The Offensive Line – Time to Gel

Brad Meester, what would we do without you? Source: Bleacherreport.com

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.

Eben, we need you (if only for some depth)! Source: Jessicasjaguarjournal.com

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?

Me neither.

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

Topics: Blaine Gabbert, Brad Meester, Cameron Bradfield, Daniel Baldridge, David Garrard, Eben Britton, Guy Whimper, Jason Spitz, John Estes, John Madden, Maurice Jones-drew, William Robinson

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  • jagsfan94

    Luke, In this piece you make it brutally obvious that you know nothing about what you are discussing here. Thanks for trying.

  • jagsfan94

    Luke, In this piece you make it brutally obvious that you know nothing about what you are discussing here. Thanks for trying.

  • KeenanJ

    @jagsfan94 Are you serious? So this offensive line didn’t just pave the way for Maurice to get the rushing title against the loaded fronts he faced all season? Yeah, the blocking of G. Jones and Marcedes helped out, but the offensive line does deserve their fair due in this instance. He wasn’t realistic of the o-lines ability at pass protection, because sometimes it was suspect. I’m just curious. How did you come to the conclusion that he doesn’t know what he’s discussing?

  • KeenanJ

    The only thing I’d like to say is that I think Bradfield could be good enough to be given the chance to start next year at RT across from Monroe. I think he has the raw ability to handle is man in one on one situations and just needs to refine his technique and get better at blitz recognition. Gene isn’t known to pick up players that lack in the mental department, so I doubt he lacks the mental capabilities of doing these things. I wrote an article on Big Cat Country, that I could see our starting offensive line being like this one day: Monroe, Rackley, Nwaneri, Britton, Bradfield. Of course this would take Meester out of the lineup but, as you eluded to, he can’t play forever. But I like this lineup because it offers versatility should someone gets injured. Bradfield can play LT or RT, so that provides a safety net their. And Nwaneri is a natural guard, so their is more security their. This leads back to the title of this article as they would need time to gel and to a point made within, we’ll still need some depth, especially at center.

  • KeenanJ

    @jagsfan94 Are you serious? So this offensive line didn’t just pave the way for Maurice to get the rushing title against the loaded fronts he faced all season? Yeah, the blocking of G. Jones and Marcedes helped out, but the offensive line does deserve their fair due in this instance. He wasn’t realistic of the o-lines ability at pass protection, because sometimes it was suspect. I’m just curious. How did you come to the conclusion that he doesn’t know what he’s discussing?

  • KeenanJ

    The only thing I’d like to say is that I think Bradfield could be good enough to be given the chance to start next year at RT across from Monroe. I think he has the raw ability to handle is man in one on one situations and just needs to refine his technique and get better at blitz recognition. Gene isn’t known to pick up players that lack in the mental department, so I doubt he lacks the mental capabilities of doing these things. I wrote an article on Big Cat Country, that I could see our starting offensive line being like this one day: Monroe, Rackley, Nwaneri, Britton, Bradfield. Of course this would take Meester out of the lineup but, as you eluded to, he can’t play forever. But I like this lineup because it offers versatility should someone gets injured. Bradfield can play LT or RT, so that provides a safety net their. And Nwaneri is a natural guard, so their is more security their. This leads back to the title of this article as they would need time to gel and to a point made within, we’ll still need some depth, especially at center.

  • dlago89

    @jagsfan94 He mostly talked about the run blocking. He never said they did a good job pass blocking this year. That’s a pretty accurate assessment.

  • dlago89

    @jagsfan94 He mostly talked about the run blocking. He never said they did a good job pass blocking this year. That’s a pretty accurate assessment.

  • jagsfan94

    I’m sorry, I was referring to the personnel conlusions that Luke was making. He has no idea of the potential and talent that we possess in our OL backups. “Anybody you’ve heard good buzz about lately? Me neither.” posed by Luke about backup OL only weeks after the season is over is laughable and amateur at best.

    How and why (I would like to hear) do you know that what/who we need on the offensive line is not already on our roster? What is the premise of your thinking other than “not hearing any good buzz about”. Please elaborate to us readers.

  • jagsfan94

    I’m sorry, I was referring to the personnel conlusions that Luke was making. He has no idea of the potential and talent that we possess in our OL backups. “Anybody you’ve heard good buzz about lately? Me neither.” posed by Luke about backup OL only weeks after the season is over is laughable and amateur at best.

    How and why (I would like to hear) do you know that what/who we need on the offensive line is not already on our roster? What is the premise of your thinking other than “not hearing any good buzz about”. Please elaborate to us readers.

  • LukeNSims

    @KeenanJ I think that potential lineup could be possible as well. I like the starting talent that the Jags have at the line, though I am a little disenchanted with the depth we have. If Bradfield, who you pointed out does have some raw talent (and I agree), can refine his game and if Britton can be moved inside, I think that the potential for that line to play very well is possible. It just takes time.

  • LukeNSims

    @jagsfan94 Thanks for pointing out the vagueness of my comments, I agree that they are rather ambiguous and overly general. However, I think that it mostly fitting in that a high number of our backups at our offensive line positions are either 1) young/inexperienced (average age of 26, ~25 without Spitz who I think is a good player at the position), 2) rarely solidified which causes doubt and a small amount of confusion (remember in the offseason when it was questioned if Rackley could start? Remember when there was a question of Nwaneri moving to center?), 3) undersized (especially at LT where Baldridge needs to add at least 10 lbs to his huge 6′ 8″ frame and Robinson could add about 10).

    Of course, you’re entitled to your opinion, as my writing is most definitely editorial as well, I regret not better communicating some more facts about the backups of the offensive line. The goal of the article was more to talk about future success of an offensive line, especially in run blocking. I’m certainly not going to say we’re a premier pass blocking unit, that would be outrageous. However, I think that saying there hasn’t been much buzz (last offseason and through the season) is accurate. Remember when Guy Whimper was named the starter at RT? It wasn’t a super exciting moment for me either.

  • http://www.blackandteal.com/ LukeNSims

    @KeenanJ I think that potential lineup could be possible as well. I like the starting talent that the Jags have at the line, though I am a little disenchanted with the depth we have. If Bradfield, who you pointed out does have some raw talent (and I agree), can refine his game and if Britton can be moved inside, I think that the potential for that line to play very well is possible. It just takes time.

  • http://www.blackandteal.com/ LukeNSims

    @jagsfan94 Thanks for pointing out the vagueness of my comments, I agree that they are rather ambiguous and overly general. However, I think that it mostly fitting in that a high number of our backups at our offensive line positions are either 1) young/inexperienced (average age of 26, ~25 without Spitz who I think is a good player at the position), 2) rarely solidified which causes doubt and a small amount of confusion (remember in the offseason when it was questioned if Rackley could start? Remember when there was a question of Nwaneri moving to center?), 3) undersized (especially at LT where Baldridge needs to add at least 10 lbs to his huge 6′ 8″ frame and Robinson could add about 10).

    Of course, you’re entitled to your opinion, as my writing is most definitely editorial as well, I regret not better communicating some more facts about the backups of the offensive line. The goal of the article was more to talk about future success of an offensive line, especially in run blocking. I’m certainly not going to say we’re a premier pass blocking unit, that would be outrageous. However, I think that saying there hasn’t been much buzz (last offseason and through the season) is accurate. Remember when Guy Whimper was named the starter at RT? It wasn’t a super exciting moment for me either.

  • KeenanJ

    @LukeNSims I agree 100%, it will take time. I think Britton should be able to transition to the inside fairly easily. Especially as a RG, as the team tried him at LG at the beginning of the season last year. Should he be able to do this, the strength of the run blocking should balance itself out, as last year, most of the runs were either up the middle or to the left side, where Monroe and Rackley were. All of this just made me realize how important Britton is to the future of the line, so now I’m hoping he can fully recover and become the player we need him to be.

  • KeenanJ

    @LukeNSims I agree 100%, it will take time. I think Britton should be able to transition to the inside fairly easily. Especially as a RG, as the team tried him at LG at the beginning of the season last year. Should he be able to do this, the strength of the run blocking should balance itself out, as last year, most of the runs were either up the middle or to the left side, where Monroe and Rackley were. All of this just made me realize how important Britton is to the future of the line, so now I’m hoping he can fully recover and become the player we need him to be.

  • jagsfan94

    Nwaneri, as you folks had mentioned is not a natural Center. Because he cross trained at that position does not mean he will be the center of the future. It will be Estes. Nwaneri, on the other hand is way too valuable at the current Guard position he is at now. Spitz showed lack of mobility and may not be athletic enough anymore to play on a consistant basis well into the future. Alot of this has to do with his ailing body and injuries and doesnt allow him to play with good level/knee-bend/etc. Bradfield/Britton/Haslam/Robinson are all candidates and provide good talent at the OT position currently.

    There is high potential of the new coaching staff implementing even more ZBS and there will be a heavier emphasis on more athletic good pass-blocking linemen. Britton will not be a proper fit at OG under this format. They may build this new offense around Gabberts arm. And, no, I am not saying they are going to abandon the running game.

    Rackley was just a rookie and will only improve from here.

  • jagsfan94

    Nwaneri, as you folks had mentioned is not a natural Center. Because he cross trained at that position does not mean he will be the center of the future. It will be Estes. Nwaneri, on the other hand is way too valuable at the current Guard position he is at now. Spitz showed lack of mobility and may not be athletic enough anymore to play on a consistant basis well into the future. Alot of this has to do with his ailing body and injuries and doesnt allow him to play with good level/knee-bend/etc. Bradfield/Britton/Haslam/Robinson are all candidates and provide good talent at the OT position currently.

    There is high potential of the new coaching staff implementing even more ZBS and there will be a heavier emphasis on more athletic good pass-blocking linemen. Britton will not be a proper fit at OG under this format. They may build this new offense around Gabberts arm. And, no, I am not saying they are going to abandon the running game.

    Rackley was just a rookie and will only improve from here.

  • KeenanJ

    @jagsfan94 I like the logic put behind your comment. It’s interesting that you think the new coaching staff could implement more of a zone blocking scheme but I’m not so sure that’ll happen. My reason for saying that is because of the type of backs we have. We have more power runners than athletic ones, compared to the Texans with Arian Foster. As you said though, the offense should begin to be geared more towards Gabberts arm, rather than the run game, so if a ZBS will improve the pass protection, then the team making that transition could happen. Should that happen, I think Britton is athletic enough to be a guard that can pull and trap and get to the second level well enough to find success under that blocking scheme. I don’t know this for a fact, so don’t hold me to it.

  • KeenanJ

    @jagsfan94 I like the logic put behind your comment. It’s interesting that you think the new coaching staff could implement more of a zone blocking scheme but I’m not so sure that’ll happen. My reason for saying that is because of the type of backs we have. We have more power runners than athletic ones, compared to the Texans with Arian Foster. As you said though, the offense should begin to be geared more towards Gabberts arm, rather than the run game, so if a ZBS will improve the pass protection, then the team making that transition could happen. Should that happen, I think Britton is athletic enough to be a guard that can pull and trap and get to the second level well enough to find success under that blocking scheme. I don’t know this for a fact, so don’t hold me to it.

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