3-4 Breakdown Part I
Im going to do this in parts as I didnt have time to do all the plays so heres part one which includes 4 plays, and I think, some useful insight.
Basic stuff and personal thoughts.
Most of us already know this stuff, but for those who may not know and for clarity sake lets make a few things clear. 3-4 defenses use 3 down linemen (RE, LE and 1 DT, and 4 LBs (2 OLBs and **2 ILBs** ;as your roster goes;) thus the term 3-4. A lot of the 3-4 plays will have a blitz from somewhere on the field, so be on the lookout for this. Like my 4-3 breakdown these were tested with a passing perspective more than running. My personal feeling about this formation as well as any other, is you should use them sparingly and at the right time to be effective with them. Many of the blitzes in 3-4 as well as 4-3 leave many areas of the field open for passing, and an experienced QB is going to have a field day with them. So know your opponents tendencies, and use the plays wisely.
This play has a 3 man rush. LBs will sometimes show blitz before the snap, but dont. Pressure on the QB is somewhat weak unless your defensive line is overpowering. CBs play zone in the WR lanes from LOS to endzone, but will release WRs cutting across the middle and then resume a zone to the outside. Safties play deep zones in their half of the field and will double any WR that goes to the deep outside with the CBs. LBs play zone in quarters of the field underneath the safties. This offers decent pass coverage across the field for medium to deep passes. On offense, attak the flats or underneath with ease. The more patient you are in the pocket, the easier this defense is to pick apart (remember, poor rush on the QB). On defense, use it sparingly.
Weak side DE and DT rush, with aid from blitzing OLB on Strong side. DE on strong side will pick up any RBs to his side, or TE if the RB stays in. CBs play B&R man coverage on WRs. FS plays zone in middle of field (and does not help with WRs on either side Deep! Which means streaking WRs are 1 on 1 with CBs). Both ILBs drop into zone coverage inside, and SS plays zone on the strong side flats. This play has good pressure on the QB from the strong side. As QB, dont be fooled into tossing a pass into the area from which the blitz is coming from, or the SS or DE will be there with open arms. Runs to the strong side are also doomed. Look for a RB on the weak side, or my favorite, a deep pass to the wk side WR whos 1 on 1 with the CB. Be sure to lob the ball as CBs are playing man inside. If your WR gets a step on em, expect six.
3 man rush from linemen. CBs play zone in WR lanes from LOS to endzone (always behind, very easy to zip the ball to your WR). OLBs play zone in flats, and both ILBs play man on RBs. If a RB stays in, his counter part (ILB) will blitz. FS plays zone in middle, and again does not help with outside Receivers. SS plays man coverage on TE or blitzes if TE stays in. Great play for stopping runs to the outside, as ILBs are playing man on RBs and OLBs are zoning in the flats and in position to help should the RB shake the first tackle. Attack deep outside, as CBs are alone with their WR and always behind them (Put some mustard on it for huge gains.) Another tactic you can use is to leave both RBs in, which in turn will bring the ILBs into the traffic of the linemen on a blitz, freeing the middle of the field for a crossing WR. And finally, the best way to get a man wide open; put the Strong side WR in motion to the weak side causing the FS and SS to switch with each other. Now the SS is on the wrong side to cover the TE and seems to get lost. A TE corner route fools both the FS (in his middle zone) and the CB who also has no-one to cover and is slow to react to the deep corner. 9 times out of 10 the TE is all alone Deep for easy six.
**3-4 Flash Blitz**
(Important notes; read carefully).
The alignment of the defensive line on this play looks very cluttered and is a clue to 2 things. When you see a DE and a DT line up close together on the weak side, and AWAY from the remaining DEthere **will** be a blitz from somewhere, and, one or two of the linemen are going to drop into coverage (2 linemen on this play). *Crash blitz* and *Shoot Blitz* only have one linemen dropping back, all the others with this alignment have two. Now back to Flash Blitz. CBs play zone in the WR lane, FS blitzes and I have seen several times, where the FS will run up to the LOS and give it away if Im patient with the snap. SS zones over the middle third of the field. Wk OLB blitzes along with the Strong ILB. Weak ILB plays zone underneath towards the wk outside. WK DE drops back into zone coverage in the middle underneath the SS and the DT will slide across the LOS to the strong side flat! This play has tremendous pressure on the QB with all the blitzing personnel. The weak spot in this defense is right where it looks the strongest. Where the DT and Weak DE are all jumbled up close on the line. Running at this spot can break some yardage. Just remember theres two other plays that look just like this one but switch different linemen into coverage. Another sweet spot is a quick 3 step drop, wait just long enough for the FS and OLB to get in close in their blitz, and then dump it off to a RB in the flat. Break one tackle and youll only have the CB to beat with a Juke. You would think that matching up a TE or a receiver on one of the Linemen should prove useful, however since this blitz has such a potent sting, theres not much time to exploit this.
Be sure to check notes under the STUD play for keys on recognizing various 3-4 defenses.
**3-4 Crash Blitz**
Again we have the 3 cluttered linemen to on the weak side which means at least one of them is going to drop into coverage and a blitz is coming from somewhere. Heres the blitzers: Weak side CB, FS, both ILBs, and only one rushing lineman, the weak side DE. The DT and Strong side DE drop straight back into zone coverage. Both OLBs drop back into zones towards the outside and the SS plays zone in the middle of the field. CB on the Strong side plays zone also. A toss run to the weak side is doomed, because the CB on that side blitzes and is almost right on top of the RB before he can turn his head. Running up the middle can pay off big. If you have a pass play called and can recognize this defense quickly after the snap, the weak side WR on a streak is a score for sure! But dont waste time to wait for fancy routes to develop. You have about 3 or 4 seconds till your QB will be inspecting the turf for grubs.
**3-4 Wide Blitz**
Another one with the wk side DE and DT dropping into coverage. CB blitz from wk side, both OLBs blitz, along with the strong side ILB. CB on strong side will Bump his WR then zone in the flat. Both safties drop back and out to help with the deep pass. Run it up the middle or pass to either flat. If you have a scrambeling QB to avoid the blitz you can sometimes hit one deep.
**3-4 Strong 3**
3 linemen rush. Strong OLB blitz. FS and SS both flow to the strong side of the field. Strong side CB plays B&R then zone. Weak side CB drops back in a deep zone in WR passing lane (always behind the WR). Hit the seams anywhere away from the FS and SS. On defense, this play looks like an easy RB toss could be trouble, but the weak side DE always rushes from the outside nipping that in the bud.
**3-4 Weak Blitz**
Wk side DE drops into zone. DT and strong DE rush. Wk OLB, wk ILB, and Strong side CB blitz. SS floats back to strong side deep zone. FS plays zone in middle and Strong ILB plays man on TE or RB. For runs, take it up the gut. For pass, RB curling around the line towards short middle is good. Weak side flat is also open.
CBs and safties play deep zones. OLB and strong ILB also zone. Weak OLB blitzes around the outside of OT. Attack the middle of the field, underneath the safties, or run between the guard and the tackle.
Note: addendum to "important notes" on Part one.
On this play we have the STRONG SIDE DE and DT cluttered together and apart from the wk side DE (exact opposite) to the previous notes. When you see this, its one of three plays: Stud, Fox or Shoot Blitz. Out of these three only "Shoot blitz" will drop a lineman into coverage.
Stud has 3 linemen rush, and both OLBs blitz. ILBs will pick up RB and TE on the strong side. The SS doubles with the ILB on either the TE or the RB (whichever goes deep). FS will pick up the RB on the weak side. CBs both play man. IMO this is by far a superior 3-4 defense. Use short quick timing routes to hit the WRs a RB in the weak flat. Make up your mind quick, or get ready to hear John say something about your QBs tongue slapping his brain.
Another impressive 3-4 defense. Very similar to Stud except it also blitzes the FS. Only difference in coverage is wk ILB takes the RB on weak side, and SS plays man on RB to strong side. Pressure on the QB is slightly faster than Stud so take short drop and throw quick. TE on an out route gets a good match up against the ILB (be sure to lead the TE on the outside).
**3-4 Shoot Blitz** 2 linemen rush, Wk DE drops into short zone. Both ILBs blitz. Both OLBs play zone towards the outside. SS Blitzes. CBs play deep zone. FS plays zone in the deep middle. Work either side deep or the middle of the field between the OLBs and the FS. Quick RB toss to the weak side is also good.