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Two Types of Defensive Ends

Article written by:On3 imageFreddie Maggard
[caption id="attachment_215163" align="alignnone" width="975"]1 Picture of Deacon Jones considered by many as the NFL’s all-time greatest defensive end[/caption] Speculation of Kentucky’s future defensive alignment became a hot topic once DJ Eliot’s departure was confirmed. For what it’s worth, I prefer a “multiple” defense that has the capability to adapt to the game’s temperature and not to stove pipe configuration based on obstinacy. Regardless, I received several messages following a prior KSR post asking about the differences between the 3-4 and 4-3 defenses other than the obvious odd/even front construction. One major variance lies within the defensive end’s physical stature and responsibilities. Let’s take a look at a NFL prototypical 3-4 and 4-3 DE in order to clarify preferred body types, abilities, and style:  

3-4 Defensive End

3-4 DEs are bigger in stature with positional and schematic emphasis on stopping the run with an additional assignment of rushing the passer. A large portion of allocated tasks occur within the tackle box. Size and strength are paramount. Outside linebackers are normally the pass rush specialists in the 3-4. Preferred size ranges from 6’4 or taller, 280-pounds or heavier. On many occasions the 3-4 DE takes on a similar role as a defensive tackle based upon pre-snap alignment. [caption id="attachment_215164" align="alignnone" width="975"]2 Pic of DE Stephon Tuitt by Bleacher Report[/caption]

NFL Prototypical 3-4 DE: #91 Stephon Tuitt, Pittsburg Steelers

  • 6’6, 310-pounds
  • 2016 season results: 37 tackles, 4 QB sacks

4-3 Defensive End

With an emphasis on athleticism and pass rush proficiency, the 4-3 defensive end can also be described as a bulked up outside linebacker playing out of a 3-point stance or with his hand on the ground. These players must possess a full assortment of pass rush moves and are counted on to be the defense’s designated sack artist with an additional duty of stopping the run; or to at least provide edge containment. Quick twitch athleticism, speed, and rapid burst trumps size in this case. 6’2-plus, 250-plus is preferable. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="1310"] Picture of DE Khalil Mack by Silver and Black Pride[/caption]

NFL Prototypical 4-3 DE: #52 Khalil Mack, Oakland Raiders

  • 6’3, 250-pounds
  • Season results: 73 total tackles, 11 QB sacks
Same position but two totally different body types and skill sets. Hope this helps.

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