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What does the surprising 3-4 defense mean for the New York Jets?

New York Jets (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
New York Jets (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
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The New York Jets have reportedly made the surprising decision to remain in the 3-4 defensive alignment in 2019. What does this mean for the team’s going forward?

In what should be considered surprising news, Brian Costello of the New York Post has reported that the New York Jets will continue to operate out of a base 3-4 defensive scheme in 2019.

This comes on the heels of new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams being hired just last month, a move that was met with widespread praise from the majority of the fanbase. Williams has coached almost exclusively 4-3 defenses during his time as a coach in the NFL making this move a bit of a head-scratcher.

Regardless, the coaching staff seemingly believes that the personnel on the roster is still best fit for a 3-4 defense. Given that the defense was, of course, crafted with the alignment in mind, this shouldn’t come as a surprise.

While many were excited to see how the likes of Leonard Williams and Darron Lee would perform playing in their more natural positions in a 4-3, the status quo does come with its fair share of positives. Primarily, in the form of the Jets two 2018 sack leaders.

Both Jordan Jenkins and Henry Anderson will be able to play the roles they thrived in in 2018 when each posted a career-high seven sacks.

Jenkins will return and likely serve as one of the team’s starting edge rushers instead of being forced into an unnatural role. In a 4-3 defense, the Georgia product would have either been asked to play as a down lineman or an off-ball linebacker, neither he had done since his high school days.

Anderson, however, is set to be a free agent this offseason. Although it seemed likely the Jets wouldn’t bring him back in their new scheme, this new report indicates his odds of returning are much higher than first expected.

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Anderson enjoyed a healthy 2018 campaign and served as arguably the team’s most productive defensive lineman. It would have been a shame to lose such a talented and productive player simply due to a schematic shift making this news very good for fans of the former Stanford standout.

Elsewhere, this could open up an opportunity for either Steve McLendon or Mike Pennel to re-sign with the team as the Jets will still need a prototypical run-stuffing nose tackle. Age could be a concern with both of them, particularly the former, but neither will likely have too large of a market in free agency.

Aside from players currently under contract, this will also affect how the Jets may plan to go about their offseason. In particular, the 2019 NFL Draft may present a host of different options now.

In a 3-4 defense, Kentucky edge rusher Josh Allen becomes a very appealing choice given his experience at the position with the Wildcats. His production and athleticism are undeniable making him a likely target for the Jets if they don’t trade out of the No. 3 overall pick.

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Conversely, a player like Alabama defensive lineman Quinnen Williams may be a less likely selection given his experience playing as a 3-technique defensive tackle at Alabama. If the Jets were to select him, he would likely be moved to a 5-technique defensive end role, a position he has very little experience playing.

At the end of the day, Gregg Williams typically runs a complex defense that will consist of multiple packages ranging from the 4-3 to the 3-4 and everything in between making the so-called “base” package somewhat irrelevant. Given that NFL teams run almost 70% of their defensive plays out of the nickel formation anyways, this likely won’t be as important of an issue as people may be making it out to be.

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Expect to see the Jets running multiple different defensive fronts in 2019, but perhaps operating out of the 3-4 a little more than initially expected.

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