The Broncos showed their defensive flexibility during Sunday’s win against New Orleans. At times Denver mixed things up by implementing a 3-4 defensive scheme instead of the team’s traditional 4-3 formation.
The team’s four linebacker alignment allowed them to utilize different defensive groupings allowing Jamie Winborn to join Boss Bailey, D.J. Williams and Nate Webster as a member of the linebacking corps. With so much talent on the defense, Williams said switching between schemes lets more of that talent see action.
Photo: Eric Lars Bakke
“We broke that out because Jamie Winborn played a very good game against the Raiders and then Boss game back and Coach rewarded him,” Williams said. “We’ve got so much talent that we want to get everyone on the field, so we made up a package to try to get everybody out there. Me, Nate, Boss and Jamie. It’s hard to just have talent sitting on the sideline when you can have him out there. We used it a few times at the beginning of the game and it helped us.”
The different looks not only allow the Broncos to shuffle their personnel groupings on the field, but the contrasting formations also keep opposing quarterbacks on their toes not knowing what scheme to prepare for. In a 3-4 scheme the quarterback doesn’t know which players will be rushing as opposed to a 4-3 when typically the front four rush, limiting the coverage variations for the linebackers.
“It’s just a little different look and a little different scheme,” Head Coach Mike Shanahan said. “It was a change-up for us, and we have different game plans each week and we will throw in a little wrinkle here and there. We are not necessarily a straight 3-4 defense even though it appears to be. Everybody does things differently in passing situations and it was something that we worked on this week that I thought it looked pretty good.”
The ability to switch freely between defenses allows Denver to tailor its defensive schemes to the different styles of offenses the team goes against week to week. Winborn said he thinks the 3-4 can be particularly successful against pass heavy offenses.
Photo: Eric Lars Bakke
“You’re putting a lot of speed on the field, that’s one thing that (a 3-4) does for us,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of things we can do out of it — we can blitz, we can drop back into zones, we can mix it up with some rush zones — we can do it all, really, out of it. We’ve just got to keep working at it and keep fine-tuning it.”
Not one to give out his game plan, Shanahan declined to say how much the Broncos would utilize their alternate defensive scheme — if at all.
But if the 3-4 is called upon Winborn said he feels as though it can be another weapon to add to the team’s defensive repertoire and if it is in the mix the defense will be prepared.
“I hope so. I hope we can. It will be a mix-up. We’ll always have it available and whenever Coach wants to call on it, we’ll be ready.”
Off To a 3-0 Start
The Broncos are off to the team’s first 3-0 start since the 2003 season and they are one of the five teams in the NFL to start 2008 with three wins.
Last week Shanahan gave his players a rundown of all the 2-0 teams that have failed to make the playoffs and all and the 0-2 teams that have gone on to deep playoff runs and Super Bowl success, just to make sure his team wasn’t too caught up in its fast start.
So what are the playoff odds for a 3-0 team Coach?
“I know it’s better than 2-0,” Shanahan said. “I can’t tell you those percentages, but it’s sure nice to be 3-0. I think our guys are realistic: We have a ways to go. We’ve had a good start, we’ve made some strides, but we’re from where we want to be. “
Shanahan’s players seem to agree. Although they admit a 3-0 start is nice, the season is long from over and they feel as though there is plenty of room for improvement.
“We’re feeling good about ourselves and what we’re doing, but we have to understand it’s just three games and we’ve got 13 more,” Brandon Stokley said. “If you let up at all, you’re in trouble. So we’ve just got to keep going in keep getting better. We’ve got a lot of work to do, a lot of things we saw in the film that we need to correct, and that’s our job right now — just keep improving.”
Through the first three games the Broncos have put up the league’s most productive offense in terms of points scored and second most in yards per contest. But in comparison they have also surrendered the third most points and fourth most yards defensively.
“You are always happy to be 3-0,” Shanahan said. “You take a look at a game where a team gets 500 yards of offense then you usually get guys that are not playing as hard as you would like. But when you get guys playing at that level and that intensity, even though they did rack up that many yards, then you have a chance to get better.”
Though the Broncos have given up a lot of yards defensively, Shanahan said they have been able to come through in the area the team has focused on the most – rush defense. Last season Denver gave up the third most rushing yards in the NFL, through the first three games of 2008 the team is in the top half in total yards given up.
“You have to be able to stop the run to have a chance to have a good defense, and we did that holding (New Orleans) to 3.5 yards per rushing attempt,” Shanahan said. “That is where you start. We will get better with our pass defense as time goes on. We are doing a number of things that are new in comparison to a year ago. It just takes some time. If we have the effort that we had overall, offense, defense and special teams, good things will happen for our football team.”
-Jake Grilley, DenverBroncos.com