Falcons: What the switch from Dan Quinn’s 4-3 to Dean Pees’ 3-4 means for Grady Jarrett

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The switch to Dean Pees as defensive coordinator should positively affect some players, as the scheme will be tailored to the personnel afforded. Yesterday, today, and tomorrow, Grady Jarrett is a top-five interior defensive lineman in the NFL, voted second-team All-Pro in 2019 — of which he should’ve been first-team.

Jarrett is more dominant rushing the passer than defending against the run but is exceptional at both. According to ESPN Stats & Info, he had the third-highest pass rush win rate as a defensive tackle — trailing only Aaron Donald and Chris Jones. Pees already has a perennial defensive lineman to mold his defense around.

Traditionally, as a 4-3 defensive tackle, Jarrett aligns in a three-technique. 3-4 defensive tackles, which is what Dean Pees runs, align more in a five-technique. It requires different angles in terms of leverage and pass-rushing approaches, but as Pees has made apparent, he will run a multiple front scheme.

In reality, there isn’t much distinction between 3-4 and 4-3 schemes today the way there once was. When the 3-4 was first in style back in the 1990s, it was a two-gap system, where giant behemoths on the defensive line played head-up over their blockers, defending the gap to either side of them and occupying space for the linebackers behind them to make plays uncontested. 4-3 defenses were typically one-gap schemes with smaller bodies upfront that attacked gaps and won with penetration. In a 3-4, the linebackers, not the defensive linemen, were the stars, and the big bodies up front controlled multiple gaps without overcommitting to either one.

What you can expect from Jarrett is to play multiple techniques, with an emphasis on isolating him in pass-rushing situations. Pees’ multiple-front defense will result in Grady being moved all over, from the one-technique all the way to five-technique. The best example I can give is Aaron Donald in Wade Phillips and Brandon Staley’s defenses, where he mostly played three-technique and five-technique depending on the situation.




I wouldn’t expect a massive difference in Jarrett’s alignments, but he will surely be playing in multiple techniques more often. Moving him around, like Donald, forces offensive lines and quarterbacks to shift protections towards him, and if they don’t, Jarrett can wreck gameplans. He will be one of the focal points of this defense and should enjoy playing in Pees’ attacking-style scheme.

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