Edge rushers can attribute much of their success to the big bodies on the interior of the defensive line. Dominant defensive tackles can cause headaches in run defense, and if they demand double teams as a pass rusher, an offensive tackle can be left on an island to deal with a defensive end. Defensive tackle is one of the most underappreciated positions in football. It's not usually a glorious, stat-stuffing position, but there are game-changers on the interior. Jaguars fans have been lucky enough to witness two of the best to ever do it. This list is no doubt top-heavy, and the top two monsters on this list teamed up for much of the early 2000s to create one of the most dynamic and destructive duos in NFL history.
1. John Henderson is built like a mythical beast. Standing at six-foot-eight inches and weighing in at 340-pounds, Big John was able to hold two gaps and command double teams better than any tackle in Jaguars' history. Henderson was taken in the first round of the 2002 NFL Draft by the Jags, and he immediately became a factor that kept opposing coordinators awake at night. His rookie year saw him rack up 53 tackles, 6.5 sacks, and six pass deflections. He turned in two Pro Bowl nods, and one All-Pro season while in Jacksonville. He holds the defensive line franchise record for tackles with over 330 solo tackles. His impact on the franchise cannot be overstated. Henderson's video being slapped in the face by a trainer to get pumped for a game will always be a reminder of better days for Jaguars' fans.
2. The Marcus Stroud/John Henderson duo began wreaking havoc in 2002 after Henderson was drafted, but Stroud had a year to settle in. He was taken 13th overall in 2001. Stroud played in all 16 games his rookie year. In fact, he played every game for his first five seasons with the team. Once the duo was formed, each player benefitted from the other, and they became one of, if not the best inside tandem in NFL history. Opponents found themselves unable to run, and Stroud was a formidable pass rusher himself. He didn't rack up huge sack totals with the team, but his presence was always felt in the pocket. A team's success is predicated on wins, and the last four seasons in which John Henderson and Marcus Stroud held down the defensive interior, the Jaguars compiled a record of 40-24. Stroud made three straight Pro Bowls from 2003-2005 and secured one second-team All-Pro nod as well.
3. Gary Walker may be listed as a career defensive end, but no matter which way you slice it, he wreaked havoc on opposing offensive lines from the inside during his stint with the Jaguars. Gary Walker was acquired via free agency when the Houston Oilers let him walk after the 1998 season. It was a decision they would immediately regret. Walker led a great Jaguars' defensive front in the late '90s, one that saw the Big Cats rank 1st in total defense during the 1999 season. In his first season with the team, Walker was able to rack up ten sacks, and 13 tackles for loss. He received a Pro Bowl nod with the team after the 2001 season, and although his time in Duval lasted only three seasons before moving on to Houston with Jaguar's tackle Tony Boselli in the 2002 Expansion Draft, he was able to rack up 22.5 sacks while donning the teal and black. This ranks him 8th among franchise leaders, and second among defensive tackles.
There are quite a few other players to be considered for the third spot on this list. Some honorable mentions include Tyson Alualu, Terrance Knighton, Sen'derrick Marks, and Malik Jackson. Alualu and Jackson spent considerable amounts of time at end while with the team, and Knighton slightly edged out Marks. Tyson Alualu was a solid interior lineman who contributed over seven seasons, but never truly lived up to his first-round selection, something Taven Bryan knows about all too well so far. The Jaguars have not had a pure, game-changing defensive tackle since the duo of Stroud and Henderson. The position, at least in its early form, is becoming obsolete, as most lineman can rotate between the end position and the tackle position. Nevertheless, two franchise legends made their names in the trenches and will go down as a couple of the greatest players in franchise history.
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