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Washington Redskins Back to a 4-3 Defense?

We talk about this all the time. In a passing league, many feel it is better to have 4 LB's than 3 on the field as it clogs passing lanes over the middle of the field to hopefully take TE's out of the game. But you need to be sound. Yet a sound 4-3 defense can do the same. Look no further than the Seattle Seahawks.

Choosing between a 4-3 defense and a 3-4 defense is simply about the players you want to find. In a 4-3 defense, you want leaner defensive linemen and linebackers can be more physical. In a 3-4 defense, you typically want a bulkier DL and leaner LB's. There are plenty of all types available in the draft every year, and many players succeed at being available as hybrids by shedding or adding some weight. The Redskins are a unique team, because they have a bunch of those hybrid players who could flip depending on what the team has, wants, and needs.

If the Redskins, as they stand right now, were to flip back to a 4-3 defense, there would not necessarily be a ton of changes to be made. Cornerback would ultimately be able to stay the same, unless you wanted to switch to more zone instead of man-to-man. Safety is a concern either way, but you would more than likely want to get yourself a more athletic Free Safety and let one of the guys you currently have in Ryan Clark/Brandon Meriweather/Philip Thomas play strong safety.

Linebacker is tricky because the OLB's are former college 4-3 defensive ends and not quite a fit to play OLB in the 4-3 with more coverage assignments. Ryan Kerrigan and Trent Murphy would revert to defensive ends. Remember, I'm saying as we stand today, Brian Orakpo would more than likely shift to a 4-3 DE rather than a 4-3 OLB, although he showed in his rookie year and several instances at Texas that he could play 4-3 OLB. Rak would be a much better pass rusher from a 3- or 4-point stance as a 4-3 DE.

Moving inside, you could always flip Keenan Robinson to OLB in the 4-3, although his intelligence would probably suit him well as the MLB in a 4-3. Perry Riley could be a good fit at MLB in a 4-3, but it's all about whether you feel Keenan would be a better fit. Perhaps a better fit based on his style of play and the few looks the Redskins have had of him in real game situations is Will Compton. This would allow Robinson to utilize his athleticism on the outside and Compton to play a more true 4-3 MLB style of football. No matter what, the Redskins have more flexibility with this unit in a 4-3 than they do in a 3-4.

The problem with the defense really comes at the defensive line when you try to figure out how to work with Barry Cofield, Jason Hatcher, Chris Baker, Jarvis Jenkins, Stephen Bowen, Kedric Golston, and so on. While Cofield has previously had a great amount of success as a 4-3 defensive tackle, many in the group do not have the same experience, save for Jason Hatcher's best season as a 3-technique in the Dallas Cowboys' first year back to a 4-3 themselves. Hatcher and Cofield could be a formidable duo inside in the 4-3, but young guys like Jarvis Jenkins could easily be a fit. The most important thing would be for Baker to lose some weight if he is to stay inside, as it is not clear if he is a capable of losing enough weight to be a legitimate 4-3 defensive end who would be used more to rush the passer than to stop the run. The best case-scenario for Baker is to beat out either Cofield or Hatcher for an inside spot, but perhaps Cofield does not even return for another season in Washington.

So if we are to look at strictly what the Redskins have today, if they moved to a 4-3, the depth chart would look a little like this:

RDE: Brian Orakpo; Trent Murphy
NT: Barry Cofield; Chris Baker
DT: Jason Hatcher; Jarvis Jenkins
LDE: Ryan Kerrigan; Trevardo Williams

ROLB: Keenan Robinson; Jackson Jeffcoat
MLB: Will Compton; Perry Riley
LOLB: Gabe Miller

RCB: David Amerson; EJ Biggers
LCB: DeAngelo Hall; Bashaud Breeland
FS: Ryan Clark; Trenton Robinson
SS: Brandon Meriweather; Philip Thomas

As you can see, there are obvious areas of concern, specifically at both safety positions. There would also be an unaccounted for LB spot. With foresight, it's very likely that Brian Orakpo is not on the team next season, EJ Biggers may well be on the outs. Ryan Clark may be looking at his final professional game against Dallas this weekend, so he would be a surprise return and potential longshot to make the 53-man roster barring major disappointments in the offseason. That's a Defensive End, and Outside Linebacker, a Cornerback, and a Free Safety. Add to that the possibility of Cofield not being kept by Washington and you could be looking at another defensive lineman needed.

So what do you think? Did we get anything wrong? Did we miss anything? Who would be viable in the draft or free agency?

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