Jaguars Counting on a Healthy Alualu

The Jaguars surprised most of the NFL when they selected defensive tackle Tyson Alualu with the tenth-overall pick in 2010. Although a solid player, he's yet to live up to expectations and Gene Smith's legacy will largely be determined on how his top picks produce.

First-round draft picks are often given a short window to produce. Most are expected to be instant contributors, and often that contribution is supposed to be significant, such as possession of team-leading numbers.

That's why Jacksonville defensive tackle Tyson Alualu will be a marked man in 2012. The 10th overall pick of the 2010 draft has not produced those significant numbers thus far. His play on the field has been solid, but is yet to be approaching Pro Bowl status.

And that's a concern for some who feel a pick that high should be making more of an impact. Granted, the Jaguars defense took a major jump last year, catapulting from a No. 28 overall ranking in Alualu's rookie season, to the No. 6 spot last year.

And while the former University of California standout has started all 32 games for the Jaguars the past two seasons, his numbers cry mediocrity. Alualu was credited with 43 solo tackles and 38 assists a year ago, an increase of just four total tackles from his rookie year. He had but 2.5 sacks, no forced fumbles and only one fumble recovery. He was credited with knocking down two passes and had four tackles for loss, both of which were less than what he recorded his first season (3/7).

In Alualu's defense, he's been battling a cartilage problem for much of his first two years with the team. It's an injury that he suffered in his rookie season and one that lingered through all of last year. Doctors had originally thought rest during the offseason would cure the problem.

But last year's lockout may have hindered his rehab. He reported to camp and said the knee was not a concern. But shortly after camp started it became just that.

"I kind of just said it's something I can play through and we just kind of took care of it through the season," he said near the end of the 2011 season. "I was fortunate to make it this far."

Alualu and the Jaguars have taken a more proactive method this offseason. New Jaguars coach Mike Mularkey confirmed last week that Alualu had surgery on his right knee to clean it out.

Mularkey, who was offensive coordinator in Atlanta last year, got a good look at Alualu on tape the week before the Jaguars came to town to play the Falcons.

"I know that when we played him, he was a disruptive player on that knee," the Jaguars coach said. "Here's a guy that's going to hopefully come back full speed and see how much more he can improve from it. I think he should be ready to go by the time we get to camp."

Jaguars defensive coordinator Mel Tucker has watched Alualu closely the past two seasons, including the last five games of 2011 when Tucker served as the team's interim head coach following the dismissal of Jack Del Rio.

Tucker likes what he's seen from Alualu thus far.

"You know exactly what you're going to get from Tyson," Tucker said. "He gives 100 percent, he makes plays, he commands double teams and he's very, very unselfish.

"He's a guy who's not a self-promoter. He's not looking for any attention. He's looking for bottom-line production and doing everything he can to help this team. You can't have enough guys like Tyson on your team."

With two healthy knees to operate from, Alualu could be in line to start living up to the hype of being a No. 10 overall pick in the draft.

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