Jaguars Injury Preview - Defense

One of the main reasons why the Jaguars are being touted as a Super Bowl contender is the team's considerable wealth of young players and depth at key positions. Injuries are a part of life in the NFL and we are going to examine each position group and decipher how long the team can sustain an injury for.

Defensive end- The Jaguars have plenty of questions at defensive end that they hope will by answered by the 2008 draft. Still, the most valuable player of the Jaguars defense a year ago was Paul Spicer, and they likely can't afford to have him go down for any extended period of time and still be a playoff team. It remains to be seen how effective Reggie Hayward can be after his Achilles injury, as well as rookies Derrick Harvey and Quentin Groves. The team will likely be able to get by with an injury to one of those three players, but certainly not to Spicer.

Defensive tackle- Although the Jaguars have talented depth at defensive tackle in the bodies of Rob Meier, Tony McDaniel, and Derek Landri, the team needs John Henderson to bounce back from an off year in 2007 to be the impact player he was before. The Jaguars can withstand an injury to either Henderson or Meier, but not for an extended period of time. Part of the reason the Jaguars defense has been historically effective is the way they rotate the tackles to keep everyone fresh. With Henderson or Meier out of the rotation, play will certainly suffer.

Linebacker- The Jaguars have dealt with injuries to the linebacker position the last two seasons when Mike Peterson has gone down, and the defense has survived. With four solid starting caliber backers, the Jaguars can withstand an injury to their linebacking corps better than most any 4-3 teams. Daryl Smith may be the most valuable linebacker, due to his versatility of playing both inside and outside, and Justin Durant may be the most explosive and most naturally talented of the group. The Jaguars can handle an injury to one of their starting linebackers for an extended period of time and still be a very good defense.

Cornerback- Few teams have depth at cornerback, and injuries to corners can be season killers. Presumably, if either starter Rashean Mathis or Drayton Florence goes down with an injury, the Jaguars can bring Brian Williams back to corner and not lose much. Still, a cornerback tandem of Florence/Williams should be good enough to get the Jaguars to the playoffs, but it won't take them far once they get there.

Safety- The Jaguars don't have a huge amount of depth at safety, but if Reggie Nelson or Brian Williams were to miss time, Gerald Sensabaugh, last season's opening day starter is versatile enough to play either safety position. Since Reggie Nelson is a natural playmaker, his loss would hamper the Jaguars defense, but they could still function and be a playoff team. An injury to Williams wouldn't be quite as severe, as Sensabaugh can handle strong safety responsibilities and will likely be better against the run.

Charlie Bernstein is the Editor-in-Chief of Sports Media Interactive, covering multiple teams in the National Football League, NCAA, and National Basketball Association. Charlie is a regular syndicated contributor to FoxSports and Sirius NFL Radio, and has been featured on the NFL Network. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Feel free to contact him -HERE- with questions or comments.

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