Breaking down defensive scheme and fronts

Nov 29, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets outside linebacker Lorenzo Mauldin (55) hits Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) In the 2nd half at MetLife Stadium.The Jets defeated the Dolphins 38-20. Mandatory Credit: William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 29, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets outside linebacker Lorenzo Mauldin (55) hits Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) In the 2nd half at MetLife Stadium.The Jets defeated the Dolphins 38-20. Mandatory Credit: William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports /

The New York Jets had a potent defense last season as this time around, they’re even faster and younger. Here’s a breakdown of what is to come from their defensive schemes and fronts.

In head coach Todd Bowles‘ multiple defense, the New York Jets use a variety of fronts. A staple of Bowles’ defense is to use different packages every week depending on their opponent. For example, as the defensive coordinator for the Arizona Cardinals in 2014, Bowles faced the Dallas Cowboys. Due to their top rushing offense, Bowles played a 4-3 front to help contain the Cowboys’ run game. Bowles’ gameplan worked as DeMarco Murray was held to 79 yards. That number doesn’t sound too bad, but considering he ran for over 100 every week of the season until that week, Bowles did his job.

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Last year, Bowles had a surplus of 3-4 defensive ends that could play any position on the defensive line. He had superstars Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson, along with rookie Leonard Williams, who is becoming a star. In an effort to get all three of them on the field at the same time, Bowles used Wilkerson on the outside, with Richardson and Williams on the inside. In his base 3-4 defense, he used Richardson as an outside linebacker.

With all three of them returning in 2016, Bowles may opt to use Wilkerson on the edge once again. Unlike last year, the Jets have more talent at edge pass rusher, so Wilkerson might not be used on the outside. Bowles has already admitted publicly that Richardson will not be playing outside linebacker, so the Jets will have some new packages in 2016. Like this one below:

Base 3-4

NT Steve McLendon

DT Richardson/Williams

DE Wilkerson

RUSH Lorenzo Mauldin

MIKE David Harris

WILL Erin Henderson

SAM Jordan Jenkins

LCB Darrelle Revis

FS Marcus Gilchrist

SS Calvin Pryor

RCB Buster Skrine

In their base package, McClendon will take the place on Damon Harrison at nose tackle.  Henderson and Jenkins will be used to their strengths, which is run defense. Buster Skrine will play outside when two corners are on the field.

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4-3 Under Base Front

LDE Wilkerson

DT Williams

DT Richardson

RDE Mauldin

MIKE Harris

WILL Henderson

SAM Darron Lee

LCB Revis

FS Gilchrist

SS Pryor

RCB Skrine

This package will be used occasionally, especially against teams with potent run games like Bowles did in Arizona (think Seattle and Kansas City). The advantage of playing a 4-3 front is that it allows Williams, Wilkerson and Richardson to all be on the field at the same time. Lee is best playing next to Wilkerson, off the line of scrimmage, opposite the tight end. This will allow Lee to set the edge against the run, or match up man-to-man on the tight end.

Sub Package 4-1-6

EDGE Freddie Bishop/Mike Catapano

DT Wilkerson

DT Richardson/Williams

EDGE Mauldin

MIKE Harris

LB/S Lee

LCB Revis

Slot Skrine

FS Gilchrist

SS Pryor

RCB Marcus Williams

In their sub package, the Jets will have an open competition for situational pass rusher with Freddie Bishop, Mike Catapano, Trevor Reilly or even Deion Barnes. Lee will serve as a hybrid linebacker/safety similar to Deone Bucannon.

Skrine will move inside, so Williams, who excels on the outside, to play outside. David Harris, although a liability in pass coverage, will never come off the field since he wears the headset and is the glue of the defense. He allows Bowles’ to be able call exotic blitzes due to his amazing football intelligence and ability to get everyone in the right position pre-snap.

Bowles’ scheme is aggressive and player-friendly. He puts his players in a position to succeed by using them in a way that exhibits their strengths. An example of this would be Williams. He made big plays for the Jets in 2015, but was only effective on the outside. When asked to play in the slot or play safety, he struggled. His tackling deficiencies were also on display when he was forced to play out of position. This year, he will only be used on the outside.

Bowles loves to blitz and blitz often. He will use exotic zone blitzes but will also play cover-0 or cover-1 while using his corners in man coverage. One of his favorite pressure packages is the double A gap blitz look. This package is used around the NFL because of the versatility it gives coordinators. The two linebackers over the A gap can rush or drop into coverage. Also, teams can drop an end and bring both guys up the A gap. Lee will excel in this look, due to his impressive speed and burst.

Sometimes, Bowles will even use a triple A gap blitz. This look uses sends both linebackers up the middle at the quarterback. The third guy penetrating the A gap is a safety who will sprint toward the line of scrimmage from his safety spot at the last possible second before the snap. The timing of the safety is key, because if he runs up as the quarterback snaps the ball, it will be too late for him to see it and definitely too late for the offensive line to adjust.

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Another package Bowles loves is the overload blitz. Bowles usually plays zone with the overload blitz, which allows a safety to come up and account for the slot corner, who will be blitzing off the edge. Bowles likes to play cover 3 behind this look. The cover 3 look allows Gilchrist to play free, and Pryor to roam over the middle and watch the eyes of the quarterback; something he excelled at in 2015.