Despite having the luxury of a bye week to choose from among the three possibilities available to him, Jacksonville Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio wasted little time in determining who will replace injured middle linebacker Mike Peterson, opting to slide weakside starter Daryl Smith into the position.
Peterson, the team's starter in the middle for the last 53 games, ever since he signed with Jacksonville as an unrestricted free agent in 2003, will miss the rest of this season with a torn left pectoral muscle. Peterson, who led the Jags in tackles in each of the past three seasons, suffered the injury last Sunday in a shutout victory over the New York Jets and was placed on injured reserve.
The team's starter at weakside linebacker since early in his 2004 rookie campaign, Smith doesn't have the fiery temperament of Peterson, but Jacksonville coaches feel he can be just as effective a playmaker.
A second-round choice in the 2004 draft, Smith fits the mold of what the Jaguars want at the position, a quick and mobile middle linebacker who can run sideline to sideline.
Although he is a little stockier than Peterson, who plays at about 235 pounds, Smith (244 pounds) is still smaller than the classic middle linebacker. But the presence of tackles John Henderson and Marcus Stroud means that whoever plays in the middle for the Jaguars usually is protected from blockers and has plenty of room to flow to the ball.
Smith is familiar with his new position; he played middle linebacker at Georgia Tech.
"There are some basic differences between being inside and playing in space, which is what I've done the last couple years, but I'll overcome them," Smith said. "Having this [bye] week to get in some work will help get me to the comfort zone a little quicker."
In a revamped linebacker corps that the Jaguars will field when they resume play against Houston on Oct. 22, rookie Clint Ingram, a third-round choice from Oklahoma, will replace Smith on the weak side, and will make his first NFL start. Veteran Nick Greisen, who had played middle linebacker with the New York Giants earlier in his career, and was one of the candidates considered to replace Peterson, will remain as the strongside starter.
Journeyman Tony Gilbert, who filled in for Peterson after the injury last week, was another possibility to move into the starting spot.
Smith, 24, is the team's second-leading tackler, behind Peterson, over the first five games of the season, with 39 tackles. For his career, he has 234 tackles, six sacks and two interceptions.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.