Find Talent, Then Defense: The Jaguars and the 34

Jared Wickerham

As a fan, we want wins. Point Blank. A switch to the 34 could possibly help the team, but the argument of the effectiveness of schemes takes a backseat to plucking talent off the draft tree.

In the last ten years, the 34 defense established itself as the "it" defense of both the present and future. While Dick LeBeau, the famous defensive coordinator of the Pittsburgh Steelers, creatively changed the 34 defense with the concept of the Zone Blitz, his real contribution to the game may be uprooting the talent to take the 34 to another level. Currently the 34 defense carries more of an advantage in the NFL Draft, could the Jaguars look to take advantage?

Believe it or not, but a time existed where most college teams ran a 43 defense. The NFL team that ran a 43 defense held an edge going into the draft. Most defensive players available came from teams that ran a 43 in college and most likely something similar in high school, depending on the popular offenses in the area/talent available to coaches. The reason the 34 took a few years to climb to the "top of the mountain", so to speak, derived in the lack of prepared talent from the college ranks. 34 players were labeled "misfits".

Once LeBeau, along with others, created a strong foundation with these misfits, the talent well ceased to run dry. Suddenly, these misfits of a 43 defense were stars in 34 defense, or at the least serviceable. The college teams caught on to the idea and ran with it. Adapting your scheme to your players? Someone tell Norv Turner.

A few years down the road, rules changed to help the passing offense and suddenly a 34 defense that played space as well as it rushed the passer became the sought out model of defense. Coaches that studied and understood 34 concepts found themselves at the top of the market. Water was green and grass was blue.

Now, the status quo has fully flipped into the 34 defense (save the NY Giants). The Jaguars, a predominantly 43 defense may entertain a switch after the season. As the draft gets closer and certain players from certain schemes rise in popularity, the popularity of one of these two schemes will rise or fall with certain players at the top of the draft as well as with the dominant defenses in the playoffs. Don't ever think teams don't copy each other.

Times have changed and so has the draft, but will they change again? It really doesn't matter. What matters remains stopping the QB. As Jets great QB Joe Namath said, "We are the prize."

How do you affect the QB? You run the best defense you can run with the talent available, even if you have to pull a Buddy Ryan and invent a new defense (46).

To stop a passing game, you can't stop it unless you put pressure on it. Now some people are good enough to put it on with a three-man rush; well, we're not. In fact, I don't know whether we're good enough to put it on with a four-man rush. If we have to send eight, we'll send eight, but we're not going to let you sit back there and pick us apart all day.
Buddy Ryan, 1986 NFL Films interview

Affect the QB however you can.

Whether the Jaguars find the next Dick LeBeau or Buddy Ryan doesn't matter, though it would be nice. The presumably new GM needs to look at the talent available on the team and the talent available around the draft position the team earns at season's end and decide what scheme makes the team the most competitive for 2013. Then, in following drafts, build upon that scheme. A 34, 43, 46 or permanent Nickel will only be fun to watch if it's run successfully.

Just make it work, please. Yes, I'm begging.

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