Lately, a lot of Rumblers seem to be suggesting we transition back to the 4-3 next year. Their argument goes something like this; "George Edwards sucks, fire him, give Wannstedt the reigns and let him do what he does best--coach a penetrating 4-3-- this is better suited to the skills of K.Williams and Kelsay anyway." I was skeptical, figuring it would be a step backwards in terms of developing talent on the roster, but decided to see if there was any merit to the idea.
After a bit of messing around, I came up with two 53 man rosters, one for the 3-4, one for the 4-3. Both take into account everyone on our active roster, injured reserve and our practice squad, as well as leaving a handful of spots open for our incoming draft class:
-- Arranging the defensive line was relatively straight forward with the 40 front. It was easy to see who fit where. Organizing it the way I have pairs a veteran with a younger talent for developmental / rotational purposes. Each seems to fit their particular position while masking some of their defecits. It was also easy to see that Dwan Edwards wouldn’t be a good fit because he’s more a stay at home, run defender in a scheme that values a more athletic penetrator. All in all, it was a harmonious arrangement of deck chairs. Add a DE like Quentin Coples in round one, and a coach in Wannstedt who (theoretically) knows how to get these type of players to perform and I think we could enter next year with an elite starting defensive line with above average depth. I even like the idea of putting Barnett and B.Scott at OLB, and the depth / subpackage guys they would have underneath them.
--In contrast, it was a struggle to determine which 6 guys I would keep for the 30 front. Edwards, Williams and Dareus for sure (though Williams only fits because he’s elite talent, not because he’s actually a good fit at NT). After that, there’s a lot of question marks. Who is the rotational DT? Who plays OLB? Next year we would have many of the same questions, and little in the way of answers. Compounding the problem is the fact that there’s no elite 3-4 OLB in next year’s draft to shore up the 3-4 like Coples would help the 4-3 (Upshaw is not an elite 3-4 OLB, he’s marginally better than Kelsay, and would be a HUGE reach with the #9 pick). Add in the fact that Eddins can’t even get himself promoted off the practice squad, despite showing “promise” and we wind up no better off than we are now. Put Troup’s injury to the mix and things get even worse. There’s no guarantee he can play football next year, Lionel Dotson and Heard are both marginal talents, and Jarron Gilbert is more a penetrating DT than a “clog the middle” Nose Tackle, so who gets that position and plays? Or do we use another high round pick on a Nose tackle? All that and we haven’t gotten to the biggest question... who’s gonna coach these guys next year?
To be honest, the outcome surprised me. I like the 3-4 defense. I wanted to be supportive of the effort to build it. But.. there comes a point where the theory has to be put aside in favor of reality. and manipulating the deck chairs on this boat leads me to believe we’re in a much better spot playing a 4-3 from here on out.
Now, Nix said he needed 3 years to rebuild team, and if he’s building a 4-3 he’s Right on target! This years roster still has some fat on it (R.Corner for example), but after the 2012 draft, all that unwanted “fat” should be trimmed off. Nix needs to have a roster full of his guys, with good depth, we could have that with a 4-3, not so much with the 3-4. And we need to be competitive next year. Why? Because our patience is running thin, and when the 2013 NFL draft rolls around we can’t still be in re-build mode. Instead we need to be in maintaining and... UPGRADING the roster mode. It’s somewhere we haven’t been since 1996.
So, here's to hoping we roll out a 4-3 defense next year! And in that spirit, here’s my first attempt at a 4-3 mock draft. I think it fills in most of the red question marks, and makes us a very competitive team...
(9) 1- (DE) Quentin Coples 6-6 285 (UNC)
(41) 2- (QB) Ryan Tannehill 6-4 220 (Texas A&M)
(73) 3- (CB) Casey Hayward 5-11 190 (Vanderbilt)
(104) 4- (WR) Tommy Streeter 6-5 215 (U.Miami)
(123) 4- (OT) Ryan Miller 6-8 300 (Colorado)
(136) 5- (CB) DeQuan Menzie 6-0 200 (Alabama)
(168) 6- (DE) Matt Conrath 6-7 285 (Virginia)
(174) 6- (TE) Josh Chichester 6-7 245 (Louisville)
(200) 7- (SS) Winston Guy 6-1 220 (Kentucky)