Everyone knows how the NFL is a copycat league and how things tried before come back around. The wildcat is an example - it is nothing more than the old single wing jazzed up with better athletes and motion.
I've been thinking about this question a lot all year, and even more watching the teams in the playoffs. Rex is a really strong defensive coach but maybe he needs to go back to his roots in the original "46" defense. With the draft coming up this is the time to re-evaluate everything. My reasons for asking this question and putting it out there after the jump.
The 3-4 defense was popularized because it was geared to stop the run, which was the dominant theme of NFL offenses from the 60's through the 90's. But with all the changes in the rules and the proliferation of passing offenses, most teams don't feature the run as much. Even the Giants use the pass to set up their running game. But the strengths of the 3-4 are its weaknesses against the pass. First, our defensive lineman are not pass rushers - their primary purpose s to occupy blockers, not rush the passer. Second, we need to generate the rush with our linebackers and specialty blitzes. This means our linebackers are read and react players who need to fill gaps to stop the runs, yet be quick enough to rush the passer. Coverage skills are not a priority, and if we are playing against a good quarterback who can read the blitz, we get killed b the slot receivers and tight ends.
Going back to a 4-3 makes it easier to generate a pass rush. That is the best defense to preventing a Brady or a Brees from having the time to read the progression and find the open receiver, or to take advantage of the gaps left by a blitz. Belichek seems to have grasped this - he tried, albeit poorly, to stock up on defensive lineman last off season. The Pats play hybrid schemes with 3, 4 and 5 man lines. Just because they are not having success with it this year is more a reflection of his poor personnel decisions on defense the last few years rather than of the schemes.
Based on this trend, I think we should be looking for DE's or DT's that can rush the passer in the first round. Even if we want to stay in a 3-4 on the running downs, maybe shifting to a 4-3 type of defense on the passing downs woudl serve us better than going for a pass rushing LB like Upshaw. What does everyoen think?