Jaguars Okay in the Middle

The biggest name to leave Jacksonville in this year's offseason was certainly defensive tackle Marcus Stroud. Find out why Jack Del Rio believes the Jaguars will be just as strong without him.

You may have noticed the NFL offseason tickers on the bottom of the screens on both the NFL Network (if you're one of the minorities to actually receive the NFL Network) and ESPN. Most of these tickers have key additions and losses to each team and the big named loss for the Jaguars was three-time Pro Bowler Marcus Stroud.

The question that many national media outlets asked was how the Jaguars were going to cope without their big defensive tackle that anchored the middle along with John Henderson since 2001. The answer of how the Jaguars would respond without Stroud is pretty easy; they've more or less done it for the last two seasons.

When Stroud first went down in 2006, he was already declining as a football player. Despite Stroud's Pro Bowl appearance following the 2005 season, he was clearly surpassed by teammate John Henderson in terms of talent and effectiveness. Stroud missed 12 games over his last two seasons in Jacksonville which included a four-game performance enhancing drug suspension.

There was some friction in the offseason about the perceived lack of support from the team about Stroud's suspension, and with the fine play of Rob Meier, trading Stroud to Buffalo for a third and a fifth-round pick seemed to be a no-brainer for the organization.

"Marcus was a very good football player while he was here, he did get injured and during that time we got comfortable with Rob Meier," said Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio.

Another reason the Jaguars felt confident parting ways with their veteran Pro Bowler was the play and potential of former undrafted defensive tackle Tony McDaniel. McDaniel earned a roster spot with the Jaguars as a rookie, and played in 11 games. He missed most of last season with a wrist injury. Despite playing in just 15 career games, the Jaguars signed him to a contract extension in the offseason, and Jack Del Rio feels good about what he has in his 6'7", 310 lb. tackle—

"Now you're talking about Tony McDaniel coming back from injury and us feeling really good about the way he's developing. We've extended his contract, he's going to be here. We feel real good about him, he's a good football player that's going to play. And he's healthy. We felt like with a guy like Tony in the wings, we felt good about moving on without Marcus and him continuing his career and wishing him the best except in week two when we play the Buffalo Bills.

Sirius NFL Radio commentators Tim Ryan and Pat Kirwan saw film of the Jaguars during their camp tour, and noted how Tony McDaniel "jumped out" on film and the tremendous potential of the 23-year old defensive lineman.

Schematically, the Jaguars are expected to play a little different on their offensive line with the absence of Stroud. With smaller, more athletic players the team may employ more stunts and movement, instead of playing more straight up.

"(It may be) a little bit different," Del Rio told Sirius NFL Radio. "Marcus is not a huge guy. People saw how tall he was, but he was only 305-308 lbs. We have guys like that. Tony McDaniel is that type of athlete, tall, explosive athlete and we feel like we're going to be in good shape there. Big John Henderson and Rob Meier are the key, we feel like they're our front line guys, but we do with Tony McDaniel have a person who's capable behind them."

Last season with Stroud out of the lineup, the Jaguars didn't struggle at all statistically. In fact they allowed fewer total yards per game in the games they played without Stroud than with him, despite facing four playoff teams including Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, and San Diego.

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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