Should Rob Ryan Use More 3-4 Coverages?
By Greg Barber
In the offseason, New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton hired Rob Ryan as the team's new defensive coordinator mainly for his background with the 3-4 defense. Because of injuries to LBs Martez Wilson and Victor Butler, so far this season, the Saints have played a 4–2–5 defense to play to the strengths of their current defensive roster.
With the recent release of Wilson, it looks like the Saints defense will continue with the present trend. There are lots of advantages of using the 4-2-5 defense though, as it has gotten them to a defense that is ranked 11th overall, ninth against the pass and 22nd against the run.
In Sunday's game against the Buffalo Bills, the Saints will be facing a rushing attack that is ranked fifth and the 30th-ranked passing offense in the NFL. The Bills will lean heavily on their run game, giving both C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson plenty of touches in the hopes of breaking down the New Orleans defense.
The Bills do have a couple good receivers in Stevie Johnson and Robert Woods and a decent tight in Scott Chandler, but they seem to have a chemistry or timing problem with QB Thad Lewis at times. In the 4-2-5 defense, Ryan can unleash several different blitzes to help confuse Lewis, and they will probably work to some level.
A great way to confuse Lewis would be for the Saints to use more 3-4 looks, which would force Lewis to think more and to try to find out where the pass rush is coming from. By keeping Lewis guessing, it increases the chances of a turnover or sack from the defense. The passing game is not the Bills strong suit and the 3-4 defense will be helpful in stopping the run also.
Using the 3-4 defense would give more playing time to LB Parys Haralson, who is very good against the run or pass. Also, the two additional linebackers puts more athletes on the field, not to mention having Junior Galette rushing the QB standing up will create more difficulties for the Bills offensive line.
Having the strong safety play linebacker risks him having to take on an offensive lineman to stop the run and that will only spell disaster. Having a genuine linebacker to set the edge provides the defense a better opportunity to stop the run.
It is no secret that Spiller can break a big play in a instant and Jackson is no slouch himself. Game planning for star QBs like Tom Brady or Matt Ryan is different from game preparation for athletes like Spiller and Jackson. By using more 3-4 looks in this game, the Saints should be able to create some pressure and put an early end to any chance of a Bills stampede.