ITP Glossary: 4-3 Over Front

Football is littered with specialized terminology. From punt gunner to climbing the pocket, commentators rarely get to explain everything you need to know before the next play. Inside The Pylon’s glossary was developed to give fans a deeper understanding of the game through clear explanations, as well as image and video examples. Please contact us with any terms or phrases you’d like to know more about.

4-3 Over Front

The 4-3 over front can be identified by the alignment of the interior linemen. To the run strong side, usually indicated by where the tight end is lined up, you will see the 3 technique. If there is a TE on each side of the LOS, the run strength usually goes to the field.  Paired with the 3 Tech is a defensive end, who could be lined up as a 6 technique, on the head of the tight end, or a 7 / 9 technique.

Away from the run strength, you will find a 1 technique and the weak-side end, usually aligned as a wide 5 technique unless he’ll be facing a three-man surface of a guard, tackle, and tight end. In that case the away defensive end will be aligned as a 7 technique.

The Sam, Mike, and Will linebackers will be in stacked alignments, labeled similarly to the defensive line with a 0 technique tacked on. For example, a linebacker lined up outside shade of the offensive tackle would be a 50 technique.linebacker-alignments

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Play Context (Dallas Cowboys 3, New Orleans Saints 0, 1st and 10 on own 49)

On this play, the Dallas Cowboys defense is in a 4-3 over front against the New Orleans Saints. The Saints have 12 personnel with a tight end on each side. This means that the defensive line is facing a three-man surface on each side of the offensive line. Tyrone Crawford is aligned as the 3 technique and David Irving is the 1 technique aligned in the A gap because Dallas set the run strength to the field. The call side defensive end, Demarcus Lawrence, is aligned as the 6 technique helmet-on-helmet with the tight end. The away side defensive end, Jack Crawford, is the 7 technique on the play because he’s facing a three-man surface.

When the ball is snapped each player attempts to fulfill his respective responsibilities. The call side defensive end, Lawrence, hits the C gap, the call side tackle, Crawford, hits the B gap, and away tackle, Irving, goes to the A gap, and the away end, Jack Crawford, tries to seal the edge while playing the C gap.

The linebackers all flow to the ball on the play while the Mike linebacker, Anthony Hitchens, makes the tackle.

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Play Context (Cincinnati Bengals 7, Seattle Seahawks 0, 1st and 10 on own 20)

Against the Seattle Seahawks’ 21 personnel the Cincinnati Bengals use a 4-3 over front indicated by Geno Atkins playing the 3 technique, Carlos Dunlap aligned as the 6 technique, Domata Peko at the 1 technique, and Michael Johnson aligned at the wide 5 technique. The linebackers are then in their stacked positions behind the defensive line.

As the play develops the Will linebacker, A.J. Hawk, is able to match the fullback in the B gap, as the Mike and Sam linebackers flow to the ball. However, Johnson fails to maintain his leverage on the C gap, getting stuck under left tackle Russell Okung, and Thomas Rawls gains 7 yards on the play.

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Play Context (Minnesota Vikings 13, Green Bay Packers 3, 2nd and 10 on own 27)

Minnesota head coach Mike Zimmer has been over front based since his days as the Bengals defensive coordinator. On this play during Week 17 against the Green Bay Packers for the NFC North title, Zimmer’s defense lines up in an over front. The closed side end is lined up as a wide 9 technique because 2nd and long is a passing down and that alignment gives the rusher a better angle to pursue the passer.

The Sam linebacker is lined up across from the slot receiver on this play. Other times the defense will swap out the Sam for a Nickel cornerback.

When the ball is snapped, the closed side defensive end playing the wide 9 is able to push the tackle back into quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, and force him to scramble outside the pocket as the 3 technique attempts to chase the quarterback. Rodgers is forced to get rid of the ball to the slot receiver near the sideline for a gain of only a yard.

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Joseph Ferraiola wrote this entry.

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