Battle Up the Middle Should Be a Good One

JACKSONVILLE, FL - JULY 28: Tyson Alualu #93 of the Jacksonville Jaguars takes part in training camp at Florida Blue Health and Wellness practice fields on July 28, 2011 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

The Jaguars held Chris Johnson to 24 yards and a 2.7 average in the first game of the year. Some might attribute it to the way the Jaguars controlled the ball for forty minutes, not allowing Johnson to get into a rhythm. It also meant a fresh defense. Furthermore, Johnson was coming off a long layoff with limited practice time.

I think the first two excuses have some merit. The holdout one does not mean much to me. We saw Darrelle Revis skip the preseason and play a great opener against Baltimore. There were also a handful of times Johnson did get loose on the edges. I think the credit really goes to the Jaguars defense, the middle in particular. One thing I noticed watching that game was how their linebackers were usually clean due to the excellent duo Jacksonville have in the middle, nose takcle Terrence Knighton and undertackle Tyson Alualu. They are young and could improve on an already very good 3.8 line yards per carry Football Outsider estimated they allowed up the middle a year ago.

These guys are a handful in the middle of the line. Alualu in particular was also a force pass rushing. He did not register a sack, but he constantly got a good push to make Matt Hasselbeck uncomfortable. Jacksonville tends to have the pair flip sides so both Jets guards should get a look at both of them.

The offensive line up the middle is of course a major strength for the Jets. Nick Mangold is the best center in the league. Brandon Moore is a top five right guard, and Matt Slauson was impressive in his first year as a starter last year. People are looking for them to recover after a shaky opener. That is no guarantee, though. This should be a good battle up the middle.

The Jaguars need their guys to come up big more than the Jets do, though. If the Jets run the ball successfully up the middle, Jacksonville might have to dedicate even more resources to stopping it and even less to help the matchup problems they have outside.

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