New York Jets – Defensive Trends: A Pinch of Dan Quinn

Dan Essien breaks down some Dan Quinn inspired defensive looks the Jets can utilize in 2018

In the most recent episode of Buck The Trend, we discussed Jets defensive trends with Chris Nimbley. In the same line of previewing the Jets defense, let’s go over some wrinkles the Jets can use next season. Including how they could take a page out of Dan Quinn’s playbook and put their own spin on it.  Here’s a look at some of the potential looks the Jets could show next season with the front seven.

A Pinch of Dan Quinn

The Jets’ “sons of anarchy” era came to a close last season after trading Sheldon Richardson and release Mo Wilkerson. After that, the Jets’ depth at defensive line was a bit in question. On draft weekend, the Jets added Nathan Shepherd, Foley Fatukasi, and Henry Anderson (via trade with the Indianapolis Colts). At linebacker, the Jets lost their top tackler in Demario Davis. But they added Avery Williamson, Kevin Minter, and Kevin Pierre Louis in free agency.

Their new group gives them some options defensively, particularly with four man fronts. Atlanta Falcons’ head coach Dan Quinn is known for his defensive expertise. There are few schematic setups the Jets can borrow from his playbook.

Before we get into that, though, here’s a diagram of gaps & techniques that’ll make it easier to follow as I go through a bunch of defensive “slang.” The numbers refer to “techniques” or where a player is aligned in relation to the offensive line. The letters refer to “gaps” which each player is for responsible for one or more.

4-3 Under

In Seattle, Quinn’s 4-3 defense was well documented. He often utilized two different known variations: 4-3 under and 4-3 over. The difference between the two is how the defensive front lines up in relation to the strength of the offense’s formation. In the 4-3 under alignment  the defensive line shades towards the weak side while the linebackers shade towards to strong side (where the tight end is in the example below). Here’s an example of how Quinn’s 4-3 lined up:

You see here, along the defensive line, Seattle has a 3 and a wide 5 technique to the weak side (opposite the TE), and a 1-tech and 4-tech (could be 3) to the strong side. Then with the linebackers, they have the strong side linebacker outside the tight end, the middle linebacker between lined up between the 1 and 4 technique, and the weak side linebacker lined up just outside of the 3-tech.

Seattle had a great group up front for a few years but there were some key traits for players at specific positions. For example, with the 4-3 Under look, at strong side linebacker, Quinn liked to have a versatile linebacker that could be a threat as a pass rusher but also could drop in coverage and defend the edge well. The LEO in Quinn’s defense, was more of an agile, pass rushing edge. The Jets have the personnel to take advantage of this look in their own way. Here’s one way they could line up:

This is more of a base look and could be very effective against the run. It really accentuates the strength of the front seven with no apparent weak spots.

LEO: Leonard Williams

Gap responsibility: Weak side C-gap + contain

Alternative(s): David Bass, Dylan Donahue

This is a bit different than Dan Quinn’s interpretation of the LEO position in that Williams is a much bigger defensive end than someone like Cliff Avril or Michael Bennett (who both played the LEO position for Quinn). However, Williams is still a fairly good pass rusher and he can set the edge well at his size. Also, aligning him in positions where he’s more likely to only be single blocked is a good aim for the Jets. Having a great athlete at WLB and a safety like Jamal Adams a little further back in support, can help anything that gets outside of Williams. David Bass and Dylan Donahue, the quicker alternatives for this position, are also a good way to protect against anything breaking outside on the weak side.

3 Tech: Henry Anderson

Gap responsibility: Weak side  B-gap

Alternative(s): Leonard Williams, Xavier Cooper

Henry Anderson is probably going to play a good amount of 5-tech in the Jets base 3-4 defense, but he had a good amount of reps at the 3-tech in Indianapolis. I think the Jets can continue some of that with this kind of look. Leonard Williams, of course, can also work out of this position as well.

1 Tech: Steve McClendon

Gap responsibility: Strong side A-gap

Alternative(s): Foley Fatukasi, Mike Pennell

Steve McClendon is coming off of a great year last season and the Jets in this scenario would slot him right into the 1-tech or nose position with this front.

5 Tech: Nathan Shepherd

Gap responsibility: Strong side C-gap

Alternative(s): Henry Anderson, Xavier Cooper

Shepherd slides in here at the 5-tech because he’s strong enough to defend his gap, and disrupt the strong side. I think this defensive line alignment overall would do a great job keeping the linebackers clean by occupying and often overwhelming the offensive line. Henry Anderson, and Xavier Cooper are also good options for this position.

WLB: Darron Lee

Gap responsibility: Weak side A-gap

Alternative(s): Kevin Pierre-Louis

Darron Lee can use his speed in this position. The Falcons currently employ at similar linebacker in Duke Riley here, amongst a few others. If he can improve his instincts, this type of front really works to his advantage.

MLB: Avery Williamson

Gap responsibility: Strong side B-gap

Alternative(s): Kevin Minter

With the under shift, this role feels more 3-4 ILB-like for both the WLB and MLB. Williamson fits the role here at MLB.  Kevin Minter can also rotate in here.

SLB: Jordan Jenkins

Gap responsibility: Strong side D-gap + contain

Alternative(s): Josh Martin

Jenkins is a classic 3-4 OLB but he did play a bit off the line at times last season. In this role, he can play at a variety of depths. He can play off the ball in a deeper role or closer to the line. Either way he can still do what he does best: set the edge on outside runs to his side. However, Jenkins also has to be able to drop into coverage here. Josh Martin can also rotate in at this position.


4-3 Over

In the 4-3 over alignment the defensive line shades towards the strong side while the linebackers shade towards to weak side. Here’s one iteration of this look Quinn used in Atlanta last season:

 

Along the defensive line, there’s a 3 (possible a 4i) tech and either a 6 or a 9 technique to the strong side, and a 1-tech and 5-tech (Leo) to the weak side (opposite the TE). The linebackers are more evenly stacked here. The strong linebacker is typically lined up between the 3 and a would-be 7 or 9 tech but in the example above, he’s lined up outside a 6-tech. The middle linebacker is lined up between the 1 and 3 tech, and the weak linebacker is lined up between the 1 and the 5 tech. I can see the Jets potentially utilizing two different looks here:

Example 1

Example 2

The first example looks more like the traditional 4-3 look. The second example is more like the Falcons example we showed above and allows them to use their defensive line depth a bit more. Both looks can leave a lot of opportunity for interchanging as well.

Leo: David Bass

Gap responsibility: Weak side C-gap + contain

Alternative(s): Dylan Donahue

David Bass is a better option here as Leo in a more balanced 4-3 over look. The key here is the ability to pursue from the backside against the run, and create pressure off the edge in pass rush with speed. Bass and Donahue fit this bill.

1 Tech: Steve McClendon

Gap responsibility: Weak side A-gap

Alternative(s): Foley Fatukasi, Mike Pennell

Again, Steve McClendon at the 1 technique is ideal with Pennell and Fatukasi rotating in seamlessly.

3 Tech: Leonard Williams

Gap responsibility: Strong side B-gap

Alternative(s): Henry Anderson, Xavier Cooper

Henry Anderson would be to the strong side here as the 3-technique. As we mentioned earlier, Williams can also easily fit here and Xavier Cooper can rotate in.

* 9 Tech: Jordan Jenkins (example 1)

Gap responsibility: Strong side D-gap + contain

Alternative(s): Josh Martin, Lorenzo Mauldin

Jenkins plays directly at the line here what would essentially be a 4-3 defensive end. He can hold his own here against the run. Hopefully his pass rushing has improved as well. Josh Martin, again, would be an alternative for Jenkins.

* 6 (or 6i) Tech: Leonard Williams (example 2)

Gap responsibility: Strong side C-gap

Alternative(s): Nathan Shepherd

If the Jets use example 2, this role fits Leonard Williams. He can use his versatility really well here. He’s also not being relied on here to keep contain on outside runs.

WLB: Darron Lee

Gap responsibility: Weak side B-gap

Alternative(s): Jamal Adams, Anthony Wint

This formation is more balanced so the WLB and SLB have similar responsibilities. This is where the Jets can put their newfound depth at LB to work. Lee fits the WLB role here. This is also a perfect opportunity for Bowles to use his 3 safety package and play Jamal Adams here at WLB or SLB. Adams is physical enough to defend the run from here but more importantly is a versatile piece here against the pass being ability to blitz, and cover in man or zone effectively. In the Falcons example we used, Quinn utilizes Ricardo Allen (#37) as his “WLB.”

MLB: Avery Williamson

Gap responsibility: Strong side A-gap

Alternative(s): Kevin Minter

This is the more classic 4-3 middle linebacker role. Williamson might not be at the level of someone like Bobby Wagner but I think he has enough experience and ability to fit fine in this spot.

SLB: Kevin Pierre-Louis

Gap responsibility: Strong side C-gap (example 1) / Strong side D-gap + contain (example 2)

Alternative(s): Jamal Adams, Anthony Wint

Kevin Pierre-Louis is another very athletic LB. Dan Quinn is able to use guys like KPL well in his 4-3 defense in Atlanta. These particular 4-3 Over looks could really benefit from the speed of both Darron Lee and KPL at WLB and SLB.  Again, as we mentioned before, Adams can interchange here to provide some versatility.