Throughout the offseason, the starting offensive line seemed like a foregone conclusion – the young tackles, Eugene Monroe and a healthy Eben Britton, would form the bookends to a powerful, run-blocking interior of veterans Brad Meester, Uche Nwaneri, and the resurgent Vince Manuawai. Most assumed Rackley would develop as a backup this year and eventually take the torch from Manuwai or Meester in 2012, but the shakeup on the line has many Jacksonville followers asking a lot of questions. Let’s examine the recent roster moves and training camp developments and take a shot at deciphering what Gene and Jack are up to…
- July 28 – Jaguars inform G Justin Smiley of his release
- July 28 – Jaguars announce that last year’s top run blocker, G Vince Manuwai, is out-of-shape and will start the season on the PUP list
- July 29 – G/C Jason Spitz is signed to a 3 year contract
- July 29 – Vince Manuwai is released
- August 8 – T Kevin Haslam tears his MCL in practice and is placed on IR
- August 10 – Jaguars sign G/T Tony Moll
There’s not a lot to read into this on the surface. We released two guards and lost a backup tackle to injury for the year and replaced them with two guys who can play multiple positions. Pretty much seems like a zero-sum swap. Will Rackley, Jason Spitz, and Tony Moll have all worked with the first team offense, so who’s going to end up where?
The real question is what is going on with Eben Britton? There seems to be something going on with him that has a similar stink to the Derek Cox saga last year. Britton was hurt last year and has underwhelmed in training camp, thus far. Gene Frenette of the Florida Times-Union is reporting that they are seeing him less and less with the starters and that Jack Del Rio has taken a very coy approach when it comes to answering questions about him. Eben sure hasn’t played like the guy who, after dropping out of the first round proclaimed, “I’m gonna work my ass off for the Jacksonville Jaguars and people are gonna regret it. I’ve got my own agenda, and that’s first and foremost to take the Jacksonville Jaguars to the Super Bowl. Secondly, I’m gonna be the greatest offensive tackle to ever play this game.” Is he still nursing a bad shoulder? Does he have a new injury the team is keeping quiet? Or is he just not as capable as Gene thought he was when he selected him in the 2nd round of the 2009 draft?
There has been little reported about Eugene Monroe, Brad Meester, and Uche Nwaneri – in training camp, no news about veteran offensive linemen who aren’t coming back from injury and aren’t in a position battle is most likely good news. That leaves the LG spot and the RT spot with question marks. Tania Ganguli reported this morning that Will Rackley is looking extremely poised and capable for a rookie and will have a shot at winning the starting spot. He’s a hard worker and a mauler, just the type of interior linemen the Jaguars want leading their rushing attack. However, with the extremely abbreviated offseason, I think he’ll be second-string behind Jason Spitz and continue sharing first team reps in practice. Eben Britton is heading for the bench I believe and whether it’s simply poor performance or another mystery injury that the Jaguars are covering up (see: MJD, Derek Cox) is anyone’s guess. I think Tony Moll will start here, with Guy Whimper possibly in the mix, until Britton rights the ship and earns his position back. Hopefully, this is sooner than later.
Here’s my prediction for starting offensive line on Opening Day:
LT, Eugene Monroe — LG, Jason Spitz — C, Brad Meester — RG, Uche Nwaneri — RT, Tony Moll
– Andrew Hofheimer