3-4 101: The Jack Position


Jul 26, 2013; Metairie, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints defensive end Junior Galette (93) during the first day of training camp at the team facility. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

So, if you are like most Saints fans, its been a while since you have seen the black and gold use the 3-4 defense as its base defense. And you might have other questions about the defense or different terms you have heard different websites throw around. Today, I’m going to help you understand one term in particular: the Jack position.

Usually the Jack position describes the weakside linebacker. There are two sides, the strong side and the weak side, for each pair of linebackers in the 3-4. The strongside, for those of you unaware of what that means, is typically the side where a fullback, tight end, an extra eligible receiver, or extra lineman line up. The weakside is the opposite side of the formation. The four linebackers in a 3-4 are Strongside Outside, or Sam, Strongside Inside, or Mike, Weakside Inside, or Ted, and Weakside Outside, or Jack. The Jack linebacker is also known as the “Joker” or the “Elephant”.

The Jack and the Sam linebackers are usually ‘tweeners, which means that, in a typical 4-3 defense, they are faster than most defensive ends but not big enough to handle offensive tackles. This label suits the Jack ‘backer position well because they are big enough to handle smaller offensive players, like running backs or full backs, and fast enough to get around offensive tackles. Also, most schemes will make sure the Jack is not caught up by an offensive tackle.

Because of their speed, the ability of the 3-4 defense to block other lineman, and the confusion it can bring, the Jack linebacker, more so than the Sam, is the blitzing linebacker. This is the Demarcus Ware, the Lawrence Taylor, and the Aldon Smith of the defense. They lay the hammer on the quarterback. Now, that isn’t to say the Sam does not blitz. The Sam linebacker is dropped back into coverage, into the flat, or covers the run more often than the Jack.

This season, it seems that the injury to Victor Butler will force the Saints to be a little more creative with who mans the Jack position. Will Smith, Junior Galette, and Martez Wilson, along with a few other unknowns, will be seeing how they can prove their worth at Sam or Jack. Let’s just hope that our Jack ‘backer can get to the passer. Because, for those of us who know about the Dome Patrol, we are looking forward to the next Pat Swilling and Rickey Jackson. For those of you unaware, below is a tribute to the famed Dome Patrol.

Alright class, is there any questions? No question should go unanswered! We want to make sure you know everything by the time the ball is snapped in the first game! Hit us up on Twitter, Facebook, or comment here!