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Why Mike Bennett is the Jaguars’ breakout player this season

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The Jags have a lot of depth on the defensive line. Retired NFL defensive end Stephen White expects Bennett to stand out.

Jacksonville Jaguars v New York Giants Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

You probably haven't heard much about the Michael Bennett playing defensive tackle in Jacksonville (not the guy in Seattle, who should still be playing for my Bucs.) The primary reason why is because he has been injured for much of his career so far.

His first season, in 2015, he was slowed by groin and hamstring injuries that limited him to 13 games with no starts. Last year, he had a hip injury and a calf injury in the preseason that caused him to miss the entire year. He only has, like, 10 tackles and a half a sack to his name heading into his third season, so realistically he has nowhere to go but up.

Bennett is a guy I liked a lot coming out of college. Somehow he lasted until the sixth round, and I'm not exactly sure why since nobody could've possibly had a crystal ball and known that he would be slowed by myriad injuries after he was drafted. He's a little undersized for an NFL defensive tackle, I guess, at just under 6'2 and around 290 pounds or so, but he is quick for his size.

Coming out, I had him pegged as a 3-technique. Even with the little bit of playing time he's had so far, I think that assessment is still spot on. In his rookie season, I saw flashes of him getting into the backfield on running plays and beating guards with good moves as a pass rusher as well. But he wasn't able to build on that last year, unfortunately.

On the bright side, not playing last season likely gave his body a chance to heal up a bit without having any surgeries to recover from, so he should be as healthy as he has been since being drafted. He also should be a little bit stronger and faster after spending all last season lifting and running instead of going out there and getting run down with practice and games. He should have fresh legs and maybe even some better technique as he heads into this season.

Last offseason, the Jaguars paid a lot of money for Malik Jackson to play 3-technique for them. I think it’s dumb to keep a guy as versatile as Jackson at just one position all game. But then again, the Jaguars haven't been accused of being geniuses for quite some time. If they continue to play Jackson exclusively at 3-technique, that probably means Bennett is stuck being his backup for the foreseeable future.

Even so, I think if Bennett can stay healthy, he will be able to contribute enough to blow away his previous meager production. He may even end up playing well enough to be a third-down interior pass rusher. I think this is the year when Bennett really shows what he can do, and that is why he is my pick for the Jaguars' breakout player of 2017.