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Jets Defensive Line Strategy

Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

When Sheldon Richardson returned from his suspension, many wondered how snaps would be distributed up front. The Jets had an overflow of talent in the trenches. Would this lead Todd Bowles to play more four man lines? What combinations would the team use? I took a look at their deployment against the Patriots to get some early signals.

  • Through two weeks, the answer does seem to be that Bowles is adapting to Richardson's return by using more four defensive lineman alignments. I counted 44 four man lines on 66 snaps, two-thirds of plays even though the Jets are a nominally 3-4 defense.
  • Of course, calling the Jets a 3-4 defense is something of a misnomer under a coach like Bowles. It deals with things more like how positions are labeled. Bowles likes to mix things up and throw multiple looks at the other offense. I counted 16 different combinations of players lining up on the defensive line.
  • It might not be a surprise, but I found the most frequent combination the Jets used was a four man line with their best young linemen, Richardson, Leonard Williams, Muhammad Wilkerson, and Damon Harrison. This was the line on 13 snaps. Tom Brady was 7 for 11 for 65 yards and took a sack against this alignment.
  • Calvin Pace was moving around on defense. There were snaps where he'd be a linebacker and play coverage, but he also had his hand in the dirt as a defensive end on 24 snaps. He also had the sack listed above blitzing as a linebacker. He was a free runner as the young front four tied up the blockers.
  • The second most frequent alignment was Wilkerson, Richardson, Harrison, and Pace on 12 snaps. Brady was 5 for 10 for 47 yards and took a sack.
  • The third most frequent defensive line was Pace, Richardson, Wilkerson, and Williams on 11 plays. Brady was 4 for 9 for 33 yards
  • Did the Jets use a three man line of their three first round picks, Williams, Richardson, and Wilkerson? Yes, unfortunately this was the line on the big third and 17 New England hit in the fourth quarter and the Rob Gronkowski touchdown (not their fault since there was a busted coverage).