Offense will get Significant Experience Against a 3-4 Scheme this Preseason

Posted Aug 12, 2010

Detroit will begin with Pittsburgh this Saturday before Denver, Cleveland and Buffalo.

When teams around the League began switching from a 4-3 defensive scheme to a 3-4 – three down linemen and four linebackers – it seemed to be a fad.

Now, so many teams have made the move that the all of the Lions’ preseason opponents run the 3-4 scheme and eight of Detroit’s regular season opponents will be running it.

Though the Lions don’t really game-plan during the preseason, Head Coach Jim Schwartz is taking the opportunity to give his offense looks at a 3-4 scheme prior to this weekend’s match-up at Pittsburgh.

“Even though we’re not game planning, the work is good for us because we don’t see it in training camp on a daily basis and you can’t replicate that on scout teams,” he said.

“It’s good for us and we’ll see different schemes on offense, but I like where we are in preseason going against all 3-4 teams.”

Players who have to make the most adjustments are the offensive guards, who go from blocking against a down lineman in a 4-3 scheme to having no one over the top of them in a 3-4.

“I’m not free, so to speak, but I’ve always got to go somewhere to block my guy,” said guard Rob Sims. “That’s the only change for me, pretty much. As far as picking it up, they can run a lot of different stuff out of it. It’s not bad, it’s just something you adjust to.”

A 3-4 scheme has its advantages because it loads the box and has an ability to move players around in a way that is more difficult for offensive linemen, tight ends and other players to pick up.

“You have three down linemen and four linebackers, so you have an extra skill player out there that allows you to maneuver things to make it look like (the blitz) doesn’t come from one side, but brings it from another,” said guard Manny Ramirez.

“In that defense, you can do a variety of things. It just makes us as offensive linemen think more and makes us make more adjustments.”

Guard Stephen Peterman says that the biggest thing is being on the same page as an offensive line.

“It’s good to have a center like Dom (Raiola) out there who declares things,” he said. “As long as everybody’s on the same page then everybody can do their job.”

Another key is to remain square to the defense.

“They try to get us confused, get guys off-balance, trying to get you to turn your shoulders,” said Peterman. “Basically, you need to keep your eyes straight and keep your eyes on your guys and always be ready.”

While linemen are the players that first come to mind when playing against a different defense, tight ends also have to make adjustments.

At 6-6, Brandon Pettigrew is sometimes matched up with an outside linebacker up to five inches shorter than him, which presents a challenge in regards to staying low and maintaining leverage.

“They’re standing up and it’s a guy that can run around a little bit better,” he said. “The Steelers, those guys are a little bit shorter, so it’s forces me be to bend down a little bit more. Those guys are 6-1 and I’m 6-6, so I’ve really got to get down when I play against those guys.”

Pettigrew and the rest of the offense will benefit from lining up against Pittsburgh, Denver, Cleveland and Buffalo – a team that transitioned to a 3-4 scheme this offseason – in preparation for the regular season.

On the 2010 schedule are Green Bay, Washington, Buffalo, Dallas, New England, Miami and the New York Jets, accounting for eight of the Lions’ 16 regular season games.

“I think (the preseason is) just getting more comfortable,” said Sims. “I’ve always got something to prove when I go out there. It’s proving that I can take what I take in practice out to the game – that’s my main focus for the preseason games. Just getting my time out there, so when the regular season comes I’m ready to go.”

Getting these games on film will benefit the Lions as the regular season approaches, particularly since they don’t get to see these same looks in practice.

“We’re obviously not a 3-4 team,” said Schwartz. “We play 4-3 and we play a very specific version of that.

“We have a very good opportunity, particularly on offense in the preseason, to really get good work in versus 3-4 teams.”