For as many questions as the Jaguars have at defensive end, they have answers at the defensive tackle position. The talented duo of Terrance Knighton and Tyson Alualu is among the best young tackle pairs in the NFL, and if Jacksonville can receive good snaps from Leger Douzable and/or D'Anthony Smith, the Jaguars will be tough to run on.
How good will Tyson Alualu be in Year 2?
Tyson Alualu had a nice rookie season which showed many that the Jaguars probably made the right choice when they selected him 10th overall in the 2010 draft. Although the rookie from California flashed, he was far from an impact player and if the Jaguars are going to make the playoffs in the near future, Alualu will have to be that impact guy.
Playing next to Terrance Knighton, Alualu won't have to contend with many double-teams and he must spend most of his time on the field in the opponents backfield. Knighton took a great step forward in his second season, Alualu must follow suit.
Can Terrance Knighton make the Pro Bowl?
Those who study film are well aware that Jaguars defensive tackle Terrance Knighton is amongst the very best at his position in football. Knighton plugs up the middle as well as the Jaguars former wall of Marcus Stroud and John Henderson ever did and he can quickly penetrate and put pressure on quarterbacks, even if he doesn't get many sacks on his own.
As for the Pro Bowl, Knighton is probably still a year or two away. John Henderson and Marcus Stroud didn't earn Pro Bowl berths until they were snubbed, then earned those trips the year after when they maybe didn't deserve it quite as much. Knighton played at a Pro Bowl level last season, but was hardly noticed due to the Jaguars lowly defensive rankings. Knighton will likely have to play at the same level in 2011 as he did in 2010, and then get snubbed to finally earn the trip in 2012.
Will the Jaguars have any unsung heroes step up at the position?
The most likely "unsung hero" at the defensive tackle position could be first-year player D'Anthony Smith. The Jaguars used a third-round pick on Smith in 2010 but lost him for the season with an Achilles injury. The injury Smith sustained is certainly worrisome as most players don't come back at 100 percent and Smith was a third-round pick from a small school (Louisiana Tech) coming in and there is no real barometer on how good he was prior to the injury.
Leger Douzable gave the Jaguars solid snaps last season as a rotational player and the former Central Florida Knight will have to battle for a job in camp. Douzable is capable of playing heavy snaps and he must as Smith's status is certainly questionable.
Will the Jaguars add any veteran talent when free agency opens?
With the Jaguars having a pair of good, young players at the position, it's highly unlikely that the team will allocate much free agency resources in the way of another defensive tackle. Jacksonville has greater needs at pretty much every other defensive position and they will likely look to spend their free agency dollars on another linebacker or two, and some help in the secondary.
Charlie Bernstein is the host of “The Sports Crunch” on the Aquarius 7 Broadcasting Network (national), and Editor-in-Chief of Sports Media Interactive, covering multiple teams in the National Football League, NCAA, and National Basketball Association. Charlie covers the Jacksonville Jaguars for FoxSports and has been featured on the NFL Network and Sirius NFL Radio. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. You can follow Charlie on Twitter @nflcharlie