The Jaguars defensive tackle rotation is largely considered by many as one of the team's question marks, if not weak spots entering the 2008 season. Gone are the days of the twin towers featuring both John Henderson and Marcus Stroud, as Stroud was shipped to Buffalo for third and fifth-round draft picks.
To solidify their defensive tackle rotation, the Jaguars gave contract extensions to both veteran Rob Meier and youngster Tony McDaniel, as the team hopes to replace Stroud's production which declined the past few seasons with a rotation of players. In addition to the "Killer M's," Meier and McDaniel, the Jaguars added former first-round bust Jimmy Kennedy to the mix. Another player who the Jaguars hope can be a contributor is last season's fifth-round draft choice Derek Landri, who finished 2007 with a very strong playoff performance at Pittsburgh.
Landri was asked if his role was going to change in 2008, as he mostly played on passing downs as a rookie last year—
"A little bit. Losing Marcus (Stroud), Rob (Meier) steps in and you have that third spot up for grabs between T-Mac (Tony McDaniel), Jimmy (Kennedy), and myself. Playing time is a lot different and coaches expect a lot more out of you regarding knowledge of the game and contributing to the team."
Not only will Landri's role be different in 2008, as he will likely be counted upon more by his team, but he has a new set of defensive coaches, as his former defensive coordinator Mike Smith was hired by the Atlanta Falcons to be their head coach. The Jaguars replaced Smith with Gregg Williams, the former head man in Buffalo, and most recently the defensive coordinator in Washington.
"Language is a little different, but at the same time once you get into a system, you understand that language," said Landri. "It comes down to playing ball."
The second-year tackle from Notre Dame, and former high school teammate of Jaguars star running back Maurice Jones-Drew has a certainly different body type than the enormous mammoth tackles such as John Henderson (6'7", 330 lbs.), Rob Meier (6'5", 300 lbs.), and Jimmy Kennedy (6'4", 320 lbs.). Landri believes that his body type works to his advantage.
"It's in my favor. I'm that hybrid tackle that's going around right now and it's good. We got a couple big defensive tackles and I'm that exotic player as you'd say," joked Landri.
If the Jaguars are going to ascend to one of the NFL's elite, they must be able to find a pass rush somewhere. Landri showed an ability to supply the big play as he had a single game defensive "hat trick" against the Steelers as he recorded an interception, a fumble recovery, and a sack. The team is hoping he can replicate that performance in 2008.
Derek Landri Stepping Up
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