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Proving their worth


Jaguars rookie defensive tackle Terrance Knighton doesn't hesitate when asked about the last time he missed a football game.

"Freshman year at Temple," Knighton responds.

Knighton makes a point to say it wasn't for medical reasons, but the coaching staff had plans to redshirt him. He sat out the opener against Arizona State before the staff had a change of heart.

The 6-3, 325-pound defensive tackle is still making himself available each week, joining cornerback Derek Cox as the only rookies to start all 15 games for the Jaguars. Knighton and Cox, both third round picks, are two of only 11 rookies in the NFL to start every game this season.

Both young players are expected to add their names to the Jaguars record book on Sunday, becoming rookies to start all 16 games. Only five players have accomplished the feat with the last being cornerback Rashean Mathis in 2003.

"There are only a handful of rookies around the league that are able to do that," Mathis said. "You have to acknowledge it and take it as a steppingstone to know that someone has seen something good in you and you have been able to withhold that throughout the duration of a season, which has been longer than any season you have ever played in.

Knighton had visions to be an every-down player after he was selected in the third round by the Jaguars. He came in as a relative unknown but has been a steady force in the middle of the Jaguars line, recording 46 tackles and 1.5 sacks. He spoke with linemate John Henderson before the season, quizzing him about how many games he started as a rookie. Henderson held the top honor for a defensive lineman heading into the season with 13 starts in 2002, but "Pot Roast" has surpassed him.

"I told him I planned on surpassing him," Knighton said. "Durability is a good thing to have as a defensive lineman, or really any position. The competitive nature in me, every player wants to start."

Cox is tied for the team lead with four takeaways, three interceptions and seven passes defensed. He has had the opportunity to face some of the NFL's top receivers, including twice against Reggie Wayne and Andre Johnson.

Mathis said this experience is key for some of the young Jaguars as they head into the offseason.

"You have to take pride in it and it means a lot but like I said, don't get complacent," Mathis said. "Take it as a steppingstone and make yourself better next year.

Knighton knows the arrow is going up and he wants to keep it that way.

"I set a standard for myself from here on out," Knighton said. "If I'm not the starter then I'm disappointed in myself and I have people supporting me and this organization. It's been a goal of mine and I plan on having a long career."

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