After taking part in Matt Waldman’s RSP competition, with my team now available to view online and the explanation coming at a later point, I wanted to write a post on some of the parts of the process which I couldn’t detail in the write-up for the fear of overstaying my welcome on Matt’s phenomenal blog.
The most significant thing that I wasn’t able to detail was the different combinations that will be used on my defensive line.
Here are the defensive linemen on my roster:
Von Miller *
*Miller and Woodley are linebackers but will play defensive end.
Because I am running multiple fronts, both 4-3 and 3-4, each of these defensive linemen have value to me and would carve out roles with the team. However, the three players who would be listed as starters are Glen Dorsey, Haloti Ngata and Kendall Langford.
Langford, Dorsey and Ngata are big bodies that will consume blockers while not being completely redundant on passing downs.
If I want to go to an even bigger line, I have two options. I invested a huge portion of my budget in Ngata because of his versatility. Ngata can play 3-4 NT, 4-3 DT or 3-4 DE. In this situation, Ngata will move to defensive end allowing Terrence Cody to come in at nose tackle.
Cody is still a developing player, but a very good run stuffer simply because of the space he consumes. With he Ngata and Dorsey upfront, the defensive line would have roughly 980 lbs spread amongst the three players.
If the situation required the team to be more dynamic in their attempts to push the pocket, the players are also there to test offensive guards and centers’ pass blocking in multiple ways. Adam Carricker is a former 4-3 defensive tackle who provides a good situational pass-rusher as part of a three man line.
On passing downs, Carricker and Ngata would provide size but also agility and speed to force their ways through any gaps in the offensive line. More than two players with their hands on the ground in passing situations is not a typical approach to nickel packages with 3-4 defenses, but having LaMarr Woodley on the field makes a line with Ngata, Woodley and Carricker a viable option.
Steve McLendon, Corey Liuget and Cameron Heyward are all depth options who provide potential starters for the future in the three man defensive line.
Playing a four man line will offer us different options again.
On a four man line, Von Miller and LaMarr Woodley come into play as defensive ends. Woodley is a former college defensive end who should have no problem adjusting to playing the position in the NFL. Miller on the other hand does need to bulk up before becoming a full-time option there.
Without Miller, Dave Tollefson and Raheem Brock are both options to play right end.
Finding defensive tackles to man the interior of the 4-3 was difficult considering the budget limitations. Ngata once again proves his worth here as he can be used as an anchor against the run in this line also. With Ngata in place, the line needs a player capable of penetrating the pocket.
Kendall Langford will be the first man up in this situation. Langford is moving from 3-4 end to 4-3 tackle this season as he swaps the Miami Dolphins for the St. Louis Rams. Prior to last season, Langford racked up the sacks for the Dolphins in a position that didn’t give him many favorable matchups.
If Langford can’t prove himself as a pass rusher, then the next option would be Steve McLendon or Corey Liuget in this situation. Liuget and McLendon need to develop further still to be considered starter caliber NFL linemen, but both have a lot of talent and should be capable pass rushers at some point depending on their development/coaching.
A four man front on this roster doesn’t ever convert to a complete run-stuffing unit. However, much like the Baltimore Ravens do, pairing Ngata with Terrence Cody would swallow space between the tackles against any offense.
In that situation linebackers Lawrence Timmons, Donta Hightower or Von Miller would have an easier route to the quarterback or to take down backs. If Cody and Ngata are entertaining multiple offensive linemen, then the backers should be able to shoot through the A and B gaps with greater ease.
Swapping between multiple fronts from down to down will provide this defense with great flexibility and the versatility to expose any flaws on opposing offenses. That flexibility starts with the defensive line.
Cian Fahey writes for the Guardian, Irishcentral, Steelersdepot and FFBLife. You can follow him on twitter @Cianaf