Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley has said that Seattle will be a 4-3, cover-2 team with its base defense, but that they will show a lot of other looks as well, including a 3-3 scheme.
With that in mind, I thought we'd take a look at the 3-3 scheme and talk about the benefits of the Seahawks running this type of defense.
A lot of high school and college teams have switched to more of a 3-3 scheme defensively for a couple reasons. First, the 3-3 allows for defenses to get more guys with speed on the field to defend against the proliferation of spread offenses in both high school and college. Secondly, it's hard to find talented defensive linemen in high school and college, and the 3-3 allows high school and college teams to play more of those speedy linebacker-safety-type athletes.
This link here provides a basic overview of the 3-3 defense and some basic blitzes out of the defensive scheme.
Billy Kidd, a former professional football player who coached for several years at SMU, explains the purpose of the 3-3 defense down below. Kidd also discusses some of the blitzes you can run out of a 3-3.
Seattle would likely run the 3-3 in passing situations on second and third downs. The scheme allows the team to better mask its blitz packages and take advantage of the athletes they have at linebacker in Leroy Hill, Aaron Curry and Lofa Tatupu. All three backers can either drop back in coverage or rush the passer, so the scheme puts an extra blitzer up front with eight players in the box and creates confusion as to who is coming.
The 3-3 also allows Seattle defensively to overload a side of an offense's pass protection, and then anticipate where a team will be throwing its hot route. Think about how a match-up zone works in basketball, with a team defensively closing down passing lanes in one part of the court and forcing an offense to pass the ball to another part of the court, and then anticipating that pass and picking it off.
A good example of this is the 100-yard interception return linebacker James Harrison made for Pittsburgh during the Super Bowl. Greg Cosell of NFL Films does a nice job of breaking down the play here.
Basically the Steelers brought everyone up, making it look like a zero blitz where everyone was coming. But at the snap Harrison dropped into the flat, and Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner didn't see him while throwing the ball to a built-in hot route to Anquan Boldin on a quick slant route, and the result was a game-changing play by Harrison.
I think Seattle would like to create the same type of situation with its 3-3 scheme, getting the ball into the hands of playmakers like Curry, who could be Seattle's Jame Harrison. Hill, Josh Wilson and Deon Grant also are other players who can not only make the interception, but take it the other way for six points in a hurry. Curry already has shown that ability, returning seven interceptions for touchdowns at Wake Forest. And we know what Josh Wilson can do with the ball in hands.
In this scheme I see Brandon Mebane playing nose guard, with Patrick Kerney at one end position, and either Cory Redding, Lawrence Jackson or Darryl Tapp at the other end. Hill, Tatupu and Curry would man the backer positions. Wilson would come in as the extra defensive back. Deon Grant and Brian Russell would be at strong and free safety, and Marcus Trufant and Ken Lucas would be your corners.
The negative of the 3-3 is it's vulnerable to the run because you don't have the added beef up front, as Kidd talks about here.