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Old 01-15-2014, 12:21 AM    (permalink
RCAChainGang
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Default 3-4 ILB vs 4-3 MLB

Sorry if this is an elementary question. What is the key difference in an ILB in a 3-4 and a MLB in a 4-3?

Coverage abilities, size, ect. I'm just curious because I think the Colts need a new starter next to Jerrell Freeman I believe at the SAM spot.
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Old 01-15-2014, 12:30 AM    (permalink
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Old 01-15-2014, 12:32 AM    (permalink
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Well the general idea with 3-4 Backers is that they will be bigger with the ability to shed blockers more. Since there is only 3 down lineman to occupy blocks, the likelihood is that O-Lineman will reach LB's more. They can generally be a bit slower, since there is more of them on the field, they have less ground to cover. You will not typically see the 3-4 backers drop as far back in coverage as you would with a 4-3 MLB. They will rarely be matched up in man coverage. So the classic idea of a 3-4 MLB is a bigger, "thumper" who specializes in stopping the run and playing downhill.

That said, NFL teams don't necessarily follow this and are constantly reinventing ways to use players. Some guys (Bowman and Willis) are just freaks who defy conventional positions. A classic 3-4 MLB is someone like Brandon Spikes who might be limited by his foot speed in a 4-3.
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Old 01-15-2014, 01:19 AM    (permalink
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4-3 MLBs must be able to see pullers and get over top of downblocks.
3-4 ILBs fill gaps.
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Old 01-15-2014, 02:09 AM    (permalink
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Sorry if this is an elementary question. What is the key difference in an ILB in a 3-4 and a MLB in a 4-3?

Coverage abilities, size, ect. I'm just curious because I think the Colts need a new starter next to Jerrell Freeman I believe at the SAM spot.
As a 49ers fan I can say that you should keep an eye on 4-3 OLBs in the 6'-6'1" 240-245 lb range who have sideline to sideline speed, good hips, and also have strong enough hands to be able to disengage blockers from the inside.

Projecting NaVorro Bowman to 3-4 ILB was genius by Trent Baalke. He and Willis are nearly identical in measureables and style of play.
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Old 01-15-2014, 03:51 AM    (permalink
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You're right in thinking that the Colts don't really have very good inside linebacker personnel for the 3-4. I think BuddyCHRIST did a pretty good job of explaining it. In the 4-3 you can opt for a smaller guy like a Pat Angerer who can roam from sideline to sideline, shoot gaps in the run game, etc. because you have more linemen up front to occupy blockers. In fact, some would say that a smaller linebacker is better for that scheme because you won't have to take him off the field on passing downs as often.

In the 3-4, though, you have two different guys (I usually refer to them as the Mike and the Ted), the Mike being the "weak" linebacker of the two and the Ted being the stronger one, which I assume is the one you're referring to in your original post. Because 3-4 linebackers have fewer linemen blocking for them, the probability that they'll have to take on blocks to make plays is increased, and indeed the run fits in a 3-4 team's defensive scheme are predicated on linebackers being able to stack and shed blockers, based on a combination of bulk, strength, leverage, anchor, arm extension, and hand use.

The Ravens actually had one of the league's prototypical Ted linebackers back in 2008 when Pagano was coaching the team's defensive backs: Bart Scott. Physically, Scott may have been a bit undersized for the role (6'2", 240), but his physicality, ability to shed blocks, etc. made him an outstanding run defender. Ideally, though, you'd prefer the Ted to be over 250 pounds. Brandon Spikes is one of the best Ted linebackers in the league, but there are some other good ones, such as David Harris.
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Old 01-15-2014, 04:49 AM    (permalink
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As a 49ers fan I can say that you should keep an eye on 4-3 OLBs in the 6'-6'1" 240-245 lb range who have sideline to sideline speed, good hips, and also have strong enough hands to be able to disengage blockers from the inside.

Projecting NaVorro Bowman to 3-4 ILB was genius by Trent Baalke. He and Willis are nearly identical in measureables and style of play.
Right. A lot of 3-4 teams are already looking for the quick-twitch athletes in the mold of Bowman, Willis, Timmons. Guys with that sideline to sideline speed, as you stated. As such, many teams, (9ers, Steelers, as prime examples) are looking for college 4-3 outside linebackers who are just as fast, but also big enough to handle blocks at the second level.
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Old 01-15-2014, 06:27 AM    (permalink
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Right. A lot of 3-4 teams are already looking for the quick-twitch athletes in the mold of Bowman, Willis, Timmons. Guys with that sideline to sideline speed, as you stated. As such, many teams, (9ers, Steelers, as prime examples) are looking for college 4-3 outside linebackers who are just as fast, but also big enough to handle blocks at the second level.
I think that has a lot to do with the NFL incorporating more sub packages lately. Really, the players could come from anywhere. San Francisco even experimented with moving Cam Johnson from defensive end, where he played at Virginia, to inside linebacker.
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Old 01-15-2014, 06:30 AM    (permalink
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I think that has a lot to do with the NFL incorporating more sub packages lately. Really, the players could come from anywhere. San Francisco even experimented with moving Cam Johnson from defensive end, where he played at Virginia, to inside linebacker.
Yeah. Definitely. The league still claims the Steelers are a 3-4 defense, but that base package was only ran roughly 33% of the time this year. You gotta have position flexibility in your players, or you're just not diverse enough to handle most of the offenses in the league anymore.
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Old 01-15-2014, 06:39 AM    (permalink
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Yeah. Definitely. The league still claims the Steelers are a 3-4 defense, but that base package was only ran roughly 33% of the time this year. You gotta have position flexibility in your players, or you're just not diverse enough to handle most of the offenses in the league anymore.
And for certain periods of the season, the ILBs were Timmons and Polamalu, given Foote's injury and Vince Williams' lack of experience.
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Old 01-15-2014, 06:51 AM    (permalink
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I think that has a lot to do with the NFL incorporating more sub packages lately. Really, the players could come from anywhere. San Francisco even experimented with moving Cam Johnson from defensive end, where he played at Virginia, to inside linebacker.


Another college DE who had a pretty good career as a 3-4 ILB.
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Old 01-15-2014, 08:07 AM    (permalink
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Well the general idea with 3-4 Backers is that they will be bigger with the ability to shed blockers more. Since there is only 3 down lineman to occupy blocks, the likelihood is that O-Lineman will reach LB's more. They can generally be a bit slower, since there is more of them on the field, they have less ground to cover. You will not typically see the 3-4 backers drop as far back in coverage as you would with a 4-3 MLB. They will rarely be matched up in man coverage. So the classic idea of a 3-4 MLB is a bigger, "thumper" who specializes in stopping the run and playing downhill.

That said, NFL teams don't necessarily follow this and are constantly reinventing ways to use players. Some guys (Bowman and Willis) are just freaks who defy conventional positions. A classic 3-4 MLB is someone like Brandon Spikes who might be limited by his foot speed in a 4-3.
Well put, ILBers in a 3-4 can be slower and bigger since they don't have to cover as much space as a 4-3 LBer. 4 LBers vs 3 LBers so the 3 LBers must be faster because they need to cover more space.

Of course fast LBers can also play in a 3-4 but slower LBers will struggle in a 4-3. Hence, college DE's can easily make the transition to a 3-4 but would generally struggle in a 4-3 unless they have unusual speed.

This is a simplistic definition since many 3-4 LBers do have the speed to play in a 4-3.
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Old 01-15-2014, 11:52 AM    (permalink
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I think in a 4-3, now more than ever, they have to be able to cover space. Teams are utilizing their nickel packages more than their base 4-3 packages anymore, so you need a ILB and OLB that can really cover and move. In a 3-4, that's less necessary.
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Old 01-16-2014, 03:05 AM    (permalink
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Not all 3-4's are alike.

In a one-gap system there's more that's asked from the ILB's than a two-gap, so ideally your inside backers are more athletic and instinctive.
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Old 01-16-2014, 07:47 AM    (permalink
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I think in a 4-3, now more than ever, they have to be able to cover space. Teams are utilizing their nickel packages more than their base 4-3 packages anymore, so you need a ILB and OLB that can really cover and move. In a 3-4, that's less necessary.
Because you don't run nickel or cover in a 3-4?
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Old 01-16-2014, 08:14 AM    (permalink
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Right. A lot of 3-4 teams are already looking for the quick-twitch athletes in the mold of Bowman, Willis, Timmons. Guys with that sideline to sideline speed, as you stated. As such, many teams, (9ers, Steelers, as prime examples) are looking for college 4-3 outside linebackers who are just as fast, but also big enough to handle blocks at the second level.
Timmons was so bad at first, just dominated in the run game and showed why he was a WILL prospect. He is king out there now though, really an example of a player who grew into his position
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And for certain periods of the season, the ILBs were Timmons and Polamalu, given Foote's injury and Vince Williams' lack of experience.
Vince Williams was so bad...so bad
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"He won't be able to just use his arm power to throw defenders around at the next level!"

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