3-4 or 4-3?
The question has surrounded every coaching change in recent memory – as fans try to decipher whether their new head man will change up the base defensive scheme. Under Rod Marinelli, the Cowboys were a base 4-3 team. Which basically means they had four down defensive linemen and three base linebackers (SAM, MIKE, WILL).
Newly hired defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, however, has coordinated defenses which were base 3-4 as well as base 4-3. So what would McCarthy and Nolan decide to do with this Cowboys’ unit?
According to Mike McCarthy, the Cowboys will be a “4-man line” defense. This will allow DeMarcus Lawrence to continue as their base LDE, and will require the Cowboys to fill out their three and one technique spots.
It also means they will not have to go fat-man hunting for a nose tackle during free agency – though there are plenty of zero shade type players which would be excellent as one techs in Dallas.
Mike McCarthy on the Cowboys defense: “It’s our job as coaches to make sure our scheme boundaries are plenty wide enough to fit any excellent football player into our program. … We’re a sub defense b/c we’ll play it 80-85 percent of the time. But we’re a 4-man line defense.
As McCarhty noted in his statement reported by Jon Machota, though, the true “base” defense in today’s league is nickel. Four down linemen, two linebackers, and an extra defensive back on the field to combat 11 personnel on the other side.
Dallas will utilize Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith as those two linebackers, and will be able to fit the majority of their personnel to this defense quickly.
McCarthy has made a point of saying he will fit his own scheme to the roster’s current talent, and has said he will do so on both sides of the ball. Kellen Moore is not only staying on as offensive coordinator, but will call plays and be able to use some of his own offensive terminology.
This isn’t typically how coaching changes go in the NFL, as coaches like to bring in their own people, ideas, and schemes. They typically take a couple of years to match personnel to their scheme through free agency and the draft.
But McCarthy sees this roster as championship ready, and is willing to adopt his ways to those which best fit the current roster.
Let’s hope it works.