Defensive Tackle...where do we go from here?

NASHVILLE TN - DECEMBER 05: Terrance Knighton #96 of the Jacksonville Jaguars dances back to the sideline after a turnover by the Tennessee Titans during the first half at LP Field on December 5 2010 in Nashville Tennessee. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

While I know that many us Jags fans are currently praying to whoever it is that we pray to that Terrance Knighton's initial reports of being out 4-5 months minimum are incorrect I think it would be responsible to take a look at what can the Jags do now?

First thing's first. Being in the AFC south has a few advantages. With Luck coming into the conference on an offensively lacking "offense" we know that the Colts will try to establish a running attack for the rookie. The Titans have Chris Johnson who while putting up pedestrian numbers last season, is still able to destroy any team with the plant of a foot. And finally the zone blocking stretch-running Houston Texans. I just see no way we stop Houston while missing a main cog in our defensive interior seeing as a great portion of their (and the Titans) rushing yardage is gained off of cut backs - essentially reading/waiting for the linemen and linebackers to be washed or blocked out and then turning it upfield.

I figure we'll have at least some sort of chance for one season to do some damage with the state of this conference IF...and I mean a BIG IF we can just slow down these teams' rushing attacks. Because let's face the music folks...this team's defense is not even close to the #4 ranked D without Knighton and another physical presence in the middle drawing those double teams off the LBs. While CJ Mosley is a solid backup he's nothing on the level of Alualu and Knighton. And seeing as everybody and "they momma nem" rested their hopes on our defense being able to hold the point until our O could catch up....the elephant in the room, "Where do we go from here?" We should at minimum assume that the Jags front office aren't insane and will be looking for some sort of insurance policy via the draft or Free Agency for Knighton in the event this eye issue lingers into the season or longer. After the jump we'll look at what's out there.

FROM THE DRAFT:

Quinton Coples - DT/DE – North Carolina 6’6" 281 Lbs. – Coples is the most physically gifted athlete in this draft. If he worked to improve his skill set he could dominate the NFL but he relies too much on natural ability. With that alone, he will still be highly effective as a 3/4 DE or 4-3 DT. Draft projection: First round-possibly top 10.

Jerel Worthy – DT – Michigan State 6’3" 310 Lbs. – The most dominant defensive tackle in this group. We love his size and how well he uses it. He doesn’t just move well or eat up space, he causes havoc. Draft projection: Late first round-early second

Billy Winn – DE/DT – Boise State, 6’3" 296 Lbs. – Winn is another one of these easy moving big bodies. This is a great class to find explosive 300 pounders. He has the skill set to be effective in whatever the defense call for. Draft projection: 3rd round

Brandon Thompson – DT – Clemson, 6’2" 311 Lbs. – When Thompson has his head over the ball in the 1 technique, they may not be anyone quicker off the snap. He’s a big body that not only can stand up two defenders but can also penetrate quickly. Draft projection: Second Round

Devon Still - DT – Penn State 6’4" 310 Lbs. – Still is explosive but he doesn’t always show up. He’s a lesser version of Coples. He loses at the point way too often. Draft projection: Late first to second round.

Fletcher Cox – DE/DT – Mississippi State 6’4" 295 Lbs. – Cox moves better than any 300 pounder that we have seen. He would be effective inside or out. He’s fast, strong, and doesn’t quit. Draft projection: Ranging from mid-late first round.

Michael Brockers- DE/DT - LSU 6' 5" 322 Lbs. - Brockers is an elite athlete with positional versatility. Teams that run a 3-4 defense could be interested in playing him as a defensive end, because he is athletic enough to work from the edge in a scheme that requires bigger ends to maintain their blockers and keep the linebackers free. Brockers, however, has more value as a 3-tech defensive tackle within a 4-3 defense. He will make an immediate impact as a rookie. Draft projection: Late first round

FREE AGENCY:

There are 20 UFA defensive tackles available on the market. I'll be honest and say I don't know much about many of them minus Former Jaguars Big John Henderson or C.J. Mosley. This is when I go to the professionals over at ProFootballFocus.

Defensive tackles FA Type 2011 Team 2012 Team
Anthony Adams cut Chicago
Remi Ayodele cut Minnesota
Rocky Bernard UFA New York Giants
Aubrayo Franklin UFA New Orleans
Tim Bulman UFA Houston
Fred Evans UFA Minnesota
Eric Foster UFA Indianapolis
Marcus Thomas UFA Denver
Shaun Rogers UFA New Orleans
Gary Gibson UFA St. Louis
Amon Gordon UFA Kansas City
Howard Green UFA Green Bay
Kelly Gregg UFA Kansas City
C.J. Mosely UFA Jacksonville
Tommie Harris UFA San Diego
Jovan Haye UFA Tampa Bay
Albert Haynesworth cut Tampa Bay
John Henderson cut Oakland
Amobi Okoye UFA Chicago
DeMario Pressley cut Carolina
Jimmy Kennedy UFA New York Giants



From this remaining list two players actually make Pro football focus' 2012 Top DT list:

Shaun Rogers, New Orleans Saints

Age as of September 1st, 2011: 32

2011 PFF Grade: +2.2

Key Stat: Has averaged only 440 snaps per season over the last 3 years.

Behind The Numbers: After getting released by the Browns last offseason, Rogers signed a $4 million, one-year contract with the Saints. He showed enough to set things up for perhaps an even better deal this year. Averaging only 20 snaps per game, he was the Saints’ highest-rated defensive player (+5.9 overall) and was at his best playing the run (+6.4). With low mileage over the last three years, his age may be less of a concern for teams looking for an early-down lineman.

Aubrayo Franklin, New Orleans Saints

Age as of September 1st, 2011: 32

2011 Grade: -1.4

Key Stat: Earned a +24.3 run defense grade as a nose tackle in 2010.

Behind The Numbers: Franklin had a great 2010 season playing NT in San Francisco’s 3-4 defense (11.8% RSP). The fact that production only garnered him a one-year contract with the Saints for 2011, had to be a major disappointment. Equally disappointing had to be his drop off in play as a 4-3 DT (+3.8 run defense, 8.1% RSP). Franklin was out-performed by Shaun Rogers, and saw limited snaps (18 per game). That said, we expect a few teams that miss out on Bunkley and Pouha to be intrigued by the thought of Franklin lining up over center again

Now I know many of the Jaguar faithful will say that we should wait and see if he can make a full turn around (which I absolutely agree with), but please remember extra depth at DT will never be a negative for us. Having Tyson Alualu come off knee injury only adds risk to our overall situation. If we do chose to either draft or sign a DT and Knighton and Alualu both come back 100% by the season we're just one step closer to being the next New York Giants! We always have the option to keep Knighton and (fill in the blank) at DT and move Alualu to DE with Mincey. But doing...signing no one nothing would be a foolish, foolish thing to do. Personally I'm open to either Shaun Rogers as a temporary filler for the interim or I have no problem with us going with Coples or Worthy (in the second round only).

Which route would you go BCC? FA or draft? And with who?

***Sources: From nfl.com, cbssports.com, opposingviews.com, and profootballfocus.com

(I added their projected draft range for you mock drafters who think that will be the route Gene chooses)***

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