4-3 defense likely to return
New Lions coach Jim Schwartz didn't commit to running a particular defensive scheme at his introductory press conference Friday. As defensive coordinator in Tennessee the past eight years, he said he used multiple looks depending on his personnel.
We never really pigeon-holed ourselves that way, Schwartz said. We said we're going to do what the players do best, we're going to try to custom-build this every year and every year it's going to be a little bit different.
In the division we played in we had Indianapolis, which was a great passing team, (and) Jacksonville, which was a giant, power-running team. We had to have the ability to be able to change during the season. I think the same principles apply here. I've been very fortunate, like I said, to have seen the way that a Bill Belichick has done things, Jeff Fisher, Marvin Lewis when I was in Baltimore, and what it's done is, I've developed my own style so-to-speak and am not married to a blueprint.
General manager Martin Mayhew said when the Lions set out to hire a coach they initially wanted someone with background in a 4-3 defense. Then they interviewed candidates like Dolphins assistant head coach Todd Bowles and Cowboys offensive coordinator Jason Garrett and became believers the 3-4 could work, too.
If you look at it really from a scheme, X-and-O standpoint, it's not that big a difference, Mayhew said. It makes a difference in terms of personnel, who's on your team, how many D-linemen you have, how many linebackers, but it can be very similar.
I wrote earlier this week that most every player worth keeping on the defensive side of the ball could fit into either scheme. That's true still (though I think Ernie Sims is much better suited for the 4-3 because of his size and some of his struggles in pass coverage), but the Lions were built with the 4-3 in mind and that seems to be the quickest road back to respectability. Recent draft picks like Andre Fluellen and Landon Cohen wouldn't go to waste, and Cliff Avril could stay at defensive end where he showed promise and wouldn't be as big a liability in coverage.
Mayhew said he'd like a final decision in place by February's combine, when teams start delving deeper into the background of potential draft picks. My guess is the decision's already been made, that Schwartz will stick to his base 4-3 but continue to shape and mold it as he sees fit.
They (did) a lot of different things in Tennessee, Mayhew said. They play zone, they play man, they zone blitz, they play (cover) 2, they do it all. That's what I like about him.