After experimenting with a 3-4 defensive system for two years, the Buffalo Bills are switching back to a 4-3 defensive scheme. Dave Wannstedt is making the change in his first year as the team’s defensive coordinator. Each position group will have to adapt to the new defense this season. The defense is now moving from a three man to a four man front, which has led to several position changes this offseason.
Defensive linemen have very different roles in a base 4-3 defense compared to a 3-4 set. Instead of having a true nose tackle they will now have two defensive tackles. They will keep two defensive ends, but in a 4-3 the defensive ends play much more of an attacking style.
With edge rushers like
“It’s going to be a defensive line friendly scheme,” said Wannstedt. “By that I mean we’ll be as good as our guys up front. The guys up front it all starts there.”
Another common theme this offseason is linebackers switching positions and individual roles.
“I’m the starting middle linebacker so my job is to know all of my assignments as well as those of my teammates,” said Sheppard. “So I’m kind of the general on the field. I’ve worked and played in this defense pretty much my whole career so I’m really familiar with the schemes.”
Sheppard may have to know the roles of every defensive player on the field, but it will not hurt to have two proven veterans beside him. Both
“It is not too different from what we were doing before, but it is a challenge to learn different things,” said Barnett. “I walk out a lot more on number two than I did last year, so there are a lot of different things that I have to get used to.”
Barnett is also very confident that Kelvin Sheppard will be able to lead this defense for years to come.
“I think he could potentially be one of the best linebackers Buffalo has ever seen, if he has his head on straight and continues to grow the way that he is growing,” Barnett said. “The way that he plays he could be a great player.”
Moving into the 4-3 scheme the defensive backs should have the easiest transition. This is not only true because of their two experienced safeties, but because the coverages are largely the same in any defense, so not a whole lot changes for them. While there is a chance that they will have two first-year starters outside in
“As far as the secondary and things like that it’s nothing that we haven’t run or been exposed to in the 3-4 system,” said Byrd. “We’ve run a lot of the stuff.”
Coach Wannstedt agrees with his free safety in that the coverages may be altered in some aspects of the game, but nothing has drastically changed.
“I think there’s probably the most carry over in the secondary,” Wannstedt said. “People make too much of it, but the coverages that we’re running and that they ran before Chan got here or that they’ll run after we’re gone, there are a half a dozen coverages. It’s just a matter of not really adding new coverages; you’re going to tweak some things in how you play them.”
Without a doubt there will be several adjustments made this offseason by the defense. The secondary seems to have the edge as far as picking up the new system the quickest, but with the talented players on this defense there should be a smooth overall transition to the new 4-3 scheme.