Chargers 3-4 defense
Don Lindsey, who has four National Championships to his name, stopped by SDBoltReport.com for a second tour of duty as curious San Diego Charger fans had many questions regarding the 3-4 defense. Coach Lindsey has worked under coaches such as Lou Holtz, John Robinson, John McKay, Bill Curry, and the Legendary Paul "Bear" Bryant.
While at USC, Don Lindsey helped lead the Trojans to three national championships, six Rose Bowl appearances, and seven Pac Ten titles. During that time, Lindsey's defensives where considered one of the best in the nation while consistently leading the Pac Ten in every defensive category.
While at Alabama, his defensives ranked in the top fifteen in every statistical category as well. Some of the highlights where being 1st in the nation in pass defense in 1990, while also being ranked 5th in rushing.
Two of the most impressive accomplishments for Coach Lindsey were in 1982 when he lead Lou Holtz's Arkansas team to a number one ranking in scoring defense and taking over a defense for the University of Hawaii that ranked 90th in the nation and coaching them to a very respectable 20th overall.
Coach Lindsey has coached all styles of defenses in his career. He is familiar with both the 3-4 and 4-3 thoroughly and joined SDBoltReport.com to cover the many questions Chargers fans had as they prepare to do battle in the 3-4 under Wade Phillips and Marty Schottenheimer:
The 3-4 is a more versatile defense and requires linebackers to make the majority of tackles. What are the basic keys and responsibilities and what is its fundamental weakness? And how can it be combated?
“Linemen in the 3-4 are usually assigned to keep the offensive tackles and center from getting to the second level linebackers. DL are used more as ‘controlling’ the three positions they hold and allowing the Inside LB’s to run when playing running down and distances. They of course are more ‘free’ on passing downs and penetrate for pass rush. The 4-3 is more D-Line friendly in that they are used more often as penetrators. Some 3-4 teams that have more agile and quick linemen will use them more in slants, loops, and gap charges, otherwise the 3-4 teams want Huge linemen that can ‘tie-up’ the tackles and center and be so controlling that the offense is forced to ‘double-team’ the noseman and tackles and that allows the inside linebackers just that much more flexibility.
“Offenses usually will combat the 3-4 with multiple run-down formations, using two tight ends one back or open formations that cause the lbs to play coverage against open formations or the defense has to substitute an extra defensive back. Linebacker keys are usually thru the offensive linemen in front of them to the offensive back nearest them. The combination of these keys give you the most likely best read of run or pass.”
Of the two middle linebackers, do both share the same duties or is one used more often dropping back into pass coverage of TE's and short WR cross routes? If one DOES normally drop back, is it the linebacker usually on the strong side opposite the free safety or does it strictly depend on the offensive formation?
“Normally the inside linebackers are interchangeable. However, the scheme would usually involve the use of strengths of each lb. i.e., if one is a better pass rusher, he would be used more often and could always align to TE or away when he is used to rush passer. The inside LB that drops as a base is usually coordinated with whether or not the outside LB to his side is rushing or dropping and whether or not it is a 2 deep coverage or a 3 deep coverage or man to man. Each of these are factors in determining which drops. They are always coordinated with the rotation of the secondary, and can interchange with the weak or strong safety. The popularity of ‘zone blitzes’ also cause the linebackers to coordinate with linemen who drop into coverage within the zone blitz schemes.”
What possible changes and shifts would come if the opposing offense was in a third and long? What about a third and short?
“The 3-4 allows many variations of stunts and blitzes on 3rd and long as well as the ability to rush just 3 and drop 8 into multiple coverage. Also the use of the Zone blitz gives this front numerous change-ups. The idea in both down and distance situations is that you ‘MATCH UP’ your personnel with that of the offense. The use of an extra DB rather than a LB or DL, or on short yardage you may use an extra LB instead of DB if the offense employs a third TE into the game in place of the WR.”
Have a question for Coach Lindsey? Send your questions to Byran Martin at Byran@SanDiegoSports.net and we will do our best to get them answered for you. Keep in mind that Coach Lindsey does not have firsthand knowledge of the Chargers personnel so questions should cover the actual design of the defense.