Welcome back to the B&G Report. Although players don’t report back to their teams until mid July for Training Camp, we still have plenty to talk about! One particular topic has been discussed routinely among Skins fans since the departure of Mike Shanahan though. Of course I’m talking about the Redskins switching back to the 4-3 Defense. The argument has always been, do they have the personnel the to succeed in the 3-4. After years it seems that the Redskins finally found true a Nose Tackle.The Skins have slowly put together some nice young depth along D-line, which will pay off this year and beyond. This team is now scheme versatile in my opinion, based on the sheer number of combinations at Defensive Tackle they can put on the field. In saying that, switching back to a version of the 4-3 would be in the teams best interest long term.
The success that former Redskins D-Coordinator Greg Williams had in Washington is still fresh in many fans memories. Although the Redskins boasted some All Star talent during the Williams era, his scheme was aggressive and exciting to watch! Don’t get me wrong, this team is heading in the right direction defensively, this is just an opinion piece that I believe many readers will identify with. Let’s get started!
#1 Personnel ✅
*In order to switch back to the vaunted 4-3 Defense that the Redskins had under Williams, they must first have the players for the scheme. It took nearly a decade, but they have the most versatile defensive unit I’ve seen on paper in a long time. Let’s start with defensive line. They’ve sorely missed the NT who could fill that position with success. Now they have too young promising rookies in Daron Payne and Tim Settle who are scheme versatile, but could still excel at the Nose. I do believe the Redskins could still have success in the 3-4 base, but the 4-3 offers more options with the current depth. Having a potential 4-3 Jumbo Base Defensive front that features Allen & Kerrigan at End, with Payne & Ioannidis at Tackle while Lanier and Hood rotate in would be an awesome site! I did leave off one notable player though, ’19 FA to be Preston Smith is the odd man out. I do like Preston don’t get me wrong, but his projected $11-$15 million a year LTD requirements are too rich for me. Personally I’d bring back Junior Galette on a $5 million per year two year contract. He’s the situational pass rusher that could play in either front. Now what about the linebackers? At Inside Linebacker Zach Brown was brought back and will man the position for years to come. Mason Foster is a decent backup, but like him as Weakside LB as well. At the Strongside we have second year LB Ryan Anderson, which seems like a better way to use the former Crimson Tide Linebacker, as opposed to putting him in as a 3-4 OLB. Having Kerrigan as an option at SLB in sub packages would be invaluable as well. Lastly at Weakside Linebacker, I’m a big proponent for getting Zach Vigil more involved. The former Utah St Linebacker has the athleticism and quickness to help this defensive stop the run. Add in late round rookie Shaun Dion Hamilton, who has a reputation as a field general and the Redskins really added another versatile ILB/WLB. As for the cornerbacks/safeties they are interchangeable. So the defensive depth this team finally has allows them to be more scheme versatile. I understand that the Redskins were only in base defense less than 30% over the last three years, but the 4-3 allows more possibilities while getting the best players on the field simultaneously.
#2 Past Success
*The Greg Williams Era in Washington spanned from 2004-2007, during which time the 4-3 Defense flourished. Teams knew when they faced Williams and the Redskins Defense, it would be a long and painful day! Williams sure had a cast of ballers in; Lavar Arrington, Marcus Washington, Cornelius Griffin, Phillip Daniels, Demetrick Evans, Shawn Springs, Carlos Rogers, Ryan Clark with Sean Taylor leading the pack. That defense dominated in stretches, most notably against the run. Arrington consistently applied pressure to opposing quarterbacks, with Sean Taylor as well as the rest of the back end capitalizing with turnovers. Although nobody on the current roster will come close to having Taylor like success, Montae Nicholson and DJ Swearenger could combine to be the game changers that this team desperately needs.
I just believe the 3-4 Defensive has slowly been dying out for years. The Redskins boast the young to talent to make the switch. Playing in a 4-3 base package, would allow the Skins playmakers to really make a difference. In the modern NFL more defenses line up in Nickel and Dime defensive formations 70% of the time. Having the ability to shift the fronts in a 4-3, just makes more sense with the Redskins current talent level. Greg Williams was notorious for having his players rush the passer from any spot on the line, in comparison the Skins version of the 3-4 utilizes more stunts that just seem predictable. I understand the controversy Williams dealt with during his time in New Orleans with Bounty Gate, but the results were undeniable. Williams had his best roster while Coaching under Gibbs and should have been his successor.
Getting back to the success of the 4-3 is something this current roster could surely do. Seeing Allen and Payne attack the quarterback just seems natural, compared to them holding blocks for the linebackers in the traditional 3-4. I don’t believe the base 3-4 defense will hinder the Redskins success, but I do believe that they could get more out of their roster in a 4-3 base. Looking at the success of the past, is imperative to moving forward.
#3 Future Success
*Drafting players hasn’t been a strong suit for this Redskins team over the last decade or so, things seem to be changing though. Spending the past two drafts investing high picks on the the defensive was a good football decision. Selecting players from the SCC, most notably Alabama was a stroke of genius in my opinion. Drafting first round Alabama Lineman John Allen and Daron Payne back to back, showed this front office has a plan. Selecting high caliber players who were also Alabama teammates, sped up the potential to create chemistry along the line. Adding late round tackle Tim Settle was the icing on the cake for this defensive themed draft. Defensive Line Coach Jim Tomsula will have this group ready to go, regardless of the front they use.
Resigning Zach Brown, Mason Foster and bringing Zach Vigil aboard during the 2017 season, shored up the inside linebacker unit in my mind. New comer Shaun Dion Hamilton, as previously mentioned, provides another versatile/experienced member from the Nick Saban Crimson Tide vaunted Defense. Although Hamilton has medical red flags, he’s a bonus as far as depth goes and has a reputation for having a high football IQ. I still believe this defensive will have success based on the depth the Skins brass has put together. The thought of having more defensive line playmakers on the field simultaneously though, provides me with day dreams of what could be. I don’t expect the base 3-4 front to change drastically this year, but I have heard rumblings that we could potentially see some Wide 9 concepts utilized (similar to the 4-3 alignment ). Philadelphia has been the blueprint of how that formation has wreaked havoc on opposing quarterbacks around the NFL. We all know this is a copycat league, so I’m looking for more teams to duplicate that concept going forward. So look for Defensive Coordinator Greg Manusky to mix it up with his revamped arsenal, while potentially adding in some new wrinkles to get his playmakers involved.
Although a scheme change is highly unlikely this season, a change in the future is certainly in play. Manusky and company need to produce this year because another season missing the playoffs will require a scapegoat. I might be in the minority, but I believe Gruden will get two more seasons to prove he can succeed. So after dedicating so many Draft picks to the defensive side of the ball, I believe Manusky needs to have a great season. In saying that, putting together a Top 10 Defense isn’t out of the question for Washington this year. So to wrap it up, I believe the 4-3 is a better fit for this team’s depth on defense, but success is on the horizon for this squad regardless!
Written By Adam Aniba