Washington Redskins Retaining 3-4 Defense Is Jay Gruden's First Head Coaching Miscue

By Jason Bailey
Washington Redskins 3-4 Defense Retained
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How would you describe the Washington Redskins‘ defense? Suffocating. Ferocious. Relentless. Ball-hawking. Unpredictable. Terrifying.

Um, no. If that is your initial evaluation of the Redskins’ scoring prevention unit, you are both sorely mistaken and visually impaired. That scouting report is how you size up the Seattle Seahawks‘ “Legion of Boom” or the Carolina Panthers‘ offensive assault team that weekly blew up rival flankers last season who dared to venture into the secondary, relentlessly persecuted signal callers and preyed upon seasoned thoroughbreds with punishing blasts of jaw-dropping power that could be heard from the peanut gallery.

Third-team offenses could have discharged Washington’s defense with a suppressed sneeze. And that’s probably giving their defensive front seven and secondary way too much credit. Plagued with a depth chart of mentally deficient, aging, overpaid personnel, Washington’s defense embarrassed the bejesus out of their fanbase while packing the No. 30 overall defense in the NFL. Don’t laugh yet. I’m just getting warmed up.

There seems to be a problem with Washington’s overall gridiron productivity — in particular their alarmingly compliant defense. A light bulb flickers in owner Daniel Snyder‘s pint-sized cerebrum — again. He cleans house — again — and employs the glowing services of a promising head coach one more time. Having been anointed the newest head coach of the Washington Redskins, previous offensive coordinating wizard Jay Gruden hatches a dazzling idea: Let’s keep everything on defense the same.

I beg your pardon? It’s not a misprint. Without giving his decision so much as a second thought, Gruden has maintained that he’d like to stick with the alignment that the 3-4 defense provides.

“This team is built for a 3-4,” he said. “I hate the 3-4 as an offensive coordinator.”

The strategic incentive behind Gruden’s decision is that a 3-4 alignment provides the defense with a better way to screen which defenders will be dispatched to blitz on any given down. But his ruling to employ the 3-4 defensive alignment harbors justifiable cause for heightened concern among the Redskins fan base.

“Washington has played a 3-4 for the past four seasons, never ranking above 13th in total yards or 21st in points allowed,” per ESPN.com. “In the previous 11 years they wielded eight top-10 defenses in total yards and three in scoring.”

The 3-4 alignment isn’t nearly as effective. Just ask the Seattle Seahawks who installed a unique hybrid of the 4-3 alignment prior to last season’s electrifying magic. The end result? A ball-hawking secondary, a ridiculous defensive front that mystified the NFL‘s foremost offenses and a conclusive Super Bowl championship.

In Gruden’s defense, it’s not always about packing an ominous defensive alignment to assail dynamic offenses. It’s equally essential to find the right players to fit that scheme. While he disregards the obvious need for a major shift in the defensive alignment schematics he will use, he has said that the 3-4 will be further evaluated this offseason. It would behoove Gruden to pursue that avenue of defensive schematics. The installation of an imposing 4-3 alignment would inject a measure of preseason stability into a club that has been searching for an identity for better than 10 years.

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