Pluto: The 3-4 Switch And Where Guys Fit

Terry Pluto in his Sunday morning’s “Terry’s Pluto’s Talkin'” column, he outlines some of the thoughts from the Browns’ front office about current players and how they may fit into the Browns’ switch to new defensive coordinator Ray Horton’s 3-4 attack-style defense.

“On the line, the Browns believe Phil Taylor can play over center. He did that at Baylor in a 3-4. Ahytba Rubin played a lot on the line in Eric Mangini’s 3-4 in 2009-10. So he can do the same here.”

This seems to make sense, as hopefully the Browns can find a way to get two playmakers like Taylor and Rubin together on the field as much as possible and maintain some sort of flexibility.

“The new coaching staff loves Billy Wynn as much as the old staff, and believes he can easily be a 3-4 end. They also believe 320-pound John Hughes can add depth at tackle or end.”

With just three defensive lineman in most sets, it’s really going to showcase the team’s depth there, especially with the third and sixth round selections from last year in Hughes and Wynn.

“In the traditional 3-4, the nose tackle is directly over the center and the two ends are lined up against the offensive tackles. In that setup, the guards are free to block the two inside linebackers. That’s why D’Qwell Jackson struggled in the 3-4, compared to being in the middle in the 4-3 and could use his speed because he wasn’t hit on his first step.”

This has long been one of my biggest concerns with the 3-4 switch, neutralizing D’Qwell Jackson as he tries to keep blockers off of him.

“Horton’s 3-4 often has a nose tackle lined up on the shoulder of a center, either right or left. The hope will be that Jackson can “hide” a bit behind a massive player such as the 335-pound Taylor, then make plays. I still wonder if Jackson will be as effective.”

Related: Browns Film Room: What Does A Ray Horton D Look Like?

  • eldaveablo

    I feel better about the switch this time, for one main reason – I think the Browns are much talented and faster this time around. They really need to add some players, but that was going to be true no matter what defense they ran. If Horton is the real deal, I think they will be in good shape.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    The defense needed linebackers and at least another corner before the change so not much new. After watching the SB tonight it’s clear you can never have enough depth on the defensive line. The Browns have that aplenty. They need speed/athleticism/versatility at LB.


    Well, the rub Terry’s overlooking in that statement is that if you have a GOOD NT, he can’t be blocked by *just* the center and one of the guards will have to help. If Taylor can work to command enough attention, it will leave the LBs a little more free to move. It’s why the 3-4 never worked consistently here before: we didn’t have the horses up front.

    I think teams trying to single Taylor with a center next year will be in for a rude awakening. Just MHO.

  • Gren

    I like the prospect of Phil/Rubin covering the NT spot, with the other taking the right side (the non-pass rushing side usually), while having Jabaal Sheard taking the pass rushing end. Heck, maybe having Billy Winn on one end and moving Jabaal to the pass rushing LB spot. He seems athletic enough to provide decent coverage when needed.

  • mgbode

    Kirk, I’m with you on DQ and also hoping that his injuries were not apart of him desperately trying to gain mass to play the spot as well. The one good thing though is that Horton was able to get Daryl Washington to be an incredibly productive ILB and he is virtually the same type of LBer that DQ is.

    I do think our DL can transition to the 3-4 just fine. Heckert did us well here by having our best depth at DT (and athletic DT’s that can also play DE in the 3-4). Really, any of our top4 DTs can play either spot. Kitchen might be able to be our backup NT as well. That is alot of depth.

    I think Parker is gone. Rucker likely isn’t going to be too happy but he should be able to pull-off 3-4 DE. Even without him though, we are okay there.

    We really need OLBs. I’m very worried there. I am not sure if Sheard can make that transition (we will see), I don’t want to see Gocong there at all. And, we don’t have any other LBers to even really try out there. So, we need depth and we need starters. It’s a bad spot.

    And, that doesn’t even get to the fact we need to replace Sheldon Brown (unless we re-sign him, but that doesn’t seem likely) and could definitely use an upgrade over Gipson at FS.

  • mgbode

    this is a good point and why ILBs for Pitt (Hampton) and Balt (Ngata – at least before he started playing mostly DE) always seemed like they were able to run more free.

    also, it is a reason why our defense backe then looked so much better when Shaun Rogers actually was giving full effort (as he was unblockable by any one man).

    the question remains of if we would use Phil Taylor at NT or DE – with Ngata and Watt playing DE, it seems like more DC’s are putting their “best” 3-4 DL at the DE slot (with Phil being our most athletic guy that can play NT)

  • Vindictive_Pat

    I wonder if we’ll see Rubin and Taylor interchanged at that spot? If they both can play NT at high level, it would allow Horton to do some fun twisting and misdirection with his front 3.

  • mgbode

    it also allows us to have a better rotation of DL. we can keep Taylor/Rubin on for all the snaps that they can handle at a high level while rotating in everybody else as well.

    the only thing is how we view our DE depth as well. If we feel we need the DE depth (which I think we might), then picking one of them to rotate with Kitchen at NT might be more prudent overall.

    speaking of which, I think we need to start referring to Kitchen as “The Sink.”

  • Vindictive_Pat

    That’s true, and frankly Kitchen played well enough last year that I think Horton should really give him a look at rotating into the NT spot. It’s going to be fun to see how the 3 spots on the defensive line pan out.

  • mgbode

    much more fun than the OLB spots