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Fielding a Defense with Offense

As we wait for training camps to get underway, TRO will help pass the time and give you your football fix. Ever wonder what offensive guys would be best suited to play defense? Check out TRO's starting defensive-offensive line-up (we're going with a 4-3 defense):

via SportsIllustrated



THE FORMATION:

via HowTheyPlay


TRO's Defense will be running the 4-3 featuring 4 down linemen (2 defensive ends and 2 defensive tackles in the middle), 3 linebackers, 2 cornerbacks, and 2 safeties (a strong and a free safety). We've also included the nickelback corner to defend 3 wide receiver sets.


DEFENSIVE LINE:


DEFENSIVE END - GEORGE KITTLE

via Michael Zagaris / Getty Images

Tight Ends and Defensive Ends are built a lot like one another. At 6'4'' 250lbs, George Kittle possesses the raw size and strength to pressure the quarterback off the edge. For instance, Kittle's teammate, and star DE Nick Bosa is 6'4'' 267lbs, but you need far more than just size to play the position. Kittle possesses the flair, tenacity, and physicality of a defensive player. He's relentless and simply loves doing all the dirty work. He's a tremendous blocker which means he likely could have success utilizing what he knows about blocking to his advantage to beat offensive linemen.


DEFENSIVE TACKLE - FRANK RAGNOW

via Gary McCullough / AP


What better position to use to select your defensive tackle than a center? Defensive tackles and centers are usually some of the largest guys on the team, and they always go head to head. TRO will look no further than one of the best centers in the game, and now highest paid center in NFL history. Frank Ragnow will be anchoring this defensive line in the middle. Ragnow is a technician with great hands and agility, and at 6'5'' 311 lbs can use his size to eat up double teams, plug up running lanes, and free up space for other members of the defense to make plays.


DEFENSIVE TACKLE - RYAN JENSEN

via TampaBayTimes


TRO has decided to plug another one of the game's top centers in at defensive tackle to play alongside Ragnow. Ryan Jensen is an absolute unit at 6'4'' 320lbs. Contrary to Ragnow, Jensen plays the position relying more on his ferociousness and instincts. In short, he simply brings some "nasty," and that is needed on a defensive unit. Good luck running the football up the middle when you've got Ragnow and Jensen clogging up gaps.


DEFENSIVE END - DARREN WALLER

via Bobby Ellis / Getty Images


Coming off the edge at the other defensive end spot, opposite of George Kittle, will be another one of the league's very best tight ends - Darren Waller. While Kittle will likely rely more on his strength, brute force, and bullish tendencies to beat offensive linemen and get after the quarterback, Waller will compliment him nicely by being more of a speed rusher. At 6'6'' 256 lbs, Waller is built almost like a basketball player. He's also built similarly to one of the league's very best, Cardinals' defensive end Chandler Jones (6'5'' 260lbs). Waller looks like one of those guys that if he played DE, he would be able to bend the ankle well, turn the corner, and either outrun or spin off of blockers while utilizing his arm length to distance himself and get to the quarterback with lightning speed.



LINEBACKERS:

Keep in mind, we are running the 4-3, so our outside linebackers will not be primarily edge rushers, they will be more versatile players, often holding down the second level. (Think Buffalo, Seattle, Cleveland, Indianapolis, Washington, Minnesota, New Orleans, Kansas City, San Francisco, and Carolina).


WEAK SIDE LINEBACKER (OLB) - SAQUON BARKLEY

via Getty Images


In a 4-3 defense, the weak side linebacker (the "Will"), usually is the fastest linebacker in the group and is often called into pass coverage on lots of defensive plays. Wills usually need good vision and field awareness to position themselves without disrupting the rest of the defense.

Giants' superstar running back, Saquon Barkley, has 4.4 40 speed, and obviously has tremendous vision and field awareness as he is one of the league's top backs. The Giants utilize Barkley in the passing game often, so he will be well-equipped to defend those intermediate routes. It also helps that he is 6'0'' and 234lbs of pure steel which will always give him an opportunity to make tackles.


MIDDLE LINEBACKER - DERRICK HENRY

via Wesley Hitt / Getty Images


The middle linebacker (the "Mike") spot is the essential cog in the defensive framework. It is often nicknamed, "the quarterback of the defense," as MLBs communicate with the sideline, interpret offensive schemes, and mentally duel with the opposing team's quarterback before the ball is snapped. While that might lead you to think that we would maybe want to put a quarterback here, TRO wanted to focus on the fact that the Mike also has to be a human Swiss Army Knife, as they need to hold down the middle of the field, rack up 100+ tackles a season, plug holes in the run game, blitz the quarterback, cover tight ends in the pass game, and be in a million places at once.

Derrick Henry is an alien. He is listed at 6'3'' 238lbs, but he is a walking giant, and pound for pound one of the strongest players in all the league. He throws around grown men with one armed stiff arms week in and week out. Imagine the kind of hits he could lay if he was out there full on tackling people. His athleticism as a star running back will make him versatile enough to serve as a Mike. His height and length would make it hard for quarterbacks to sneak the ball over him into the next level. We could go on and on, but this simply would be a sight to see.


STRONG SIDE LINEBACKER (OLB) - KYLE JUSZCZYK

via NinersWire / USA Today


The strong side linebacker (the "Sam") is the backer in the group that does a little more dirty work. They find themselves attacking the trenches, withstanding contact, and shedding blockers to track down the opposing team's running back. If the offensive play ends up not being a run play, the Sam can find themselves covering short routes, or going man to man with one of the tight ends.


Fullback Kyle Juszczyk is a perfect fit for the Sam position. As a fullback, he's used to being thrown in the trenches and doing lots of dirty work without racking up many notable stats on paper. Juszczyk is also a good candidate for this position because he is a hell of an athlete. The 49ers love to get him involved on offense and show that he is much more than a blocker. He can run the football, serve as a tight end by running routes and catching the football, and it helps that he is one of the smartest humans in the league possessing a 4-year degree from Harvard University. All of these skills and abilities have him primed to fill this role.


CORNERBACKS:


CORNERBACK - DJ MOORE

via The Riot Report


Wide receiver DJ Moore would be an outstanding candidate to serve as this team's number one cornerback. He's not built like most wide receivers, he's more stout and strong (6'0'' 209lbs), but he still has 4.42 speed and incredible leaping ability. He has the footwork and ability to hang tight coverage on wide receivers, but will still have the strength to make tackles when necessary and even bring down running backs. Moore would utilize his ability to routinely make contested catches to get to the football first before anyone else can.


CORNERBACK - DK METCALF

via Jennifer Stewart / AP


From DJ to DK, this secondary will be loaded with athletic talent. While you might be inclined to think DK is a little too tall to play cornerback efficiently, he's the same height as Brandon Browner (6'4''), who was able to have a successful career at corner. Even if there was never a cornerback as tall as DK, we would be doing ourselves a disservice by not placing him somewhere on this defense. His muscles have muscles, he held his own against professional track athletes in a pro event this offseason, and let's not forget this:

He topped out at 22.64 MPH on this insane chase down.


Pair his out-of-this-world athleticism with the fact that he's a top-notch wide receiver, means that he will have the skillset and length to maintain solid coverage. While his coverage might not be as tight as DJ Moore's, he has a greater room for error with his length and leaping ability, making it hard for opposing quarterbacks to get the ball to their target.


NICKELBACK - TYREEK HILL

via Kim Klement / USA TODAY Sports


The nickelback corner often comes on the field to replace one of the linebackers in certain defensive play calls. You'll see this a lot when the other team has three+ receivers on the field. The nickel can find themselves lining up in the middle, as opposed to one of the sidelines, and they often are tasked with guarding the opposing team's slot receiver. This requires a lot of speed, and someone with an ability to change pace and directions on a dime.


Speed? Change of pace? Stopping and cutting on a dime? Open space? Yeah, Tyreek Hill is the obvious choice for this position.


SAFETIES:


STRONG SAFETY - JULIO JONES

via Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images


The strong safety needs to be the enforcer at the third and final level. Almost like a linebacker-cornerback hybrid that can lay huge hits, cover tight ends, and even be called up to blitz the quarterback. They also have to have good ball skills, especially on big plays over the top.


Julio Jones is 6'3'' 200lbs, and is one of the more built wide receivers in the league. He obviously has tremendous ball skills, and has shown that he's capable of laying a big hit with perfect timing:


FREE SAFETY - CHRISTIAN MCCAFFREY

via Carolina Panthers


The free safety usually serves as the eyes for the back end of the defense. His job is to follow the quarterback, and offer help over the top, as the last line of the defense. Free safeties stop plays from going the distance, and offer assistance to double cover deep targets. Christian McCaffrey has the intelligence and situational awareness to understand plays as they unfold. As arguably the most complete running back in the league, he has tremendous speed, vision, and agility which would make him perfect for this position.


McCaffrey has set the NFL record (twice) for most passes caught by a running back, and he's one of three running backs in league history to have a 1,000 yard rushing/1,000 yard receiving season. He's capable of running the entire route tree. His combination and usability as both a running back and a wide receiver means he has a great understanding of basically the entire offensive playbook. He's gotten insanely strong since joining the league, which will help him lay hits and wrap up ball carriers.

LET'S TAKE A FINAL LOOK AT THAT DEFENSE!


Come back next week when TRO builds an offense out of defensive players!

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