4-3 Primer: Defensive Tackles

While the Jets have always played a hybrid defense, when last the Jets played a predominantly 4-3 defense, YouTube was an infant, Katrina had just rocked the Gulf Coast, Lance Armstrong held his seventh straight Tour de France title, Tom Cruise was jumping on couches and Brokeback Mountain was a cultural juggernaut.  We can’t quit you, Herm Edwards!!  Regardless, we’re going to take a look at how a 4-3 works and how it differs from the 3-4 we’ve grown accustomed to over the last six years in a series called The 4-3 Primer.  Now, the defensive tackles.

ROLE: Defensive Tackle (4-3)

RUNDOWN: Rex Ryan loves slobberknocker football and who best exemplifies this better than interior defensive linemen?  While there’s real reason to believe that Ryan’s most recent first rounders will play some inside, but on a down-by-down basis this will still be the domain of Sione Pouha and Mike DeVito, then Mo Wilkerson, Quinton Coples, Marcus Dixon and Kenrick Ellis next.  The tackle can serve as either a run stuffer or pass rusher and look for Rex Ryan and Mike Pettine to do just that.  In four man fronts, the Jets will use their tackles as gap-shooters to generate pressure straight up the front or to anchor the line on running plays.

DESIRED TRAITS: Tackles need to be the biggest boys on the defense, but also need to possess athleticism to react to blockers, balance to maintain their leverage, and the technique to maneuver blockers to make plays.  Each defensive tackle can bring a different blend of speed, power and skill to the position, so for a coaching staff it’s crucial to know each players strengths and scheme accordingly.  While Sione Pouha might not have been as athletic as a player like Vince Wilfork in New England, Pouha’s technique is impeccable and that has made him a phenomenal run stuffer for the Jets.

JETS PERSONNEL: If the Jets play a lot of 4-3 this season, this group might be the deepest on the roster by a long shot.  Mike DeVito and Sione Pouha are some of the league’s best run stuffers and should remain in that role for the Jets in 2012.  DeVito might have lost his starting spot on draft night, but I fully expect DeVito to play something akin to a “sixth man” role for the defensive front, playing tackle on early/running downs and goal line and then be subbed out for pass rush specialists on likely passing downs.  Behind them the team has Marcus Dixon and Kenrick Ellis, who saw more time last season and will be competent backups or sub players when required.  On passing downs, the tackles might swap.  The Jets could use Wilkerson, Coples, or both to pressure on the inside while letting  Aaron Maybin or BT/Pace to play the end spot.  If the Jets put out a package with Maybin, Wilkerson, Pace, Coples, the Jets might have a mini-version of that charged up defensive line the Giants seem to like so much.