Jaguars: Linebackers

In this series we will look at each position on the Jaguars, determine the talent and needs, and suggest changes. The next position group we are going to analyze is the Jaguars linebackers.

The Jaguars linebacking corps is among the fastest in the NFL, and despite not getting much name recognition, they are among the best in the league, and were certainly the strongest position group of the Jaguars defense in 2007.

Starters -- MLB Mike Peterson, SLB Daryl Smith, WLB Clint Ingram. Backups -- Justin Durant, Brian Iwuh, Kenny Pettway, Shantee Orr, Brian Smith, and Tony Gilbert.

Mike Peterson had his season cut short due to injury for the second consecutive year, due to a broken hand. In Peterson's absence, Daryl Smith moved to middle linebacker and the defense became statistically better. Peterson is still a very effective linebacker when on the field, but he's missed 20 of the team's last 35 games.

    Contract status: Peterson is under contract through 2008, and is due a salary and roster bonus of nearly $5 million for next season. Peterson will turn 32 before training camp, and that salary number seems high for a player of that age that's missed that many games.

Daryl Smith is the Jaguars most consistent linebacker who can play both inside and outside. Smith seems to be always in position, and can make big plays when called upon. He's a quiet leader, and seems to be a more natural fit at the middle linebacker position.

    Contract status: Smith is under contract through 2012, and is due a $5 million option bonus in 2008 which the team will most certainly pick up.

Clint Ingram had a bit of a down year after surprising everyone with his speed and hitting abilities as he was forced into action as a rookie. Ingram didn't seem to cover as much ground in his second year and didn't seem to progress as well as many had hoped.

    Contract status: Ingram is under contract through 2009 (rookie contract).

Justin Durant was the Jaguars second-round pick last April, and after a slow start to the season (mostly on special teams), Durant received an opportunity to play after Mike Peterson's injury. Durant led the team in tackles in almost every game he started, and looks to be one of the fastest linebackers in team history already. Assuming Durant stays healthy, it would be difficult to keep him off the field in 2008.

    Contract status: Durant is under contract through 2010 (rookie contract).

Brian Iwuh is listed as a middle linebacker, but most of his production comes on special teams. Iwuh is a hard-hitter, who provides solid depth at the middle linebacker position, but he doesn't appear to be NFL starter material at this point in his career.

    Contract status: Iwuh is under contract through 2008 (rookie contract).

Kenny Pettway is more of a defensive end than an outside linebacker, but could play both in a 3-4 scheme. Pettway gave the Jaguars some solid snaps in limited duty as a designated pass rusher, and made plays all year long on special teams.

    Contract status: Pettway is a restricted free agent.

Shantee Orr was signed by the Jaguars before week 15 of the regular season and didn't make much of an impact for the team. The bulk of his playing time in Jacksonville came against his former team, the Houston Texans in the regular season finale where he registered three tackles.

    Contract status: Orr is an unrestricted free agent.

Brian Smith was a fourth-round pick by the Jaguars last April, and spent his rookie year on the PUP (physically unable to perform) list and then on the injured reserve as he was trying to come back from a hip injury that he suffered in college. Smith is an undersized pass rusher who the Jaguars have hopes for.

    Contract status: Smith is under contract through 2010 (rookie contract).

Tony Gilbert spent the entire 2007 season on the Jaguars injured reserve with a biceps injury. Gilbert spent the previous four years as a backup middle linebacker and special teams contributor.

    Contract status: Gilbert is an unrestricted free agent.

Are changes necessary? Probably not. The only real question mark regarding the Jaguars linebackers is what they will do with Mike Peterson. His cap number is pretty high for a 32 year old who has missed more than half of the team's games over the last two years, but when healthy, Peterson can still play.

Other free agent options that could be available: Karlos Dansby, Calvin Pace, Demorrio Williams, Nick Greisen, Leon Joe, Na'il Diggs, Brendon Ayanbadejo, Lance Briggs, Landon Johnson, Chad Brown, Tedy Bruschi, Larry Izzo, Junior Seau, Kawika Mitchell, Reggie Torbor, Jeremiah Trotter, Gilbert Gardner, and Randall Godfrey.

Who makes sense: Nobody really. Dansby will likely be franchised, Briggs will break somebody's bank, and everyone else wouldn't really represent an upgrade over the Jaguars current starters. Demorrio Williams would probably be the best choice out of the bunch, but he may not see the market.


Charlie Bernstein is the Editor-in-Chief of JagNation.com, and a regular syndicated contributor to FoxSports.com, Sirius NFL Radio, MySpace Sports and Sportsillustrated.com. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers Association, and is a columnist for the New Smyrna Observer. Feel free to contact him -HERE- with questions or comments.



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