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Diagramming the Hawks Front Four

Editor's Note: I printed this as a comment on a post below, but Joel suggested it might make a better stand alone post. Since I don't have the time to write much today, I think that's a good suggestion.

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I realize now that "attacking" is meaningless because of its ambiguity. What I meant to say is that Seattle uses a one gap defensive front four. I'm sure you know this but for those who don't, gaps describe a position to the left or right of an offensive lineman or tight end. Usually between two offensive linemen.

Like This:


g = Gaps

O = Offensive linemen

So when I said that Marvin Lewis' system sought to channel rushers to the MLB, his system might look like this.

X    X     X    X
gOgO O OgOg

g = Assigned Gaps

O = Offensive linemen

X = Defensive linemen

That's one of the reasons that Ray Lewis had eighty bazillion tackles during Lewis' tenure.

Now a player can do two basic things with a gap: Penetrate or Control. Penetrate is just what it sounds like, getting past your blocker and to the quarterback or rusher. Control means that you dictate where the blocker or blockers go. So John Marshall's base system looks like this.

 X    X    X    X
pOcOcOpO Op

p = Penetrate

c = Control

O = Offensive linemen

X = Defensive linemen

Naturally a ton of flexibility exists within this basic look. You might notice Lofa Tatupu moving linemen to the left or right so that they better align with their gaps. Anyway, the point is that three of the four lineman are assigned one gap and attempt to penetrate. That's sort of what I mean by attacking. The right defensive tackle, ideally, can also penetrate. That's what made Tubbs sucha badass, he could control two gaps but also work one gap and penetrate when called upon.

(On a side note, Seahawks fans should be watching what Kenechi Udeze is doing. Udeze had 5 sacks as a 21 y/o rookie in 2004. He then suffered torn cartilage in 2005 and had microfracture knee surgery. In 2006 he didn't do much. Now nearly 2 years removed from the surgery Udeze has two sacks and two stuffs for the season. I know people are ready to give up on Tubbs, but look at it like this: He probably needed the extra 10 months to rehabilitate from the torn cartilage in his left knee. ACL tears have a predictable recovery period and recovery. So we can be pretty sure that Tubbs returns in 2008 fully healthy. Seattle might even get a discounted contract for their loyalty.)

Hell, I'm up--let's complete this. Seattle's three linebackers are asked to control, penetrate and work in man and zone coverage. Each does this at various levels of ability, but ideally each are capable of all three. All are well skilled at penetration though. Still, that's asking a lot, the big sacrifice is often their size. One of the reasons Seattle's defense is "miniature" is that Marshall and Tim Ruskell sacrifice size for well-rounded--wait on it--ness.

The Hawks don't blitz a lot, but Julian Peterson and Leroy Hill are both well above average blitzers. There is nothing wrong with not blitzing. The Bears, the turn of the century Bucs and the turn of the century Ravens mostly avoided blitzing. A lot of uninformed announcers will call for the blitz because it's exciting, but blitzes aren't always the right call. Few things go as horrendously wrong as a picked up or mis-executed blitz. I'm tired, I know I answered a bunch of things you didn't ask, but though I sort of got carried away I think roundabout answered what you were asking. Sleep..whee!