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A new defense the NFL has never seen before | The idea of ex-NFL scout

Could the 38 defense work? Imagine a 0-3-8 defense would it work? What do you think?

Greatness in the NFL is defined by being different. 

Bill Walsh had the West Coast offense, Buddy Ryan had the “46,” and Tony Sparano had the Wildcat.

There was also Mouse Davis, with the Run and Shoot.

In a league of cookie-cutter read and react, anything different and outside of the proverbial box tends to take the league by storm. 

I am working on a new defense called the “38,” that will prove to be every bit as effective. 

Technically, it is a 0-3-8. Zero defensive linemen, three linebackers, four corners and four safeties.

Two of the safeties are called “Vipers,” that line up wide of the offensive tackles (wide 9). Those two safeties are like fangs on a snake. They are much more athletic than most linebackers in space, and they are certainly more of a mismatch against the less athletic offensive tackles in space on blitzes. Vipers can easily drift into the flats in coverage, and they can also quickly clamp down hard inside on any unexpected runs as support floods in. 

The “38” is installed on 2nd and 3rd and 10 or longer situations, on downs offenses generally feel most comfortable trying to pass in an attempt to gain a first down. 

I can not take credit for this concept, for it was given to me by God. The idea just popped into my mind one day. I also do not mind putting this out there for that reason. I have long believed I can not take credit for anything, because everything I have has been given to me. 

The “38” is a direct response to combat the strategies and rules being tilted in the offense’s advantage. Plus, defenses are not getting to the quarterback all that often anyways to justify playing three or four man fronts on passing downs (plus sending defenders on blitzes). Currently, the Chicago Bears rank #1 in sack percentage in the NFL at 10.11% of the time ( That means almost 90% of the time Chicago is giving the opposing offense the advantage on passing downs.

The idea behind the “38” is to have even more agile defensive backs on the field to tighten the passing windows for quarterbacks whether in man or zone or a combination of both coverages. It is going to force quarterbacks to be even pinpoint accurate to find success downfield. 

The “38” also completely takes away from the usefulness of the offensive line. The primary objective of the offensive line is to block defensive linemen who are attempting to rush the passer and according to NFL rules, they can not go beyond the line of scrimmage on passing downs, unless it is a screen pass. In any case, most NFL offensive linemen have little to no ability to adjust quickly in space effectively to make blocks. They are way too stiff and awkward outside of their domain. 

The “38” is a very coverage focused concept. It allows for defenses to double cover all of the offense’s top weapons and even provide high-low bracket coverage, forcing passers to have to fit the football in a lot tighter windows. This tilts the advantage back to the defense, even in pure number of personnel alone. On any given traditional offensive play design, an offense can have five eligible receivers. The “38” gives defenses 11 potential pass defenders (depending on designed blitzes). The “38” could also flood the highly favored short passing game most NFL offenses tend to like to run (running back screens, wide receiver bubble routes, shallow crossing routes and shallow slants). It works to take away the higher percentage short-passing game, forcing offenses to dare to throw into the lower percentage completion rate areas deeper downfield while throwing into tighter coverages at the same time.

It also allows a barrage of unpredictable blitzing options as well, with the use of linebackers, corners or safeties, so defenses ability to get to the quarterback actually would increase with faster and more athletic defenders potentially rushing the passer than defensive linemen. 

Additionally, it makes the defensive look far less predictable for the pre-snap quarterback reads. 

The “38” is the next big thing in the NFL and I plan on implementing it on a team, if I am given the opportunity. It will also be a big change from the same predictable dances we see between offenses and defenses in the league every week. 

Daniel Kelly is a former NFL scout with the New York Jets. He was hired on the regime which featured Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick, Scott Pioli, Mike Tannenbaum, and Dick Haley. He currently writes for Sports Illustrated Detroit Lions and he is a contributing evaluator for Draft Diamonds. For more information about him visit his website at He can be followed on Twitter @danielkellybook and his Facebook page is WHATEVER IT TAKES NFL TALK. 


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