"We’re a 3-4 team." -Jets Head Coach Todd Bowles
"We have already incorporated some 4-3. We’re a multiplex defense. We kind of run both of them anyway. It depends on the game and depends on the team." -Jets Head Coach Todd Bowles
These two comments are not contradictory. Bowles is building the Jets around 3-4 principles. Sportsfan86's great piece yesterday about playbooks explains this partially. The new coach likely is incorporating concepts, terminology, and player roles as a 3-4 defense. We will be spending plenty of quality time together in the offseason to go deeper into this.
Saying your team is a base 3-4 defense doesn't mean that the defense will have three defensive linemen with one hand on the ground on every play. That is where Bowles' second statement comes in. One of the things that was enjoyable about watching Rex Ryan coach the Jets was how creative and adaptable his defensive schemes were. Bowles is very similar in this area.
There will be plenty of time to go into further detail, but I found an interesting example when watching last year's game between Bowles' Arizona defense and the Dallas Cowboys. Dallas was without Tony Romo in this game. This left Brandon Weeden at quarterback. The main objective of the defense under this scenario was obviously to stop DeMarco Murray.
Bowles' approach was to get big on the defensive line. On early downs, the Cardinals put four big defensive linemen, Calais Campbell, Tommy Kelly, Dan Williams, and Frostee Rucker out there together. They comprised a trio of 300 pounders, a smaller player in Rucker who weighs 280 pounds.
Murray was held to 79 yards on the ground.
We are only scratching the surface here, but this is an important thing to remember when we start thinking about the defense Bowles is installing. You will hear plenty from analysts and even the coaches about the Jets being a 3-4 team. That doesn't mean they are going to always be in a 3-4 front. We are going to see a lot of other fronts. It will depend some on the opponent's strengths and weaknesses on any given week.
This also is a short introduction into ways the Jets can potentially find snaps for all of their defensive linemen. Leonard Williams will not just sub in for Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson when those two are tired. There are going to be chances to get all of them onto the field together.