New York Jets
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With the NFL Draft looming, it’s time to configure the personnel for every 3-4 and 4-3 defensive set in Gregg Williams’s defense.

Robby Sabo

The Gregg Williams era begins yet, for many reasons, these are confusing defensive times in New York Jets land. Adam Gase’s mouth has already stated the usual 3-4 defense will remain. Confusing times, indeed, especially when considering Williams has never run the 3-4 over the course of his near quarter-century history as a defensive boss.

Don’t fully buy into the 3-4 hype. Assuming the Jets stick with the 3-4 on paper, Williams will absolutely run 4-3 varieties during the 2019 season.

The solution? Hybrid. New York’s defensive personnel should be suited to handle both base defenses. Besides, the difference between the two means very little when the sub-packages come out to play.

3-4 Base

Current Personnel:

The nose tackle, No. 1 corner, and No. 1 outside linebacker spots remain incredibly open in an ideal world. Jordan Jenkins is a tremendous run-support edge within the structure of a base defense while he lacks as a pure edge rusher.

There’s an outside chance Steve McLendon and Nathan Shepherd can serve as the 3-4 nose tackle this coming season, thus relieving one position of need. It’s still a concern, however.

Lastly, Darron Lee just doesn’t fit. He’s not an edge rusher, folks, as he’s already nearly too small to handle the rigors of a 3-4 inside linebacker on a routine basis.

4-3 Base

Current Personnel:

  • DE: Jordan Jenkins
  • DE: Brandon Copeland
  • DT-3: Leonard Williams
  • DT-1: Nathan Shepherd
  • SAM: Avery Williamson
  • MIKE: C.J. Mosley
  • WILL: Darron Lee
  • CB: Trumaine Johnson
  • CB: Darryl Roberts
  • SS: Jamal Adams
  • FS: Marcus Maye

As currently constituted, a great argument can be made the current personnel is more suited for the 4-3. Lee has a true home as that smaller 4-3 WILL and Nathan Shepherd fits the 1-technique much nicer than anything the 3-4 offers.

Anderson becomes squeezed out, but remember, the NFL is no longer a base league. Well over 50 percent of the downs are run from an 11 personnel standpoint.

2-4-5 or 4-2-5 Nickel

Current Personnel:

  • EDGE: Jordan Jenkins
  • EDGE: Brandon Copeland
  • DT: Leonard Williams
  • DT: Henry Anderson
  • LB: Avery Williamson
  • LB: C.J. Mosley
  • NB: Brian Poole
  • CB: Trumaine Johnson
  • CB: Darryl Roberts
  • SS: Jamal Adams
  • FS: Marcus Maye

This is the bread-and-butter; the four-man line out of the nickel. It’s the most common defensive formation in the NFL today thanks to the rabid 11 personnel looks.

It matters very little whether it’s classified as a 2-4-5 (the 3-4 version) of the 4-2-5 (the 4-3 version). The setup is exactly the same. Instead, capabilities based on each edge’s attributes are gauged when calling plays and setting up concepts.

Swap out the DE for the OLB and boom, there you have it.

New York Jets

Interestingly enough, Darron Lee is the team’s best cover linebacker on the roster, still, making the C.J. Mosley acquisition confusing to some considering Avery Williamson’s pass-coverage woes are well-documented.

Notice there’s no Jordan Jenkins listed on the graphic. It’s expected that he’ll more than likely be playing one edge once the summer comes (as the Jets will find it tough to find two more), but it’s not the goal. Jenkins’s run-support prowess is excellent but two natural pass-rushing edges are required to fill out the sub-package roles.

This is also the grouping Henry Anderson and Leonard Williams shine. The interior pass-rushing duo is nearly as good as it gets.

3-3-5 Nickel

Current Personnel:

  • EDGE: Jordan Jenkins
  • DE: Henry Anderson
  • DT-3: Leonard Williams
  • DT-1: Nathan Shepherd
  • LB: Avery Williamson
  • LB: C.J. Mosley
  • NB: Brian Poole
  • CB: Trumaine Johnson
  • CB: Darryl Roberts
  • SS: Jamal Adams
  • FS: Marcus Maye

This isn’t Madden. The 3-3-5 Nickel isn’t as popular in real life as fans think.

First of all, when fans think of the 3-3-5 (one of the 3-4 variations of the nickel), they think of a three-man line with three on the second level. Rarely does that happen in today’s league. It doesn’t allow athletic edges the chance for true domination.

If the 3-3-5 is run with a simple three-man line, usually, the two defensive ends are true edges (making it, in essence, a 1-5-5 or 5-1-1), leaving the interior vulnerable for the three second-level defenders to attend.

In the above setup, Williams and Anderson are completely interchangeable, though the perfect scenario never wants to see either man play on the edge; they’re just too big. The only reason Jets fans have witnessed Williams, Anderson or even Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson attempting the outside was purely due to the lack of a true edge presence on the depth chart.

1-4-6 or 3-2-6 Dime

Current Personnel:

  • EDGE: Jordan Jenkins
  • EDGE: Brandon Copeland
  • DT: Leonard Williams
  • LB: Avery Williamson
  • LB: C.J. Mosley
  • DB: Parry Nickerson
  • NB: Brian Poole
  • CB: Trumaine Johnson
  • CB: Darryl Roberts
  • SS: Jamal Adams
  • FS: Marcus Maye

Remember, Darryl Roberts is the de facto starting cornerback opposite Trumaine Johnson. The graphics indicate the goal, the mission, the perfect scenario.

Just like the 2-4-5 / 4-2-5 nickel look, the 1-4-6 / 3-2-6 look holds the same principles. Simply swap out the defensive end designation for the outside linebacker (when moving from the 4-3 to the 3-4).

2-3-6 or 4-1-6 Dime

Current Personnel:

  • EDGE: Jordan Jenkins
  • EDGE: Brandon Copeland
  • DT: Leonard Williams
  • DT: Henry Anderson
  • LB: C.J. Mosley
  • DB: Parry Nickerson
  • NB: Brian Poole
  • CB: Trumaine Johnson
  • CB: Darryl Roberts
  • SS: Jamal Adams
  • FS: Marcus Maye

Again, the same interchangeable principle is at work which contributes more to the overhyped 3-4 or 4-3 discussion. When the sub-package is involved (which is well over 50 percent of the NFL game), personnel is personnel.

Big Dime

Current Personnel:

  • EDGE: Jordan Jenkins
  • EDGE: Brandon Copeland
  • DT: Leonard Williams
  • DT: Henry Anderson
  • LB: C.J. Mosley
  • NB: Brian Poole
  • CB: Trumaine Johnson
  • CB: Darryl Roberts
  • SS: Jamal Adams
  • S: Marcus Maye
  • S: Doug Middleton

The Big Dime is huge for the New York Jets for one specific reason: it frees up Jamal Adams.

Doug Middleton in favor of the fourth cornerback (usually only played against 11 personnel; tough against a four wideout look due to matchups) allows for a two-deep look with Adams in the box or on the edge.

It can be run from any dime look.

1-3-7 or 3-1-7 Quarter

Current Personnel:

  • EDGE: Jordan Jenkins
  • EDGE: Brandon Copeland
  • DT: Leonard Williams
  • LB: C.J. Mosley
  • DB: Parry Nickerson
  • NB: Brian Poole
  • CB: Trumaine Johnson
  • CB: Darryl Roberts
  • SS: Jamal Adams
  • S: Marcus Maye
  • S: Doug Middleton

Finally, the quarter defense brings the three-safety look that the Jets will look to use plenty of in 2019. It’s rarely used in today’s NFL (as opposed to two decades ago), but is necessary when required.

Final Thoughts

As it currently stands, the Jets hybrid feel is apparent. There are simply four positions of need (with two as a desperate requirement):

  1. Pass-Rushing Edge No. 1
  2. Pass-Rushing Edge No. 2
  3. Cover-Cornerback No. 2 (No. 1 if better than Trumaine Johnson)
  4. 3-4 Nose Tackle / 1-Technique Defensive Tackle

These are the four spots needed and it matters very little which base (3-4 or 4-3) is used. For now, Jordan Jenkins is the top edge (when he should man down the third spot as a solid run-support role), Darryl Roberts is a starter (when he should represent the nickel or dime back), and Steve McLendon or Nathan Shepherd hold down the 3-4 nose tackle or 1-technique defensive tackle.

The NFL Draft is just weeks away. Defensively, the pass-rushing edges are at the top of the areas of need.


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