Changes are well underway in Dallas on defense. With Rob Ryan gone and Monte Kiffin in as defensive coordinator, the 3-4 scheme will be scrapped and will be replaced with the 4-3 “under” scheme which Kiffin, Tony Dungy, Lovie Smith, Mike Tomlin and scores of other talented coaches rode to a championship and a dominant run in Tampa in the early part of last decade.
The system is predicated on creating turnovers in lieu of allowing chunks of yards. It requires the four-man rush to provide pressure without frequent blitzing. It asks its linebackers and DBs to cover a lot of space, tackle well and not to give up big plays. The "under" front shifts the defensive line away from the strength of the offense and puts the strong-side linebacker up on the line much of the time. It's a defense used throughout the NFL still, with the Seahawks and Patriots employing it quite often and effectively.
Can it work in Dallas with the 72-year-old Kiffin?
For starters, it means DeMarcus Ware will move from stand-up linebacker to three-point defensive end. So, too, will Anthony Spencer if he returns, but he could prove to be too costly to afford for a team that is projected to be several million over the salary cap. NT Jay Ratliff might take less wear and see fewer double-teams; he looked like he was starting to break down at 31. Jason Hatcher could be another starting tackle as a penetrating three-technique, with DT Sean Lissemore and DT-DE Tyrone Crawford as solid contributors.
At linebacker, the transition should be smooth for Sean Lee, who projects to middle linebacker well with his coverage ability, and Bruce Carter, who could be a playmaker on the weak side. Dan Connor has played the “Sam” LB spot in Carolina and could be the immediate starter if Kyle Wilber or Alex Albright (or someone not currently on the roster) is not up to the challenge.