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It drives me crazy when teams make a drastic switch in scheme because that is what the cool kids are doing.
In this case, the cool kids are Baltimore, Pittsburgh, New England and other successful 3-4 teams. Of course, I understand many teams are now led by men who come from flourishing teams that ran the 3-4, but that doesn't make it the right decision. I can see -- to some degree -- why Denver would make this switch, as its defense hasn't been successful in recent memory and the defensive players on its roster were inadequate for either an odd or even front.
Kansas City bothers me because its most valuable front seven players -- Tamba Hali, Glenn Dorsey and Derrick Johnson -- all are far better fits for a traditional 4-3 than the 3-4. Doing that to Dorsey is especially sinister. However, it wasn't like Kansas City was a powerhouse on that side of the ball either.
|Cliff Welch/Icon SMI|
|The Packers are counting on B.J. Raji's versatility to help them in their transition to a 3-4 scheme.|
But the Green Bay switch really gets under my skin. Two years ago, the Packers had an upper-tier defense while running the 4-3. The strength of that team was a very deep, talented and versatile defensive line. The Packers rotated big men in, stayed fresh up front and put an awful lot of pressure on opposing offenses for four quarters. Last year, the defensive front was hit hard by injuries, Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila was released and Corey Williams was dealt to the Browns before the season. Why not just bring in one or two more 4-3 linemen and stick with what worked?
Turning Aaron Kampman, Green Bay's best front-seven player, into an outside linebacker is criminal. He was one of the better defensive ends in the league, and those guys don't grow on trees. Surely Kampman will not do it often, but dropping him into coverage with any regularity is a mistake. Although Cullen Jenkins, another very talented defensive lineman, is versatile enough to play end or tackle in the 4-3, he is a penetrator and asking him to hold the point as a 3-4 end could be a waste of what he does best.
I am also not fond of A.J. Hawk, a prototypical 4-3 weakside linebacker, and Nick Barnett, a very successful run-and-hit middle linebacker in the old scheme, being the starting two inside guys in the new 3-4. Neither player is equipped to take on massive guards at the point of attack. I expect to see these two getting swallowed up far too often.
I must admit that I expected the Packers' front seven to be even more ill-equipped to make this change at this point of the year than they are right now. I was shocked that B.J. Raji fell to Green Bay in the first round, and I feel Clay Matthews Jr. should fit the scheme well. Matthews is more linebacker than defensive end, while Kampman is the exact opposite. Those two could complement each other at outside linebacker rather well.
That being said, rookies rarely adapt quickly to the 3-4, and although Matthews did play some of the scheme last year at USC, neither player has extensive experience running it.
It should be noted that Dom Capers will be the one coordinating the change. Capers knows what will make the transformation more palatable.
I still contend that the Packers would have been better off sticking with the 4-3 and still drafting Raji. Without making the change, Green Bay would not have had to uncharacteristically jump back into the first round to fill a position of need, and could have used the resources that it took to get Matthews to add to other areas of the team, such as offensive tackle or another 4-3 defensive end. Expect some growing pains on defense.
Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com.