Defensive Scheme Question - Do All Signs Point to More of the Same?

Okay guys, I am not an Xs and Os person (I'm a rugby player) and I didn't want to come off as a know-it-all and state something incorrectly, and I know a lot of what I am about to say may be wrong, but I want to learn so if you can respectfully correct me/educate me on this I would appreciate it.

I was at work the other day looking through the blogs on the Bills website and I found this article, published February 20th, concerning the status of the defense and how Schwartz may change things. The article is pretty adamant that things won't be all that different and the one line that intrigued me in particular was Doug Marrone's quote about the defense under Pettine:

I’ve been getting a lot of questions about 3-4 and 4-3, and last year, if you look at what we were, we really played an under defense

I interpreted this as the Bills running a 4-3 under, which, being completely honest, I had no idea what that meant. So I did a little research (basically just googled 4-3 under) and found a couple blogs breaking down Seattles 4-3 under and put two and two together, all the while keeping Doug Marrone's interview in the back of my mind.

The blog, here, discusses the 4-3 under with a diagram of Seattle's defensive front (below) in which Chris Clemons is notated the same way Whaley described Lawson going forward (OLB/DE) and both he (Lawson), Hughes, and Clemons are all around the same height and weight. 020812_4-3under_all222_medium


So now I was really curious if this was something the Bills were considering moving forward with, or how frequently they actually ran the 4-3 under in 2013 with Pettine, but for the life of me I couldn't find any information on the frequency of how the fronts were lined up.

This picture got me thinking and I started envisioning the possibilities of the Bills defense with their new pieces in place, should Schwartz decide to use this package often. I started messing around with the players on D and pictured: Alonso at the OLB spot on the right, Mario Williams at DE, Dareus or Branch at NT, Kyle Williams at DT, and Lawson or Hughes at OLB/DE with Rivers behind him and Spikes at the MLB spot.

Additionally, I thought it helped the case for keeping a multiple front that they brought in 2 linebackers with some experience in both fronts. Rivers played in a 3-4 at USC in 2006 (the Giants used both, I think?) and NE utilized a multiple front (right?) when Spikes was there, meaning they could easily flip between a 3-4 and a 4-3.

A semi-related question in regards to seeing less blitzing in 2014/a defensive scheme shift: Corey Graham's response on the John Murphy show when asked if the Bills would be playing man-to-man or zone coverage in which Graham responded "I know that, thats one thing its gonna be, its gonna be man" (37:30 mark) means they are going to be blitzing a lot right? I know there have been discussions about Jim Schwartz not blitzing as often in the past so I was found that interesting and always thought man defense meant more blitzes but wasn't sure.

I know a lot has been made of the 3-4 to 4-3 switch that allegedly will happen, but I also read somewhere that the Bills lined up in a 3-4 70% of the time but it was only called a 3-4 due to Mario Williams being in a standing position when he really only dropped into coverage on 1.50% (16 total) of his snaps. When you look at it that way, the scheme was really already a 4-3 with a standing DE right? I know the manner in which they blitz might be a little different under Schwartz, but if the scheme was basically already a 4-3 why is there a huge clamoring for a "true 4-3 DE" all of a sudden? I went through the first half of the NE game on All-22 and noticed they used Carrington as a DE pretty frequently and I know that he is gone, but Corbin Bryant and Stefan Charles are of the same build (6'5" 300lbs) and could take his role going forward, thus eliminating the need to replace Carrington within the scheme, so its not like there is a hole there.

Also, if Schwartz were to leave after this year, or the year after, wouldn't it make sense to leave the scheme as is knowing that Pepper Johnson could also run a hybrid front after being with New England since 2000 and using both a 3-4 and a 4-3? Presuming he knows how to be a defensive coordinator after so many years as a positional coach.

Given the article about subtle defensive changes, the signings of players that fit the scheme, and the Lawson statement about becoming an OLB/DE, isn't it fair to assume the Bills will be doing more of the same, rather than a complete overhaul next year?

So yeah, not sure how much of this is right, or if any of it makes sense, or if it is feasible but I wanted to talk it out with other people that know more about football than I do. I tried asking some people these questions on Twitter but I didn't receive any answers soooo yeah. If this is stupid I'll just go back under my rock and watch the discussions from here on out but I just thought these were interesting points/connections in an otherwise uninteresting time of year :p

Just another great fan opinion shared on the pages of

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