Jaguars Draw Help at Tackle from an Unlikely Source

Charlie BernsteinContributor IMay 23, 2009

COLUMBIA, MO - SEPTEMBER 28:  Defensive lineman Atiyyah Ellison #97 of the Missouri Tigers battles past offensive lineman Branden Hall #76 of the Troy State Trojans to get to quarterback Hansell Bearden #18 during the NCAA football game on September 28, 2002 at Faurot Field in Columbia, Missouri.  Missouri won 44-7. (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)

The Jaguars defensive tackle position for the upcoming 2009 season is certainly an area of question.

John Henderson is aging, Rob Meier showed that he wasn’t nearly as effective as many believed when forced into a starting role a year ago, and although Derek Landri gained weight in the offseason, the third-year player from Notre Dame will likely still be a situational guy.

The Jaguars will likely depend on one of this year’s third-round picks, former Temple defensive tackle Terrance Knighton, but there are certain questions about the level of competition he faced in college. Find out about one player who is making an impression early on.

One of the many moves the Jaguars made at the end of the 2008 season when they were decimated by injuries, was to sign journeyman defensive tackle Atiyyh Ellison.

Ellison was selected in the third round of the 2005 draft by the Carolina Panthers, after earning All-Big 12 honors as a junior and senior at Missouri. Ellison is well traveled, as he’s played for Carolina, Houston, Baltimore, San Francisco, and now Jacksonville.

"The story on Ellison is he is a former third-round draft pick that was in San Francisco on their practice squad and we were able to acquire him last year late in the year," Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio said following Thursday OTA’s.

Although Ellison has yet to register his first regular season NFL tackle, he’s caught coach Jack Del Rio’s eye through OTA’s.

"I think Atiyyah Ellison has looked good," Jack Del Rio said.

At 6'3", 318 lbs., Ellison looks the part of a defensive tackle, and could play in either a 4-3 or 3-4, both schemes the Jaguars are expected to line up in this season. Still, does Ellison have a real chance to make the roster?

"There’s nothing going to be given anywhere for anyone," Del Rio said. "Now we all expect Big John (Henderson) to be the guy that’s going to end up starting there, but we’re going to play the best players and we’re going to let them compete and we’ll see how it all plays out."

If it is indeed a truly open competition, it appears that Ellison has an immediate leg up.

"We think that he’s (Ellison’s) a guy that has a chance to be a player," said the Jaguars head coach. "He’s big. He’s about 320 pounds. He runs well, smart. He’s gained some weight since he’s been here. I think he likes what we’re doing within our system and how we’re using him and hopefully we’ll get a find there."

As good as Ellison has looked, roster spots aren’t won by fifth-year journeymen in the month of May.

"We’ll see more when we get the pads on but he’s had a good showing," Del Rio said of Ellison’s progress. "In the trenches more than any other position you want to find out when the pads are in. So when you get into the second and third week of camp when you’ve really seen a body of work and had them exposed to some of the tough conditions that are just part of playing defensive line."

Can the Jaguars turn a guy who was on several team’s proverbial scrapheaps into a contributor on the defensive line? It remains to be seen, but the opportunity is there for Ellison.


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