JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- Already missing their best pass rusher, the Jacksonville Jaguars will be without their best tackler for the rest of the season.
Linebacker Mike Peterson, the team's top tackler the last three years, tore a pectoral muscle in the 41-0 victory against the New York Jets on Sunday and is out for the season. It's the latest setback for a defense that lost Reggie Hayward in the opener and linebacker Pat Thomas the following week.
Tests Monday determined the severity of Peterson's injury. Coach Jack Del Rio said Peterson likely will get a second opinion, but he was confident the eight-year veteran will be place on injured reserve.
"It's unfortunate," Del Rio said. "Mike is obviously a very good football player and a very spirited leader. He brings a lot of energy, a lot of temperament. He worked really hard to have a big year for us. He's played well in the middle for us since we got here in '03. That's a blow. It's another blow for us to overcome.
"The way we approach it is we prepare our guys to be able to step up and fill the gap. We expect guys to play well around them and we continue on our quest."
Peterson started every game the last three seasons for the Jaguars, recording 535 tackles, 12 sacks, six interceptions and four forced fumbles. He started all five games this year and had a team-high 42 tackles, two quarterback pressures and an interception.
The Jags (3-2) will use their bye week to figure out how to replace their defensive star. Del Rio said Daryl Smith, Tony Gilbert or Nick Greisen probably will move into the starting spot. Either way, the loss will be tough to overcome for a defense that relies heavily on a speedy middle linebacker to make plays.
Then again, the Jaguars are getting accustomed to filling voids. They lost safety Donovin Darius early last year, finished 12-4 and made the playoffs. They've also had to replace two other starters this season.
Hayward, who led the team with 81/2 sacks last year, ruptured his Achilles' tendon in the opener against Dallas and had season-ending surgery. Thomas, who entered training camp as a starter, suffered a season-ending hamstring injury.
Jacksonville also lost running back Greg Jones to a season-ending knee injury during the preseason.
"They're all tough to replace," Del Rio said. "You're talking about front-line players, guys that you expect to go in the game and not come out and play a lot of football for you. It's not easy to replace them. We'll work at it. We've got good guys. It will require some work, but we're going to carry on as a football team.
"We're not going to ask for anybody to feel sorry for us. We're not going to look for any alibis. It doesn't make anything easier, that's for sure. But we will rally around the guys that are playing and we'll carry on."
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