Our defense seems to be inside of an identity crisis lately. While Bill Belichick seems fine with using both the 4-3 and the 3-4, should Bill just pick one base formation and stick with it? If so, which one should he decide on?
4-3: A third round pick and a fifth round pick. We gave up two draft choices to get our hands on Derrick Burgess, a two-time Pro Bowl player. While he did little in 2009 at outside linebacker, Burgess could jump to an instant defensive end starting job in the 4-3. The 4-3 could save Adalius Thomas's career in New England as he could start at the other defensive end position. Thomas would most likely lose time to Tully Banta-Cain who showed pass-rushing promise at the end of the 2009 season. Ty Warren would have to move inside to defensive tackle, next to Wilfork, which would barely effect his playing time. Jerod Mayo would fill the middle linebacker position. The outside linebacker positions are more like middle linebacker positions in the 3-4 than outside linebackers. Junior, undrafted Gary Guyton could easily start at one outside linebacker. The other outside linebacker would be mostly empty, as Woods, Crable, Ninkovich, and McKenzie do not seem like perfect fits. Crable would most likely move to defensive end along with Ninkovich. Pierre Woods has not shown enough in coverage or pass-rushing to make the switch and would mostly likely be cut. McKenzie spent all of last year on the shelf and Belichick likes to look before he leaps. Wilfork may be tempted to leave the team while any team running the 3-4 would love to find a premier nose tackle. Warren may not be able to move into the 4-3, also, as the 4-3 involves more pass-rushing than run-stopping. As this while, Warren has never been seen as a pass-rush specialist. Jarvis Green would be lost in the 4-3 as he was too small to be a nose while too big to be an effective pass rusher. Wright would be able to convert to the nose position while Brace would most likely be cut (see, Kevin O'Connell). Myron Pryor would probably be able to remain at nose in the 4-3.
3-4: The best nose tackle in the NFL, Vince Wilfork, would be used to his most effectiveness in the 3-4. While Warren is a great defensive end in the 3-4, Jarvis Green is still not good enough to replace Richard Seymour. Brace seems to be the likely future at nose tackle after Wilfork departs. Pryor and Wright fit nicely into the 3-4 scheme, which I believe should fight with Green for playing time. Adalius Thomas seems to be on the downhill of his career, while Burgess has not figured out man coverage or zone coverage, or any coverage for that matter. Tully Banta-Cain performs well opposite Thomas while Mayo and Guyton are one of the best unknown linebacker duos in the NFL, today. Woods, McKenzie, Ninkovich, and Crable all do not seem like good fits replacing Thomas.
Review: The 3-4 fills out better with only two questionable positions. The 4-3 would have to take a chance on two NFL careers on the downturn, also while ruining the draft plans the Patriots had over the last couple years.The conversion over to the 4-3 would take several years, but Belichick may have started the process in 2009. I believe in Belichick and would never question his decision making, but if I had to pick one, the 3-4 seems like a better choice. The Patriots 3-4 has been notorious over the last decade, while effectively molding the 4-3 into their defense (see, Super Bowl XXXIX).
I'm not the end all, be all. So, what does the Patriots Pulpit think? Vote below and give me your opinions.