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3-4 Defense

Understanding the Basics of the 3-4 Defense

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3-4 Defense diagram
Andrew St. Clair
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The 3-4 defense is a basic defensive formation that is used by several NFL teams. Bud Wilkenson devised the alignment at the University of Oklahoma in the late 1940s. The alignment features three down lineman and four linebackers in the front seven, thus the name 3-4.

If you take a look at the illustration on the right, you will see a diagram outlining the 3-4 defense. The Os in the diagram represent offensive players while the Xs represent the placement of the defensive players.

Notice the lowest row of Xs on the line of scrimmage (imaginary line seperating the offense and defense). You have two defensive ends (DE), one on each end of the line, and one nose tackle (NT) in between. Right behind the defensive line are four linebackers (LB). At times, one or more of the linebackers will line up on the line of scrimmage as is shown in the diagram.

Two cornerbacks (CB), one on each side of the field, line up to cover the wide receivers. There are also two safeties. The exact positioning of the defensive backs (cornerbacks and safeties) depends on the type of pass coverage they are in.

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