The argument for the Arizona taking Josh Allen over Nick Bosa at No. 1? Scheme fit. New Cardinals defensive coordinator Vance Joseph says that’s not the case.
While considered the best overall prospect until the 2019 NFL Combine rolls around, Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa’s main issue with going to the Cardinals is that he plays in a 4-3. A Kentucky linebacker, Josh Allen is more familiar with a 3-4 scheme, which the Cardinals are returning to in 2019. Both positions are not the same with a 3-4 linebacker asked to drop into coverage on occasion as well as rush the passer—something Bosa has little experience with vs. Allen who does. Both players have been mocked to the San Francisco 49ers and like the Cardinals, one is a scheme fit while the other is not. Allen coming to the 49ers (which has been a big consensus) would require him switching things up.
Joseph isn’t too concerned about a 4-3 defensive end going to a 3-4. When speaking with Kyle Odegard of the Arizona Cardinals team website about scheme fits, Joseph said going to a 3-4 can be learned:
“4-3 college ends, they grow to be outside ‘backers,” Joseph said. “It’s a learned ability.”
Joseph brought up a pertinent recent example. The Broncos took Bradley Chubb with the No. 5 overall selection in last year’s draft and he excelled out of the gate despite the position switch.
“Chubb was a career 4-3 end,” Joseph said. “He never played in a two point, never dropped. He played SAM backer for us at 6-4½, 270. He had 12½ sacks and he missed five. You have to figure out what guys do best.”
It should be noted that Joseph wasn’t speaking to Bosa or Allens specifically, but if a 4-3 end, any end, were to transition to a 3-4.
Chubb could be a great example. An example of how it doesn’t work is with the San Francisco 49ers selection of Tank Carradine in the 2013 NFL Draft. Carradine, who played in a 4-3 in college was asked to gain weight and go in as a 3-4 defensive end or defensive tackle rather than a linebacker.
Injury issues aside (Carradine was drafted while recovering from an ACL tear), it didn’t work out so well. For one thing, the weight gain was awkward and uncomfortable for Carradine. For another, the very thing Carradine was known for, his motor, suffered with the extra baggage the weight provided. He transitioned to linebacker in 2015 and dropped some weight. By the time the 49ers switched to a 4-3, and played Carradine in a familiar position/scheme, he was on his way out the door. Obviously this was making an end kick inside rather than stay out like what happened with Chubb, so it’s not the same example, but it does show what happens when that unfamiliarity may derail a promising career.
The switch is difficult because of how preparation and practice are done. Here’s a great story from SI.com about Josh Allen at the start of the 2018 season. They made a good point that Allen isn’t a 4-3 end yet because he doesn’t just do drills rushing the passer something Bosa makes a focus of.
When applying this to Bosa or Allen, it revolves around how much they want to put in to transition to a different defense. Allen working on specifically rushing the passer if he came to the 49ers and Bosa, dropping into coverage if he goes to the Cardinals.
Do you think switching from a 4-3 to a 3-4 linebacker (or the other way around for that matter) can be learned? Or is that a risky course of action?