Jacksonville Jaguars defensive tackle Terrance Knighton’s NFL career is at a crossroads — and his defensive coordinator isn’t afraid to admit it.
Speaking with me and co-host Jim Miller on Sirius XM NFL Radio, Mel Tucker addressed the weight problems that caused regression in a third-year player who was emerging as one of the league’s top young interior linemen. The 6-foot-3 Knighton was well above his listed weight of 336 pounds last season, which greatly affected his productivity and stamina.
“I’m not going to tell you anything I haven’t told Terrance. He knows this is put-up-or-shut-up time right now,” Tucker said Tuesday night from the Senior Bowl. “He knows he can be a dominant player if he keeps his weight under control. Now is the perfect time to get that right.
“He knows that, ‘If I’m going to be the player I need to be and can be and have the respect of my teammates and coaches, there are certain things I have to do on and off the field.’ Weight management is one of those things. That’s a major part of it.”
Nicknamed “Pot Roast,” Knighton’s weight issues at Temple University hurt his draft stock in 2009. Knighton, though, exceeded his third-round standing during his first two years in Jacksonville. In 2010, Knighton and rookie Tyson Alualu showed earmarks of developing into one of the league’s best interior line tandems like predecessors Marcus Stroud and John Henderson, combining for 7.5 sacks that season.
But without participation in Jacksonville’s offseason program last spring because of the NFL lockout, Knighton reported to training camp heavy and never dropped the extra pounds. Appearing in 13 games, Knighton’s tackle total dropped from 34 to 29, and he failed to record a sack after registering four in 2010.
Tucker believes team supervision this offseason will help Knighton reach his fitness goals.
“I believe he’s fully committed to doing that this out-of-season, and we’re going to help him with that,” Tucker said. “That’s the great part about it: Coaches and players working hand-in-hand to help this football team. That’s what it’s going to take.
“He’s fully committed. We’re fully committed to getting it done. Together, we feel he’s going to have a great season. I’ll be shocked if there’s going to be anything different than that.”
Such effort will be critical for Knighton’s financial future as he enters the final year of his rookie contract. The Jaguars would be willing to offer a lucrative extension but only if the 25-year-old Knighton (he will be 26 when next season begins) proves doing so wouldn’t be a high-risk gamble. Ongoing weight problems also would hurt Knight’s potential free-agent stock in 2013.