Should The New York Jets Move To A 4-3?

Should the New York Jets move to a 4-3 in 2013?


The New York Jets defense has gradually declined the past few seasons, mostly due to a lack of speed at linebacker and an inability to consistently pressure the quarterback. Heading into 2013, the team will see three former starters at linebacker leave for cap purposes and declined play (Bryan Thomas, Calvin Pace, Bart Scott), along with both starting safeties and a key defensive lineman in Mike DeVito hit free agency. Looking at the current pieces they have and their cap space, does it make sense for the Jets to consider moving to use predominantly a 4-3 look, instead of a 3-4?

The strength of the unit is currently defensive line. Muhammad Wilkerson is coming off a terrific season and has the skill set to line up all over the formation, particularly at both a 5 and 7 technique (as our resident defensive lineman Chris Gross assured us). Quinton Coples is built to rush the edge in the 4-3 and can also slide inside to rush from defensive tackle in certain passing situations. Remember he was a double-digit sack guy at UNC in his junior year at DT. If resigned, Mike DeVito and Kenrick Ellis can play defensive tackle with Damon Harrison coming off the bench.

At linebacker, the Jets myriad of issues will be easier solved in  a4-3 than a 3-4. Considering they are stuck with David Harris and his bloated contract, he could slide over to playing weak-side backer which will help hide his speed limitations. Last year’s third round pick, Demario Davis has the speed and collegiate experience to play strong-side, which leaves the Jets to find a long term middle backer. If they stay in a 3-4, they need two outside linebackers and have very valid questions if Harris can play inside in the 3-4 competently. For depth purposes in the 4-3, Antonio Allen played the “spur” in college and can be a backup at strong-side linebacker and Garret McIntyre has shown enough to be a backup on the weak-side.

In the secondary, regardless of the system the Jets should be considering a trade of Antonio Cromartie to both free up cap space and receive draft compensation. A middle round pick and the extra available money could help fill the void in the middle at linebacker and potentially at safety since LaRon Landry will probably not sign here long term while Yeremiah Bell could return on a low-cost one year deal.

Rex Ryan is a smart enough defensive mind to handle this kind of transition. The current reality of the Jets defensive depth chart is that they are devoid of talent at linebacker, while they have strong pieces at defensive line. Why not focus the defense more around their strength, than their weaknesses?

Author: Joe Caporoso

Joe Caporoso is the Owner and EIC of Turn On The Jets. His writing has been featured in the New York Times, Huffington Post, MMQB and AdWeek. Caporoso played football his entire life, including four years at Muhlenberg as a wide receiver, where he was arguably the slowest receiver to ever start in school history. He is the VP of Social Media at Whistle Sports

  • First off great article but wilk is more suited to play on the inside then on the outside. If ur gonna switch to a 43 ur gonna need ur classic 43 end n we don’t have that . Putting harris on the weakside will not hide his speed but it will expose it ur weak side linebackers r usually ur speedy athletic linebackers he would have to play in the middle n be that runstuffer we know he can be davis is the one u want playing on the weakside because of his speed and athletisism n he played that position in college. Mauga could def play the strongside


    Actually, as in college, Demario Davis would be a weakside backer in a 4-3 which was widely said about his projected NFL position when he was drafted…and yeah if anything you would throw Harris on the strong side since he could set the edge and doesn’t need to make as many impact plays on that side…I still think when you have guys like Mo and Coples who were very good in pass rush productivity from Pro Football Focus (believe top 10 for their position) and Big Mo was the 2nd best 3-4 DE in the game why would you mess with that? In the end, you would still need 2 4-3 DEs just like you need 2 3-4 OLBs…Coples excelled as a DT in the 4-3 front his JR year while he struggled mightily as DE in the 4-3 his SR year…if he struggled in that spot in college why would you suggest moving him there in the pros? Drafting a top 10 3-4 OLB will fix a lot of our problems, from either formation we have holes, neither one makes it easier…if anything you make Coples & Mo less productive if you make them play DE in a 4-3, you don’t see many 6’4″ 315 lb 4-3 DEs which is what Wilkerson would be…I think we stick to the 3-4, let Sione or Kenrick Ellis play 3-4 NT, keep QC and Wilk at 3-4 end, sign a low cost 3-4 OLB in free agency for the stong side and draft a weakside 3-4 OLB to be a pass rushing stud @ 9…then work with Harris & Davis in the middle, maybe with some low cost depth in FA like Erin Henderson

  • AJ

    I think Coples would be a great fit as a LE i na 4-3 alignment. If wilk and ellis played inside (with wilk in the 3 spot) and the Jets drafted a legit RE, the team would have an excellent foundation in the front 7. At that point, they would have to pick up one more linebacker, but that is doable.


    So let’s get this logic straight AJ…he stunk at the position (4-3 LE) his senior year in college yet he’s a great fit for it in the NFL? Yup…that makes perfect sense

  • anthony

    Anybody that thinks we played the 3-4 last year, didn’t watch football or the NY Jets. The 3-4 defensive alignment and even more rigidly the 4-3 alignment are merely a way for casual fans to address the television screen and feel as though they understand whats going on.

    We played, at times, 3 down linemen, 4 down linemen, 5 down lineman and 1 down lineman. There is no difference between the 3-4 and the 4-3 the difference is in the QB using no more than 4 rushers at the line.

    In a 3-4, the attempt is to get pressure by blitzing the QB from one or multiple angles using a man or combination man-zone coverage. Clearly a more complicated system, definitely more risky, but less dependent on having the correct personnel, as we’ve seen over the past 4 years.

    Whether we line up 3-4 or 4-3 or whatever the media wants to call it, we are not going to a zone scheme. Rex will always show blitzes, he will always attempt to cheat, but hopefully we will have better players to execute it.

  • Joe Caporoso

    For the record – Davis started 16 games in college at strong-side backer. Out of college, he was projected as being able to player either SLB or WLB.

    Harris can’t play strong side because he can’t cover the tight end, which of course marks the strong-side. The defensive ends set the edge in a 4-3 anyway, not the linebackers.

    Coples rushed a good amount from a 4-3 end spot this season for the Jets when they switched to that look and handled it well. He would also be slid inside in pass rush situations from time to time, allowing him to play DT also. Wilkerson played all over the place this year and is good enough to play any technique in any system upfront. Ellis and DeVito are capable for DT on rushing downs.

  • anthony

    Regarding Wilkerson, Coples, and Ellis.

    Rex drafted those dudes, especially Coples, because he likes versatility. I would imagine Coples and Wilkerson will continue to play both sides of the line, similar to JJ Watt, or Shaun Ellis did in the 3-4. Rex likes confusion, and he likes guys who can play allover the line. Frankly, so do I. When players can stunt, and move, and rush inside or out, and come from multiple angles, offensive linemen and QBs get headaches attempting to adjust and that makes having 2 good cornerbacks better than having one.

  • anthony

    My Laptop deleted my section on the “tampa 2”. The Tampa 2 is commonly confused with a 4-3. Its a 2 deep safely look that utilizes pressure from the 4 down linemen set to get to the QB while using zones to cover down field.

    Its not the only 4-3 defense that exists. The fact is though, its not Rex’s Style. He will give 4-3, 3-4, 46, 5-2 looks and blitz or zone from whatever formation he cares to.

    Gerrit Mcyntire lined up at DE a few times this year. Regardless of personnel Rex will be Rex. We just need better players.