DE vs. Jack/Edge vs. SAM

Ok, but what say you on that article? I read that and think, “that’s what I think.” Then I read you and it’s tangibly different. You’ve been a member a long time with me, I have no reason to doubt your past playing experience. But, to me you’d theoretically read that article and say… not really. I’m just curious to get that out of you. Or I have to go back to the drawing board if you agree with the article.

Well let me break it down.

The Lions don’t use their linebackers like traditional 43 or 34 base players, instead opting to use traits from both schemes and asking their linebackers to be fluid in moving between positions.

I agree with this statement and it falls back to the statement I made earlier about there are no absolutes in this defense but the base ideas are there.

In the Lions base defense, they deploy three linebackers on most downs. In the picture below, Jarrad Davis (40) is the MIKE, Christian Jones (52) is the WILL, and Devon Kennard (42) is the JACK.

It’s a cut down screen shot but I’m 99% confident Kennard is actually in the SAM here. The position of the WIL and MIKE suggest Kennard is the SAM. The SAM and Jack are interchangeable in our base defense. So I can see how Erick mislabeled him but I think it’s fairly clear Kennard is actually playing the SAM on this play. Bad example by him.

As mentioned in the the adding of Collins and releasing of Kennard point to a shift in how the JACK linebacker spot is used. Instead of having a dedicated player at the position, the Lions appear to be leaning towards rotating off-the-ball linebackers and natural JACK linebackers here and in other roles.

I half agree with this … Actually the Lions made this shift last year but due to injuries they struggled to implement it fully. While Kennard did play the Jack (a lot) he wasn’t “dedicated” there and I think this is where Erick is making the wrong assumption. If you pay close attention you will see that Kennard took plenty of snaps out of the SAM. Especially after Bryant came back. There were times Kennard played DE too.

I do believe the Lions want more position versatility and that’s the direction we’re trying to head in.

In addition to JACK, Bryant’s secondary position is as a down defensive end,

Correct and they played him at both Jack and DE last year. While they played Kennard at Jack, SAM and DE.

Most everything he’s saying in this article I agree with but I believe his conclusion is off. Here’s how I see it. Think multiple, think position versatility and then think how it will play out. Here’s my belief.

Jack and SAM will be interchangeable with Bryant and Okwara. Both will also take snaps at DE.
Ragland and Davis - Interchangeable between WIL and MIKE
Tavai - Mostly WIL - sometimes MIKE
Jones - Mostly SAM
Collins is the chess piece that can line up at any of the above positions.

I think all of the players above have a good chance to make the roster because they all have a role.

Erik’s problem is he recognizes what a Jack LB does but then applies that name as a title for the guy that plays like a Jack on the field. So much so that it’s just now a revelation to him that there’s not just 1 in Kennard.

A Jack is a hybrid type player as has been well covered already. As Air says, and as the picture I shared and the audio of Jerod Mayo all say… “The Jack” and “The SAM” are interchangeable as they’ll both remain at their defensive left or right positions, regardless of where the TE or FB line up.

We have an LB on the line that can be a DE or a 4-3 SAM or a 3-4 SAM or a 3-4 Jack.
Calling him “The Jack” would be like calling him “The SAM” except that in reality, he was “The SAM” far more than he was “The Jack” based on him taking so many snaps from the defensive left. Calling him the Left DE is more accurate than calling him “The Jack”.

“The Jack” has meaning, just like “The Mike” or “The Will” or “The Sam”. Applying that label as a catch-all for the LOLB is not appropriate.

Here’s another way of looking at this… really, I think this is likely where Erik comes from…:
If in a conventional 3-4 you have 2 Outside Linebackers (the SAM and Jack) the SAM is going to typically be able to cover a bit better than the Jack. The Jack is going to be able to pass-rush better than the SAM. Why? Because the Jack is the equivalent of a 4-3 DE and will be the premier pass-rusher on the team squaring off against the LOT. The 3-4 SAM isn’t typically going to be premier, but will have the size to rush and ability to cover. But we’re not a pure 3-4. We’re “hybrid” and now have a Right DE that lines up like a 4-3 DE and a couple of interior guys that line up in both Under and Over formations. The guy that might have played “The Jack” is now moved over to, essentially, a 4-3 LDE spot. But he’s no longer “the Jack”. He’s a Jack “type”, but he’s not “The Jack”. If you were to give him a 34 OLB name, SAM would fit better because he takes so many snaps from the defensive left.

Google “Patriot’s Jack linebacker” and see how many hits you get. Then Google “Lions Jack linebacker” and see what you get. For the Patriots you get articles about guys who literally have Jack in their given name. For the Lions you get Erik and a couple other bloggers from that community talking about “the jack linebacker”. If there really was “the jack”, shouldn’t we be able to read dozens of articles coming out of Boston? BB has been there 20 years now, we should be littered with articles. There’s a reason we’re not. It’s because they’re not putting a Jack on the field. They have player types that could play the role, but the role is infrequently played because they’re in a hybrid. Same can be said in Detroit.

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Holy smokes
Don’t feel as bad now not knowing the differences
When you guys get this nailed can we have one master post that everyone agrees is correct?
It would be nice if everyone could be on the same page
And I could learn something
This is all over my head


LOL. We’re trying.

Air- thanks for the breakdown of the article, and I agree you are consistent. The things you cite, are the same things I was apparently missing along with our beat writer. No one mentions SAM and Kennard in the same sentence and that goes for all of our beat writers I believe. Like the traditional 4-3 SAM spot in our defense, is instead called the Jack, because he rushes more than he plays off the ball. At least that is how they tend to lay it out and was my understanding. Based on what you assert, Kennard can literally change official positions even when he lines up in the same place. IE: if he blitzes from the LOLB spot and the TE has motioned from the left side of the defense, to the right, he suddenly goes from Jack to SAM. If the TE stays put on the left side of the D and the LOLB drops, he’s a Jack then… Tracking?

We play with the following player types:

NT / DT : Space-eating DT’s that can withstand double-teams inside. They line up anywhere from straight-up on the Center to the outside shoulder of the Guard. We can have anywhere from Zero of these guys to 3 of these guys on the field at once.

DT / DE: DT’s that can rush from the inside as well as get some push against the OT if he’s lined up wide enough. (a 4-3 DT and a 3-4 DE)

DE: Pass-rushing DE. Lines up a little bit wider than a 34 DE (like we’re used to seeing in our 4-3 days of Marinelli and Schwartz, though not as wide as Schwartz’s DEs).

Hybrid DE: He’s going to rush first, but not be a liability in coverage. He serves as the 4th rusher most snaps (when we have only 3 DL with their hands in the dirt). A hybrid DE is a typical 34 Outside Linebacker or Edge player. The NFL and most other outlets list these guys simply as Edge. They don’t try to get cute with the names because that serves no purpose. Some sites, especially stat-tracking sites, will simply refer to them as OLB or outside Linebackers. These same sites note that the defense is either 34 or 43. They label and track the players based on the scheme they’re in and their position. One site might call Detroit a 3-4 in which case he’d be labeled OLB or Edge, another site might call us a 4-3 in which case he’s tracked as a DE. Player-centric tracking might call him both, DE/OLB. No site tracks or refers to these players as SAM or JACK. It’s either DE, OLB or both. If they really get specific, it’s LOLB or ROLB. (Also, when you see LOLB and ROLB, you’re looking at a site that recognizes the team as a 3-4).

Those (NT, DT, DE, Edge/OLB) are “on the ball” players. Then we have “off the ball” players. If you’re calling us a 34, the 2 guys behind the line of scrimmage are called ILB, or Inside Linebackers (MIKE and WILL). If you’re calling us a 4-3, then those 2 guys are no longer referred to as ILB’s. It also implies there are 3 LB’s off the line, not 2. A Middle Linebacker (MIKE) and two outside Linebackers, SAM and WILL. Some sites will track them as LB and MLB (MLB=middle). Since OLB is often used for 34 Edge players, some sites will not use that tag for 43 guys. Some sites do, though. They will tag linebackers as specifically 34 OLB or 43 OLB.

Football terms are complicated by the fact that common names (DE, LB) mean different things depending on whether the team is a 3-4 team or a 4-3 team. Less common nicknames are used even less consistently, if at all, by other teams. This is complicated even further by teams like ours that are “hybrid”, meaning that our alignments and responsibilities can vary from snap to snap or game to game between 34 and 43 types.

In any case, you’re never going to have a Jack and a SAM on the same side of the field (answering the OP’s question). Jack isn’t just a player type, it’s a position name on the field. Specifically, it’s the 34 OLB opposite the SAM. Now, will there be snaps where our Hybrid guy has his hand in the dirt as a 4th DL and there are 3 LB’s behind him? Yes. That’s a 4-3 front. He’s a DE and the 3 LB’s are SAM, MIKE and WILL. If he’s the LDE and the SAM is behind him and to his outside, he cannot be called a JACK.

In essence, naming these guys anything specific is an exercise in futility and confusion.
4-3 teams have DT, DE, LB and MLB.
3-4 teams have NT, DT, DE, OLB/Edge and ILB.
We’re a hybrid team that plays with primarily 34 player types. Our OLBs are 34 OLB types, not 43 OLB types. Our ILB’s are 34 ILB types, not 43. Our LB’s take on offensive linemen, by design. 43 LBs take on gaps, running backs and TE’s, not specifically linemen.
(please note, there is a lot of crossover there, so what I’m saying isn’t 100% black/white)

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@3rdRGR thanks at one point in this thread I felt like no one was grasping what I was saying. As for our beat writers. Few seem to really understand what we’re doing. Which tells you just how bad our beat writers are.

@3rdRGR you got it … the beauty of MP’s defense is he runs a ton of sub packages designed to hide who is who. So it’s easy to understand why fans get confused. That’s what the defense is designed to do. However once you get the basics and see the plays develop you really start to understand what we’re doing.

@LineBusy I think your one of the few who gets it. Once we got the terminology right I realized you fully get it.

@3rdRGR and @LineBusy - I honestly think that Undlin’s defense will look slightly different than MP’s did last year. While I do believe MP is taking the defense in the direction of the 2004 Patriots defense. Where Undlin helped coach. This defense was very similar to the two gap Jack Del Rio defense that Undlin learned under. I think we will see a lot of these concepts.

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To simplify a few ideas for the Average Football Fan only, I normally take My cue on what to describe the Lions Defensive OLB, by where the opposing TE is, whether, he is lined up opposite said OLB, and stays on the offensive line opposite the same OLB, or whether the TE is put into motion, going the opposite direction, away from the same OLB, in question.

What I would find a little confusing is if/when the Offense has 2 TE’s lined up on the Same side to confuse the Defense…lol

Thanks, Air. If I’m getting it, then anyone can :slightly_smiling_face:.

I’m excited for the upcoming season and seeing what we’re able to do from week to week.

Alot there Line, but I will say this. We absolutely have the personnel to line up just like any other 4-3 base defense with JRM at WILL, Collins at SAM and Tavai/Ragland at MLB. We also have the players to run a base 3-4 with Bryant and J.Okwara at OLB spots. Our front seven is so versatile, that we can task one of our Safeties, to play in it, or literally not have one Dlineman under 300lbs and not one LB under 250lbs on a goal line stand. We can do anything we want really which is a nice problem to have. Now whether Patricia steps up his game employing the talent he now has, we’ll see.

You are absolutely right. I would add Jones as an option at 4-3 SAM and Davis as an option at the WILL. New England also has a linebacker that fits the 4-3 mold like Davis or JRM. It’s hard to call him a downhill thumper because he’s not a really stout dude. But he is wound up tight and shoots the gap with Rudy’s enthusiasm. (kinda looks like Rudy, too, being so much smaller than the other guys)

I have every confidence that Patricia and Undlin will know what to do with their guys. The handcuffs are off personnel-wise this year. I have a completely different outlook than last year.

This may be a pipe dream, but IF we hit on both Bryant and Okwara how different is this defense?