John Clayton has reported that lost in the offseason shuffle is the switch of a couple team base defenses that were traditionally a 3-4 alignment to the 4-3. This reverses what had been a trend in the other direction where there were almost as many 3-4 teams as 4-3. The balance has now switched back to favor the 4-3 as 22 teams now run a base 4-3 versus ten that run a 3-4:
4-3 (22): CIN, TEN, NYG, PHI, SEA, ATL, DET, JAX, DEN, CLE, OAK, CAR, IND, CHI, TB, MIN, STL, ARI, MIA, BUF, NE, NO
3-4 (10): SD, PIT, DAL, GB, KC, HOU, SF, WAS, NYJ, BAL
Two seasons ago the count was a more balanced 17-15 4-3 to 3-4 defenses. Clayton goes on say the Jets might be the next team to switch in what might be a continuing league wide trend:
With the Jets selecting Coples and Wilkerson in the first rounds of the past two drafts, and taking defensive tackle Kenrick Ellis in the third round last year, the Jets may now have more talent along the defensive line than they do at linebacker, making a change to the 4-3 only natural.
Don't be surprised if you see more of this league-wide. The Browns switched to a 4-3 last year. More and more 3-4 defenses are being forced into sub packages. Plus, it costs more to keep a 3-4 defense together.
I'm not predicting the end of the 3-4, because teams will switch to it to confuse offenses. But what's happening in the AFC East may be the beginning of a league-wide trend in a couple of years.
So I wonder why he says a 3-4 defense costs more to keep together? I can't even give a good guess on that one.
For me this puts to bed the notion that Panthers will follow the ‘trend' of teams switching to the 3-4. That trend is dead though I doubt Rivera bases those decisions off of anything but his own personnel.
I had thought maybe a 3-4 was a better base defense against a spread, pass first offense but that would not appear to be the case. Instead we might at best fall into a ‘multiple front' defense at some point but I don't see it in 2012.