Jaguars Positional Analysis: Linebacker

The Jaguars entered the 2006 season with a big question mark at one of the outside linebacker positions. They started the season with middle linebacker Mike Peterson, who is an all-world linebacker, and outside linebacker Daryl Smith, who was coming into his own in his third season out of Georgia Tech.

One of the biggest question marks on the team was what to do at the other linebacker spot, as the team chose not to retain four-year starter, Akin Ayodele. The team ended up signing former New York Giant, Nick Greisen. The team supplemented this acquisition by trading up in the third round to acquire Clint Ingram from the University of Oklahoma. Greisen is a solid linebacker, a little slow, but has good instincts. Ingram was a raw talent, who was probably not ready to play much in his rookie year. Early on, in a week five game against the Jets, the unthinkable happened. Middle linebacker Mike Peterson went down with an injury that would end his season, a torn pectoral muscle. Although it didn't matter much in that game, as the Jaguars were rolling to a 41-0 victory, the team would have to make do with what they had. They moved Daryl Smith to middle linebacker, the position he played in college, and had Greisen and the rookie (Ingram) on either side. After a poor showing the following game at Houston, where each of the linebackers were out of position for much of the day, each of the players found their way and were one of the reasons that the team finished with the second ranked defense in the NFL.

With a healthy Mike Peterson entering the 2007 season, the Jaguars find themselves with one of the very best line-backing corps in the league. Daryl Smith is as solid as anyone and can move to the ball and make tackles. Peterson is one of the league's finest linebackers, and seemingly never misses a tackle. No longer a rookie, Clint Ingram showed great speed at the end of last season, and was turning into a legit play-maker at the linebacker position. The Jaguars still have Nick Greisen on the roster for depth, as well as designated pass rusher Brent Hawkins who would like an expanded role. Adding to their depth are Pat Thomas and Tony Gilbert.

There really isn't much in the way of weaknesses heading into the 2007 season at linebacker, assuming everyone stays healthy. One of the Jaguars defensive problems in '06 was not forcing enough turnovers on the road, leading to their 2-6 road record. That can likely be attributed to the injury problems that overcame the team, especially with Hayward, Stroud, and Peterson all down for most of the year. With a healthy crew entering '07, the defense should force more mistakes by opponents, both at home and on the road.

Overall 2006 season grade: B-
It's impossible to grade the linebackers lower, being that the team finished so well statistically. The injury to Mike Peterson hurt quite a bit, but it may have been a blessing in disguise for this team, as they were able to get rookie Clint Ingram more playing time than expected and he responded very well. Mike Pete's injury also caused Daryl Smith to move back to his natural position at middle linebacker where he flourished in '06.

Are changes necessary?
I would like to see the Jaguars draft some more depth. Mike Peterson will be 31 before the season starts, and the team should think about grooming a replacement, and there is some value at the position in the middle rounds of this years draft.

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