Panthers toying with 3-4 defense

The Carolina Panthers have done more than start to toy with a 3-4 defensive alignment. They’ve started using it.

There were only three plays in Sunday’s 31-17 loss at Atlanta in which the Panthers were in a 3-4 front, but it’s something the coaching staff is mulling as Carolina looks to shore up its defense. New head coach Ron Rivera, of course, came from San Diego where he coordinated one of the best defenses in the league – a 3-4.

It “was just a small wrinkle,” defensive coordinator Sean McDermott said, according to Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer. “We'll see as we move forward how big that package becomes."

McDermott and Rivera worked together in Philadelphia under Jim Johnson and McDermott’s background is obviously in a 4-3 defense.

“(Rivera) feels very confident in the 3-4 and what it brings to the table. He knows its strengths and weaknesses, and has shared them with me," McDermott said. "That's part of the reason, quite frankly, that I came down here - so we could get together and merge our systems together. I think in due time you'll see that and you'll see the effectiveness of both."

The issue will be what the Panthers do moving forward because there are distinct differences in what both schemes look for in terms of player shapes and sizes. The Panthers have started out since Rivera arrived by building a 4-3 defense. To shift now would require some work. If it’s just a wrinkle, that’s one thing.

"We're always going to have that in every game plan because we have that flexibility with our personnel and Ron's background," McDermott said. "He and I have gotten together on it over the spring and summer, and it's something we've wanted to evolve to. So we're going to have it in the game plan, whether we use it or not."

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Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune

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