Chiefs Moving to 3-4 Defensive Scheme

Courtesy of Adam Schefter at, we've got some big news on the Kansas City Chiefs defensive front.

Kansas City announced its coaching staff this week. What it didn’t announce is that the Chiefs are planning to switch to a 3-4 defense.

Under the guidance of new defensive coaches Clancy Pendergast and Gary Gibbs, the Chiefs are turning to the defense that has done so well for Pittsburgh and is back in vogue in the NFL. The Chiefs are going 3-4.

Now Kansas City is going to have to tailor its personnel accordingly. But what is most intriguing and mysterious about it is where last year’s first-round pick, defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey, fits in. Dorsey might not be stout enough to play nose tackle in a 3-4, and he might not be big enough to play end in that style of defense.

We've been talking about a possible defensive switch by the Chiefs for some time now. Here's a little info on the 3-4.

The 3-4 Defense

In the 3-4 defense , there are three defensive linemen on the field.  The centermost DL a nose tackle (NT) and the other two defensive ends (DEs).

There are also 4 linebackers (LBs).  The centermost 2 are called inside linebackers (ILBs) and the outer two are called outside linebackers (OLBs).

Here are the advantages of running a 3-4 defense, courtesy of the Mile High Report.

  • It is easier to obtain quality LBs than qualtiy DLs, and thus easier to build a 3-4.
  • More "pure athletes" or on the field, since many would consider a LB to be more skilled than a DL.
  • Increased reaction time for LBs.  The LBs start further back than they would in a 4-3, so they have nearly .5 to a full second to read a play as it develops.
  • Puts more men in the short zones to disrupt passes.
  • Allows for a much larger play book, as LBs have more play uses than DLs.  This also means more flexibility for the defense.
  • Stops runs to the outside (wider spaced OLBs).

And of course, there are disadvantages (Also from MHR):

  • It is not as effective against the inside running game as the 4-3, and most of the League is "run first" and runs the middle.
  • More often than not, a 3-4 can be more expensive to field (comparing the cost of LBs to DLs).

Currently, it appears that Glenn Dorsey would fill the nose tackle role and Tamba Hali and Turk McBride would be the two main defensive ends. Like Schefter said though, Dorsey isn't exactly your typical nose tackle. It will be interesting to see what happens with Dorsey's role.

The Chiefs would also need four solid linebackers to really make this transition pop and we currently only have one in Derrick Johnson. We have other warm bodies at linebacker but the Chiefs better improve their personnel if they're going to put more run stopping responsibility on the linebackers. LB Aaron Curry perhaps in this year's draft?

For more info on this, there is a great article by Pat Kirwin over at about how the Green Bay Packers are switching from a 4-3 to 3-4 and what all of that means. For Chiefs fans, I consider this a must read.

We'll have more on the new scheme over the next couple of days.

Learn more about the 3-4 defense:

Modern 3-4 Defensive Systems (MHR)

3-4 Defense (Wikipedia)

The 3-4 Defense (Football 101)

Packers Move to a 3-4 (Pro Football Talk)

Film Study: Dissecting Pittsburgh's 3-4 defense (FOX Sports)

H/T to RedNose in the FanShots.

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