Why the Rex Ryan, New York Jets' Switch to a 4-3 Defense Is a Smart Move

James DudkoFeatured ColumnistJune 15, 2012

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 11:  (L-R) Sione Pouha #91 and Muhammad Wilkerson #96 of the New York Jets celebrate after the Jets recorded a sack against the Dallas Cowboys during their NFL Season Opening Game at MetLife Stadium on September 11, 2011 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com has reported that the New York Jets will show plenty of 4-3 looks this season. The decision to shift from the 3-4 to more four-man fronts is a smart move from Rex Ryan.

The Jets 3-4 base has suffered from the lack of an elite edge-rusher. Without a true DeMarcus Ware-type to build his pass rush around, Ryan has had to scheme pressure, and this has caught up with the Jets.

Their best performances have come when they have relied on packing on the secondary and trusted their defensive line to create a pass rush. Without an athletic, outside rusher, generating pressure up the middle is the best move for the Jets defense this season.

Ryan has the personnel to make that kind of plan a success. Muhammad Wilkerson and Kenrick Ellis can be more effective as powerful, interior rushers providing consistent pressure on the pocket. That leaves top draft choice Quinton Coples to use his speed and athleticism as an outside pass-rusher, rather than be wasted as a 2-gapper in a 3-4.

Yet, that still leaves veteran nose tackle Sione Pouha lacking a clearly defined role. The 33-year-old is not much of a pass-rusher, but he could still occupy the center in Ryan's 46-style fronts.

Jenny Vrentas of The Star-Ledger has reported that Ryan intends to utilize the 46 defense a lot more this season. This is where Pouha and a combination of Wilkerson, Ellis and Coples would form a devastating trio.

They would align head-up on the guards and center, to form the 46's T-N-T front. That would allow either one of Calvin Pace or Aaron Maybin to act as the wide-6 rush end on the weak side. Using the 46 defense would boost the Jets ability to pressure the middle and prevent the likes of Tom Brady and Ryan Fitzpatrick from stepping into throws.

Even in the base 4-3, Maybin should have more joy. He has struggled to cope as a traditional 3-4 outside linebacker, but has the pass-rushing ability to be a factor as an end in a four-man line.

By making the switch, the Jets are taking advantage of their talented tackle rotation and can also better utilize Coples' versatility. With Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie at cornerback, the Jets are one of the few teams in the league who can play straight man coverage and rely only on a four-man rush.