A Defensive evaluation and strategy that seems... interesting...

WARNING: The views in this post are merely a situation presented that seems interesting. This is not because I want this to happen, or I think will happen. I am only making this post to see what you guys would think if this WERE to happen, and I would give my reasonings on why this may be the way to go (not saying I want this to happen).

What makes a great defense?

While I was watching the 49ers, I was thinking about what would make up an elite defense (yeah they didn't do well in the superbowl, but they are a young group, and it's hard not to say they are not the best defense in the league). The 49ers, as a group, has a top pass rusher, two big guys on the inside, two fast LBs that are good against the run and coverage, physical safeties, and have the ability to go 3 down, and 4 down lineman, and switch to 2-4-5 sub packages. To me, the best defense is a defense that can do everything, but for teams who have base defenses, I feel that they are limited to only some things they can do.

Of course, there is the talent too. What kind of talent should you look for in a championship defense? You want guys who can do everything, and are versatile, and have potential to be very good. The potential thing here is key. You don't want to bring in guys just because they can contribute immediately, because without the room to grow into an elite player, you are stuck with a guy who will stay the same throughout.

I'm looking at this Patriots defense, and I am trying to evaluate what can we do to make this defense great, or even elite.

Looking at the Pats defense

Lets break it down here. We have a good front 4 here. Wilfork is the best DT in the game, Chandler has immense potential to be an impact pass rusher, Nink is getting better every year, and becoming one of the more solid players there. We just got Armstead, but last year Love filled the role of run stuffer while we had Cunningham/Francis go for the pass rushing role.

The LB group is versatile. Spikes can play on the inside, Mayo can play inside or outside (same with Hightower), Nink can fill in at OLB, Fletcher is coming back and has played at OLB in the preseason before injury.

The Secondary, McCourty can play CB (though below average) and Tavon Wilson can play the slot.

Now with the potential talent here. Chandler and Nink look like they will get better. They both can be 3-4 OLBs. Wilfork we don't have to worry about. We probably need a DT next to Wilfork that is talented, and can play DT in 2-4-5 sub packages.

Here is where the main thing starts. Where is Spikes going? Do you think he has improved in coverage? He looks to be better against the run, but even then he has charged into the wrong holes, and runs past the RB. How about Mayo? I don't think we will let him go at all. He has very good vision, has improved at least in terms of staying with RBs in the flat, a really good blitzer, the playcaller of the defense. Fletcher? Looked good in preseason and has looked good in coverage before. Don't know how he is now.

Secondary I think we all agree that McCourty belongs at Safety, but he needs someone opposite of him. Someone who is a physical presence. Could this be Reed, or a drafted player? Dennard has a ton of potential, and had a really good rookie campaign in my book. Talib, assuming we sign him, has been great at defending the #1 WR more often than not.

So what is the solution? The plan?

We want an elite defense. At least a great one. The plan is simply this: we need another LB or two, and a big DT (not some 308 lb. guy).

With our secondary, including Talib, we have a good group. Could use a safety next to McCourty, and a 3rd CB that can play on the outside better than Arrington, but overall this group is looking up.

Our main problem here is mainly our coverage on TEs, over the middle passes, and RBs in the flat. How do you solve this? We need better coverage from our LBs. We are already good in run defense. Our pass defense and range need to be improved.

Who to keep, who to trade to improve?

This is difficult here. I think we have something special in Hightower, and I think he should remain at OLB.

I think that we do need to trade Spikes though. Some would argue that he is our best run stopping LB, but in all honesty (unless he improves his coverage) we don't need a run stopping LB here. If anything, Hightower can fill in for him, and our run defense will still be good. Also, Spikes is fast running toward the LOS, but sideline to sideline speed is lacking. Our run defense is weak on the outside (at least according to DVOA), and part of that is because Spikes does not have the range to get outside to make the stop when Hightower or Mayo are blocked. He also does not have enough speed to cover over the middle against TEs, RBs, or WRs and that is a big weakness for us. Bigger than his run defense.

Would it be better if we switch to 3-4? You see, I don't think we should switch the scheme based on one player. Our 4-3 scheme has been fine, and Spikes could improve his coverage skills, but if we are to improve our defense as a whole, and become versatile as well as potentially great, I think trading Spikes may be the best thing to do here. Again, we need to look at how the 49ers LBs are. I'm not talking about talent here, because that would be unfair. I am talking about versatility in scheme and skill set (good against the pass and run), and I think Spikes limits this defense because of his current lack of coverage skills and range.

I think Fletcher should stay. He has potential to be really good imo. He can cover, he has shown a versatile skill set, and versatile in scheme. That is valuable, but as of now he is a backup imo. And Mayo... well I'm sure you guys know all about Mayo.

Is this the interesting strategy for improving the defense I have been waiting for reading this?

Again, I want you to read the warning thing above. This is very important, because I don't want to be held liable for being a moron for presenting this believing this MUST happen. This is only something I wanted to present to get your thoughts on. Again, read the waring again.

Our solution lies in guys who can play DE and LB, who has a versatile skill set, and has a high potential. We must also emulate the versatile scheme that the niners run (we kind of do now, but we run base as well against teams), which is the 2-4-5/3-4-4 with Jones and NInk/someone else being able to put their hands down on the outside in the former, and Jones acting as the Elephant role in the latter (the point here is to have Jones be our Aldon Smith, but have the versatility to run multiple, speed fronts).

So here it goes......... we get:

1) Dion Jordan.

2) Sylvester Williams/Kwayme Geathers/Monteri Hughes for the big DT role next to Wilfork (like Sopoaga)

3) Kiko Alonso/Sio Moore

Explanations here:

1) Jordan is an immensely talented player. He is 6'6 243 lbs, he can pass rush, cover slot WRs (!!!!!!) very well, and has very good use of hands. He can bulk up, much like Mike Vrabel did coming out of the draft at a similar weight size. The whole point in getting Jordan is because he is very scheme versatile, able to play outside DE, and OLB in the 3-4 and sub packages. He is VERY athletic, and super talented at his size. BB would be able to put him anywhere, and he can contribute in all facets.

2) The whole point here is to get a big guy next to Wilfork to eat up blocks, like Sopoaga. All 3 guys have a lot of talent, and are big. If you want more information on Williams and Geathers, here you go: There is video for Hughes that I think you should see. He looks good.

3) Both of these guys, who play LB, can cover very well, can tackle very well, have scheme versatility, can stop the run, and have VERY high potential. Alonso reminds me of Sean Lee a bit. Can make tackles everywhere, get INTs and pass breakups, and has shown the ability to cover in Oregon's defense. Sio Moore is considered one of the best coverage LBs in the draft, but if you look at his (and Alonso's) tackles for loss and sacks, you'll know that he is anything more than just a coverage guy. He is a 4-3 OLB now, but so was Bowman. Not saying they are on the same level of talent, but Sio Moore could probably make the transition to sub package ILB, and he does have a ton of talent as well.

Now, we don't have to draft all these guys. I hold drafting a WR very high, and to have a draft like this, without getting a big WR in free agency, would be very disappointing. Which is why you can either assume that we get a really good WR in free agency that can go deep, or you can assume that we sign a big DT and/or really good LB and/or DE/OLB hybrid in free agency instead, while we draft a really good WR like Dobson or someone else.

So here is what this can look like:

2-4-5 Sub package:

Williams/other DT - Wilfork

Chandler - Alonso/Sio/Fletcher/Hightower - Mayo - Jordan/Nink

Talib - McCourty - Gregory/FA Safety/Wilson - Arrington/FA/Draft/Wilson - Dennard

As you can see here, we don't really need to get all the guys I listed above. We just need some guys who have speed, who have very good range and playmaking ability against the pass and run, and have VERY high potential to be great players. We can not only defend the run, but with our outside guys, we can pass rush, and/or drop into coverage effectively. We can sub people in depending on situations and opponent skill set too.


Armstead/Deadrick/Francis - Wilfork - Williams/other DT/DE

Chandler - Alonso/Sio/Fletcher/Hightower - Mayo - Jordan/Nink

Talib - McCourty - Gregory/FA Safety/Wilson - Dennard

Again, we don't need everyone I chose above. Chandler can move into the elephant role (and almost make it a 4-3), or Jordan can do that, and Nink can replace Chandler. There are so many variations here, and possibilities. But again, the theme here is the speed and coverage and skill sets. We have the guys who can stop the run and be playmakers there (outside runs will be stopped easier). We also have guys who have sideline to sideline speed, can cover the middle and the flats (and in Jordan's case, cover slot WRs one on one). We can do this here now. We can have Jones and/or someone else pass rush, and do it well too.

4-2-5 Sub package

Jones - Williams - Wilfork - Nink/Jordan

Mayo - Alonso/Hightower/Fletcher (depend son the situation of course)

Talib - McCourty - Gregory/FA Safety/Wilson - Arrington/FA/Draft/Wilson - Dennard


Jones - Williams - Wilfork - Nink/Jordan

Hightower/Sio - Alonso/Fletcher - Mayo

Talib - McCourty - Gregory/FA Safety/Wilson - Dennard

So what have I been saying before? In conclusion?

How to you get a great, or elite defense? All players must be scheme versatile, be good in the pass and run, and potentially be a VERY great player in the league. Do you notice how in a lot of packages above, that a ton of the same players are named? If we end up getting one, or two, players that I listed from the draft, we would be able to run a defense, where we can switch in between sub packages on the fly without subbing, while the QB tries to figure out what we are doing. They won't know who is blitzing, or dropping into coverage, because anyone can do it, and do it effectively. Wilfork and the other big DT is key here too, because we need to have a middle presence who can clog up the running lanes. Of course, we can certainly go back to 4-3 when we want to, or go to 3-4, or 2-4-5 or 4-2-5 sub packages with ease.

At least one of those guys listed above will do pretty much. I think we should trade spikes and get a LB who can do more than what Spikes gives us though. More speed, and coverage ability, will make this defense much, much better, and will put us to another level. Until we solve our coverage issues in our LB core, we will likely not be a great defense overall.

I don't want you guys to get the wrong idea that this is the exact situation that I want. All I know is, is that we have some problems on our defense that need to be addressed, and as I said I think it stems mostly from our LBs inability to cover well (and that most of that falls on Spikes imo. I gave my reasons already). When I look at the great defenses, I see versatility as well. Forgive me for using the NIners as blueprints, but keep in mind I never was using them as talent comparison. Just the concepts behind the scheme and versatility in skill sets I think would be interesting to emulate.

What are your thoughts here?

The views expressed in these FanPosts are not necessarily those of the writers or SBNation.

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