What Does the 3-4 Switch Mean for Jonathan Vilma?

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sport

Is this the beginning of the end for our dear old Jonathan Vilma or will he be able to adapt and survive?

With news yesterday of the Saints' switch to the 3-4 defensive scheme, we should all be prepared for further change and definitely more fallout. Specifically on the personnel side. We could be in for a lot of roster shuffling in the coming months.

One player who could become a casualty is linebacker and defensive leader Jonathan Vilma. He's always been a strictly 4-3 kinda guy. He doesn't match well with a 3-4 scheme. In fact, when Eric Mangini took over the Jets - Vilma's former team - in 2006 and brought with him a switch to the 3-4, Vilma's production suffered seriously over the next two years. So much so that in 2008 the Jets let him shop for a trade, one that brought him to New Orleans.

Now that the Saints are moving to a 3-4 defense themselves, it would be fair to expect Vilma to experience the same problems again.

But that may not be the case. In the 4-3 defense that Vilma has become accustomed to, the middle linebacker is a sideline-to-sideline player with plenty of freedom to cover a lot of ground. The 3-4 defense, however, is significantly more restrictive for the linebackers and requires more discipline.

So while it wasn't a good fit for Vilma in his younger days, it could be perfect for him now that he finds himself in the twilight of his career. Less responsibility. Less ground to cover. Good for an older player who's lost a step. Remember, too, that under Gregg Williams the Saints mixed in a little of the 3-4, so it's not as if he's never played it.

Does the switch to a 3-4 defense mean the end for our dear old Jonathan Vilma or will he be able to adapt and survive? It will be interesting to find out.

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