Training Camp: Reevaluating the 3-4 Position Primer

From the FanPosts   -Joel

...or, as I'm sure I'll find out later:  why I was wrong. =)

Back in May, I wrote a post detailing our future use of the 3-4 defense.  At the time, I was vehemently against the switch, specifically for Dorsey, DJ, and Tamba.  I'd like to revisit the argument this week after some camp reports and before we trot out our defense for the first preseason game.  I plan on revisiting the primer and evaluating the evolution of the defense as the year goes along.

One of my main stressors in the prior post was that we were trotting out high draft picks, best suited for a 4-3, into positions they had not played before.  I assumed that since they were uncomfortable with a standard 3-4, that we would run a hybrid focused more on the 4-3.  As the preseason got closer and closer, it became apparent that the 3-4 would be the base defense.  However, as RedNose aptly pointed out in the other post:


The Pats' 3-4 has been a base D only from what I've seen.  3-4 first down most times to be sure.
2-4,2-5,1-5,1-6 were shown often depending on down and distance.

Yes, we'll see other looks, and yes, the defense will switch up from down to down.  This is purely an evaluation of the base defense only.  We know we'll line up in a 3-4, that much is for sure.  Shifts/hybrids/blitzes are all purely speculation at this point, so I won't attempt to focus there until another post.  Without further ado, my reevaluation:


I stated originally that I thought Tank Tyler would be an acceptable fit at Nose Tackle for us.  At the time, he seemed to have the job locked up, and many were excited to see what he has done.  Now it seems Tank is sharing time on the first team with Ron Edwards.  What changed?


“I’m looking at your eyes men. Tank, you’re looking at the ground,” Krumrie hollered. “See me!”

During a drill involving both offensive and defensive linemen, center Eric Ghiaciuc pushed defensive tackle Tank Tyler over. The crowd, including both offensive and defensive players, let out some “oooh’s” after the play. Ghiaciuc offered to help Tyler up, but Tyler declined the hand and sprinted back to complete the drill.

Defensive Line Coach Tim Krumrie got frustrated with defensive tackle Tank Tyler when Tyler didn’t sprint back to the line of scrimmage after the whistle blew.

During the 11-on-11 drill, defensive tackle Tank Tyler applied great pressure to quarterback Brodie Croyle. Pleased with Tyler’s performance, Defensive Coordinator Clancy Pendergast hollered, “Hey, Tank. Do that every (dang) time.” from the sidelines. Later, Tyler fell to the ground after a play. Pendergast encouraged Tyler to “stay up.” However, Tyler fell again, and this time Head Coach Todd Haley hollered, “Stay up, Tank!”

- all from UWRF...and will continue to be


Not exactly glowing endorsements coming out of camp from the guy.  Edwards doesn't have a whole lot said about him, but no news may be good news in this case.  Ratings Change:  N/A.  Unfortunately, training camp isn't going to reveal a ton about the NT position.  After a couple of preseason games, we'll see a clearer picture.


I stepped through the 3-4 DE's on the roster, including Jackson, MaGee, and Dorsey.  At the time, I stated that Jackson and MaGee would fit well enough, and that it could be a potential disaster for Dorsey.  Jackson has barely been in camp, but all reports state he's working hard to learn the speed and strength of the pro game.  As for MaGee:

Rookie defensive end Alex Magee was getting his fair share of praise from Defensive Line Coach Tim Krumrie. At one point Krumrie told the end from Purdue that he was doing a good job. “There ya go. Good, Alex, good,” Krumrie said.

The offensive and defensive linemen ran a drill in which one defensive player would try to bust past the blocking offender to get to the hypothetical quarterback. During the drill, Defensive Line Coach Tim Krumrie hollered at rookie defensive end Alex Magee when he didn’t get back fast enough. “When that whistle blows, you fight your butt off him,” Krumrie said. “What the (heck) ya waiting for? Get back. It’s not that (dang) hard.”

Defensive end Alex Magee was having a hard time knowing how to place his arms when they were pinning the single sled. Krumrie had the rookie hit the sled multiple times until he was satistifed with Magee’s performance.

A session with the defensive lineman and the offensive lineman, running a 2-on-1 blocking drill was dominated by the defense. The stand-out of the drill was defensive end Alex Magee. Magee destroyed offensive linemen Mike Goff and Wade Smith on separate occasions.

When it was Jackson’s turn on the sled, Krumrie was pleased. The only thing he asked of the rookie was that Jackson watch fellow rookie defensive end Alex Magee, who has been impressive on the single sleds thus far.

Fellow rookie defensive end Alex Magee seemed to have a good afternoon in the drill. After button his chin strap as Krumrie ordered, Magee received a compliment from the coach. “That’s the way to strike, Alex,” Krumrie commended.

Lots and lots of praise in there for the rookie.  As it is, he's still running with the first team, actually getting the starting nod and being supplanted by Dorsey depending on the situation.

Glenn is a different story.  His failure to complete the conditioning test, his injured shin, and coming in overweight have been chronicled here very well.  He hasn't gotten a ton of work in yet, but of the stuff that he's done, here's the quotes:

When asked how players were transitioning into the 3-4, Haley mentioned defensive end Glenn Dorsey who practiced for just the second time this morning. Haley said that he saw Dorsey be active and disciplined today.

After hitting the sled once, the players hit it for a second time before charging at Equipment Assistant Kyle Crumbaugh, who represented the ball carrier. During the drill, defensive end Glenn Dorsey got complimented by Krumrie. “The second one was really good,” the coach told the second-year player.

Defensive end Glenn Dorsey and linebacker Tamba Hali had sacks on Croyle later in the drive.

During 7-on-7, Defensive Line Coach Tim Krumrie hollered at second-year defensive end Glenn Dorsey. “Stop skating, Glenn,” Krumrie said. “Drive his (butt) up the field.” Krumrie was frustrated after Dorsey had let the offensive blocker knock him to his knees.

Also during the drill, defensive end Glenn Dorsey jumped offsides, swore loudly and had to run.

Defensive end Glenn Dorsey would have had a sack on Croyle, and linebacker Turk McBride showed good pressure on Croyle as well.

For being a guy who showed up with some problems, he's actually integrated far better than I expected.  The recommendation from Haley right off the bat is a good one, and I know all of us Dorsey fans like to see those two sacks pop up.

Grades?  Tyson Jackson - N/A.  Contract worked out, we'll see how it goes with some more time.  Alex MaGee - Upgrade to Perfect Fit.  I had worries about his transition to the pro game, but it seems he's been one of the more impressive players on the field thus far.  Glenn Dorsey - Upgrade to Acceptable Fit.  I may take some heat for this, but my chief concern (pun intended) was his lack of penetration in a 3-4, as well as his ability to adapt.  With the Haley comment, and a couple of sacks, I believe an upgrade is in order.


Our ILB's have been off and on hurt this camp.  At the time, I commented that Thomas would fit well, and DJ would fit poorly.  Let's see what Zach's been up to:

Linebacker Zach Thomas got the defense off to a good start. Thomas landed a huge hit on running back Mike Cox, picking him up and throwing him down like it was nothing.

Quarterback Matt Cassel handed the ball off to running back Larry Johnson who was immediately stopped by linebackers Mike Vrabel and Zach Thomas. The big stop got hoots and hollers from the defensive sidelines.

There's also a neverending stream of quotes from players talking about how much of a leader he is and how well he commands the huddle.  The scary part is that he's not suiting up right now.  It sounds like he's still got the hitstick, but his body might be shutting down.


As for DJ:

The hit of the day was put on by linebacker Derrick Johnson. Johnson came flying through the line and smoked running back Larry Johnson in the backfield. The crowd erupted after the collision, and Derrick Johnson was pumped up.

“The play he made on the goal line was tremendous. If you can run and hit like that, you will be a big help to the defense,” Haley said about a hit Johnson had on running back Larry Johnson during the team’s 11-on-11 drill.

Linebackers Derrick Johnson and Corey Mays teamed up to sack quarterback Matt Cassel during the team’s 11-on-11 third down situation drill.

Two passes later, linebacker Derrick Johnson got his hand on a pass that was intended for tight end Jake O’Connell.

On quarterback Brodie Croyle’s first drive, linebacker Derrick Johnson had a would-be sack had the team been allowed to sack the quarterback. Johnson came flying through the offensive line untouched and would have completely drilled Croyle.

Nothing bad about DJ, and is sounds like he's doing well in coverage.  The main concern I held was his ability to shed blocks.  As the reports show, he's blowing through the line and getting to the ball.  Either we're finally blitzing him correctly, or that's a testament to the d-line.  Regardless, it bodes well for DJ.


Grades:  Zach Thomas - No Change.  He's a good fit for the D.  He'd be upgraded to "perfect" if we could keep him on the field.  DJ - Upgrade to Good Fit.  That's right, I've completely reversed my stance on his role in this defense.  I'm just seeing and hearing too many good things to say he doesn't fit right now.  The scary part is that Zach and DJ have limited time on the field together...that could turn out better than expected.


Finally, the OLB's.  Of course I graded Vrabel highly, due to his extreme familiarity with the defense.  Tamba was one of the three "Poor" fits that I had.  Let's see how they've done:

Quarterback Matt Cassel was the first quarterback to run the team’s 7-on-7 drill. His first pass was a completed pass to running back Larry Johnson behind the line of scrimmage. This received some heat from linebacker Mike Vrabel. Vrabel yelled across the field, “You’re one-for-one on check downs! They don’t throw check downs in Foxborough! No check downs for Tom!” Vrabel was referring to the New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

After a drill, linebacker Mike Vrabel, a 13-year veteran, was showing two-year linebacker Andy Studebaker how he should be using his arms during the drill. As the two walked away, joining the rest of the linebackers on field 1, Studebaker patted Vrabel on the back.

During the teams field goal kicking session, tight end Sean Ryan wasn't on the field like he should have been. Linebacker Mike Vrabel noticed there were only 10 guys blocking and yelled, “No one’s there. Block that kick!”

On the first play of the “Team Run” drill, which is 7-on-7 running plays, defensive end Alex Magee made his presence known. Magee pushed tackle Branden Albert back into the backfield and right into running back Larry Johnson. Johnson was able to stay up and fought for a five-yard gain. Veteran linebacker Mike Vrabel didn’t seem too pleased with the effort from the rest of the defense. “Recognize these (freaking) formations!”

Surprisingly little about his play out there, but you have to love the emotion and leadership he's throwing out there for the younger guys.  Very aware on the field, too.

Finally, Tamba:

The offfensive line was looking strong again when tackle Cameron Goldberg knocked linebacker Tamba Hali over pretty handedly. Hali got back up and continued to battle toward the quarterback.

After quarterback Matt Cassel completed a pass to wide receiver Dwayne Bowe, Defensive Coordinator Clancy Pendergast said he expected more out of linebacker Tamba Hali. “Finish, Tamba,” he shouted.

Hali made an athletic move to shoot to the inside of Barry Richardson without being touched.

During the 7-on-7 team running session linebacker Tamba Hali came flying around the back edge and stuffed running back Jackie Battle for no gain.

He also mentioned that defensive ends turned linebackers Tamba Hali, Andy Studebaker and Turk McBride are all making impressive progress as well. “It’s too early to pass judgment, however,” Haley said.

Linebacker Tamba Hali caught some grief from Head Coach Todd Haley as a result. “That’s a breakdown 9-1!”

Quarterback Matt Cassel was sacked by linebacker Tamba Hali, who came free off the right edge into Cassel’s roll out

Later, linebacker Tamba Hali and rookie defensive end Tyson Jackson had an assisted sack on the quarterback

Kind of a half-and-half camp for Tamba.  It sounds like he started slow, has picked it up a bit, but is still not consistent.  A handful of sacks are nice to hear, but nothing about his coverage abilities have been addressed.  In fact, he's spent more time with the d-line than the linebackers during drills.  It brings up the question of whether or not he's a liability there.


Grades:  Mike Vrabel - No Change.  Hard to change a "perfect" grade when he's in here doing the things he was brought in to do.  Should have quenched anybody's waning concerns about whether or not he's dedicated to the team.  Tamba Hali - No Change.  We need to expect more from his position than what we're getting in camp.  I'd love to see him turn it around in the games, but as of right now, I still see him as a "poor" fit.

So there it is.  Some new concerns about the NT position have formulated, but Dorsey seems to be doing better than expected.  DJ's currently thriving in the system, so my concerns have been set aside for the time being.  Tamba still has to show a little more before I'm willing to say he doesn't fit the system.  Overall, my pessimism over the base 3-4 has waned.  There's still a lot more to do, and matchups against other offensive lines will tell us a lot more than training camp has currently revealed.  As always, I reserve the right to go back and stare at my potentially incorrect analysis, and I'm completely open to criticisms about it.  I'm ecstatic to hear the good things coming out of camp, and I'm anxious to put the pads on for real and see how it holds up in a game situation!


Oh, and as always, a thank you to the UWRF staff.  Anybody who can make a diehard Chief fan think there's an information overload deserves a medal.  Well done, guys!

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of Arrowhead Pride's writers or editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of Arrowhead Pride writers or editors.

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