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Dallas Cowboys Sunday afternoon football lessons

This weekend Kevin Burnett gives us his breakdown of the 3-4 and the 4-3 defenses over at his DMN blog.

On the 3-4 defense, KB doesn't shed a whole lot of new light on what we already knew: you need big beefy lineman who are quick and you need big and quick linebackers. What's great about the breakdown is he details it in a way a lot of writers haven't.

The biggest key to the 3-4 is PENETRATION. Your nose guard has to play like his hair is on fire every down of every game or else you lose. As most things that work from the inside out without a solid foundation (nose) you are in hot water. The nose is asked to do two things predominately. One take up two blockers and two make the ball carrier commit before he wants to. Here is a good rule of thumb for good nose play. If he doesn't take up two blockers he has to make the play. Why? The nose gets double teamed every play period. If he lets either guard or the center straight up to the second level its imperative that he makes the play. An offenses goal on a running play is to cut off the defense and let the running back find the hole. Cut off meaning stop the flow of the defense or change pursuit angles. So if a guard or the center gets to the second level cutting off the backside linebacker trouble is soon to follow.

He also gives us another defense of Roy Williams and states the importance of having a big safety who can make the play in the box.

When the defense gets cuts off this also means a safety has to make a one on one tackle or slow do the ball carrier to allow pursuit to arrive. Having a safety that can make a one on one tackle (one of the hardest things to do in football) in the open field is rarity, this is what makes Roy so good. Roy plays exceptionally well in the box with a 3-4 this creates 5-3 vs the run. With a 5-3 look someone inside the box cannot be accounted for. The person they cannot account for is most of the time is the safety.

I agree with Burnett that Roy is a much better player in the box than he is playing back in coverage and is essentially a 5th linebacker for our defense when he slides up. Unfortunately, I remember a few plays last year where that safety was unable to make the sure tackle in the box which led to a couple of big running plays (Derrick Ward in week 1 against the Giants and Ryan Grant against the Packers).

With the 4-3, Burnett cites how much of a straightforward defense it is and how much more versatile the 3-4 is in comparison. He also hints on how useful the 3-3-5 defense could be if anyone would work on it.

In the 4-3 your options from a blitzing stand point are limited due the simplicity of defense. The 4-3 is simple because you have lineman who are lineman and nothing more. In the 3-4 you have lineman that double as linebackers. With this the 3-4 has limitless options because you have more skill players on the field (players under 260). Now if you want to know what defense is most versatile from a blitzing and coverage stand point the 3-3-5 is great. The down fall to this defense nobody has really taken time to define and refine it so it's somewhat uncharted water.

He also gives his quick impression on a few of the rookies.

F. Jones will be a nice change of pace, has nice wiggle through the line and after the catch. Should give average backers hard times in coverage.

Jenkins probably the most game ready of the group, great cover skills has to learn some of the trick of the trade but will be a very good player.

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Nick Eatman says that he doesn't understand why Greg Ellis is so worried about losing playing time, especially since he has only gotten better the past few years.

Once again, not sure where Ellis is coming from on this one. He might have had an argument the last two seasons, although how he handles it is questionable. But still, you would've thought he got what he wanted last year.

He turned out the best season of his career, but now he's not happy with the practice reps.

Go figure.

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Somebody stop me. I am once again linking to a Jennifer Engel column . Although it rehashes some the tired material of Wade Phillips keeping the seat warm for Jason Garrett, it does have one interesting tidbit.

JG is the next coach of the Dallas Cowboys, with next possibly coming as soon as January. Especially if Coach Wade is still confusing playoff bye weeks with victories and talking crazy talk. He sounds clueless by staying with this "we were 13-3" nonsense.

Nobody wanted to delve too far into what if Owner Jones had had to choose in February. Probably because nobody wanted to admit the answer.

[snip]

For now, though, he has both, thanks to his willingness to provide big bucks and a promise, JG's willingness to wait and Coach Wade's willingness to keep the seat warm.

"Wade was on the table agreeing with me," Owner Jones said of the decision on JG. "I think that says a lot about Wade."

Well, yeah. Jason Garrett gives Wade the best chance to win this year. That's just the truth.