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Two Types of Defensive Ends


Picture of Deacon Jones considered by many as the NFL’s all-time greatest defensive end

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.


Pic of DE Stephon Tuitt by Bleacher Report

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.

Picture of DE Khalil Mack by Silver and Black Pride

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.

Article written by Freddie Maggard

Former University of Kentucky Quarterback and Andy Griffith Fan Club President

2 Comments for Two Types of Defensive Ends

  1. Angelo
    8:06 pm January 20, 2017 Permalink

    why are NFL tackles all 6’7″ 320 pounds? why don’t they more closely match the defensive ends in size and quickness? makes sense for run blocking-not for pass blocking.