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Understanding our "Edges": talking LEO, SAM and Big End

I'm starting this thread because I want to understand the different edge rushing positions in our defense, and which players fit them.

What confuses the most is the SAM position. All the players people are talking about here are DEs. Which I understood when we ran a 3-4. Because in that system your OLBs are hybrid LB/DEs. But in a 4-3 we have two DEs. So does that mean our D has 3 "edge rushers"?

Let me see if I understand this...

Big End - essentially a traditional 4-3 DE? Ideally playing around 290? There to stop the run and rush the passer?

LEO - basically a bigger 3-4 OLB? Ideally playing around 270? Primarily there to rush the passer?

SAM - pretty much the same as a SAM in a 3-4? Ideally playing around 250-260? There to stop the run, rush the passer, and cover backs and TEs?


Am I on target with that? I would love some further explanation. I would also love to hear people's thoughts about what players, past, present or in this draft, fit these positions most.

Cheers!
Originally posted by TheFunkyChicken:
I'm starting this thread because I want to understand the different edge rushing positions in our defense, and which players fit them.

What confuses the most is the SAM position. All the players people are talking about here are DEs. Which I understood when we ran a 3-4. Because in that system your OLBs are hybrid LB/DEs. But in a 4-3 we have two DEs. So does that mean our D has 3 "edge rushers"?

Let me see if I understand this...

Big End - essentially a traditional 4-3 DE? Ideally playing around 290? There to stop the run and rush the passer?

LEO - basically a bigger 3-4 OLB? Ideally playing around 270? Primarily there to rush the passer?

SAM - pretty much the same as a SAM in a 3-4? Ideally playing around 250-260? There to stop the run, rush the passer, and cover backs and TEs?

Am I on target with that? I would love some further explanation. I would also love to hear people's thoughts about what players, past, present or in this draft, fit these positions most.

Cheers!


Different Packages...

DE is a DE

Sam is a strong side linebacker

and Leo is the Elephant (Charles Haley)in historical SF speak....he is a situational end that can normally freelance based on if a Back stays in or goes out.
LE-O (linebacker or end) ELephant (End or Linebacker)
Its just verbiage for different packages, depending on who you got and how often a team blitzes.
I'll try to simplify it. BTW, this all only applies to base defense.

SAM=edge player typically characterized as "3-4 OLB" ie 6-3, 255. His jobs are run defense(force) and pass coverage(curl/flat). He rarely rushes the QB because these defenses almost exclusively play cover 3.

Leo=edge player typically characterized as "3-4 OLB" ie 6-3, 255. The team's best edge rusher plays here. However, I think Saleh has his own profile for this position(ie bigger, power-based edge).

Big end=bigger-body edge--3-4 DE or 4-3 DE. He's the one that rushes the QB from the strong side.
[ Edited by Heroism on Mar 10, 2019 at 2:27 PM ]
Of those I think SAM is the wildcard. We don't exactly know what Saleh wants at the position. From what we've seen and his comments the SAM isn't going to blitz often. He's a guy more interchangeable with the other LB spots. At least in mind, that makes a guy like Barr an excellent fit.

I say it's a wildcard because we haven't had a SAM yet that has the ability to make a difference in the pass rush department. Before Dakota Watson was placed on IR he started lining up at SAM on passing downs. He's very quick off the edge and was allowed to blitz. It's a tiny sample, but that's the first time I really thought Saleh had a LB he trusted to blitz. I think we'd see more pressure from our SAM if we had a player capable of making a difference there.

With the Dee Ford rumors it feels like the team would want to use him as a LEO on base downs, then possibly stand him up at SAM on obvious passing downs.

For LEO: 270lbs sounds pretty big. A guy like Bosa would be an exception, but someone around 255lbs would fit that role nicely also. Ideally I think you'd be looking for someone 250-260lbs that has speed and bend on the edge.
http://insidethepylon.com/football-101/glossary-football-101/2015/11/27/itp-glossary-4-3-under-front/
People will call for us to bring in a 2nd edge rusher then just call it Sam but that's just because they use base terminology as the starting point to simplify things. Most of the time the roles are split up. You'll have a weakside lb, then a nickel rusher. A few players like Vic Beasley have played both roles and that's where you get the confusion.
Originally posted by tjd808185:
People will call for us to bring in a 2nd edge rusher then just call it Sam but that's just because they use base terminology as the starting point to simplify things. Most of the time the roles are split up. You'll have a weakside lb, then a nickel rusher. A few players like Vic Beasley have played both roles and that's where you get the confusion.

We're actually moving to a form of it defensively next year with my team here. I love the versatility of it, and most importantly for us, being Gap sound with always having numbers at the POA.

We've seen some of that versatility with a flawed roster with the 49ers the last two years, just out of necessity. Anyways, good stuff, I enjoy coaching it.
Here's how we line up (typically) when we are in our "Base Defense", the 4-3 Under. We run this about 30% of the time.



See how the purple guy is at the "end of the line", but he's not called an end? He's called the SAM (edge) Linebacker, and he's just like a typical 3-4 OLB - he has to set the edge in the run game, sometime rush the passer, and sometimes drop into coverage. Josh Allen would be a potential stud here.

The green guy is called the DE, but he's not really at the end. And he's not really a 4-3 Defensive End. He's more like like a typical 3-4 Defenisve end. Justin Smith would be a monster here. Stop the run. Then rush the passer.

The Yellow gy is called the Nose Tackle. He's one of the two Defensive tackles, but he's fatter - like a 3-4 NT. Stop the Run. Then rush the passer. And because Saleh is so freaking creative, you'll sometimes see him dropping into coverage, giving up large gains. But I digress.

The teal guy is the other Defensive Tackle. He's called the 3 tech (when you see somebody call a guy a 5-tech, or a 3-tech, or any #-tech, it's just another way to say how/where he's lining up). He is just like most 4-3 Defensive Tackles you can think of. Buckner is a monster here.

The red guy is the LEO (edge). He's supposed to line up way outside (wide 9) and just wreak havoc in the backfield. Crash the edge with his hair on fire. This defense is kind of built on the LEO guy causing endless havoc (think Charles Haley), however nobody on our team is any good at it. Bosa would be a potential stud here.

In "sub" (we run this ~70%), we run a Normal 4 man front. Two pass rushing DEs (edges), and two DefensiveTackles.



Typically we would use our SAM and LEO as our pass rushing studs. But we don't have any good pass rushing edges AT ALL. So we end up throwing Arik, Solomon, and white karate guy out there and hoping for the best.

So, there is easily room for us to get TWO edges. One that would always have his hand in the ground, no matter what lineup we're in, and always try to go kill someone (LEO, Bosa, Haley), and the other who would mostly have his hand in the ground, but could also do some coverage stuff (Ford, Allen)
[ Edited by Lobo49er on Mar 10, 2019 at 3:25 PM ]
Thanks for all the breakdowns!

This really helps. But it also still leaves me a little confused about what we should be looking for.

If we assume that we draft a LEO with our first pick (Bosa, Allen, Burns, whichever you think), then what should we be looking for later in the draft? A college LB with size? A college DE on the smaller faster side?
[ Edited by TheFunkyChicken on Mar 10, 2019 at 3:54 PM ]
Originally posted by TheFunkyChicken:
Thanks for all the breakdowns!

This really helps. But it also still leaves me a little confused about what we should be looking for.

If we assume that we draft a LEO with our first pick (Bosa, Allen, Burns, whichever you think), then what should we be looking for later in the draft? A college LB with size? A college DE on the smaller faster side?

Honestly, I wouldn't worry about where to play them. This scheme is so multiple that it can fit any type of edge player. That and defenses spend about 75% of their snaps in nickel. The 49ers simply need an edge that can get to the QB.

Originally posted by Lobo49er:
Here's how we line up (typically) when we are in our "Base Defense", the 4-3 Under. We run this about 30% of the time.



See how the purple guy is at the "end of the line", but he's not called an end? He's called the SAM (edge) Linebacker, and he's just like a typical 3-4 OLB - he has to set the edge in the run game, sometime rush the passer, and sometimes drop into coverage. Josh Allen would be a potential stud here.

The green guy is called the DE, but he's not really at the end. And he's not really a 4-3 Defensive End. He's more like like a typical 3-4 Defenisve end. Justin Smith would be a monster here. Stop the run. Then rush the passer.

The Yellow gy is called the Nose Tackle. He's one of the two Defensive tackles, but he's fatter - like a 3-4 NT. Stop the Run. Then rush the passer. And because Saleh is so freaking creative, you'll sometimes see him dropping into coverage, giving up large gains. But I digress.

The teal guy is the other Defensive Tackle. He's called the 3 tech (when you see somebody call a guy a 5-tech, or a 3-tech, or any #-tech, it's just another way to say how/where he's lining up). He is just like most 4-3 Defensive Tackles you can think of. Buckner is a monster here.

The red guy is the LEO (edge). He's supposed to line up way outside (wide 9) and just wreak havoc in the backfield. Crash the edge with his hair on fire. This defense is kind of built on the LEO guy causing endless havoc (think Charles Haley), however nobody on our team is any good at it. Bosa would be a potential stud here.

In "sub" (we run this ~70%), we run a Normal 4 man front. Two pass rushing DEs (edges), and two DefensiveTackles.



Typically we would use our SAM and LEO as our pass rushing studs. But we don't have any good pass rushing edges AT ALL. So we end up throwing Arik, Solomon, and white karate guy out there and hoping for the best.

So, there is easily room for us to get TWO edges. One that would always have his hand in the ground, no matter what lineup we're in, and always try to go kill someone (LEO, Bosa, Haley), and the other who would mostly have his hand in the ground, but could also do some coverage stuff (Ford, Allen)

That was single best explanation, by far, of the subject I have never previously understood.

I applaud you. Thanks!
  • thl408
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Originally posted by Heroism:
I'll try to simplify it. BTW, this all only applies to base defense.

SAM=edge player typically characterized as "3-4 OLB" ie 6-3, 255. His jobs are run defense(force) and pass coverage(curl/flat). He rarely rushes the QB because these defenses almost exclusively play cover 3.

Leo=edge player typically characterized as "3-4 OLB" ie 6-3, 255. The team's best edge rusher plays here. However, I think Saleh has his own profile for this position(ie bigger, power-based edge).

Big end=bigger-body edge--3-4 DE or 4-3 DE. He's the one that rushes the QB from the strong side.

I'll add that there really isn't a SAM position on the field when the team is in nickel - WILL and MIKE stay on the field. In nickel, the SAM position is removed from the field in exchange for a CB. I say 'position', because when Bruce Irvin was in SEA, he was the SAM linebacker in base, but then would move to a DE position in nickel (the BigEnd player gets off the field). So while the player is the same, the position he is playing is different. The difference between a nickel DE and a base SAM, assignment wise, is that the nickel DE is not going to drop into coverage under normal circumstances.

I think what Saleh wants is for the SAM linebacker and the nickel DE to be the same guy, like what BIrvin did. If that same guy can do both (coverage drop and rush passer) then it allows the defense to play like a base 3-4 and bring that SAM linebacker on the pass rush while dropping the Leo into coverage (treat them like 3-4 OLBs).
Originally posted by thl408:
I'll add that there really isn't a SAM position on the field when the team is in nickel - WILL and MIKE stay on the field. In nickel, the SAM position is removed from the field in exchange for a CB. I say 'position', because when Bruce Irvin was in SEA, he was the SAM linebacker in base, but then would move to a DE position in nickel (the BigEnd player gets off the field). So while the player is the same, the position he is playing is different. The difference between a nickel DE and a base SAM, assignment wise, is that the nickel DE is not going to drop into coverage under normal circumstances.

I think what Saleh wants is for the SAM linebacker and the nickel DE to be the same guy, like what BIrvin did. If that same guy can do both (coverage drop and rush passer) then it allows the defense to play like a base 3-4 and bring that SAM linebacker on the pass rush while dropping the Leo into coverage (treat them like 3-4 OLBs).

Well said!

I think what Saleh wants is for the SAM linebacker and the nickel DE to be the same guy, like what BIrvin did. If that same guy can do both (coverage drop and rush passer) then it allows the defense to play like a base 3-4 and bring that SAM linebacker on the pass rush while dropping the Leo into coverage (treat them like 3-4 OLBs).

and yesss, I love that idea. I brought up that exact thing in the Josh Allen thread about they could maximize the SAM as a disguised pass rusher. A little 3-4 wrinkle to the 4-3.
[ Edited by Heroism on Mar 10, 2019 at 4:55 PM ]
Originally posted by Heroism:
Originally posted by thl408:
I'll add that there really isn't a SAM position on the field when the team is in nickel - WILL and MIKE stay on the field. In nickel, the SAM position is removed from the field in exchange for a CB. I say 'position', because when Bruce Irvin was in SEA, he was the SAM linebacker in base, but then would move to a DE position in nickel (the BigEnd player gets off the field). So while the player is the same, the position he is playing is different. The difference between a nickel DE and a base SAM, assignment wise, is that the nickel DE is not going to drop into coverage under normal circumstances.

I think what Saleh wants is for the SAM linebacker and the nickel DE to be the same guy, like what BIrvin did. If that same guy can do both (coverage drop and rush passer) then it allows the defense to play like a base 3-4 and bring that SAM linebacker on the pass rush while dropping the Leo into coverage (treat them like 3-4 OLBs).

Well said!

I think what Saleh wants is for the SAM linebacker and the nickel DE to be the same guy, like what BIrvin did. If that same guy can do both (coverage drop and rush passer) then it allows the defense to play like a base 3-4 and bring that SAM linebacker on the pass rush while dropping the Leo into coverage (treat them like 3-4 OLBs).

and yesss, I love that idea. I brought up that exact thing in the Josh Allen thread about they could maximize the SAM as a disguised pass rusher. A little 3-4 wrinkle to the 4-3.

Soooo, would Bosa fit in there anywhere? I sure wouldn't want him flopping back into coverage.
  • thl408
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Originally posted by RTFirefly:
Soooo, would Bosa fit in there anywhere? I sure wouldn't want him flopping back into coverage.

Rushing the SAM and dropping the Leo would only be a wrinkle over the course of a game.
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