The Jaguars use a base 4-3 on defense. There are a lot of different ways to approach defense and with the rise of the 3-4 as a major scheme yet again, the Jags flirted with the idea of a hybrid 3-4 a few years ago. Then came defensive coordinator Mel Tucker and his vanilla 4-3.
A vanilla 4-3 is majorly different from a 4-3 that uses its linebackers to blitz gaps between defensive tackles and defensive ends or other scheming to change matchups, create mismatches, and find advantages. Tucker’s version relies on strong play from his defensive personnel. His defense is reliant on strong pressure from the front four (defensive tackles and defensive ends) that free up the linebackers and secondary to make plays either due to good containment or a good pass rush.
As we all know, the Jags simply can’t seem to find a good front four to generate a pass rush. The team set a franchise “record” for least number of sacks two seasons ago. The talent just isn’t there to generate a pass rush. The defensive end position has been lacking for years; so much so that Jeremy Mincey’s team-leading eight sacks in 2011 was considered a “breakout” for him. To the front four’s benefit, they are usually very good at stuffing the run.
Tucker’s 4-3 also relies on very good, fast, instinctive linebacker play. With starting outside linebackers Clint Session (Concussion) and Daryl Smith (groin) out the Jags have been forced to use the serviceable Russell Allen and the terrible Kyle Bosworth instead. Neither linebacker is good enough to replace either Smith or Session. The noticeable decline in defensive rankings is evidence of that.
I feel sorry for the Jaguars secondary, because a lot of stress is placed on them without strong defensive end play and mediocre (or poor) play from the linebackers. I feel even more sorry for them, because instead of addressing the limitations of his personnel, Tucker has stuck with his vanilla 4-3. This team simply doesn’t have the talent to play that kind of 4-3 like the Chicago Bears can.
Yet the scheming remains basic at best.
Tucker needs to realize that he is harming this team by not adding more linebacker blitzes, moving around his defensive personnel more, and showing different looks to offenses. The opposition doesn’t even need to worry about the Jags’ defense because the defense doesn’t change and they know which players are weak and which aren’t.
Tucker only has five players on his defense that he can really rely on right now: defensive tackle Terrance Knighton, middle linebacker Paul Posluszny, cornerback Derek Cox, and safeties Dwight Lowery and Dawan Landry. Everyone else is either unproven, a backup, hasn’t reached the next level, or actually reverting in play.
The Jags were relying on rookie defensive end Andre Branch playing out of his mind (and above his level of experience) and Mincey to be at least 2011 form for the middle of the line to do its job. As a result, C.J. Mosely, Knighton, and Tyson Alualu have disappeared or look foolish because of poor play on the outside. Further, Posluszny is forced to play almost the entire middle of the field by himself because Allen and Bosworth simply aren’t starting caliber right now (Allen could make the jump eventually). The entire secondary looks even worse as a result of the lack of reliable players in the front seven.
Rather than continually getting beat, it would be nice to see Tucker dial up some more exotic schemes. Unfortunately, I don’t think he will do that. If he does not show a commitment to trying everything to make this team competitive, then Tucker should lose his job because his defensive coordinating simply isn’t reflective of the talent he has available. I like a good base 4-3 defense, but when it doesn’t work it’s time to try something new. It may not work, but at least the team won’t be laying down like they have been lately.
- Luke N. Sims
You can also find me on Twitter @LukeNSims