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  1. #1
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    Nolan: 3-4 defense fits *****

    Nolan: 3-4 defense fits *****

    Ira Miller

    Sunday, February 6, 2005

    Jacksonville, Fla. -- Mike Nolan, the *****' new coach, is leaning toward using the 3-4 as the team's primary defense this season. Nolan, who has coached both the 3-4 and the 4-3 during his career, said the *****' defensive personnel -- the team's strongest area is linebacker -- is better suited for the 3-4, but that's not the only reason for switching.

    Nolan said he wanted to use Julian Peterson, who is rehabbing from a torn Achilles tendon, but is the *****' best player, in a more aggressive role, and the 3-4 would accommodate that. In the past, Peterson often had pass coverage responsibilities in the 4-3 defense. Nolan believes Peterson could be an effective blitzer, particularly on early downs.

    "My biggest curiosity is how good of an attacking-type player Julian Peterson would be," Nolan said over breakfast while making a brief pre-Super Bowl visit to Jacksonville.

    Peterson is unsigned, but almost surely will be designated as the team's "franchise player" for the second consecutive year, assuring him a salary in the $7.3 million range. In the 3-4, Jamie Winborn, Jeff Ulbrich and Derek Smith all would be full-time starters, too.

    While a switch in formation hardly would be a cure-all for the team's ills after nearly setting a franchise record for points allowed in 2004, it would create some preparation problems for most ***** opponents because no team in the NFC uses the 3-4 as its primary defense (six AFC teams, including the Raiders, used the 3-4 in 2004).

    Teams that rarely see the 3-4 say it requires extra work in practice to get blocking assignments correct.

    Third-year tackle Anthony Adams and Isaac Sopoaga, a 2004 draft choice who missed his entire rookie season due to injury, would be tried at nose tackle in the 3-4. Bryant Young, a tackle through his 11-season career, would be the strong-side end, a spot he played well in an emergency switch for a 2001 playoff game against Green Bay.

    Besides making what he considers the best use of personnel, Nolan pointed to other reasons that make the 3-4 appealing for the *****:

    -- It's cap-friendly because linebackers are paid less than defensive tackles, and there would be more linebackers and fewer tackles on the roster.

    -- It's adaptable, allowing more variations in coverage and assignments, something AFC champion New England uses very well.

    -- It's "injury-friendly" because it relies more on the scheme than on a particular player.

    Philosophically, Nolan prefers the 3-4 to the 4-3, but he said he wouldn't make the move just to make it if the ***** did not have the linebackers they have. As a matter of fact, there is no other area of the roster nearly as solid; the ***** need significant upgrades at every other position.

    Nolan, the Ravens' defensive coordinator last year, returned to Baltimore on Saturday to interview more coaches to fill out his staff. He is due back in the Bay Area on Monday to begin meetings with new personnel boss Scot McCloughan, and also with outgoing personnel chief Bill Rees, who is expected to join the Cleveland Browns once he is formally let go by the *****.

    Top pick: It's too early to say what the ***** will do with the first overall draft pick, but Nolan said he would surely want to select a quarterback at some point in the draft.

    Extra game: With Steve Young and Dan Marino elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the NFL is expected to match the ***** and the Dolphins in the Hall of Fame exhibition game at Canton, Ohio, on Aug. 8. Ever since the ***** and Steelers played an exhibition game in Spain the weekend Bill Walsh and Chuck Noll were inducted in 1993, the league has attempted to match teams associated with new inductees to increase interest in the weekend. Your intrepid correspondent gladly will take credit for that idea, because it was his.

    Chaos: Firing club president Bob Whitsitt was a long overdue move by the Seattle Seahawks, but the long delay in replacing him and rebuilding the front office is hurting efforts to keep the team together. Running back Shaun Alexander, quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, left tackle Walter Jones and cornerback Ken Lucas are all unsigned, among 16 potential free agents on the roster, and apparently headed for the free-agent market.

    "We need at least 10 of them (re-signed) to be really, really good next year and keep it going," Alexander said.

    The departures of vice president Ted Thompson to Green Bay and college scouting director McCloughan to the ***** has left the Seahawks almost as thin as the ***** in front-office expertise.

    Structure: It's the people, not the structure. The ***** and Miami are putting the power in their coaches this winter. Cleveland and Green Bay, which stripped coach Mike Sherman of the general manager's title, have gone the other way, dividing the jobs. Nolan seems to have good ideas about what he wants to do and what he needs with the *****, but the jury will be out until co-owner John York proves he can back off and really lets good football people make the big decisions. Saying so is a nice first step, but we'll wait for the evidence to come in.

    Depth: It's hard to overstate the importance of a good personnel operation, and, in Scott Pioli, the Patriots have one. New England used 40 different starters in its run to the Super Bowl this season and 42 a year ago. Teams aren't supposed to have that kind of depth, but the Patriots clearly do. It means they are finding adaptable players and that the coaching is excellent, to get so many different players ready on a team that is so good.

    Moving slowly: No progress to report on negotiations for an extension of the collective-bargaining agreement between the NFL and the NFL Players Association. They are getting close to a deadline because, if no agreement is reached by then, the salary cap would expire before the 2007 season and players would require six years in the league, rather than the current four, to become a free agent.

    "If we get to an uncapped year, we'll never get the (salary cap) back," said Gene Upshaw, executive director of the NFLPA. But Upshaw was quick to add, "I have all the confidence in the world we'll get this worked out."

    The expiration of the cap and the increase in service time for free agency give both sides real incentive to make a deal. One hang-up is the union's insistence that certain so-called "local revenue" generated by teams be included in the formula for setting the salary cap. New stadiums have increased the revenue gap among teams in the league. Some of the low-revenue teams side with the union, but high-revenue teams don't want to share more.

    Turnover: The change in head coaches this offseason -- only three teams (*****, Miami, Cleveland) -- is very low by historical standards. There were seven new coaches in 2004, five in 2003, eight in both 2002 and 2001. The three changes are the fewest since 1998, when there were only two. The average over the last 16 years: 6.75.

    Crennel to Browns: Word is that New England defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel will sign as coach of the Browns as early as Sunday night. The Patriots are expected to promote defensive backfield coach Eric Mangini to defensive coordinator and tight ends coach Jeff Davidson to offensive coordinator, to replace Charlie Weis, the new Notre Dame coach. Davidson called plays for a time in 2003 when Weis was ill. Al Davis tried to hire Mangini as the Raiders' defensive coordinator a year ago but couldn't get him.

    Small town: Don't expect another Super Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla., any time soon. The weather was poor, the traffic hard to navigate with visitors spread over a wide area because of a hotel shortage, the convention center headquarters inadequate and the locals defensive. The Florida Times-Union, the local newspaper, was full of columns and an editorial during the week defending Jacksonville from criticism.

    Hospitality?: Media types are known for grumbling a lot, anyway, but they were definitely in the minority at a host committee so-called "media party" Tuesday night at the TPC at Sawgrass. Most of the crowd was made up of sponsors and other locals, not media people. There was a closest-to-the-pin competition on the 17th hole island green, awarding a four-day cruise to the winner -- who was the son of the Chamber of Commerce executive vice president. You can't make this stuff up.

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  2. #2
    DJRamFan Guest

    Re: Nolan: 3-4 defense fits *****

    What's old is new again. I like the 3-4.

  3. #3
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    Re: Nolan: 3-4 defense fits *****

    What's interesting is I've heard from one 49er fan that he doesn't expect Derek Smith to be resigned, and he'd like to see the ***** go after Derrick Johnson. But I guess we'll see. They could take Johnson at #1 though it'd be a bit of a reach, but if they move out of the top five with a trade down, I doubt they get him.
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  4. #4
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    Re: Nolan: 3-4 defense fits *****

    Quote Originally Posted by NickSeiler
    What's interesting is I've heard from one 49er fan that he doesn't expect Derek Smith to be resigned, and he'd like to see the ***** go after Derrick Johnson. But I guess we'll see. They could take Johnson at #1 though it'd be a bit of a reach, but if they move out of the top five with a trade down, I doubt they get him.
    The 1st pick is a powerful thing, as the Chargers can tell us from last year. The niners could trade the top pick for the #5 or #6 pick and get a boatload of picks to boot. If they have enough confidence in Rattay/Dorsey, this could be a good move for them. No single pick can turn around a team, but several good draft picks could.
    "Before the gates of excellence the high gods have placed sweat; long is the road thereto and rough and steep at first; but when the heights are reached, then there is ease, though grievously hard in the winning." --- Hesiod

  5. #5
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    Re: Nolan: 3-4 defense fits *****

    Quote Originally Posted by DJRamFan
    What's old is new again. I like the 3-4.
    Along with the niners, the Broncos are now considering moving to the 3-4. That would make (if I count correctly) 8 teams using the 3-4 D. I wish we would make it 9, but I don't see Marmie being that innovative.
    "Before the gates of excellence the high gods have placed sweat; long is the road thereto and rough and steep at first; but when the heights are reached, then there is ease, though grievously hard in the winning." --- Hesiod

  6. #6
    Nick's Avatar
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    Re: Nolan: 3-4 defense fits *****

    Quote Originally Posted by HUbison
    The niners could trade the top pick for the #5 or #6 pick and get a boatload of picks to boot.
    Could they? Who's going to trade up into a position where no clear-cut choice exists? The ***** will get no where near the kind of value that San Diego got last season, because as of now, there's no player that stands out as a clear first overall pick. They could trade down, but I don't see them gaining that many picks, nor do I think many teams are going to bite on the offer.
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  7. #7
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    Re: Nolan: 3-4 defense fits *****

    Quote Originally Posted by NickSeiler
    Could they? Who's going to trade up into a position where no clear-cut choice exists? The ***** will get no where near the kind of value that San Diego got last season, because as of now, there's no player that stands out as a clear first overall pick. They could trade down, but I don't see them gaining that many picks, nor do I think many teams are going to bite on the offer.
    I'm not saying they got a partner, I'm just saying it's a potential option.
    "Before the gates of excellence the high gods have placed sweat; long is the road thereto and rough and steep at first; but when the heights are reached, then there is ease, though grievously hard in the winning." --- Hesiod

  8. #8
    Nick's Avatar
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    Re: Nolan: 3-4 defense fits *****

    The potential is there, definitely. I just question what team would go through with it, and how much they'd give up to get to that spot.
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  9. #9
    DJRamFan Guest

    Re: Nolan: 3-4 defense fits *****

    With the much talked about weakness of this draft, the Whiners probably won't get much if they make a trade, although they should try because they need players. There is no Michael Vick or Eli Manning this year.

  10. #10
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    Re: Nolan: 3-4 defense fits *****

    Quote Originally Posted by DJRamFan
    With the much talked about weakness of this draft, the Whiners probably won't get much if they make a trade, although they should try because they need players. There is no Michael Vick or Eli Manning this year.
    What this draft lacks in superstars, it more than makes up for in solid blue-chippers. The top 5 may not be as stacked as in previous years, but the bottom third of the 1st round looks better than any before it. This is a good year to have several high picks, but not for the one of the top 3 or top 5...yet another reason the niners won't get market value for the #1 spot, but that shouldn't stop them from trying.
    "Before the gates of excellence the high gods have placed sweat; long is the road thereto and rough and steep at first; but when the heights are reached, then there is ease, though grievously hard in the winning." --- Hesiod

  11. #11
    Nick's Avatar
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    Re: Nolan: 3-4 defense fits *****

    Quote Originally Posted by HUbison
    What this draft lacks in superstars, it more than makes up for in solid blue-chippers. The top 5 may not be as stacked as in previous years, but the bottom third of the 1st round looks better than any before it. This is a good year to have several high picks, but not for the one of the top 3 or top 5...yet another reason the niners won't get market value for the #1 spot, but that shouldn't stop them from trying.
    You have to be happy if you're a San Diego or Dallas fan, because they're in position to grab two very good first round players, and they won't have to do it inside the top ten.
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  12. #12
    psycho9985 Guest

    Re: Nolan: 3-4 defense fits *****

    I like the 3-4 defense its the 1st D to suceed against the westcoast offense, But Marmies still to stupid to run it.

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