Take the 2-minute tour ×
Sports Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for participants in team and individual sport activities. It's 100% free, no registration required.

It looks like a 3-4 outside linebacker is more of a standup DE with some additional duties that include playing in space. This position appears to be more of a 'point of attack' style position. A 4-3 linebacker seems to play more off the line and is more of a 'play in space' kind of player that is more likely to pick up TE, backs for coverage and have more outside contain responsibility. I rarely see 4-3 linebackers get many sacks.

Is it common for a team that uses a 3-4 to have one of their outside linebackers be more of a blitzing linebacker and the other be a play in space person? Then the inside linebacker to the side of the blitzer, shift out wide. So in a base defense a 3-4 would be very similiar to a 4-3, but with 1 DE standing up. This is how I think the cowboys used Demarcus Ware. So now that he is switching to a DE in a 4-3, its very similiar to his previous position.

share|improve this question
Welcome to Sports SE! Don't consider it being "dinged," but rather learning the ropes. If you have several questions, feel free to ask, but I suggest to decomposing your questions unless they rely on one another to which they can be combined. See this for more info. –  edmastermind29 Aug 22 '13 at 15:03
I think these rely on one another. They seem like they are all related. –  Bob Aug 22 '13 at 15:14
I only see one question however. The rest is supplemental commentary. Please elaborate. –  edmastermind29 Aug 22 '13 at 15:15
OLB's in a 3-4 are pseudo-defensive ends. While they do occasionally have coverage assignments, (like TEs routes and RB screens), their general goal is to blitz. See players like Joey Porter, Clay Matthews, DeMarcus Ware as you mentioned, Terrell Suggs. From my experience watching the NFL generally the OLB in a 3-4 that blitzes is the Right OLB. As to why this is, I'm not entirely sure to be honest. Perhaps they want to blitz the blindside of right handed quarterbacks. 3-4 Defense - Linebackers –  Nicholas V. Aug 22 '13 at 15:26
so does the ILB to the side of the blitzer generally cover the role of the OLB in a 4-3? Or do teams do some other kind of shift. If the OLB is at the point of attack, teams still need someone to cover in space. This tells me at a 3-4 and 4-3 are just semantically different. It just means one of your DEs is standing up. –  Bob Aug 22 '13 at 15:38

2 Answers 2

The main difference in the 4-3 and 3-4 defenses are the gap responsibilities. There are also many variations of each defense. The Eagles were known to run a variation of the 4-3 under Andy Reid called the "wide 9" referring to the 9 gap the players would line up on.

With the 3-4 the defense ends have to be able to stop the run as well as rush the passer. The reason is that they control most of the middle of the field along with the two inside linebackers. Usually one outside linebacker will rush the passer and the other will be responsible in coverage (zone or man).

In the 4-3 defense, the defense ends have less run stopping responsibility and more pass rushing responsibility. The 2 defensive tackles and usually 1 or two of the linebackers will be responsible for the run depending on the situation.

Either way, players will be lined up and responsible for certain gaps. In the 4-3 defensive ends have the wide gaps, where in a 3-4 linebackers have the wide gaps (with wide 9 being more like a 3-4).

There is a good article that covers the gaps and responsibilities more, the link is at the bottom.

I think the main idea is that offense and defense will continue to evolve and players will fit differently in different schemes. The 3-4 linebacker may fit in as a 4-3 end or a 4-3 linebacker and vice versa. Depends on the player and the scheme.

4-3 vs 3-4 pass rush

share|improve this answer

Most defenses match their lineups to the offensive team. Instead of having a left outside linebacker and a right outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense, most teams have a strong-side linebacker and a weak-side linebacker. The strong side linebacker lines up opposite the side of the offensive line with the extra lineman or tight-end. What each defender does on a given play is also determined reactively from what the offense does but I think it's safe to say that the weak side linebacker blitzes more often than the strong side linebacker.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.