Quentin Groves (Phil Coale/AP)
Over the last week of camp the Jacksonville Jaguars have been employing several different 3-4 defensive looks. Many fans might find this a bit odd, since Jacksonville has always been a 4-3 base defense and head coach Jack Del Rio is a big proponent of the 4-3. Here at JagNation.com, we've been dropping hints and knowledge of this transition for months, including leading up to the NFL Draft.
The Jaguars showed a lot of interest in many players that would fit perfectly as 3-4 defensive lineman or outside linebackers in the draft, and they also flirted with a couple of free agents who were 3-4 defensive lineman.
Many fans and talking heads clamor that this transition doesn't seem to fit given the Jacksonville Jaguars current personnel, but if you look at the roster a little deeper, it makes certain sense. First and foremost Jacksonville is a small market with cash flow issues. With the current state of the franchise, economy, and the looming CBA issues, the 3-4 defense makes a lot of sense because it's exponentially cheaper than the 4-3 defense. Secondly, the players for a 3-4 are a lot easier to find than a 4-3 defense. The biggest issue Jacksonville had was they lacked a true nose tackle, which is the cornerstone of any 3-4 defense. The Jaguars have seemingly found that player in 3rd round draft pick from Temple, Terrance Knighton. Not only Knighton, but many other young and older players would fit. Let's break it down:
(bullet) NT, Terrance Knighton - Knighton was a relative unknown coming out of college, but he is a shorter, squatty defensive tackle. Much different than the towering defensive tackles teams in the 4-3 look for. Coming out, he was lauded as a potential starting 2-gap nose in the NFL. Exactly what the Jaguars needed to start.
There are however a couple of players who don't seem to fit. Defensive tackle John Henderson is a pure 4-3 defensive tackle. In practice while the Jaguars are experimenting, he's lined up at nose tackle. He just doesn't fit there. He's way too tall for the position. Generally the nose is a short squatty player. Some other ends don't seem to fit either in Reggie Hayward and James Wyche. I do not believe either could play standing up and have the ability to cover and I'm not sure either would be able to hold the point as a 2-gapping defensive end in the 3-4.
- DE, Derek Landri - Derek Landri put on some weight in the offseason and is walking around at close to 300 pounds. This puts him in prime frame to play the 2-gap defensive end position on the line. Landri could also possibly spell the nose position, which he played at Notre Dame.
- NT/DE, Atiyyah Ellison - Ellison has bounced around in the NFL on primarily 3-4 defensive teams. He has a great build for a 3-4 lineman at 6'3", 320 pounds, much like the rookie Knighton. Ellison is a versatile player, like Landri, who could play nose or end.
- DT/DE, Rob Meier - Rob Meier is a 3-4 team's dream. He is built perfect for a 3-4 defensive end and has played both end and defensive tackle for the Jaguars.
- DE, Jeremy Navarre - It remains to be seen whether or not Navarre makes the roster, but again he is another defensive lineman projected as a 3-4 defensive lineman in the NFL.
- DE/DT, Montavious Stanley - Stanley was originally drafted by the Dallas Cowboys to play defensive end in their 3-4 scheme under Bill Parcells. Should I go on further?
- DE/OLB, Quentin Groves - You'd have a hard time convincing me Quentin Groves isn't built to be a 3-4 outside linebacker. He struggles somewhat getting off the ball with his hand on the ground, but when he's standing he puts pressure on the quarterback. I know he wants to bulk up to be an every downs end, but with his frame and body it's difficult for him to put weight on.
- DE/OLB, Julius Williams - Williams is barely 260 pounds. He's drawn many comparisons to Pittsburgh's James Harrison. Clearly a 3-4 outside linebacker.
- DE/OLB, Jeremy Mincey - Mincey is a player who's stuck around on the Jaguars for a little while. He never seemed dominant as a pass rusher with his hand on the ground, but he's another player the Jaguars used in the 3-4 look as a stand up rusher. I also believe he could hold up as a spell player at defensive end in a 3-4 lineup.
Another player many seem to think does not fit is last year's first round pick Derrick Harvey. On the contrary, Derrick Harvey is an excellent fit. Harvey was worked out by many 3-4 defensive teams during the draft process and impressed. In practice Derrick Harvey played the outside linebacker position dropping into coverage and rushing the quarterback, and by all accounts looked very good doing so.
As far as the rest of the Jaguar linebackers go, all three starters in Clint Ingram, Justin Durant, and Daryl Smith (who played in a 3-4 at Georgia Tech) all fit nicely. The back up players in Thomas Williams, Brian Iwuh, and undrafted rookied Russell Allen would all fit as well.
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