It’s official: The Chicago Bears will run a 3-4 defense this season.
“We’re going to be a 3-4 terminology wise,” head coach John Fox said today at the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine.
For 95 years the Bears have run a 4-3 defense. This will be the first 3-4 campaign in franchise history.
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That said, Fox said the personnel on the roster ultimately dictates how he and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio will scheme the front seven.
“We haven’t had our players on the grass yet so until we evaluate that,” said Fox. “We’ve looked at a whole lot of tape, not as much as we need to continue to do. That’ll help us define what we’re going to be and how we’re going to use the pieces.
“Until we look at the tape I’m confident we’ll piece together a good defense. It’s still too early in the process. We’ve not had a practice and been on the grass yet and in my experience, players define that when you get to that point.”
Fox said that, even though the shift from a 4-3 to a 3-4 appears daunting, the two systems carry many similarities.
“I think sometimes a lot’s made, particularly on the outside, about the 3-4 and the 4-3,” Fox said. “I mean generally the spacings are very similar. Like all coaching of any defense, it’s really putting your players in the best positions to have them have success. Again, without being on the grass, it’s really hard for me to stand up here and say much more than that.”
In today’s pass-heavy NFL, nickel and dime sub-packages are used more often than ever, which downplays the significance in alignment of the base front seven.
“You do get more into [the sub packages] and in most cases everybody turns into a 4-3,” said Fox. “So it’s increasing as we speak. There’s definitely way more nickel or sub defenses involved in games today.”
Fangio has historically favored a 3-4 defense, so the shift is no surprise. The next step for Fox and GM Ryan Pace is to find and mold players to fit a system about which Bears fans know very little.
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his fifth season covering the Chicago Bears full time. Follow Bear Report on Twitter.