NFL 4 3 Defense

The 4 3 defense is the most popular defensive formation in the NFL. This defensive alignment consist of four down linemen, three linebackers, two corner backs and two safeties.

Tom Landry the legendary coach of the Dallas Cowboys is attributed with the creation of the 4 3 defense. In the 1950's, while serving as the defensive coordinator of the New York Giants, as a way to stop Hall Fame running back Jim Brown.

Chicago Bears Hall of Fame linebacker, Bill George and Garrard "Buster" Ramsey, the defensive coach of the Detroit Lions in the 1950's also were attributed with the creation of the 4 3 defense.

Defensive Line

There are two defensive tackles and two defensive ends in the 4 3 alignment. In a traditional 4 3 defensive set, there is no nose tackle.

The tackles lineup over the offensive guards. Some teams in the NFL do have a nose tackle in the is scheme, but most teams do not.

The team that do employ a nose tackle, the nose tackle is slightly larger, stronger and plays a slight or head up technique which means he lines up on either outside shoulder of the center or in the middle, depending on which way the strength of the play is going.

The primary job of the nose tackle is to stop the run and take on double teams, (which means getting block by the center and the weak side or pulling guard) thus freeing up the linebackers to make plays tackling.

Defensive Tackle

There's a left and right defensive tackle.

The two defensive tackle are regular tackles who are a faster and quicker than the nose tackle.

Both tackles plays three technique, which means they lines up in front the offensive guards.

Most teams play with two tackles who weighs between 285 (129.273 kg) to 300 pounds (140 kg) and their job is the keep the offensive lineman off the linebackers, make tackles at the line of scrimmage and rush the quarterback.

Defensive Ends

The defensive ends role is in the 4 3 defense is to put pressure and sack the quarterback. The defensive ends in the 4 3 are smaller than the tackles due to the emphasis on speed over strength.

They need to be strong enough to find off offensive tackles,but quick enough to pursue running backs on running play to the outside.

Ideal 4 3 defensive ends are athletic, agile, stronger, which help them get up field quicker and they usually weighs between 260 and 275 pounds (118 - 125kg).

The right defensive ends line up opposite of the left offensive tackle and rush the quarterback from his blind side and are the best athletes on the defensive line.

Defensive ends usually plays the 1 gap technique but willoccasionally be force to play a 2 gap in the event of a TE chipping to block on running plays.

The defensive ends in most schemes are responsible for keeping the quarterback from rolling out of the pocket and making big running plays.

Defensive Linebackers

Middle Linebacker

The middle linebacker is the only inside linebacker in the 4 3 defense. He is smart, athletic and is the quarterback of the defense and the leader of the defense.

The middle linebacker primary responsibility is to stop the runhe will often be ask to drop back in in zone coverage, cover in man to man, and is assigned to the fullback typically.

The middle linebacker weighs the most and is the strongest of the 3 linebackers in the 4 3 defense.

Outside Linebacker

There are two outside linebackers in the 4 3 defense, the strong side and the weak side linebackers. The strong side linebacker (aka Sam linebacker) is named this because he is on the strong side of the defense where the TE lines up.

The strong linebacker will get his chances to blitz, but he has to cover the TE or running back out of the back field and has to stop the run on running plays.

The weak side linebacker (aka the Will linebacker) will play the weak side of the defense and has more freedom than any of the linebackers. He will often blitz the QB and guard against screens out of the backfield.


The 4 3 defense uses four defensive backs, two safeties and two corner backs. Corner backs will line up 3 to 5 yards off the line of scrimmage unless they trying to jam the receivers route with in the first 5 yards.

Corner backs duties vary depending on the type of coveragethe defense call. Coverage is how the defense will be protecting against the pass.

Corner backs

Corner backs will be given two ways to defend against the pass, man to man and zone defense. Man to man coverage consist of the corner back responsibility to cover the receiver across from him. In zone coverage the corner back responsibility is to cover a certain area of the football field.

The corner back must stay down field and keep his opponent in front of him while covering his zone. A zone defense is a bind but don't break or read and react defensive scheme meant to see whats in front of you and sacrificing tight one on one coverage.

Corner backs are responsible for not letting any receivers get behind him and outside of him where there is no deep safety help. Corner backs also have a big responsibility to defend the run and not let runners get outside to the side lines.


There are two safeties in the 4 3 defense, the free safety and the strong safety.

The free safety is smart player, capable of making tackles against the run, covering deep passes while reading offenses and changing the pass coverages if need be.

He will line up 10 to 15 yards behind the line of scrimmage and is position in the center of the football field.

The strong safety is larger than the free safety and is positioned to close to the line of scrimmage.

He is very important part of the run defense and is responsible for defending against the pass and especially against the pass to the tight end.

The Best 4 3 defense in the NFL.

The New York GMEN Giants are the best 4 3 defense because of their front four defensive lineman. The Giants front four can get to the quarterback with their front four and they can stop the run.

When your defensive linemen can get to the quarterback with four players, your secondary don't have to cover for a long time.

Even when they send a extra player its only 5 players, which leaves six player to cover and makes the QB hurry. The Giants also use a rotation of players on their defensive line that help them stay flesh.

Congratulations to the 2012 Super Bowl New York Giants (aka the GMEN).

Defense Wins Super Bowls!