By TJ Troup
The Birth of the Modern 4-3 Defense" details who played what positions for each team for the 1953 and '54 seasons, and how the teams aligned on defense. The 1955 campaign is the season of defensive transition as many of the twelve teams now aligned at least part of the time in a 4-3.
Which team aligned in the 4-3 the most you ask? Why, the now revitalized Washington Redskins; and as you read about this season you will read about three different Washington players garnering player of the week. One final note before the listing; "sack" yardage dropped significantly from 233 on average per team to 190. The main reason is the adjustment of the defensive ends in their alignment and their newfound responsibilities to off-tackle run plays.
Here we go—
September 25th: Left safety Don Burroughs of the Rams intercepts 3 passes for 37 yards in the 23-14 road victory over San Francisco at Kezar. Burroughs is the second rookie in league history to intercept three times in his very first game as a pro (Lujack was the first).
Don Colo is a stonewall in defending the run. Big Don survived three lost years with the Colts, Yanks, and Texans—but has now developed into a Pro Bowl player for the defending champion Browns.
Will Sherman in his second year as the Rams right safety filches three Detroit Lion passes in Los Angeles 17-10 win at Briggs Stadium. Twice Sherman intercepts in the red zone to stop Lion drives. The Rams limit Bobby Layne to a 47.7 passer rating.
October 23rd: Free agent right linebacker John Reger has been impressive so far in his rookie season for Pittsburgh, and with a victory today over New York would stay tied with Cleveland atop the Eastern Conference with a 4-1 record. Reger grabs a Giant fumble and rumbles 4 yards before a lateral to fellow rookie Richie McCabe who sprints an additional 26 yards. This is one of the key plays in the Steelers 19-17 come from behind win. Reger will go onto rank among the league leaders in opponent fumble recoveries with 5.
Second-year left linebacker Ralph Felton has many responsibilities depending on the down and distance for the 'Skins, and today is by far his best game of the season. Undersized, yet very quick Felton records two sacks and two fumble recoveries along with a number of tackles.
November 13th: The pass rush is still a key element in the game, and that fact is on display today as two of the men who dominate defensive line play for the rest of the decade are co-defensive players of the week. Doug Atkins did not live up to Paul Brown's expectations in Cleveland, and the massive Atkins is still not a starter in Chicago. He earns playing time at both left and right defensive end, and today in a game the Bears must win records two sacks in the 24-3 win over first-place Los Angeles.
Brito would have deserved consideration for defensive player of the year honors in the league if such a reward existed and for his work in the game he is the our co-Defensive Player of the Week.
November 20th: Three weeks in a row a Redskin is defensive player of the week. In Jack Clary's book on the Redskins (Great Teams Series) by NFL Properties, there is a chapter on Chuck Drazenovich. Having watched a virtual ton of Washington film it is easy to see why the 4-3 was made for "Charley Cro". Quoting Clary, "Drazenovich is one of the "pioneers of the modern middle linebacker".
Today, in a 31-0 road shut-out of the Cardinals, he just would not stay blocked as he makes plays all over the field. Chicago gains just 72 yards rushing, and the Redskin pass rush has now recorded 13 sacks in the three-game win streak. Washington is now 6-3 with their first road shut-out since 1945 and trails the champion Browns by just one game.
December 4th: Don Paul earned a Pro Bowl berth as a Chicago Cardinal, and has played superb defense at right corner for Cleveland. Though he will not yet garner a Pro Bowl berth as a Brown, he has an outstanding season in '55 and today is his best game of the year. Jim Finks over throws Ed Bernet of the Steelers, and Paul pilfers the pass and darts 19 yards. Don later intercepts again and returns a Steeler fumble 11 yards as Cleveland demolishes Pittsburgh 30-7 to remain in first place.
December 11th: The masterful trade of two future draft picks in '56 to Cleveland has brought to Chicago Doug Atkins, and left safety Ken Gorgal. The Bears must win today at Wrigley and have the Rams lose to win the west. Earlier in the season Gorgal had intercepted in four consecutive games to tie a team record, and today he will make key plays in the Bears 17-10 victory over Philadelphia. Adrian Burk escaped the pass rush, rolled to his left and lofted the ball down the middle towards Bobby Walston. Gorgal darts in front of the receiver and intercepts (returning 22 yards), and later in the game recovers an Eagle fumble.