The 3-4 isn’t for the Jaguars

This is the time of the year that the debate whether or not the Jaguars are switching to a 3-4 annually happens. I guess that’s to be expected when they’ve annually finished in the bottom of the league in defensive rankings. Changes need to be made and something needs to give.

Gene Smith is in the process of accumulating talent all over the Jaguars defense and the thought that the team could make a transition to a 3-4 has been fueled by the thought that they already have talent more suited for the transition. Do they? Yes, but not as much as you may think.

In the pre-draft analysis last year, there was a running belief that Tyson Alualu was perfectly suited for a 3-4 defense as a defensive end. The initial reaction to the Jaguars drafting him, was the belief that the team was now prepared to make a transition to a 3-4 with Terrance Knighton anchoring the middle of the defense as nose tackle and Alualu at end.

“Rare 3-4 DE who can make the transition to the position in the pros.” – on Alualu

That belief was made stronger when the Jaguars drafted D’Anthony Smith. Smith was the same height as Alualu and just nine pounds heavier. The thought that he could also be successful in a 3-4 was only a natural deduction.

In a post last year for Big Cat Country I broke down the sizes of the league’s best defensive lineman. Using Pro Football Focus’s rankings for the 2009 season, I found the top 10 players in each of the following categories: 3-4 defensive ends, 4-3 run stopping defensive tackles and 4-3 pass rushing defensive tackles. These are the results I found:

3-4 DEs
Player Height Weight
Justin Smith 6’4 285
Randy Starks 6’3 305
Vonnie Holliday 6’5 285
Calais Campbell 6’8 290
Robaire Smith 6’4 310
Kendall Langford 6’6 295
Cullen Jenkins 6’2 305
Igor Olshansky 6’6 315
AVERAGE 6’5 299
4-3 DT Run Stoppers
Player Height Weight
Pat Williams 6’3 317
Brodrick Bunkley 6’2 306
Colin Cole 6’1 330
Terrance Knighton 6’3 321
Albert Haynesworth 6’6 350
Kevin Williams 6’5 311
Brandon Mebane 6’1 301
Clifton Ryan 6’3 324
Kyle Williams 6’1 306
Anthony Adams 6’0 310
Grady Jackson 6’2 345
Mike Patterson 6’1 300
AVERAGE 6’2 318
4-3 DT Pass Rushers
Player Height Weight
Tony Brown 6’3 290
Kevin Williams 6’5 311
Albert Haynesworth 6’6 350
Jonathan Babineaux 6’2 296
Eric Foster 6’2 265
Fred Robbins 6’4 317
Tommy Kelly 6’6 300
Damione Lewis 6’2 301
Kyle Williams 6’1 306
Marcus Stroud 6’6 310
Gerard Warren 6’4 325
AVERAGE 6’4 306

When they were drafted, D’Anthony Smith was 6’2, 304 pounds and Tyson Alualu was 6’2, 295 pounds. now lists them as 298 and 304, respectively. Both are three inches shorter than the average that came for 3-4 defensive ends. Just looking at the charts, their closest fit comes in the 4-3 as pass rushing defensive tackles.

That was Alualu’s role in 2010 and likely would’ve been Smith’s as well. Could these two players make the transition to defensive end in a 3-4? I believe they could. But the question isn’t whether or not they could make the transition, it’s whether or not they’d be more successful in the transition. I see no reason to think they’d find more success in the 3-4.

It reminds me of a bit that Chris Rock did in his standup routine. Here’s a link (Warning-explicit language).

“You could drive a car with your feet if you want to. That don’t make it a good idea.” – Chris Rock

If the Jaguars make a transition to the 3-4, they’ll need to acquire a lot more talent suitable for the switch than they have now.