3-4 vs 4-3 And How Are We Able To Switch Back And Forth? (1 Viewer)


Oct 7, 2008
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Los Angeles
Can one of the more savy football posters on here explain the key differences from a philosophical standpoint regarding 3-4 vs the 4-3 and how it is that we seem to have the personnel to successfully switch back and forth with it?

From my understanding the 3-4 usually requires slightly smaller more athletic LBs with a larger field of responsibility than the 4-3, IIRC.

But I would appreciate anyone's input on this.

Zac Pierce

Sep 18, 2009
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Just depends on the combinations of personnel that you have. The 3-4 cannot function without a big strong 315lb+ Defensive Tackle. There are really only a handfull in the league who can truly dominate at the DT position of the 3-4. Plus you need to have DE's who are run stoppers and can take on blockers, freeing up space for the linebackers to plug the holes and/or get to the QB. In addition to that, you need to have depth at linebacker with awareness and speed.

Pretty much any team has the personnel to run a 4-3. One of the reasons teams who normally run a 3-4 can still run a 4-3 on occasion is because you can get away with putting speedy linebackers in as the DE's on a 4-3 look. The same can't necessarily be said for a team that normally runs a 4-3. If you normally run a 4-3, chances are you do not have the personnel to run a 3-4. The defensive ends are probably too smallish to play DE in a 3-4, you don't have a Monster 315lb+ DT, there isn't enough depth at linebacker, etc.

One of my favorite looks is the 1-5. It's used on passing situations. You stick a pash rushing Defensive End in the DT position and the rest are linebackers. It looks like a 3-3, but it's called a 1-5 because you have 1 true lineman and 5 linebackers in the lineup.
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St. PJ

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Jun 6, 2006
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Lafayette, La
Its nothing quite as dramatic as it sounds. We do not have the players to run a 34. But we have enough versatility to in certain down and distances show a 34 look by how we line up the players we do have. It is meant to confuse the offensive linemen on who they are supposed to block. Fujita is at the line of scrimmage lined up where a DE is normally. Are his defensive responsibilties on this play that of a DE or a LB? This affects what he will do, and how they should block him. Maybe at the snap he drops back into coverage? Or maybe a we are showing 3 linemen and 4 lbs, but at the snap, a LB essentially comes up to the LOS and plays as a DE.


Very Banned
Gold VIP Contributor
May 8, 2008
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We don't play a true 3-4 base, we play a 3-4 look with 4-3 personnel.

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