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Here's a nice explanation of what Jim Johnson's 4-3 Defense was all about:

[One thing I'd like to point out is the defensive line setup was similar to Tampa Bay's where Warren Sapp was the "Under Tackle". We kept drafting guys [Bunkley for instance] to fill that roll, but there was only one Sapp--unfortunately. More discussion on the Under Tackle and how it works below.]

The Jim Johnson 4-3 Defense


The Jim Johnson 4-3 is the last of the base 4-3 defenses I will cover in this series.

His defense is used by multiple teams including San Francisco and Philadelphia. His defense is a zone-blitz style scheme that attempts to create the same kinds of mismatches that the LeBeau 3-4 tries to create.

The defensive line will be in your traditional one-gap 4-3 under alignment. The DE's will be lined up in identical spots on the outside shoulders of the OT's. The nose tackle is in the 1-tech lined up in the strong-side "A" gap. The under tackle is in the 3-tech in the weak-side "B" gap.

The linebackers are off center and unbalanced. The WOLB is lined over the "B" gap on the weak side. The middle linebacker is lined up over the "B" gap on the strong side. The SOLB is at the LOS lined up on the outside shoulder of the TE.

The secondary is lined up in the traditional alignment with the FS 10-12 yards back and across from the weak-side OT, the SS eight to 10 yards back and across from the strong-side OT, and the corners are lined up over the wide receivers.

Defensive Line Responsibilities

The NT is in charge of the strong-side "A" gap and plays the 1-technique. They are supposed to be able to get through the gap as quickly as they can and need to be a true penetrator. The UT is in the 3-technique and plays the same exact role as the NT but is in weak-side "B" gap.

The weak-side DE is supposed to contain the outside run on his side while also creating a lot of outside pressure in the passing game. The strong-side DE is supposed to control the "C" gap on his side and create a lot of outside pressure in the passing game or draw the TE in on a double team.

Any of the four defensive linemen will be called to drop back into a short zone from time to time and should be quick enough to cover some ground.

Linebacker Responsibilities

The weak-side LB is in charge of cleaning up the run game to the weak side. If someone messes up their gap, he's responsible for fixing it. In the passing game, he will normally drop back into an intermediate or short zone and will be expected to blitz around 15 percent of the time.

The strong-side OLB is in charge of the outside in the running game and in the passing game will drop into an intermediate zone and will be expected to blitz around 50 percent of the time.

The middle linebacker will be dropping into a zone and will be expected to blitz around 65 percent of the time. He's also in charge of covering any and all runs in the box as the thumper in the middle.

Secondary Responsibilities

There is a lot of blitzing from the safeties, and they will be in robber zones, Cover 2 and Cover 4 sets as well as multiple other looks. The CB's however are primarily zone cover CB's with a knack for making plays on the ball. The CB's will normally play an intermediate to deep zone.

[This is a good reference about the different defenses in the league today]:

All 3-technique tackles are not alike. Defensive coaches continually search for ways to make their defensive linemen more effective. One of those ways, which was later adapted to the Tampa-2 defense by Tony Dungy and Monte Kiffin, was to slide the defensive tackles away from the strength of the offensive formation instead of playing them in even alignments over the offensive guards. This "undershifted" front makes it very difficult for the offensive line to double team the 3-technique, or in this case, undertackle.

Here's how the differences look in the playbook and on the field:

With the strong side (TE side in this diagram) guard essentially uncovered, the defensive line has shifted away, or undershifted, from the strength of the offensive line. The strong side defensive tackle plays over the shoulder of the center and the weak side end plays a loose 5-technique outside the tackle, leaving the weak side defensive tackle (our 3-technique/undertackle) isolated against a guard. In many ways, on passing downs, you've schemed yourself a third defensive end.

Sapp wasn't the first player to ride the undertackle position to NFL fame and fortune. Before the birth of the Tampa-2, the Minnesota Vikings (under Floyd Peters and Kiffin) paired defensive end Chris Doleman and undertackle Keith Millard in a stunting under front defense. In 1989, Millard set a record for sacks by interior defensive linemen (18) that still stands today.

The lineage of great undertackle includes many of the league's other most successful pass rushing defensive tackles. John Randle, the first undertackle in what would become the Tampa-2 defense, racked up nine consecutive seasons of ten or more sacks. La'Roi Glover's 17 sack season in 2000 came as an undertackle. Kevin Williams, Rod Coleman, Vonnie Holliday, Tommie Harris? All have had very successful seasons playing 3-technique on defenses frequently using underfronts during the last five years. The Giants nickel pass rush that used four defensive ends to wreak havoc on offensive lines early in 2007 frequently moved Osi Umenyiora or Justin Tuck into undertackle-like roles.
Wow, that was a good read. Great post.

I really miss JJ...
Great post Clyde!
QUOTE (samaroo @ Dec 10 2012, 08:34 PM) *
Wow, that was a good read. Great post.

I really miss JJ...

But that only explains the basic concepts. JJ's gameplanning and his genius for inventing more and more Fire Zone Blitzes and disguised fronts set him apart. Sean McDermott was there for years studying--but genius is non-transferrable. And I really miss him too. He was never condescending or arrogant (like someone else we know) and he always took the time to answer questions and to educate.
QUOTE (Phits @ Dec 10 2012, 08:37 PM) *
Great post Clyde!

Thanks, Phits. I don't pretend to know more than the next guy. I'm just curious and I like to share.
Yeah, JJ was a genius. If you could just copy what someone else does/did, every coach would be awesome!

Sean's inability to make JJ's D even decent the year after he died is a testament to his greatness.
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