Falcons: Dan Quinn and Rebuilding the Front Seven

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Dec 7, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Seattle Seahawks defense gets ready for the snap against the Philadelphia Eagles during the second half at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey G. Pittenger-USA TODAY Sports

The Scheme

Quinn is known to be a very adaptable coach who fits his scheme to personnel. Despite that, I think he will still look to continue the 4-3 under scheme he had been running in Seattle simply because the Falcons aren’t exactly in good shape as it stands for the standard 3-4 or 4-3. But that actually lends itself well to the versatile 4-3 under which is a mix of the 3-4 and 4-3. As the Falcons looked to transition from 4-3 to 3-4 with Mike Nolan, they have mixed personnel and henceforth are able to still use scheme-specific players such as Tyson Jackson.

As just said, the 4-3 under is a mix of the two most prevalent base schemes. Of the 4-man line, one half is essentially playing 4-3 while the other half is playing 3-4. The weakside incorporates the 4-3 philosophies, with a DE (Leo) out wide at 7/9-tech on the shoulder of the offensive tackle and a DT playing 3-tech which is the offensive guard’s outside shoulder but inside the offensive tackle. These are the same positions John Abraham and Jonathan Babineaux respectively have made their names at. The strongside incorporates 3-4 philosophies. It includes a NT that plays 0/1-tech which is common in the 4-3 also but in the 3-4 tends to be assigned to control 2 gaps. The strongside DE is much like the traditional 3-4 DE, playing 5-tech or in other words face up with the offensive tackle. These are the natural positions for Paul Soliai and Tyson Jackson respectively.

Defensive coordinators just like coming up with badass names for every minor difference they can.

The other important distinction is the strongside linebacker (SAM) who often will play close to the line of scrimmage, restoring the length of the defensive line. This creates a 5-2 look. Finally, the weakside DE/Leo can be found standing up. This gives a 3-4 look with both outside linebackers standing on the line of scrimmage. Madden players will recognise this as the 3-4 predator, with the “predator” position being the Leo. Essentially the same formation, defensive coordinators just like coming up with badass names for every minor difference they can.

There was 1 important difference with Quinn’s defense from 2013 to 2014 and that was the use of the SAM as a pass rusher. Quinn likes putting 3 guys out there that specialise in getting after the QB on passing downs. In 2013, he had that with Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril and the Leo, Chris Clemons. However, the Seahawks never really replaced Clemons who left in free agency. Instead, they gave the SAM the role of attacking the line of scrimmage. This isn’t too dissimilar to what the Broncos do with the terrific Von Miller. The SAM here was Bruce Irvin who had more coverage responsibilities than Miller but it was mostly him coming downhill creating havoc and blowing plays up. He would also move down to the LOS with his hands in the dirt in sub-packages and rush from there. This is how the Seahawks replaced the pass rush from the Leo, by using an attack-the-LOS SAM that doubled as a nickel DE in the Leo spot.