Are you guys having fun with this 30-day challenge series yet? If not, were keeping it moving anyways! Let’s discuss linebackers today.
The Jacksonville Jaguars have actually fielded a wide array of talented linebackers in years’ past: Daryl Smith, Mike Peterson, Hardy Nickerson, Justin Durant, Akin Ayodele and more. Currently, Paul Posluszny (despite entering the twilight of his career) and Telvin Smith have been solid for the Jaguars in recent seasons, and I think many of us are excited to see what Myles Jack can do this year.
However, there is one player whose play in the second level of the defense has always stood out to me — Kevin Hardy.
Hardy, like Keenan McCardell, was another player who played for Jacksonville when I was really young, but helped shape my fandom for the team.
That being said, by the time I got into football, I really only got to watch Hardy play for two-and-half-seasons (his 2001 campaign was cut short due to a knee injury). However, that was all it took for me to admire his play on the football field.
Hardy, the No. 2 overall pick out of Illinois in the 1996 draft, may not have lived up to the superstar status that a second overall pick is supposed to, but he was a high-level contributor and difference-maker for Jacksonville’s defense during his time with the franchise.
He made his presence immediately felt, earning a spot on the 1996 All-Rookie Team. He helped Jacksonville earn a playoff spot (and a couple of playoff wins that season), recording 86 total tackles, 5.5 sacks, two interceptions and three forced fumbles.
Hardy, who was able to play either outside linebacker position, ranks sixth all-time in solo tackles for the Jaguars, per Pro Football Reference. He also ranks fourth in sacks with 28.5, and is tied with big John Henderson for third all-time in fumbles forced (8).
Selected to his first and only Pro Bowl in 1999, Hardy also earned first-team All-Pro honors that year. He led all AFC linebackers with 10.5 sacks that season, while also leading the 14-2 Jaguars in tackles.
Hardy played his first six seasons in the NFL in Jacksonville, appearing in 86 total games with 83 starts. He amassed 506 total tackles, 28.5 sacks, eight fumbles forced, and six fumbles recovered. After Jacksonville, he went on to play two years in Cincinnati before finishing out his career with a single season in Dallas.
Don’t be shy! Let us know: who is your all-time favorite Jaguars linebacker?