Trends in the NFL

by Hitman

Two or three running back system

With the ever increasing salary of quarterbacks, teams are finding different ways to save money. One of those ways is not having a featured, work horse running back. Running backs like Adrian Peterson, Ray Rice, and Matt Forte etc. cost their teams a significant amount of money. But this trend is on a rapid decline, teams like New England, who seem to be ahead of the curve when it comes to new trends, Denver, Cincinnati and Washington. These teams have two or three backs that can do different things, for example, when the Bengals need a yard they give the ball to Green-Ellis, when they need a player maker on third down they give the ball to Giovani Bernard. New England has three backs Ridley, Bolden and Blount they all have different skill sets and are used at different situations during a football game. The life of a back in the NFL is about 3-4 years, so why pay one back all that money when you can have two or three backs that make the minimum and produce the same numbers. If teams are looking to save some cash (and they do) having a two back system is one of those ways. This trend is on the rise.

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The emergence of the TE position

The NFL has put a lot of emphasis on hard hits and hits to the head. Where on the field do most of the hard hits happen? In between the hashes, where safeties are looking for someone to come across so they can blast them. But with these new rules, the safeties can’t do what they do and the middle of the field is wide open. This is where the TEs come in; again New England and New Orleans are prime examples of this trend. These teams have proven that you can win games in this league with a dominant TE. NE and NO don’t have a dominant WR but because of the evolution of the TE position and the new rules they are taking full advantage. Just look at the numbers, Gronk had 9 rec 143 yds 1 TD on Sunday, Brady completed 7 of his first 11 passes to Gronk, he had 8 rec 114 yds against the Jets in week 7. Jimmy Graham already has 49 rec 750yds and TEN (10) TDs so far this season. Granted Graham and Gronk are talented individuals with elite QBs but the rules also work to their advantage, TEs can run down the field without any fear of getting decleated by a safety or a linebacker. You can see other teams trying to imitate this trend as they are drafting big and fast TEs more and more. Eventually, this will lead into teams valuing more bulky TEs that can run, leap and block than flashy receivers. Tight Ends are 4th after quarterbacks, left tackles and pass rushers; TEs are the key to cracking modern defenses.

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3-4 scheme is taking over

The 3-4 defense first created in 1970s by Bum Philips (RIP) (some say Chuck Fairbanks was the one to create this defense). Throughout the 80s and 90s team didn’t really utilize this scheme; it was in the 2000s when teams started to adopt the 3-4 scheme. Belichick brought this scheme with him when he was traded to NE. As we all know the NFL, it is a copycat league; if something is successful other teams will try to duplicate it. To have a successful 3-4 scheme, you need a nose tackle that can clog up the middle and take on blockers. Excellent nose tackles that come to mind are Vince Wilfork, Casey Hampton and BJ Raji. You also need great OLBs who can rush the passer, stop the run and have some coverage skills. Terrell Suggs, D.Ware (when Dallas run 3-4), Von miller, Tamba Hali, Ryan Kerrigan etc. The 3-4 defenses allows for more athletic and faster players to be on the field at the same time, which is what is needed with the spread formation offenses are running these days. There are not too many weaknesses with this scheme, if a team has the right personnel, they will stop the run and successfully defend the pass with this scheme. In addition, the OLBs are usually in a 2 point stance which allows them to either rush the passer or drop in coverage. This will cause the quarterback to decide what the OLB is doing, by the time he makes a decision it’s too late, he is sacked for 8 yard loss.

You will see teams draft more a college DE in hopes they will become great OLBs. As you see in the graph below, teams that run the 3-4 have been increasing steadily until 2009, when the number of team that run the scheme sky rocketed. More and more teams will be switching into 3-4 base defenses as the years pass, I think by the year 2018 about 90% of the teams will be using the 3-4 scheme.  

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To be continued….

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