The above diagram shows Dave Wommack's defensive scheme as played throughout 2008 and going into 2009. Our base defense is a love-child of the 4-3 and 4-2-5. The third linebacker/safety will be called a "wolf" or hybrid player. Most of the players that played in the wolf spot last year were bigger bodied defensive backs like Tony Clark, capable of taking on blockers but also capable of playing coverage against wide outs. We'll use the wolf as a nickelback, linebacker, and extra free safety throughout the season.
The returning starters from 2007's squad are in the diagram above in yellow boxes while green indicates they weren't predominant starters in 2007. As any blind man can see, the defense was very green last year. Our three senior DL were the leaders experience-wise. Replacing three NFL draft picks on DL will not be easy.
By the end of the 2008 season, our wolf position had been fully implemented. Cooper Taylor had found a spot in the starting rotation and was making a huge impact (ala FSU forced fumble). Several linebackers had been injured giving way Sedric Griffin and Tony finding their way into starting roles. The secondary rotated a great deal in their first year under Wommack, as well. Reid started on defense and offense in the same year. Wommack really utilized the talent presented to him to distribute a great deal of experience across a large group of linebackers and defensive backs.
This year's question mark is obviously along the defensive line. We return 6-7 guys with good experience in the secondary. We return 2-3 deep at linebacker. Darryl Richard, Vance Walker, and Michael Johnson accounted for 37.9% of all TFL's and 47.1% of all sacks in 2008. That's pretty impressive when the three only accounted for 27.3% of all starts last season. Ben Anderson, Jason Peters, and Robert Hall will have the most pressure of any defensive unit this 2009 season. The drop off is inevitable but the key will be limiting the dropoff and relying on Derrick Morgan and an experienced linebacker corps. to balance the relatively inexperienced DL.