Stroud's return from suspension could help Jags' struggling D-line

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Three-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Marcus Stroud, who rejoined the Jacksonville Jaguars on Monday after completing a four-game suspension for violating the league's steroid and related substances policy, could help the Jaguars in their playoff push.

The Jaguars (8-4) went 3-1 without the 6-foot-6, 310-pound defensive linemen, but his return was a welcome sign for a team that has struggled to pressure quarterbacks without blitzing.

Jacksonville sacked Indianapolis' Peyton Manning once and hit him a few more times in Sunday's 28-25 loss, but the defense didn't do enough to prevent the Colts from converting 10 of 13 times on third down and scoring their first three touchdowns on the crucial down.

"I didn't think we played smart enough," coach Jack Del Rio said. "We had too many penalties and too many breakdowns, in particular in our secondary, where we got them in third-and-14, third-and-16, third-and-10 and allowed them to have big plays, in some case touchdowns, and really let them off the hook."

Stroud has 33 tackles and three sacks in eight games. And given four weeks to rest his troublesome right ankle, the one that required micro-fracture surgery in the offseason, the Jags expect him to be rejuvenated.

"He'll be hungry because of the time he missed," Del Rio said. "His body ought to feel great because he had a little bit of a break. I'm sure he'll be anxious to get back and get back to work."

Stroud was not available for comment Monday. He was suspended four games without pay Nov. 4, nearly a week after reports surfaced that he had tested positive for banned supplements.

Stroud said the supplements were part of his rehabilitation following the surgery, but said he didn't know they contained banned substances. He accepted responsibility for the positive test and didn't appeal the suspension.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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