The reports of the Jacksonville Jaguars switch to a 3-4 defense have been greatly exaggerated. At least, that’s how defensive coordinator Todd Wash feels.
Asked if the talk around the Jags switch to a 3-4 was being made into a bigger deal than it really was, Wash quickly answered, “That would be a correct statement.”
For what it’s worth, the conversation began when both Head Coach Doug Marrone and General Manager Dave Caldwell referenced a change in the defensive mindset during the 2020 NFL Draft. Rookies joining the class then made mention as well.
Said Caldwell at the time, while referencing No. 20 overall pick K’Lavon Chaisson: “Historically, if you feel like the pass rusher can play the run and play the pass and in K’Lavon’s case, also cover, too. This is a guy that is really multifaceted, and we can play in some 3-4 looks obviously with Josh Allen and him and I think he offers a bunch of versatility on our defense with those two guys and Yannick [Ngakoue].”
Caldwell’s comment about playing in 3-4 looks is what stands out in relation to Wash’s explanation while speaking with local media on Friday. It’s not a full rebranding according to Wash. It’s just the ability to offer different looks, some of which will be in a 3-4 formation. A lot of the excitement stemmed from the type of players the Jaguars drafted in April explains the DC.
“Because of the way that we’re built, you know obviously how we drafted with KC [Chaisson] and stuff like that. Every body sees him as an outside linebacker. But you’re gonna look, what we had last year, we have not installed a different front than we’ve had in the past in our system in the last two years.
“So it’s just guys playing different spots, changing some alignments, but the overall structure, you’re gonna see the outside linebacker on the line of scrimmage more because that’s the skill set of the guys that we had.”
And now, it’s also who they’ve drafted. Chaisson is someone—along with No. 9 overall pick CJ Henderson—that Wash sees contributing right away and “playing a majority of the reps…we’re gonna figure a lot more of that out once we get them on the grass in training camp. But both of them physically have the abilities to be impact players early in their career.”
But those series that do heavily feature Chaisson and other outside linebacker—or for that matter, have Josh Allen standing up as opposed to a hand in the ground—will be a different look out of the old defense. Not an entirely new scheme.
As JaguarReport explained last month when breaking down the new look defense, “Until now, the Jags have run a 4-3 under front with a defensive end lining up on the weak side offensive line as a pass rusher and the other end anchored by a larger DE. Rush four, cover seven; it’s the framework for every defensive scheme the past couple of decades.”
That concept, at least in theory, will continue to guide Todd Wash and the Jaguars this fall.
“Everybody’s saying a 3-4 but if you look at our system in the last two years, we’ve had three different front’s based out of a 3-4 but nobody considered us a 3-4 because we ran so much over front. You might not see as much over front out of us now because of the makeup of our personnel so everybody’ll say ‘well you’re a 3-4.’ No, we’re just a 50 front and we’re based out of under.
“We’re not built to be a two gap team. If your’e looking at the two, three, four stuff that you see in our league. That’s not the way we’re built. So we’re still gonna be gap accountability, one gap, single high, it’s just gonna be leverages and alignments are gonna be a little bit different within our scheme. But we’re not a true 3-4, two gap team. That’s not how we’re built up front or the sides of our unit to do that.”
Back in the early offseason when discussing some of the personnel changes on the defensive side of the ball, Marrone said on base downs, “you will see more of our SAM [strong side] linebacker on the ball.”
This is essentially what Wash continued to say on Friday when discussing the Jags base defense. The aforementioned 50 front places five personnel on the line of scrimmage. Depending on what the defensive ends are doing, it can look like a 3-4 defense at first glance. In theory it’s a nose, flanked by two defensive tackles and then two defensive ends as anchors with two linebackers behind and the single high safety has the ability to cheat down as a third linebacker; so in other words, a 5-2. However, when running this in the past, Jacksonville hasn’t sent five guys to the line all in a three point stance. That would require a time machine.
Instead, Wash has typically lined up with one defensive end and then moved the SAM linebacker up in a two point stance to the right of the end. With Chaisson, Cassius Marsh and even Josh Allen’s versatility to stretch out, Wash has the personnel to make this a more common look.
What it won’t be though, is a pure and total schematic shift to a 3-4 defense. There will be those looks and most likely more than usual. But it won’t be a complete retooling. That’s something Todd Wash wants to make very clear.
“You’re gonna see a lot of the fronts that we have ran through years that just matches our personality and our skill set of our players…we wanna still continue to give teams a lot of multiple looks and probably most importantly is the players that we have on the roster, put them in position to be successful within any scheme that they fit.