A question has come up around Windy City Gridiron that goes something like this:
"I wonder if the Bears are moving to a two gap 3-4?"
And typically there is this reply somewhere down the page:
"Nah, they are probably moving to a two-gap 4-3 like Seattle."
What if I told you that neither of those schemes are likely to be run next year?
The Defensive Line in Flux
The Bears brought in two defensive line coaches this offseason, Paul Pasqualoni and Clint Hurtt.
That's Paul Pasqualoni, whose NFL experience is rooted in 3-4 defenses, and Clint Hurtt, who coached defensive line for Charlie Strong and his 3-3-5 defense. Obviously, the Bears are moving to a hybrid defense. The writing is on the wall. While some are stuck daydreaming of a defense like Seattle's, let us take a closer look at these defensive line coaches.
Who is Paul Pasqualoni?
Paul originally entered the NFL on Bill Parcells' coaching staff in Dallas in 2005. His first year, he coached tight ends. The next year he switched to linebackers, where he was able to tutor DeMarcus Ware to an 11.5 sack season. The Parcells era ended after the 2006 season, but Pasqualoni was retained when Wade Phillips took over. In the 2007 season, DeMarcus Ware posted 14 sacks with Paul as his linebackers coach.
After his success in Dallas (who went 13-3 that year), Paul got a job as defensive coordinator under Tony Sparano in Miami. Paul served as Miami's DC for the 2008 and 2009 seasons. His first season with the Dolphins worked out pretty well. They ranked 9th in points allowed and 15th in yards allowed. Not too shabby. The next year, things fell apart. The Dolphins finished the year ranked 25th in points allowed and 22nd in yards allowed. He was fired after the 2009 season.
Pasqualoni wasn't out of work for long though. The Cowboys picked him up to coach their defensive line. It is important to note that this was the first year that Pasqualoni coached defensive line in the NFL (or any level of professional coaching, as far as I have found). Another important note is that it was under Wade Phillips, who uses a single gap 3-4 defense.
Well, What About Clint?
The dream of a Seattle defense doesn't get any better with Clint Hurtt. Coach Big Hurtt's claim to fame is his defensive line coaching under Charlie Strong, who uses a 3-3-5 base defense to counteract spread offenses in the college ranks. Well, maybe this 3-3-5 uses a two gap system? Sorry, but it doesn't. An excerpt from The Essential Smart Football by Chris Brown outlines defensive linemen's assignments in Charlie Strong's 3-3-5:
There are different styles of 3-3, and Strong’s was of the attacking variety. On just about every snap, his linemen were instructed to attack a gap — the space between offensive linemen — and get into the backfield to make things generally unpleasant for offenses. This is an important difference between the 3-3-5 and the 3-4. The traditional 3-4 is a two-gap defense, which means that the defensive linemen typically line up "heads up" on the offensive linemen and are responsible for the gaps to either side. This leaves the linebackers free to roam. In the 3-3-5, there are more stunts, and usually at least one linebacker is rushing. This means each player ends up responsible for one specific gap, though the player’s specific responsibility will change from play to play.
Over before it began.
There has been a lot of speculation as to what the Bears will run on defense next year. Maybe they do run a two-gap scheme after all. It's always a possibility. However, the coaching hires of Pasqualoni and Hurtt don't support that idea. Another small point is the new linebackers coach, Reggie Herring, has spent the previous 5 seasons under Wade Phillips as a linebacker coach. My best guess as to how this defense will turn out? A mixture of single gap 4-3 that we have been using and single gap 3-4 fronts that mimic Wade Phillips' defense.
What are your thoughts on where this defense is headed? Leave a comment below and let me know what you think.