Checking in on the Jaguars' interior defense

Haloti Ngata will be the best interior defensive lineman on the field tonight at EverBank Field.

But the Ravens won’t be the only team keyed around a big interior presence.

The Jaguars feel the backbone of their defense is in their defensive tackle duo of Terrance Knighton and Tyson Alualu.

We’ve heard less about them this season than last, but they are still earning solid reviews. Alualu’s been getting the first day of the practice week off to help him deal with a knee issue he’s playing through.

“I think they’re playing very well,” coach Jack Del Rio said. “I don’t know which point in time we would think would be the peak, but I think they’ve been playing very well. We’ve really leaned on our front early in the year and I think they are playing well. I think the combination of those two guys with [middle linebacker Paul Posluszny] behind them are pretty good combination.”

The Jaguars are allowing 3.09 yards a carry between the tackles, the sixth-lowest average in the league. That’s a good indicator of the effectiveness of Knighton and Alualu. The run average number against the Jaguars jumps to 4.02 to the left and 5.58 to the right.

That’s significant enough to me that I’d not look to go up the middle much against Jacksonville. Look for Ravens RB Ray Rice to head for the edges.

“From what I have seen, I have been real impressed with Knighton,” said Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. “He moves really well for such a massive player. He can hold the point, take on double teams and still can penetrate. Alualu has been more up and down. Good player who really hustles and plays hard, but just seems a little more inconsistent.

“Still, overall, I think this is a real strong pair of starting DTs that should only improve.”

But one subjective rating system isn’t grading the duo especially high so far.

Pro Football Focus says Knighton’s been productive four games in a row, but scored Alualu poorly over the same span, with an especially bad game in Week 4 against New Orleans.

Overall, Knighton is 27th in the website's defensive tackle ratings and Alualu is 77th of 78 rated players. Their work against the run is judged superior to their work rushing the quarterback.

Knighton and Alualu are part of what made the Jaguars an attractive destination for Posluszny and another free-agent linebacker who joined the team, Clint Session.

The two can do more to set the tone and give the Jaguars a distinct defensive personality. They need to be notable tonight for Jacksonville to have any sort of a chance.