There might not have been any greater defensive tackle tandem in the NFL than when Marcus Stroud and John Henderson were clogging up running lanes for the Jacksonville Jaguars during the better part of this past decade.
They were absolutely dominating for the several years when they were in their prime together. Combined, Stroud and Henderson weighed nearly 650 pounds and stood more than 13 feet tall.
The fantastic duo is nothing but mere memories for Jacksonville fans now, but does the Jaguars’ new generation of defensive tackles—Terrance Knighton and Tyson Alualu—have the ability to become just as dominant as Stroud and Henderson were?
Neither player entered the NFL with the same hype as Stroud and Henderson did, but both have exceeded expectations early in their careers and the sky appears to be the limit for both of them.
There will be those that think I’m crazy for even drawing comparisons between the twosomes but hear me out.
I get that from a purely physical standpoint that Knighton and Alualu will not match up with Henderson and Stroud, as few combos will. They likely will not be quite as dominant. However, the Jaguars’ current set of tackles have the potential to complement each other better than any other pair of tackles in the league.
ESPN’s John Clayton recently put Knighton on his All-Underrated team and the two-year veteran definitely deserves the credit. He came from a small school (Temple), was a third-round selection in 2009 and was considered a reach even then.
But the tackle has proven his worth in the NFL. He’s already on the cusp of being a premier run-stuffer and gets a little more pressure than someone of his stature (6-3, 336) rightfully should, as he had four sacks last season.
The main reason why I feel Knighton isn’t drawing more comparisons to either Henderson or Stroud is simply because he doesn’t look the part. To say it nicely, he is more rotund than he is mountainous.
Alualu also has a perception problem. He too was considered a reach when the Jaguars took him 10th overall last year and I think a lot of people overlooked him from the get-go.
However the California product had a stellar rookie campaign (38 tackles, 3.5 sacks) and was definitely one of the most impressive defensive players to come out of last year’s draft class. His consistently high level of energy gives him something that neither Stroud nor Henderson had. That attribute should help Alualu develop into a top 15 player at his position as he gains experience.
Alualu and Knighton may not ever reach the same level of physical dominance that Stroud and Henderson were at, but they can complement each other better. Knighton is a prototypical one-technique guy who takes on double teams while Alualu is a three-technique player who will benefit from one-on-one matchups because of his quickness.
Jacksonville’s duo also offers up some versatility, something that Stroud and Henderson did not. Knighton plays with enough leverage to be a prototypical nose guard in a 3-4 defense, while Alualu has the size and speed combination to be an end in the formation. Stroud and Henderson’s size was beneficial in the 4-3 scheme but would have been potentially disastrous in the 3-4.
At 24 years old, both Alualu and Knighton still have time to develop. They are each arguably top 30 players at their position right now and they will only get better as they mature and learn to feed off each other. Henderson and Stroud might have gotten more attention as the ‘Twin Towers’ but Alualu and Knighton have the ability to be just as disruptive when it’s all said and done.
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