asked about it last Thursday and said the Cowboys played various fronts in 2011 but they have not talked about possible changes to the base defense.

“We’re still evaluating the tape and we’ll see where we are going forward schematically,” Garrett said, adding, “Let us go through the process and you’ll see some of that stuff once we get back out on the field.”

Coordinator Rob Ryan is viewed as a 3-4 guy, but he learned defense at the foot of his father, Buddy, who ran a 4-3 when he was in the NFL.

Do the Cowboys have the personnel to move to a 4-3? Would Ware be a different player with his hand on the ground all of the time? At 260 pounds would he be too light? Do the Cowboys have the versatility elsewhere among their linemen to move to a 4-3 base defense? Jay Ratliff could move to end, but would that mean Jason Hatcher and Marcus Spears play on the interior?

Sean Lee could be the middle linebacker. Bruce Carter has the speed and athleticism to be a weak-side outside linebacker. They would need a strong side outside linebacker if Anthony Spencer doesn’t return and if he did re-sign, could he play off the line of scrimmage?

Last summer much was made about New England’s move to a 4-3 from a 3-4, which seemed to irk coach Bill Belichick.

Back in August here is what he said:

“Honestly, most people thought we played a 4-3 at the Giants. Lawrence Taylor did a lot more rushing than he did pass-dropping; probably 80-90 percent of the time he was the rusher in the defense.

"It wasn't always a pass, but certainly in passing situations and a lot of pass plays, he was the designated fourth rusher, which really put us in what amounts to a 4-3.

"Honestly, I think that's something that is a media fabrication. There are a lot of different alignments out there. You see 4-3 teams use odd spacing. You see 3-4 teams use even spacing. You have 11 players, you can put them in various positions. Whether you want to put it on the pre-game depth chart as one thing or another, I think is a little bit overrated.

"You play different fronts, you play different spacing, and you teach the techniques of your defense. That is what consistent, techniques that are taught in different defensive systems, whether those teams go from three-man line to a four-man line, or a four-man line to an odd spacing line, or overs to unders, or unders to overs, or over-wides, whatever you want to call it. They will continue to play the same fundamental techniques as they've been teaching for the entire year, for the most part. I think that's what teaching defensive fundamental football is about. It's about fundamentals. Wherever you put them, you've got to people other people in complementary places, however you decide to do that.

"It's pretty straight-forward really ... It's more the teaching, techniques and fundamentals you teach your defensive players, more than it is the 4-3, 3-4 lineup that is so important to put on the flip card."

So would a move to a 4-3 be much of a difference?