Cardinals defense, on paper, still a 3-4 scheme

When the Arizona Cardinals hired Jonathan Gannon as head coach and Nick Rallis as defensive coordinator, the assumption was that we would see a shift from the 3-4 base defensive scheme the team has used basically every year since 2007, excluding 2018 with Steve Wilks as head coach, to a 4-3 base scheme.

After all, Gannon’s defense in Philadelphia was, on paper, a 4-3 scheme, and the defenses he worked with as an assistant in Indianapolis and Minnesota were 4-3 schemes as well.

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However, thus far, the defense appears to remans, at least on paper, a 3-4 scheme.

On the roster, linebackers are designated as inside linebackers and outside linebackers. In a normal 4-3 scheme, there is no “inside” linebacker. There are two outside backers and a “middle” linebacker.

Edge defenders in a 4-3 are normally called defensive ends. In a 3-4, the edge defenders are outside linebackers.

The Cardinals have an outside linebackers coach, Rob Rodriguez. He works with the Cardinals’ edge defenders like Cameron Thomas, Myjai Sanders and rookie B.J. Ojulari.

Now, Gannon has said the defense will be multiple in scheme. That was the case in Philly, so the Cardinals will likely give lots of different looks on the defensive front once the season begins.


Being 3-4 on paper doesn’t mean it will always look that way. Last year’s defense was still 3-4 in its base scheme but looked more like a 4-3 in base sets, in terms of personnel.

But, at least for now, it doesn’t appear that we will see position changes on the roster. The outside linebackers have not yet become defensive ends,

Perhaps those designations will occur later.

The one thing, though, that this illustrates is just how Gannon is holding true to his promise to be flexible as a coach and forming scheme and formations based on the players’ strengths and abilities.

Whether it is a 4-3 or a 3-4 defense ultimately isn’t important. But seeing Gannon and Rallis being adaptable and not just saying they will be adaptable is a very good sign for the team moving forward.


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Story originally appeared on Cards Wire