But the New England Patriots have used four down linemen more often over the last three seasons because it fits their personnel. In this day of never-ending defensive formation changes, a "base defense" no longer truly exists. But The Boston Globe notes that the Patriots have been transitioning to more of a 3-4 look this offseason. That includes using defensive end Chandler Jones often at outside linebacker.
Jones, who can also line up at defensive tackle, is now getting work in 7-on-7 drills. He winds up covering tight ends at times.
"It's fun, I enjoy it," Jones said. "It gives me a chance to get out and run a little bit. I always joke in practice, 'Oh, I'm Darrelle Revis!' And everyone laughs.'"
We get too caught up with "3-4" or "4-3" defense tags in the media, as Belichick has pointed out before. The Patriots' most common formation last year was actually a nickel defense with three down linemen and three linebackers, according to the Football Outsiders Almanac. The Patriots were in a 3-4 defense 21 percent of the time, and a 4-3 defense 18 percent of the time. There many more variations from there.
Belichick knows his strength is at linebacker. The Patriots have an intriguing trio in Jerod Mayo, Jamie Collins and Dont'a Hightower. Belichick wants to keep them on the field. If Jones can truly play outside linebacker, New England's lack of depth at defensive tackle won't show up as much. Vince Wilfork can play more at nose tackle, his best position.