So with the addition of Vaughn Martin, I've been thinking about how we can optimize our defensive fronts for maximum penetration (pass rush or run stopping).
There are certainly different things we can do as a defense, and the formations will vary according to down and distance (and injury). However, I particularly like the Hybrid Bullough-Fairbanks 3-4 Defense with Gap Shooting Weak-side End front in the article above. Here's the image:
In this formation, Cash (#96) lines up over the center in "zero" technique (control both A gaps), functioning essentially as a nose tackle. Cash played this a lot last season anyway, and he's exactly the kind of big body who can come off his block to stop the run in either A gap.
Martin (#98) lines up over the tackle in "five" technique, controlling both the B and C gaps on that side. Bowman (#90) is in a three-point stance matched up against a receiver or tight end on the strong side, which is a good mismatch for us. On the weak side, Knapton (#95) shoots the B gap from an open stance (three technique) with either Hebert or Venable (#55) coming off the edge. If a tackle leaves a block to take Knapton, he leaves Venable matched up against a running back or fullback in pass protection, which favors us. If the guard blocks Knapton, Woods (#51) has direct access to stopping the running back (in run-stopping) or even flowing to the quarterback on a delayed blitz.
Of course, this is one front, and I fully expect Thorpe to deploy a wide range of fronts, formations, and coverages through the course of each game. But I do think it's crucial for us to maximize the play of our front seven, not just for the usual reasons, but because our secondary is a work in progress (Hefney and Brown gone). This is our front seven:
DT: Martin (Klassen)
DE: Bowman (Lavarias)
Will: Venable (Hebert)
Mike: Woods (Elsworth)
That is a murderers' row of linemen and linebackers -- a front seven that I would put up against any other group in the league. I guarantee you that no offense is going to enjoy dealing with this group. So it's up to Thorpe to put these players -- Martin in particular -- in a position to succeed. We haven't had a genuine inside threat since Eric Wilson/Keron Williams in 2009.