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Mike Smith says Falcons aren’t 3-4, despite all the 3-4 players

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If it waddles like a 3-4 duck, and quacks like a 3-4 duck, there’s a strong possibility that it is, in fact, a 3-4 duck.

But Falcons coach Mike Smith insisted his team wasn’t undergoing a dramatic makeover this offseason, sounding more afraid of the label than the change.

Smith busted out his best football coach jargon when discussing the shift, saying defensive coordinator Mike Nolan’s system wouldn’t be drastically different either way.

I think we’re going to be what we’ve been much like in the last couple of years: very multiple,” Smith said, via Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com. “When you start talking about 3-4, 4-3, they’re very similar in principles. You line up on a 4-3 in a base down, you slide your tackle in and under and over defense. You line up in a 3-4 and slide your tackle over you’re in an over defense. You slide him under, you’re in an under defense.

“We’re going to play with 11 players on the field and we’re going to be very multiple. Mike Nolan has got a background — probably half and half — 50 percent of the time he’s been based out of a 3-4 and based out of a 4-3. The thing that I think people don’t realize is that the game has become substitutional defense. About 65 to 75 percent of large snaps have been in sub defense where you’re playing with five defensive backs. There are more snaps with five defensive backs than four. That nickelback is more of a starter than your fourth linebacker or your third linebacker. The multiplicity and the complexity of the game have changed. You very rarely see the same formations offensively.”

All those things are true. But this offseason, the Falcons went out and spent aggressively on a 3-4 nose tackle (Paul Soliai) and a 3-4 defensive end (Tyson Jackson) in the opening hours of free agency.

And if they manage to draft South Carolina Jadeveon Clowney, the issue of whether he stands up or is on the line of scrimmage will matter less than the fact they have a pass-rusher.

So while the base defense might still have three standing up and four in a stance, the Falcons are inarguably making some changes.

They needed to, to change the numbers that were going on the scoreboard against them.

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13 Responses to “Mike Smith says Falcons aren’t 3-4, despite all the 3-4 players”
  1. nygmann says: Mar 28, 2014 8:38 AM

    3-4, 4-3…. Mike Smith is on the hot seat if team does not produce in 2014!

  2. thestrategyexpert says: Mar 28, 2014 8:45 AM

    They are very similar in principle? Oh good grief. Yeah just like any defensive scheme that aims to contain both the run and the pass. Show me what scheme doesn’t involve sliding players around to cover areas they aren’t presently standing in before snap. It’s amazing all these schemes involve players moving and shifting from one place to another, has anybody noticed that?

  3. igeorgiaboy says: Mar 28, 2014 9:01 AM

    I would have like to see them go get a good LT in Free Agency and trade up to get Clowney. But hey, Dimitroff is known for screwing up a rock fight. Im still scratching my head as to why you take Robert Alford and not grab Tyran Mathieu only to get rid of Thomas “DeCantTackle” the next year… #RiseUP

  4. God Waves His Terrible Towel™ says: Mar 28, 2014 9:04 AM

    So close-minded.

  5. bucnblood says: Mar 28, 2014 9:05 AM

    The Falcons will never win anything with this clown as head coach. Feel sorry for Falcon fans…..so much talent but nobody to guide them.

  6. explosionsauce says: Mar 28, 2014 9:37 AM

    Mike Nolan had a 3-4 in San Fran and never seemed to be able to put it all together.

  7. joemontanawasthegreatest says: Mar 28, 2014 9:40 AM

    Mike Nolan runs the hybrid D, this is no surprise

  8. bcajun says: Mar 28, 2014 10:07 AM

    Dont matter they will be quacking like sitting ducks when they face the WHO DAT NATION…thats at least 2 Ws a year for us

  9. atlfan31833 says: Mar 28, 2014 11:49 AM

    “We’re going to play with 11 players on the field and we’re going to be very multiple. Mike Nolan has got a background — probably half and half — 50 percent of the time he’s been based out of a 3-4 and based out of a 4-3. The thing that I think people don’t realize is that the game has become substitutional defense. About 65 to 75 percent of large snaps have been in sub defense where you’re playing with five defensive backs. There are more snaps with five defensive backs than four. That nickelback is more of a starter than your fourth linebacker or your third linebacker. The multiplicity and the complexity of the game have changed. You very rarely see the same formations offensively.”

  10. posmoo says: Mar 28, 2014 11:52 AM

    Anyone that can play 3-4 DE and 3-4 NT can also play 4-3 DT.

  11. atlfan31833 says: Mar 28, 2014 12:43 PM

    I reposted that quote which was used in this article because unfortunately not all commenters read the articles before they post their nonsensical blather.

    The defense will stay the same because they use multiple formations. They may line up more now in a 3-4 alignment but the biggest thing now is that they have more talent on the front.

  12. andynormile says: Mar 28, 2014 2:06 PM

    Top quality players should be able to perform regardless of system. With the free agency acquisitions the Falcons should be a better team (well they could hardly get any worse)

  13. jacobslatter says: Mar 28, 2014 8:52 PM

    (Mike Smith’s brain): “If we draft Jadeveon Clowney we’ll keep a base 4-3 with some 3-4 looks like the last 2 years. If we don’t get Clowney then we’ll be a base 3-4 and will draft appropriate personnel on the defensive line & at linebacker like Khalil Mack for such a scheme.”

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