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How Do The New York Jets Fit Into a 4-3?

The New York Jets may be looking at more 4-3 fronts next year. How does the roster fill into that formation?


If you've watched a Rex Ryan-led defense, one thing immediately sticks out; it's the definition of a "multiple" formation defense. You'll see a 3-4 front, 4-3, 46, 3-3-5, the whole deal. While the team currently works out of a 3-4 base and thus uses it, and variations of it, as the primary formation, one key alternative is the 4-3. If the New York Jets draft certain players, you can almost guarantee that you'll see a significant amount of 4-3 defense.

Let's pretend for a moment that the Jets select Bjoern Werner or some other 4-3 defensive end in the first two rounds of the 2013 NFL Draft. A solid 4-3 defensive line is set, with Werner and Quinton Coples at DE, and Kenrick Ellis and Muhammad Wilkerson at DT (save for the shifting around that Rex loves to do). What happens to the linebackers?

Without having the benefit of the draft or free agency to see who the team brings in, my initial thought is that we could see Ricky Sapp at weak-side linebacker, Demario Davis at middle linebacker, and David Harris at strong-side linebacker. But first, let's go through what each position does, as it's different from a 3-4 defense.

Weak-Side Linebacker (also known as the WILL): Has more freedom to move. Can blitz, watch for a screen, etc. They are the one that makes plays, as the other positions generally take on the grunt work. Needs to be fast, explosive, and quick. On our roster, Sapp seems to fill this position well.

Middle Linebacker (also known as the MIKE): Is in charge of the defense, so has to be smart and a leader. Must be able to cover a running back out of the backfield, but primarily plays the run. Has to be a solid tackler and able to read the defense. On our roster, Davis seems like the best bet here, as the Ray Lewis comparisons indicate.

Strong-Side Linebacker (also known as the SAM): Primarily takes on the lead-blocks and engages the blockers to free up the other linebackers. Must be strong, able to win at the point-of-attack. Also has to be capable of covering the tight end. On our roster, Harris is probably the best option here. He's not ideal, as he has trouble covering tight ends, but if he's primarily used in bracket coverage with a safety, is passable. Harris is good at blowing up blockers, but he'll need to be phased out as he's been slowing down over the past two years.

What do you think? How does this team fit into a potential 4-3 defense?