Weekly Defensive Match-Up: Tampa Bay

Here is a look at how I think our defense will fare against Tampa Bay's offense.  I like to provide background informatiojn, so below I briefly lay out what I know/think about the 3-4 defense and then I look at the individual match-ups that we should see in the game..  Hope it is worth your time 



The 3-4 defense features three down lineman and four linebackers in the front seven, thus the name 3-4.



 C                                              L    L        L                                     C

                                                     D     N      D   L

W                                                  O O O O O T                              W


                                                       R             R

O represents an offensive linemen. There are two defensive ends (D), one on each end of the line, and one nose tackle (N) in between. Right behind the defensive line are four linebackers (L). At times, one or more of the linebackers will line up on the line of scrimmage over the Tight End (T) as above. Two cornerbacks (C), one on each side of the field, line up to cover the wide receiver (W). There are also two safeties. The exact positioning of the defensive backs (cornerbacks and safeties (S)) depends on the type of pass coverage they are in. With four linebackers in the game, the defense creates indecision for the offense as to which player they will have to block. It provides a variety of potential rush people and allows a multiple of pass coverages. The keys to this defense are that the Linebackers must have the ability to run to the ball and rush the passer and the Nose tackle must be able to control the center.

In the 3-4, the defensive line are considered 2-gap line techniques. This defense is most effective in combating today's sophisticated passing attacks, with their multiple formations and intricate routes, because a fourth linebacker allows a defense the luxury of disguising its blitzes and coverages better. Dick Lebeau began tinkering with it in response to the West Coast Offense and he eventually came up with the concept of the zone blitz. The point of this defense to attach, thereby causing mass confusion and pressure from anywhere on the field. At any time, we can drop eight people into coverage, and that complicates things for the quarterback ala Vince Young last week. The Zone Blitz is very nasty thing to deal with. In terms of player types, one can vary the NT type and even the DEs, but 1 gap speed DEs are much more common.

The zone blitz play (also know as a zone fire play) has been around for ages. Dick Lebeau took the play and turned it into a full system in the early 90's. As we all know, Lebeau is known fort two things: 1) his players love him and play hard for him; and 2) he develops elaborate schemes with many twists. The idea is that the different DLs will often drop back into coverage, while several linebackers (and even defensive backs) will blitz. The OL can't brace themselves, because if they do they will likely brace for the wrong assault. This is the one defense that prides itself on turning the tables - the defensive line and the LBs hit the OL hard and often and try to wear down the other side. CBs most often jam or jack the WRs , then either drop into zone or blitz. The safety can either play zone or blitz (a safety blitz is called a "monster"), the LBs blitz most often, and sometimes play zone, the DL either rushes or ends up in zone. Ideally, the pass is stopped by targeting the QB with heavy blitz packages. The zone blitz is very effective against screen passes, wreaks havoc against check offs by QBs (because the zones can't be anticipated, nor can the rush), and is the only major defensive scheme that is predicated on wearing down the OL instead of the OL wearing down the DL. For these reasons, the timing system used by many spread offenses can face more troubles here than in many other systems.

Tampa Bay's Starting Offiense:





Josh Freeman



Cadillac Williams/Kregg Lumpkin

5'11/217 - 5'11/228


Earnest Graham



Mike Williams/Arrelious Benn

6'2/212 - 6'2/220


Sammie Stroughter/Michael Spurlock

5'10/189 - 5'11/200


Kellen Winslow/John Gilmore

6'4/240 - 6'5/257


Donald Penn



Keydrick Vincent



Jeff Faine



Dayin Joseph



Jeremy Trueblood


Position Match Ups:

Josh Freeman vs. The Steeler 3 - 4: Although talented, Freeman is a young QB and he has not faced anything like a defense prepared by Coach Dad. I expect Tampa Bay to come out with a very safe game plan that first tries to run the ball and then has Freeman looking to pass off play action or get rid of the ball quickly via dump offs, slants, and the like. From all reports, Freeman is a smart, talented kid that will play hard. That said, I expect our schemes to confuse him at various points in the game, leading to turnovers and/or mistakes for Tampa’s offense. In fact, I expect a lot of blitzes and tight coverage, forcing the young QB to beat us if he can.

Donald Penn vs. James Harrison/Brett Keisel: Scouting reports indicate Penn has good initial quickness along with above-average agility, body control and balance, but he still developing technique as well as the ability to recognize schemes up front and will get a little confused at times. Harrison is the Silverback and should, quite simply, destroy this young man. We see Harrison nearly kill people every week, so I think it will continue to happen. I know, I know, I shouldn’t go so far out a on limb, right? When Penn takes on Keisel instead of Deebo, I expect the battle to be fairly matched. No disrespect to Keisel, but he Penn is a pretty good LT and Keisel is not Deebo.


Keydrick Vincent vs. Casey Hampton: Vincent is a known for being a good run blocker and only adequate in pass protection. I don’t see him moving Hampton off the line without help from the Center. If that is the case, then Hampton is doing his job and either Farrior or Timmons will be flying to the football in the run game. From a pass perspective, any of our LBs should be able to run right by Vincent.

Jeff Faine vs. Casey Hampton: Faine is nothing more than a quality journeyman center who can hold his own but never really stands out as a top-tier blocker. He is a significantly smaller than both Hampton and Chris Hoke and will almost certainly be overpowered by our larger nose tackles. As noted above, Tampa Bay will assign Faine and one of the OGs to double team the nose tackle on run plays, which should free up our LBs to run wild. On passing plays, Faine is a smart guy and he may be able to help Freeman pick up some of our blitz schemes, but not so much that it keeps Freeman upright for the game.

Dayin Joseph v. Casey Hampton: This kid is a powerful drive blocker and he reminds me of Kemo in the run game. He is a quality guard. In a one-on-one situation and I'm sure he will hold his own against Hampton in passing situations. Although a quality o-linemen, even he will need help to move Big Snack in the running game. On plays when Hoke comes in, I can see Joseph driving him off the ball. I love Hoke and he’s developed all kinds of tricks to make himself a better football player, but at the end of the day, he is not as strong as Hampton in the trenches at the point of attack. Consequently, I can see Tampa having minimal success in the running game when Hoke is in the game.

Jeremy Trueblood v. Aaron Smith/LeMarr Woodley: In the battle of Very Cool Last Name (Trueblood) versus Very Average Last Name (Smith) and Average Last Name (Woodley), I expect the kid with the cool last name to get his butt kicked all day. Trueblood is a very good right tackle and known as a tenacious blocker that never stops trying. Against most DEs or OLBs in the NFL, he could be expected to either dominate or, at the very least, hold his own all day. He is not, however, playing "most" DE or OLB in the NFL this week. He is playing the best DE in the NFL and one of the top 4 OLB. There is no question that Smith just kicks butt and is the best DE in the NFL. (I’m intentionally leaving not including "3-4" in front of "DE" because I think he is that much better than any other DE in the NFL, even those that play in a 4-3). Woodley get sacks against everyone and should have another game of bringing the heat. Although smaller than Trueblood, Woodley should also hold his own in the run game due to his great strength. Woodley should also be used to taking on huge OT in that he practices against Adams every day.

Kellen Winslow/John Gilmore v. Woodley/Harrison and Polamalu/Timmons: We should expect that Tampa Bay will use their TE to attempt to block our OLB with the OT. There is no question that their OT cannot take on our OLB individually, so look for the double team on the corner when Tampa Bay tries to run outside. On passing plays, I assume we will assign either Troy P or Timmons to take out Winslow. I don’t like him from his days with the Browns, but the kid is talented and I anticipate we will put one of speed guys on him to neutralize their passing game. At 6'5, Gilmore gives Tampa Bay a height advantage over the middle, but our D should be used that due to practicing against Heath and Spaeth.

Tampa Bay’s RB v. Our LB: After the beat-down we put on Chris Johnson, the best speed back in the NFL, I am not worried about any running back in the NFL. I say "speed back," because Johnson is not a guy that can into the teeth of our D 25 times and come up ready for more. Tampa Bay does not seem to have any true power backs, but even if they did, when our D is healthy, no team runs on us. Period. Tampa Bay’s best RB, Williams, appears to be banged up this week and his back-up, Lumpkin, is a guy that could not make the Green Bay’s roster. From my perspective, this may mean we come out in our "Fat Nickel" package and dare them to run it. I expect that our LB will be putting vicious hits on Williams and Lumpkin all day.

Tampa Bays WR v. Our DB. Tampa Bay has a very good, young set of WR. Williams and Benn, both rookies, are talented, fast, have good size, and don’t appear to suffer the dropsies. Stroughter and Spurlock, 2nd and 3rd year vets, respectively, are more likely to play the slot. They are quick and display good hands and toughness. Despite the talent level, BMac and Ike, with help from Troy and Clark, should not have any issues covering these guys. Gay should also continue along the past of resurgence and play well in the nickel defense. That said, I think this will be the biggest test our DBs, particularly our CBs, have faced this year. In the Atlanta game, White had a huge game because the goal appeared to be to shut down Gonzalez and Turner. Atlanta, however, did not have Jenkins in that game and the Titans are not deep at WR. My point is that I don’t think our CBs have really been challenged up to this point in the season. If I were coaching the Bucs, I’d come out throwing to my young WRs and let the chips fall where they may.

Overall prediction: We will obviously shut down Tampa Bay’s running game, but I think the Bucs' coaching staff is committed to the running game and rightly concerned about our pass rush.  Consequently, I think they will try to establish the running game, fail, and then come out throwing.  When that happens, I think they will hit some big pass plays, but our D will toughen up and hold them to a field goal rather than a touchdown.

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