Jaguar Positional Analysis: Defensive Line

The Jaguars defensive line was certainly a strength of the second-ranked defense in all of the NFL. The Jaguars defensive line played well despite having their opening day starters of Reggie Hayward, John Henderson, Marcus Stroud, and Paul Spicer playing together for just over one half of one game for the entire season.

Hayward went down with a partial Achilles tear in the season opener, and three-time Pro Bowler Marcus Stroud missed five full games, and was ineffective in many others, due to an ankle injury. Reserves Rob Meier, Tony McDaniel, and Bobby McCray filled in extremely well and there wasn't much of a drop-off in the level of play.

Strengths:
When healthy, the Jaguars have one of the best defensive lines in the entire NFL, led by Pro Bowlers John Henderson and Marcus Stroud, as well as pass-rush specialist Reggie Hayward and run-stopper Paul Spicer. In addition to their great group of starters, reserves Rob Meier and Bobby McCray could start for most teams in the NFL. McCray, a former seventh round pick finished 2006 with 10 sacks, and Meier has accounted for 11 sacks over the last two years without being a full-time starter. When everyone is healthy, the Jaguars can not only stop the run, but also rush the passer effectively.

Weaknesses:
It's hard to find many weaknesses on the Jaguars offensive line, but if we must, we will point to Paul Spicer's pass rushing ability. Spicer had just three sacks in '06 while getting the majority of the snaps. Bobby McCray is a very good pass rusher, but struggles a bit in run-stopping due to his lean 6'6", 261 lb. frame. The pass rush overall wasn't great in '06, mostly due to the injuries, and it's something that the team can hopefully improve upon in '07.

Overall 2006 season grade: A
To finish the season ranked second in total defense after missing their best pass rusher for most of the year, as well as a three-time Pro Bowler for half the year, is nothing short of amazing. John Henderson had probably his best season as a pro, and made everyone that played around him considerably better. Assuming everyone on the current roster is healthy, and the Jaguars make no changes on the defensive line, they should start the 2007 season with one of the best, if not the best defensive lines in the league.

Are changes necessary?
Not major changes. The Jaguars front office is probably entertaining the idea of drafting a defensive end early on, due to the age of Paul Spicer (32), and the uncertain status of Reggie Hayward, although he's said to be progressing well (but everyone is in April). The team will get designated pass rusher Brent Hawkins back next year (groin injury) and that should help their only real weakness on the line.

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