The 46 Defense and You


Hello, good bloggers at Arrowhead Pride. As you may already know we have former New York Jets defensive coordinator Bob Sutton hired as our new defensive mind, and his scheme is a confusing one and he is not apt to give any clues.

We know the base defense will be a 3-4. But us Chiefs fans know all too much that that's only, like, 30% of the story. So I headed on down to a Jets blog to see what was up and what he was into.

I heard most of the same stuff I've already heard. We'll be getting a lot more pressure, we will see some two gapping and one gapping stuff, he likes to mix people around and get mismatches, etc. But one thing they said caught my eye. They said that Sutton is a big fan of the 46 and likes to run a lot of 46 fronts whenever he can, but the problem was they didn't have the personnel in NY when he was the DC.

So that got me thinking... Could we run it effectively? We would need some tweaks, some positional changes but its an interesting prospect. But first off, what even is it?

What even is it?

People who aren't big football historians/want to punch the Ryan's in the face may not know exactly what the 46 is. So I will give you a rundown.



That, my friends, is your typical base set for the 46, or as its inventor Buddy Ryan called it, the Bear.

it was invented by Buddy Ryan when he was defensive coordinator of the Chicago Bears because he didn't think he had the talent on his squad to get a consistent pass rush with 4 rushers and he needed to play some tricks. As he stated it when the defense originated "Some teams are good enough to pressure the QB with a 3 man rush. Well, were not. In fact, I don't know if we can put it on with a 4 man rush. I know this defense will let up some big plays but if we have to send 5, 7, 9 we will but were us as he'll not gonna let you sit back there and pick us apart all day."

And that's essentially the mantra of the 46. And primary to what some believe, the 46's name does not follow that of the 4-3 or 3-4. It is not 4 down lineman and 6 linebackers. It is called the 46 because it is named after Doug Plank, a big hitting safety for the Super Bowl Bears that allowed the whole formation to come into play (his number was 46. By the way.)

it is a hybrid of the 4-3 and 3-4. It has three defensive tackles on the interior, one of the center and the others over either guard. It has a defensive end split wide outside of the tackle at almost a 9-technique. On the other side, both the strong side and weak side OLB's are standing next to each other in an upright position, one over the tackle and one outside of him. The middle linebacker is between the defensive tackle and the wide defensive end and then you bring up the strong safety, or "46", up into the box.

Buddy Ryan's Chicago defenses were dominant. Every year they finished top 5 in total defenses and in sacks. In 1984 they broke and still hold the record for most sacks in a season. In 1985 they went 15-1 on the back of Ryan's defense as they finished as one of the best in the history of the league and considering it was the 80's the run defense stats they put up were unheard of.

Despite the dominance of his defense, squabbles with head coach Mike Ditka booted him out of Chicago. He took his 46 to Philly where he saw dominance one again, putting up a top 5 defense consistently and almost always finishing either #1 or #2 in sacks. After some more years and a couple failures of seasons as a head coach he left and went to the Oilers in 1993, when his defense once again led the league in sacks. He ended his career in Arizona, where he had relatively lackluster defenses but still relatively good pass rushing teams.

His legacy lives on in his children Rex and Rob Ryan, who are coaches in the NFL today as many of us know. Due to West Coast Offenses and less of an emphasis on running, the 46 is not a defense that any teams use as their base defenses. But both of the Ryan's have regularly used the 46 in games with every team they've been on (Rex in Baltimore and New York, Rob in Cleveland and Dallas). But if its so easy to beat, then how does it work and why?

How It Works and Why

The 46 is all about confusion and mismatches. All the defenders up at the line of scrimmage sends a look of incessant blitz, and when the ball is snapped blockers are forced into making split second decisions as to who they are to block, so if an offensive lineman is blocking a player all game and suddenly that guy goes back into coverage, he's sent into a panic looking for the guy sent in his absence. This happens in mere moments, which can cause one small mistake by an offensive lineman turn into a blown assignment, a linebacker coming unaccounted for barreling at your ballcarrier with no one to stop him.

What it also does is force one-on-one match ups due to all the guys the linemen are meant to block, and eventually one of our guys will beat the lineman one on one due to advantages to defenders. And even if we don't send the house, the aforementioned confusion can cause an offensive lineman to not actually end up blocking anyone, and lead to a guy like Poe matched up on a center one on one, or Hali tearing through a running back in the backfield for a sack.

But not all teams run the 46, even in its golden age. Why? Not all teams had the personnel, and that personnel is the common denominator in every single Ryan 46 defense.

Huge, mutant defensive tackles/"defensive ends"



Going down the line of Buddy and his spawn's defenses, you see one serious thing in common. That thing is a big, disruptive, beastly force in the middle that you can't help but gameplan around and double team, opening things up for others to get those mismatches the 46 wants so badly.

Dan Hampton, Steve McMichael, William Perry, Reggie White, Jerome Brown, Clyde Simmons, Ray Childress, Eric Swann, Shaun Rogers, Haloti Ngata, Kris Jenkins, Jay Ratliff, Quinton Coples, Muhammed Wilkerson. Just a few of the great (or soon to be great) penetrative forces brought in by the Ryan's to great effect in their signature scheme. These guys are big, fast, athletic, and nasty who most of all can get some serious pressure on the quarterback (which any quarterback will tell you is the worst possible thing to happen while you're trying to pass).

This is both a good and bad thing for us. Because I think our current personnel (and the personnel we can get at the position were in) suits that. So without further ado...

Who benefits from the new style?



It all starts at the defensive line, where I think many if these guys will benefit vastly from a more aggressive front.

Dorsey: If in the case that we keep Dorsey, I think this new scheme will be best for him. As Kalo has said, Dorsey has been serviceable being a two gapper but his worst play (or at least much worse than Jackson) has been in taking in double teams where he is prone to getting pushed back. His best attribute since college even has been his explosive first step (that has since been hampered) and his ability to take over 1-on-1 match ups and come out on top against all sorts. Dorsey has shown flashes in the past of being a serious force, such as the last game of 2011, the Atlanta game of last year, the Saints game of last year. He's still a player who if in the right position I still trust will become a great defender for us. And by definition the 46 is designed for guys like Dorsey.

Poe: This is almost self explanatory, Poe is built in the mold of a 46 nose tackle, a guy who can seriously be a disruptive force when matched up against centers and undersized guards and still is big and disciplined enough to play as a regular nose tackle. Expect big things out if Poe,

Jackson: We know Jackson as the love able two gapping defensive end who does everything he's asked to do. Last year at this time if you would've told me Jackson could become a disruptive force I would've burned you at the stake for being a witch. But after seeing how he did in the nickel packages.... I dunno man. I like it.

Bailey: Bailey is not a two gapper. There's a reason why he didnt get to play much this year. Bailey is a true physical marvel in the vein of Reggie White, but whether he can put that to work is still up for debate. That said, I think an aggressive, blitz based scheme is what suits him best.

Ropati: I love Ropati. He brought something with him when he came here that you just can't fake. That being pure, unadulterated Polynesian violence. At 6'8, 320 pounds, Ro is the largest player on the team and probably the hardest hitter. That's something we didnt get a lot of in RAC's soft, safe defenses. Ropati made a big impact in his first start with two sacks on Phillip Rivers in his debut game. He's a big guy with crazy wild man strength and the toughness that comes with playing an incredibly physical position with an elbow turned to shreds, but his height makes being a two gapper impossible. This will be beneficial.

Smith: Like, okay, I dunno. He seems like a two gapper to me so....

Powe: This will be interesting, as Powe has shown serious potential but his worst attribute seems to be his unwillingness to stay square and two gap. In the preseason and in his few time playing looks like he could be a suitable backup at worst. With a more aggressive scheme installed I think this will best suit his strengths while minimizing his weaknesses.

The linebackers....

Houston: Houston is the perfect fit for the 46. Great pass rusher who will get pressure when he's blitzed, but is also a disciplined and dangerous run defender, while also being more than suitable in pass coverage. Perfect 46 linebacker that looks and plays much like former Bears Pro Bowler Otis Wilson.

Hali: Hali's role in the 46 is unclear. By design he would be an OLB, but his struggles in coverage make this sort of a scary proposition, but in addition to this he could also play the "Dent" type role as the wide defensive end. His versatility makes him an asset to the scheme.

Studebaker: Studes inability to cover and set the edge makes his role unclear as well, but his best trait of taking on and shedding blocks makes him ideal for the SOLB role in the case Tamba plays DE.

DJ: Ditka described Singletary in the Bears defense as the most talented blitzer from the ILB position in the league, and not only as a between the tackles guy but a "between the guards" type. This is exciting due to DJ's natural and insanely badass ability to shoot gaps, dive under blocks and get the runner in the backfield. However, DJ is better in coverage than Singletary was and it will take away from his abilities. S I'm about fifty fifty. However, DJ has the ability to play at OLB, so...

Siler: Siler is a pretty good fit, honestly. Good at blitzing, good at shooting gaps, not good in coverage. Great stuff.

Defensive Backs....

Berry: Berry is really the only one to mention here, and he's perfect. He plays up in the box a lot of the time anyways (led the NFL in tackles for loss from a safety) and has gotten better in better in coverage as the year wears on. His run support and ability as a linebacker makes him perfect for this role.

Other players we could get who could play in the 46...



Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri: Could potentially trade up from the second and get this gem of a player. Pure athleticism from the DT spot, played linebacker for Mizzou at times this year. Didnt always get sacks but even playing against the best guys in the country always got disruption.

Brandon Williams, DT/NT, MSSU: Best Division II prospect in years, a serious monster who I have been watching since last year. 341 pounds and can back up the nose tackle position, but keep in mind this guy is his schools all time leading sacker. One of the truly destructive forces in the history of DII. Really impressed at the Senior Bowl.

Sylvester Williams, DT, NC: A guy who has seen his stock raise significantly this past year, he's a monster in the middle who is as stout as a man can be. Also known to get a lot of pressure.

Kawann Short, DT, Purdue: A very stout man who must show that he's consistent to be a player in this league. Very talented player who also impressed at the Senior Bowl.

Margus Hunt, DT/DE, SMU: We all know this guy, one of the true freaks of our age. Self explantory how this guy could fit.

Star Lotulelei, DT/NT, Utah: A guy who is considered for the #1 pick. His first step and reaction time and explosion off the line is one of the best I've seen in a college player. For a man that big he is so damn quick, and incredibly strong. A real game changer who WILL be a great player in this league, but we ain't getting him. Y'all know why.

Alex Okafor, DE, Texas: Great finesse rusher with tons of speed off the line who dominated his bowl game against Oregon State. Could play the wide defensive end so we can have our linebackers set where they should be.

Sam Montgomery/Barkevious Mingo, OLB/DE, LSU: Speed rushers who could play that wide defensive end spot.

Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia: Another one of the real game changers in this draft, a monster pass rusher who could boot Tamba to DE so he can play next to Houston. For 3 years, that could be a great group.

T.J McDonald, SS, USC: A big hitting safety who could play the 46 and move Berry to FS.

Ben Pister, DE/DT, MWSU: A very strong defensive end who made his living manhandling DII tackles and being a real intimidator. Will have to get a lot bigger or a lot lighter depending on where he goes.

This isn't Romeo's defense anymore folks. Expect some big plays to be given up. Expect to curse and scream at the TV because of an 85 yard pass play. Expect to be mad because of a missed tackle every once in a while. But remember, every time you see a massive pass rush for a sack, or a massive hit that jars an offensive player, or a tackle for a loss of 7, that didnt happen under Romeo. This is not your Grandpa's defense anymore, this is your Great Grandpa's defense.

How would you set up the 46, and with what personnel?

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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