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Wade Phillips: Is it a 3-4, a 4-3 hybrid, or a 50?

Discussion in 'Houston Texans' started by aristophanes34, Aug 5, 2011.

  1. aristophanes34

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    What Exactly is It?
    There has been much talk locally and nationally about the system that Wade Phillips runs. Some say it’s more of a 4-3 hybrid than a 3-4. Others have said it’s not a traditional 2-gap 3-4 similar to what the Texans ran under Fangio. There has been much debate about whether a guy like Mario can play OLB, or whether Cushing can move inside, or whether Mitchell can play the nose. As always, there is some truth and some myth to what the ‘experts’ have bandied about over the off-season (lockout!). His system is definitely unique and, I might add, effective. I’ll try to give you a simple look at the basics of his front. Obviously, I am not a Wade Phillips insider, so all of this is based on what I have studied watching his fronts and system over the years. Alignment, techniques, and gap responsibilities are apparent to the naked eye, but I can’t comment about coaching points or the nuances of his strategy.

    A Word About the Magical 3-4... It's Still a Front 7
    First of all, here is a real quick look at the generic 3-4. Writers and fans seem to talk about the 3-4 and 4-3 as if they are vastly different. Add them up and you get 7. In both cases you are accounting for the natural gaps of the offense with 7 guys. The difference between the fronts is really just alignment and semantics. For instance, a typical 3-4 WOLB lines up as the end man on the line of scrimmage. He has contain against the run and he pressures the QB against the pass. Occasionally, he may have to pick up a back out in coverage or buzz the weak side flats. Sounds a lot like the job of a 4-3 DE to me. If you go back and watch every snap of the Texans, you’ll see Mario occasional cover the flats due to a zone blitz or some other scheme they were running. Yes, due to alignment differences your personnel needs may be a little different in the 3-4 than in the 4-3, but it is not monumentally different like some suggest. It’s 7 guys working together to cover gaps, stop the run, and get after the QB. When bombarded by reporters about the possibility of Williams playing WOLB, Phillips himself said it’s really a 5-2 not a 3-4. I would argue that most 3-4’s are hybrids of the 5-2 or the old 50 or Okie front that many of us played in high school. It’s way more flexible and complicated, but it handles gaps and the run in much the same way.

    2 Gap? Reading? Charging?
    As I stated earlier, the front seven is responsible for the natural gaps in the offensive formation. This can be a problem, because often there are 8 natural gaps. Defenses account for this by making some players gap responsibility tied to the flow of the offense. A base 4-3 Mike backer, for instance, may have the B gap to flow or a 3-4 NT may have the A Gap to flow. Often a traditional 3-4 NT will read the centers block, control him, and play off of him to the ball. This is where the term 2-gap player comes from. Phillips doesn’t ask this of his NT. He plays a charging front as opposed to a reading front. His down players all have a specific assignment each play and they hit it with violence and speed on the snap. This is why a guy like Jay Ratliff (and hopefully Earl Mitchell) can flourish in his system. Wade’s NT’s are not asked to dominate and control the center like Wilfork is in New England. They are asked to penetrate an assigned gap using quickness and agility.

    What I Have Seen From Phillips
    This is the most common look Wade Phillips lead defenses have lined up in the past, and it is a hybrid of the 3-4 and a 4-3 over front.

    <img style="visibility:hidden;width:0px;height:0px;" border=0 width=0 height=0 src="http://c.gigcount.com/wildfire/IMP/CXNID=2000002.0NXC/bT*xJmx*PTEzMTI1OTkzODU2NTMmcHQ9MTMxMjU5OTQwMDIxMSZwPTEyNTIxJmQ9Jmc9MSZvPTY4OTg4YmM1MTdmOTRjZDFhYTZj/Y2U4YmJiYzg2ZWZlJm9mPTA=.gif" /><center><a href="http://www.dropshots.com/" target="_top"><img src="http://media9.dropshots.com/photos/782895/20110805/184359.jpg" width="425" style="-ms-interpolation-mode:bicubic;" border="0" /></a><br /><span style="font-family:arial; font-size:8pt;"><a href="http://www.dropshots.com/">Photo Sharing</a> - <a href="http://www.dropshots.com/">Video Sharing</a> - <a href="http://www.qualityphotoprints.com/">Photo Printing</a></span></center>

    WOLB-Plays anywhere from a ghost to foot technique (tight 5). 95% of the time he follows the same rules as a DE. Can Mario do this? Well... He already does (even the occasional drop in coverage part). Actually the added down player will make life easier for him especially when they are in the under front which I will discuss in a second.

    WDE-Plays a charging 3 technique (outside shade of the guard). Watt and Smith should excel at this.

    NT-Plays a nose shade strong or a tight 1 technique. Again, he will be charging. I don't know enough about Mitchell. I'll trust Wade's insistence that he can do it until it's proven otherwise.

    SDE-Plays a charging 5 technique. Again, Watts and Smith will be fine.

    SOLB-Here is the guy with the most on his plate. His assignment will change quite a bit based on the coverage call. On a run read, he plays like a traditional DE. On pass reads, he will be asked to do a variety of things. Again, I do not know the specifics of their scheme, but here are some basic common sense assignments

    Cov-0(Straight Man)-Most likely bringing the wood. May have to man the TE if a safety blitz is on.
    Cov-1(Man Free)-Most likely will man the TE
    Cov-2-Chip the TE and drop to the hook/curl zone
    Cov-2Man-Man the TE
    Cov-3(3-Deep)-Cover the strong side flats

    Although the WOLB is a sexier position due to sacks, it is often this guy, because he is the key player to the fronts flexibility, that makes or breaks the defense. Barwin and Reed are major unknowns. I like their abilities, but I liked Babin's abilities too and he couldn't handle this position.

    Both ILB-Both have changing gap assignments to flow. In pass coverage they will cover backs out, flats, hook/curl, or underneath zones based on coverage. I'm not too worried about Ryans or Cushing other than their health.

    The Wade Phillips Under Front

    <img style="visibility:hidden;width:0px;height:0px;" border=0 width=0 height=0 src="http://c.gigcount.com/wildfire/IMP/CXNID=2000002.0NXC/bT*xJmx*PTEzMTI2MDA4Mzk4NjMmcHQ9MTMxMjYwMDg*MTc5MCZwPTEyNTIxJmQ9Jmc9MSZvPTY4OTg4YmM1MTdmOTRjZDFhYTZj/Y2U4YmJiYzg2ZWZlJm9mPTA=.gif" /><center><a href="http://www.dropshots.com/" target="_top"><img src="http://media10.dropshots.com/photos/782895/20110805/185443.jpg" width="425" style="-ms-interpolation-mode:bicubic;" border="0" /></a><br /><span style="font-family:arial; font-size:8pt;"><a href="http://www.dropshots.com/">Photo Sharing</a> - <a href="http://www.dropshots.com/">Video Sharing</a> - <a href="http://www.qualityphotoprints.com/">Photo Printing</a></span></center>

    The under front is similar to his over look. The techniques are now shaded more to the weak side of the formation. It's all played the same way, it's just some gaps have been exchanged. Here is where Mario could become a terror. When he can line up on the open side with Watt or Smith playing a 5 technique (outside shade of the tackle), the offense doesn't have many good options. You cannot count on picking Mario up with a back. I hope teams try this. This alignment may in fact dictate what formations the offense can employ. When that is happening, the defense is usually winning the battle.

    They Aren't Just Going to Sit There
    Once again, I can't go into specific strategies, but you do not have to watch much of a Wade Phillips coached D to see that he likes line stunts. He likes lining up in one look and playing another on the the snap. For example, easily you can line up in the under look and slant to the over look on the snap.

    <img style="visibility:hidden;width:0px;height:0px;" border=0 width=0 height=0 src="http://c.gigcount.com/wildfire/IMP/CXNID=2000002.0NXC/bT*xJmx*PTEzMTI2MDE*NDg5MzImcHQ9MTMxMjYwMTQ1MDg*NSZwPTEyNTIxJmQ9Jmc9MSZvPTY4OTg4YmM1MTdmOTRjZDFhYTZj/Y2U4YmJiYzg2ZWZlJm9mPTA=.gif" /><center><a href="http://www.dropshots.com/" target="_top"><img src="http://media11.dropshots.com/photos/782895/20110805/185450.jpg" width="425" style="-ms-interpolation-mode:bicubic;" border="0" /></a><br /><span style="font-family:arial; font-size:8pt;"><a href="http://www.dropshots.com/">Photo Sharing</a> - <a href="http://www.dropshots.com/">Video Sharing</a> - <a href="http://www.qualityphotoprints.com/">Photo Printing</a></span></center>

    This is just one example. He will get the backers firing through gaps and linemen twisting. If he coaches the Texans like he has coached in the past, then we should expect a fun defense to watch with a lot of stunts in the front. And unlike under Bush, it will be disguised and will catch the offense off-guard. Once again, that SOLB is the wildcard. The offense will never be sure what gaps the down guys are taking and they will have to guess what the SOLB's assignment is each play.

    All in all the defense will be much improved due to a scheme that makes sense and is tricky. I heard Joseph talk the other day about making every snap look like cover 2. Under Bush they never disguised the back end and they usually showed blitzes early in pre-snap. The D will be a lot smarter. How good remains to be seen. The main questions are Mitchell, Barwin/Reed, and, of course, Jackson.

    It should be fun to watch it unfold.
     
    11 people like this.
  2. aristophanes34

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    No, I didn't. Thanks for the link. I'll check that out when I get a chance tonight.
     
  3. kaleidosky

    kaleidosky Your Tweety Bird dance just cost us a run

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    sweet analysis. a lot of fun to read for me cause I get it but don't know what all Phillips usually does. I'm excited!

    I wonder if the reason Reed has a clear shot at taking Barwin's job (at least that's the way they've madei t sound so far) is because the job is so complex and neither of them have a ton of experience at it?

    Regardless, 2 young guys there...that sounds like it'll be a huge key. I wonder if we'll see Cushing move outside at some point if the other 2 struggle enough. They say no, but wouldn't Cush be a beast at that spot?
     
  4. aristophanes34

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    I think they are just stressing the competition aspect of camp. I think it is Barwin's job to lose, but, as you said, everyone seems to be impressed with Reed as well. Reed may actually have a little more experience playing in space than Barwin. Remember Barwin was a TE for most of his college career. I agree, having two young athletic options is a good problem.

    Yeah, initially when I heard Phillips was coming on board I assumed Cushing would be one of the OLBs. Of course, I also assumed Mario would move inside. With Mario at OLB I agree that we can maximize our talent be playing Cush at ILB. He is, when healthy, an excellent blitzer, and I think we will see him bringing the heat quite a bit. Generally, a Wade Phillips coached defense brings 5 quite often. That 5th guy will probably be a split between the SOLB and Cushing. This will keep the offense guessing. I also think, on occasion, Cush will be the 4th guy coming on a standard pressure and the OLBs will have a coverage responsibility.
     
  5. DieHard Rocket

    DieHard Rocket Contributing Member

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    Great, great analysis.

    I'm a little concerned about our OLBs in pasing situations when they have to drop into coverage, and just in general because Mario and Barwin don't exactly have great footwork. They also play pretty top heavy. When I think of some of the best 3-4 OLBs of late, they all are more athletic than Mario and Barwin -- Clay matthews, Dumervil, Ware, Suggs, etc.
     
  6. Rockets Pride

    Rockets Pride Member

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    i think we are going to get gutted by the run
     
  7. emjohn

    emjohn Contributing Member

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    Nice breakdown!

    My add ins would be:
    I have to think SOLB is Reed. WOLB makes sense for a converted end, but strong calls for too much decision making and coverage.

    I like to think of the ILBs here as janitors. You send in 5 to stir up confusion, and Cushing/Ryan clean up the mess.

    The danger with this D is teams know all about it and can exploit it. It takes/away options, but is vulnerable to teams that can execute quick passes or power sweeps and pitches, especially going weak side. It will be crucial that Kareem get better - 8 yd cushions won't work in this scheme.
     
  8. emjohn

    emjohn Contributing Member

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    I don't see as a big issue. Wade's vision is not to adequately cover all options, but to bum rush offenses to rush QBs into bad decisions, get TFLs, and set the stage for TO opportunities. The safeties and ILBs will pick up coverage behind Mario most of the time, and usually in zone. TE coverage SS will usually either be SOLB or SILB....but this is one reason why I see Reed beating out Barwin.
     
  9. ROXRAN

    ROXRAN Contributing Member

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    Often, it looks like a 5-2, which is fine by me....SACK!
     
  10. br0ken_shad0w

    br0ken_shad0w Member

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    Good stuff.

    I like to think our offense should be good enough to go up early and let the opponents play catch up.
     
  11. emjohn

    emjohn Contributing Member

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    I think we'll be fine, but there are some reasons to be concerned:

    Last year;
    Hou #20, Dal #21 in total rush yards allowed...but YPA had Hou #22 and Dal #15
    2009: Hou #21 , Dal #29 (total); Hou #16, Dal #24 (YPA)
    2008: Hou #10, Dal #21 (total); Hou #9, Dal #13 (YPA)

    The scheme makes it tough to go off tackle, but fullback led smash backs up the gut are a good bet for 3 yards every time. I like Cushing and Ryan's chances making the stop behind the line.

    Where I am concerned? Teams with quick backs able to turn the corner....like Chris Johnson. Swing passes, pitches, and screens are going to be extremely difficult for this defense to contain, especially with Kareem falling down on the weak side while Mario goes into the backfield 95% of the time. If Watt wants me to love him like no one else, he'll shine with the batted down passes that he was great at in college.

    Hopefully, the scheme does its job preventing deep play development, allowing the safeties to come forward and help fill the open space between the CBs and ILBs.
     
  12. Nick

    Nick Contributing Member

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    Just watched the youtube video of the 1991 Oilers vs. Broncos in the playoffs.

    Warren Moon sure exposed some holes in Wade Phillips' "tiger" defense... hopefuly not a harbinger of things to come.

    EDIT: Just another tidbit about that game... Denver's offense looks almost excatly like our current Texans one. Guess backup QB Kubiak was stealing Dan Reeves plays...
     
    #13 Nick, Aug 7, 2011
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2011
  13. monkeyboy32

    monkeyboy32 Contributing Member

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    Per NFL Scout Jayson Braddock

    http://thexlog.com/201108061851/xtra-point-football/nfl/houston-texans-training-camp-report/
     
  14. ChenZhen

    ChenZhen Contributing Member

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  15. ima_drummer2k

    ima_drummer2k Contributing Member

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    Well, Warren Moon was also a HOF quarterback. Luckily, there is only one of those in our division. And hopefully he won't be at 100% by Week 1.

    OP, is that your own analysis? If so, good stuff. Keep it up.
     
  16. jopatmc

    jopatmc Contributing Member

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    What is the consensus at this point in training camp on how Mario looks and fits in this defense? I only got to see a few plays of the Jets game, last 5 minutes basically.
     
  17. emjohn

    emjohn Contributing Member

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    "work in progress"
     
  18. ima_drummer2k

    ima_drummer2k Contributing Member

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    Not sure, no one has really talked much about it here...........





    check the Jets game thread
     
  19. conquistador#11

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    So out of curiousity, I wanted to see how the unstoppable forces play the OLB position compared to the pile of dog poop we have here with mario, according to many.

    The unstoppable Clay Matthews had one solo tackle and 0 sacks. He got into the backfield seven times, three of which were by design because of screen plays by the offense .
    Matthews did knock down the quaterback twice, after the qb released the ball, and he did pile on top of the QB after Walden got the sack, something mario does quite often himself.

    The unstoppable clay matthews also looked lost when the offense ran the ball. He just stood there being blocked, even got trucked by a guy named PIERRE. Obviously, since he has long beautiful flowing hair, he doesn't take plays off, mario however, he just has no passion what..so... ever, hates the game of football.


    Seriously, I think we're just going to have to tolerate mario's lousy 10 sacks a season. =/
     
    1 person likes this.

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