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3/20/2009

A glimpse of Schwartz's defense

Lions coach Jim Schwartz had a Football 101 discussion about his defense the other day with beat writers. It's nothing you wouldn't garner from a little bit of film study, but for those who didn't follow the Titans closely in recent years here's a glimpse of how things might work in Detroit:

Schwartz said everything the Lions do “will be based out of 4-3 personnel, but we will have 3-4 principles within our” defense. In Tennessee, for instance, the Titans often played an odd front in nickel situations with three down linemen, three linebackers and five defensive backs (the Lions were mostly a 4-2-5 nickel team under Rod Marinelli). That allowed them to use stand-up pass rushers like Antwan Odom and Travis LaBoy as a third linebacker and rush from all over the field.

If the Lions use a similar configuration, newly-acquired Julian Peterson likely will be the stand-up rusher while ends like Cliff Avril and Dewayne White keep their hands on the ground. Peterson had 24 ½ sacks the last three years in Seattle.

“Our base was a 4-3 (in Tennessee), but we ran just enough (3-4) to make you prepare for it,” Schwartz said. “I know from talking to a lot of offensive coordinators it spreads them thin. The only way you can do it is if you have those kind of guys. Cliff's one, Julian's one. We had that with Antwan and Travis.”

The Titans also sought versatile players, as the Lions are doing now, to play left- and right-outside linebacker rather than weak- or strong-side. Ditto at safety, where there's no free or strong safety designation, just two interchangeable players.

“We sort of got away (from WILL and SAM linebackers) because we saw so many shifting teams and teams get out of shifting real quick if they're moving four people and you got all these guys on defense going, are you ready yet?” Schwartz said. “But if they're moving one guy and you're flipping four, they'll just do it 60 snaps a game.

“That's why you start getting a little less compartmentalized with SAM and WILL, strong safety and free safety. If you're a strong safety and you line up to the tight-end side and that tight end motions across, you can't flip because you don't know if he's going to stop and come back and if he does you're looking bad. Guess what, if you have a 230-pound strong safety that's an in-the-box strong safety you can turn him into the free safety just motioning one guy across the formation. So it puts more (emphasis) on having multidimensional (guys).”

The trick now, of course, is for the Lions to find those type of players. Tennessee's defense worked because it had Odom and LaBoy, plus a dominating three-down tackle in Albert Haynesworth and mirror linebackers Keith Bulluck and David Thornton. The Lions don't have an every-down tackle on their roster, don't know who their starting safeties will be and don't presently have a middle linebacker on their roster.

All that considered, that's why I believe the Lions, even after the Peterson acquisition, are still considering Aaron Curry with the No. 1 pick. Curry is a multidimensional player who probably projects best as an outside linebacker, maybe in the Peterson mold with fewer sacks but better coverage skills. The Lions are building long-term, Peterson's contract is such that he won't be here but a year or two, and Curry would fill a gaping hole at middle linebacker in the interim.

Asked who his middle linebacker is as of today, Schwartz didn't have a firm answer.

“At some point we're going to have to put some pads on and some mouthpieces in and that's part of the job description for a middle linebacker,” he said. “You're going to see who can go thump, and we might not have a feel for that until training camp. I mean, who really can thump. You might think a guy can, but (you don't know) until you see it in training camp when the shoulder pads come on and that mouthpiece goes in.”

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8 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

more good stuff, dave.

glad to hear that there's gonna be some 3-4 formations within the base defense.

i think we need to go for the 'safe' pick at #1 and that's curry. smith or monroe are the other 2 options, but not stafford, unless he falls out of the top 10.

we just can't afford to miss on that #1 pick and curry is def as close to a guaranteed hit as we can get at this point.

11:30 AM 
Blogger Jarrett said...

good stuff...

But I am a little perplexed at your safeties comment. With Bullocks, Alexander and now Henry (if need be) we have safeties on the roster.

I will say that Curry is the pick...but why can't Raji be the pick as well?? I mean this is a DT that fills a need is a trench player...why is he not being discussed as much?? Kind of tired of this notion that this player can't be selected in this spot or that spot or is a reach ...DT is a need. Raji fills that need. Period. No reason he shouldn't be in the discussion for the first pick....

12:57 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

schwartz has said repeatedly that they're not going into the draft to draft positionally. they're drafting for the best player available at that pick, which i think is the best way to go.

1:10 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

looks like rogers is back to his old tricks again cuz he hasn't shown up for the browns OTAs and is still on the outs with mangini. REALLY don't want him back here until/if he ever pulls his head out of his ass.

2:56 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dave,
Love your blog. I too am pleased with Schwarz approach to defense and agree that the LIons just do not have all the pieces yet. I think that drafting Curry will give them flexibility. If he excels a MLB then leave him there and if not then move him to OLB after Peterson leaves.
Is it possible to list what the expected salaries and bonuses of the top ten picks will be? I keep reading arguments that state Cury should not be paid #1 money but how much less is the #3, #4 or #5 picks where he is projected to go?
LionfaninPA

10:21 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very informative article Dave.

I am really starting to think that the Lions will take Curry #1 and then take a DT at #20 (Hood, Jerry) with BPA approach kicking in for rounds 2 and 3 (TE, LT, OG, S or CB). Curry and the top tackles (after Raji) all have the flexibility that Schwartz seen to covet.

Mind you they could take a LT or QB at #1, still target the penetrating DT at #20 and then take one of the many excellent LB's available in this draft with pick 33 ... only using the BPA approach in round 3.

LionFaninOTT

11:04 AM 
Blogger Jesse said...

Dorrell Scott in the 3rd

11:46 AM 
Blogger Thunder said...

Julian Peterson is/was a good cover man. When he was in San Francisco, he lined up as a cornerback on occasion.

1:12 PM 

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