The offensive line of the Jaguars is grossly underrated. While injuries have caused problems in years past (remember when Eben Britton played?) and poor performance (remember when Eben Britton played?) has plagued the line worse than injuries, the team has somehow managed to put together a cohesive group of linemen that have grown to trust each other.
Even more importantly, Maurice Jones-Drew trusts them.
I have a history of getting excited over the offensive line but not many other people really enjoy studying the way the linemen duke it out all game in the trenches. Most analysts and sportscasters tend to overlook the big interior linemen, guards especially, unless the running back picks up a few yards or a first down. Without John Madden the analysis rarely exists. COME BACK JOHN!
Back to the point, the Jaguar offensive line is good. But how can it be improved in the offseason?
Sure, the Jags allowed Blaine Gabbert to be sacked 40 times (6th highest in franchise history) in 15 games, but that will come with trust. It’s widely recognized that Blaine Gabbert could use improvement in pocket awareness and pocket movement. Not that that accounts for all of the sacks this year, after all the offensive line (largely unchanged) only allowed 33 sacks on David Garrard in 2010, but it does contribute.
The more important number? Maurice Jones-Drew’s 1,606 yards. Without a real passing game.
The line, largely underrated has established itself as a road paving type line. They clear defenders, forcing holes open, tearing through outstretched arms, to make room for MJD to eek out a few yards.
The opposing line knew it was coming. They knew the offensive line was going to force them backward. The best part? The opposition couldn’t do anything to stop it. Nine men in the box? Not a problem. Showing blitz? Not a problem. Strong Safety moving up? It’s been handled.
The Jaguars have established themselves. They are a powerful force.
But they’re aging, and the ever continuous injuries always add up.
How much more of the fountain of youth can Brad Meester drink? Will Eben Britton ever return to the form that made him a valuable asset in his first years? Can Guy Whimper step up to become a true starting right tackle?
Better question: Who is behind these guys?
The depth of the Jaguars line is about as shallow as the depth at cornerback. The only “starting caliber” player on the offensive line in a back up role, in my humble opinion, is Jason Spitz at guard. Who else provides depth? Nobody else at guard. John Estes at center, Daniel Baldridge (improving), Will Robinson, and Cameron Bradfield at tackle. See any names that pop out to you? Anybody who you’ve heard good buzz about lately?
While the 2012 offseason may be well recognized by the need for better receivers in Jacksonville, it’s important to not overlook much needed depth at the offensive line positions. It’s needed.
If Blaine Gabbert is ever to trust his offensive line, he needs to understand that the men in front of him have the abilities to protect him, even if someone goes down.
- Luke N. Sims