The list is coming to it's conclusion in these next couple of days and we wind down our journey through the franchise's young history with an eye towards the future as training camp opens up this week for our 2012 Jaguars squad. I've contemplated how I was going to wrap up the countdown, and came to the decision that today and tomorrow will be the last two articles of the series.
Today we'll name our #4 player, with our finale' coming tomorrow with players #3, #2 and #1. I'm sure once you've gotten through today's piece, you'll know who the three remaining Jags are so I've decided to make things interesting for our curtain call.
Rather than our static poll we've been using throughout this series, and as a reward of sorts for the continued support and readership you folks have shown since we started with #25 at the beginning of this month, I'm going to let you the reader decide who finishes #1, #2, and #3 respectively. I'll make the cutoff for voting at Noon tomorrow.
Hope you guys enjoy it, here we go...
#4. Marcus Stroud, DT, 2001-2007
The Jaguars drafted Stroud with the 13th overall selection in the 2001 NFL Draft, looking to begin rebuilding what was quickly becoming an aging and talent depleted defense, particularly along the defensive line.
Unlike many of our players that we've featured on the countdown, Stroud rarely saw the field in his rookie campaign. He amassed a pedestrian 21 tackles in his first year, playing on a rotation basis while sitting behind veteran tackle Gary Walker.
After Walker was released following the great salary cap purge in the 2002 off-season, Stroud stepped in as the starter and along with the rookie John Henderson, another first round pick, began a five year stretch as one of the best defensive tackles in the NFL.
He started all 16 games in '02, and racked up 6.5 sacks with 47 tackles, outstanding numbers from a second year player especially a tackle. He would continue his consecutive starts streak over the course of the next three seasons, all while racking up back to back seasons of 4.5 sacks and 50+ tackles from 2003-2005. For his tremendous performances in which he developed a reputation among the players and media alike as perhaps the best defensive tackle in football, Stroud was named to three consecutive Pro Bowls, as well as two All-Pro teams in 2003 and 2005.
Playing alongside his good friend, John Henderson, the two formed the tandem known to Jags fans as the "Twin Towers", dubbed for the pair's 6'6 300+ pound frames. Stroud was a hit with the team's fans and was usually the more vocal of the tackle pair, often seen trying to ramp up the crowds at EverBank Field (then Jacksonville Municipal Stadium).
He was perhaps the most vital piece of the Jaguars defensive resurgence and played an integral role in the team's return to respectability on a post-season level. Though some will debate one or two other members of this countdown hold the stature, Stroud, in this writer's opinion, is the greatest defensive player in the franchise's history.
After playing three seasons in Buffalo, following the Jaguars trading him in 2008, Stroud signed a one-day contract with the team and retired from the NFL as a Jaguar in 2012.
His spot in the "Pride of the Jaguars", is only a matter of time.