What switching to a 4-3 could mean for the current Lions players

Jahlani Tavai (51), Jalen Reeves-Maybin (44), Detroit Lions (Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)
Jahlani Tavai (51), Jalen Reeves-Maybin (44), Detroit Lions (Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports) /
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Da'Shawn Hand, Detroit Lions
Da’Shawn Hand, Detroit Lions (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /

Interior Linemen

Da’Shawn Hand (6-3, 297lb)

If there’s one position in the front seven that is affected the least in a scheme transition it’s the 3-4 big defensive end and/or 4-3 3-technique defensive tackle. That’s where Hand fits in either scheme as he’s versatile enough to one-or-two gap inside or outside. Though he’s at his best as an inside pass-rusher anywhere from the 3-to-5 technique.

That kind of answers the questions as well, with his 51% being better as a pass-rush, Hand would more than likely fit best in a one-gap pass-rushing principled 4-3 base front.

Transition Grade: C+ (switch should help, just a bit)

John Penisini (6-2, 325lb)

The problem is on a 4-3 base 53-man roster there’s more than likely only room for one true nose tackle, and it can often be one of the bigger 3-tech defensive tackles. Not that Penisini can’t move outside the nose tackle position, he’s just more valuable to a team that consistently needs a two-gap monster in the middle.

His short-comings as a pass-rusher would also limit his value in a one-gap 4-3 base defense. In a lot of ways, Penisini is tailor-made to be a run-stuffing, gap-plugging, short-yardage 3-4 nose.

Transition Grade: D (switch would hurt)

Danny Shelton (6-2 335lb)

Almost everything I just wrote about Penisini I could write about Shelton. They’re the ideal anchors for the 3-4 two-gapping scheme. Where their short-comings in the pass-rush don’t matter because their job is to collapse the offensive line for their backers to do that for them.

Transition Grade: D (switch would hurt)

Kevin Strong (6-4, 285lb)

Strong is a bit of what they call a ‘tweener’ in the NFL. Not quite big enough defensive tackle, or athletic enough to be a true defensive end. In a Matt Patricia defense where he covets positional versatility Strong could lineup anywhere from 0-7 technique, and he has.

But, where Strong has excelled in moments is as a pass-rusher from the inside. Strong plays bigger than he’s listed (hmm*) and is athletic enough to work offensive guards. I think Strong would benefit from working out of more even fronts.

Transition Grade: B- (switch would help a bit)

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Nick Williams (6-4, 310lb)

Williams brings a bit of run and rush value from the defensive tackle position but is better at stuffing the run. He uses his length, strength, and weight well and controls his gap(s) against most.

Williams could a nice depth piece for either scheme, but with his forte being more gap-control and than up-the-field speed valued in the 4-3 three-technique defensive tackle. He favors the 3-4 base slightly.

Transition Grade: D+ (switch would hurt a little)