Should the Jacksonville Jaguars switch to a 3-4?


There have been rumblings regarding the Jacksonville Jaguars defense. I’ve heard from different writers here at B&T and among others that maybe it’s time the Jaguars switch to a 3-4.

There’s been a little bit of confusion.

Not every 4-3 scheme is alike. Not every 3-4 scheme is alike.

Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

In a 4-3 the pressure is expected to come from the defensive line. The ends are the main pass rushers. In a 3-4 the 3 down linemen aren’t expected to generate any pressure at all. They are simply expected to tie up blocks and let the linebackers fly to the ball. That’s what makes JJ Watt so special; he’s a pass rushing defensive end in a 3-4. To find pressure, defensive linemen like Watt who can rush from the 5 technique is something special indeed, but that’s another story for another day.

I think we have these ends on the roster already. Alualu isn’t necessarily the prototypical 3-4 defensive end. At 295 lbs., he would need to put on about 10 lbs., but I think Alualu would be perfect at tying up blocks. He wouldn’t be pressured to generate sacks and may actually be more effective. The nose tackle in a 3-4 must be a mountain of a man who can tie up blocks, collapse the pocket if needed, take on double teams, and stuff the run. The NT in a 3-4 must be able to do several different things and is quite possibly the most important player in the defense. If your NT doesn’t demand a double team, then that will leave more guys along the offensive line to pick up any blitzers  totally defeating the purpose of the 3-4.

The linebackers in a 3-4 have different responsibilities. In a 4-3 where you have a single Mike LB who is responsible for practically the whole field, in a 3-4 there are two ILBs who are each responsible for their half. These guys will drop into coverage much like they do in a 4-3 and are expected to stuff the run. If a runner gets through the gaps, it’s their responsibility to take him down where with a 4-3, the DTs are looked at as the run stoppers. The real stars of a 3-4 defense are the OLBs. These are the guys who come flying around the edges once the DEs have tied up their man. More pressure will of course come from the weakside, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t need two outstanding OLBs in a 3-4. The strongside OLB (SAM) must be able to drop into coverage and cover TEs and RBs. In many ways the strongside OLB has to be able to do more than just get after the QB. Do we have these LBs on the roster? The only one I see is Daryl Smith and he would probably pair up with Paul “Poz” Posluszny to make our ILB tandem.

Posluszny shines as an inside/middle linebacker.  He and Daryl Smith would be the core of a 3-4 linebacking unit if the Jags decide to switch.  Source: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Some 4-3 schemes are more zone than man coverage and others are more man than zone. In the 3-4 defenses I’ve watched in today’s NFL, man coverage seems to be the most effective method. You have to have great corners who can completely shutdown their man. If you don’t, it will cause the DC to leave his safeties in coverage and that usually isn’t a good thing unless you just have a stud at the position. The corners in a 3-4 will often be left on an island, and if they are good at their job then that will usually enable the safeties to line up in different places on the field in order to confuse offenses. This is why we have to keep Derek Cox.

The main thing I like about the 3-4 is that it offers more opportunities to disguise your looks. The OLBs don’t line up with their hand in the dirt, but can line up on the line of scrimmage. From there they can either drop back into coverage or blitz. If you have great corners, you could bring a safety as an extra rusher. The possibilities seem to be endless. You never can tell where the pressure is coming from if the defense is run correctly where with a 4-3 the pressure will usually come from the defensive line.

On the down side, if you don’t have the athletes to run the scheme it can prove to be catastrophic. If the Jaguars do consider moving to a 3-4, there is a lot of roster overhaul to be done.

-David R. Johns