4-2-5 as a Base System

We all know the drill when it comes to defenses – you’re either a 3-4 or 4-3 base system.  Now I don’t know much about football theory…  I’ve never played the game in any sort of organization at any level, and I’ve only ever played the game in a scrimmage environment maybe eight times.  Really sad, actually.  But anyways, I’ve been thinking a lot about the 4-2-5 system lately (sometimes called a nickel package, I believe) and why no team has implemented it as a base system.  I’d like to hear what some of the aficionados of the game has to say about this.


Let’s take a look at today’s game, specifically NFL offenses.  Defenses nowadays need to be able to stop agile RBs, strong RBs, the deep-ball QBs and the nickel-and-dimers.  Wide receivers keep getting better, TEs are getting faster.  That’s a lot of different things for a defense to play against.  By my observations, this is what you need to stop each aspect of today’s NFL offense:  To stop the agile RBs you need quick DEs, run-stuffing OLBs with enough speed to get to the edge before the RB, and solid safety play near the line.  For big RBs you need big defensive linemen who can plug up the holes and strong MLB/ILBs.  To stop the long pass you need to get good pressure on the QB, as well as good man coverage CBs and safeties who can play centerfield if needed.  To stop the short passes you need LBs and CBs who can play underneath zone.  Hopefully all of this is true.  So here’s what we need to stop the elite NFL offenses:


Run-stuffing DTs

Agile DEs

Fast, sure-tackling OLBs

Strong ILBs

Shutdown man CBs

Safeties who can play centerfield



So is the 4-2-5 a good system to implement this?  Absolutely.  Here’s how:


The 4-2-5 base system, as I imagine it, requires the following positions:

2 NT/DTs  (DT)

2 DT/DEs  (DE)

2 ILBs       (ILB)

2 S/OLBs  (X)

2 CBs        (CB)

1 S             (CF)


As you can see, there’s a lot of hybridization/options here.  For the NT/DT position you need run-stuffing DTs.  NTs and bigger DTs would be necessary here.  For DE, you need very strong DEs who also have enough speed to stop the agile RBs.  You need two versatile LBs who can stop runners and defend TEs.  The safety/OLB hybrids are the X-factors here.  They need to be able to blitz, cover TEs and 3rd and 4th WRs at times, as well as stopping RBs.  You need two very good CBs to allow everybody else to play their roles, and you need one safety to play centerfield.  Here’s what it would look like:



425(1) (via jorcutt23)


I was gonna break down how this defensive system could be used to stop specific plays, but I simply do not have the time and probably don’t have the playbook acumen to attempt that.  Instead, I’ll explain how the Eagles could implement this.  Of course, we don’t have all the pieces for it right now, but we’re close to making it serviceable.  NOTE: I do NOT think we should do this.  Just using the Eagles as a relatable example.


The first thing to keep in mind is that it’s a great system for tweeners, and we always seem to have a few of those.  To put this team in the 4-2-5 as described here, who would fall where?


RDE: Trent Cole (Darryl Tapp)

DT: Mike Patterson (Broderick Bunkley)

DT: Antonio Dixon (Jeff Owens)

LDE: Brandon Graham (Trevor Laws, Daniel Te’O Nesheim)


ILB: Stewart Bradley (Ricky Sapp)

ILB: Jamar Chaney (Moise Fokou, Akeem Jordan)


X: Keenan Clayton (Kurt Coleman)

X: Quintin Mikell (Colt Anderson)


CB: Asante Samuel (Dimitri Patterson)

CB: Trevard Lindley (Ellis Hobbs, Joselio Hanson)


CF: Nate Allen (Marlin Jackson)


We’ve got some holes…  Let’s give each position/player a grade

RDE: A-  Trent Cole is awesome in the 4-3, but I think he’d be just a little less awesome in the 4-2-5.  Still great, but nut as great.  Darryl Tapp is nearly a prototypical DE in the 4-2-5, so I like this one.

DTs: D+  None of these guys are really big enough.  Patterson and Dixon are serviceable as 4-2-5 back-ups/fill-in starters, but Bunkley is completely out of place in this defense

LDE: A-  Graham is perfect for this role, and Laws got good pressure last year.  This might be an A if Graham works out.  DTO should be good there too.


ILB: B  Bradley and Chaney would actually be very good in this system, but the backups aren’t there.  Sapp, as a situational rusher, would be interesting and Fokou is a solid football player, but neither are what you’re looking for here.  Jordan would not really be good here, but he was a better option than Sims.


X: A+  This defense was designed for players like Clayton.  He would dominate in this hybrid S/OLB role.  Mikell is a smart player and decent tackler, so he’d adapt well.  Coleman might be a little undersized, but his coverage skills and hard hits make him great here.  Colt would be a little weak, but still decent.


CB: B-  Asante Samuel is perfect, the rest all suck.  But we already knew that.  If it weren’t for Samuel this would be an F.  This system requires two CBs, so this is a major issue.


CF: B+  Assuming Allen progresses as he should this could easily be an A.  I’d like to see slightly better speed here, but Allen would still do fine.  Jackson would be okay.  Nothing special.  I like him as a 4-3 FS, though.



So could we do this?  I think we could (*we won’t, we shouldn’t, I know, I don’t want us to…  did I cover that?*), but we’d need to a few things this offseason. 


Release/Trade away/Let walk/PS: Hanson, Jackson, Bunkley, Jordan, Sims, Hobbs, Anderson, Owens, anybody I forget and don’t mention a little later


Re-sign: Mikell, Dixon, Laws, (Sorry if the DTs aren’t in contract years, couldn’t find that data)



1st – Gabe Carimi (T)

2nd – Kenrick Ellis (DT)

3rd – Clint Boling (OG)

4th – Jacquizz Rogers (RB)

4th – Robert Sands (CF)

5th – Richard Sherman (CB)

5th – Joe Lefeged (X)

7th – DeAndre Brown (WR)


Free Agency: Nnamdi Asomugha (CB), Manny Lawson (LB), Gabe Watson (DT)


So what would the new roster look like?


RDE: Trent Cole (Darryl Tapp)

DT: Kenrick Ellis (Antonio Dixon)

DT: Mike Patterson (Gabe Watson)

LDE: Brandon Graham (Trevor Laws, Daniel Te’O Nesheim)


ILB: Stewart Bradley (Manny Lawson)

ILB: Jamar Chaney (Ricky Sapp, Moise Fokou)


X: Keenan Clayton (Kurt Coleman)

X: Quintin Mikell (Joe Lefeged)


CB: Asante Samuel (Richard Sherman)

CB: Nnamdi Asomugha (Trevard Lindley, Dimitri Patterson)


CF: Nate Allen (Robert Sands)


Kenrick Ellis plays a huge role on the DL as a nose tackle, and Gabe Watson is a sleeper to steal Patterson’s job, but Patterson should be an okay starter.  DE is still a strength.


At ILB, Manny Lawson could be a great starter, but sits behind Bradley and Chaney as a great backup for now.


Joe Lefeged adds terrific depth as a hard-hitting X.


Asomugha adds the second dominant corner to the roster, and Richard Sherman replaces Hanson.


Not perfect, but that’s still a good defense.  


So I’m interested in hearing what you think, should the 4-2-5 be implemented as a team’s base system?  What are its flaws?  The floor is open, folks.  Thanks for reading!




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