Redditors say the craziest things: a Lions 3-4 Defense?

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So; this is a new column I’ll be doing. Don’t take it the wrong way, this isn’t an opportunity to take a jab at someone who already likely received their fair share of grief on Reddit. Also I may not do one every week, because sometimes there just is no post worth doing this for, but when I see a post that gets torn apart and then downvoted to oblivion but I see something about it that seems worth a bit of further discussion, or at least wasn’t worthy of the level of venom and hatred it received (or I don’t have any of my own ideas to write about and thus feel the need to steal someone else’s), I’m going to stare at the sun for a moment, smear that post all over my brain, and see what pops on to my laptop. Without further ado, the /r/detroitlions mishit of the week: with all the beef the Lions are bringing in, are we going to see a Lions 3-4 defense?

First, lets establish why this was downvoted, why it is always downvoted, why it will always be downvoted, at least the most common reasons people give for downvoting, and then calling out the poor bastard who had the audacity to  ask a question on the internet that someone had asked before. But as a twist I’ll then I’ll tell you why you might have been wrong.
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The Lions don’t have any of the personnel to run a 3-4 Defense

That’s just not true. It couldn’t be less true in fact. When asked about the possibility last year an unnamed Lions player said he thought the team should switch to a 3-4 based on the players they had, according to multiple media outlets, and Glover Quin brought up the fact that the way the team utilizes its players is based on the defense Austin came up under with the Ravens, modified to fit the Lions’ personnel. So let’s discuss the team’s players and whether or not they fit the 3-4. The secondary is completely irrelevant to the conversation, so let’s start with the big boys – the linemen. Haloti Ngata, Caraun Reid, Tyrunn Walker and Stefan Charles all share two traits. They were brought in to Detroit after the hiring of Austin, and they all came from teams that played a 3-4 defense, whether professionally or in college. The Ravens’ 3-4 defense utilizes three 300lb men, a nose tackle and two other big boys who play almost a 4 technique, switching whether they rush outside the shoulder of the guard or the tackle depending on the strong and weak side of the offensive formation. The intake of beef could be said to point in that direction. That is how they would fit in to a Lions 3-4 defense.

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But they don’t have the Linebackers for a 3-4 defense, right?

Well, actually right now the Lions have the perfect set of linebackers to run that Ravens defense. Let’s start on the outside. Ziggy Ansah fits the Terrell Suggs role to a tee. If you’ll recall, Suggs successfully sued the NFL when the Ravens franchise tagged him as a linebacker and successfully created a new heading under the franchise tag for “pass rushers” which led to different wording in the new CBA, so there is your outside linebacker role in this defense. The defense the Ravens run is more like a 5-2 defense. The outside linebackers do occasionally drop in to coverage, but so did Ansah last year. Ansah and Devin Taylor are likely the starters as things stand now, and this is by far the best role in the NFL for Kyle Van Noy. It’s what he did in college and if he is going to salvage an NFL career it will be in this role. Those are the outside linebackers in a Lions 3-4 defense.

As for the assertion that Levy has no role in this defense, that he is at his best freely flowing sideline to sideline, that he would be eaten by offensive linemen in the middle of the field….. What do you think Ray Lewis did all those years in Baltimore? Slog through guards on his way to 150+ tackles a year? There is a reason Bart Scott used to refer to himself as Ray Lewis’ fullback before leaving the Ravens for the Jets. The entire scheme is built around getting one of the inside linebackers an unobstructed path to the running back. The three big boys, the two pass rushers and the other inside linebacker, are all there to occupy blockers, making tackles when they can of course, they’re not trying to avoid making plays, but the point is that yes, there is a tailor-made role in that scheme for DeAndre Levy. And the other role is a perfect fit for Tahir Whitehead. With Bynes and Copeland as backups, that is what the inside linebacker position would look like in a Lions 3-4 defense. Sure they’d need to pick up some depth at the inside and outside spots, but no more than they do now. The Lions are still 19 spots short of their training camp roster once their draft picks are taken in to account, and have a lot of cap space left.

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Why fix something that isn’t broken?

The Lions were 18th in total defense, 15th in passing defense, and 19th in rushing defense and 23rd in scoring defense in 2015. They do need to fix the defense, because at times last season, it was the defense that was giving up 30 point games, not getting off the field on third down, and not only bending, but breaking early and often. Levy’s presence will settle things a lot, but he is not a savior. Perhaps allowing Austin to run an unmodified version of his defensive scheme for the first time, rather than something built for players that the Lions don’t even have any more, would be the shot in the arm that this defense needs. There are only four starters left from the 2014 defense. It may be time to let that magical season go. I’m not saying that the Lions are going to switch. I’m not even saying that I think they should. All I’m saying is that /u/edentulaeleo was not asking a stupid question, and probably didn’t deserve the grief that went their way, so I went back and up-voted this post.

You will find me eternally (I’m running out or ways to write this last part) on the Detroit Lions subreddit as /u/A5hcrack and on Twitter @a5hcrack.  Thank you for flying the friendly skies with us…. I mean.

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About the Author

Ash Thompson
Ash Thompson is a fanatical football fan, and less fanatical hockey fan despite his Canadian heritage. He is sorry aboot that. His spirit animal is a beaver with a shark's head. He is also known as /u/a5hcrack on reddit, and can be found on twitter @a5hcrack