Carl Nicks is the hottest interior lineman to hit free agency. Nicks has played four very good seasons in New Orleans. After being drafted in the fifth round of the 2008 draft, Nicks made an immediate impact, starting 13 games his first season and all 16 of the next three seasons from then on.
The guy is durable.
The guy is reliable.
The guy is a big, big man.
The Jaguars need him desperately. As good as the Jaguars are in the running game, it’s obvious that the interior line just doesn’t match up well enough against the opposition to protect Blaine Gabbert. Here’s where Nicks can come into play. Right now the Jags have Uche Nwaneri, Will Rackley, and Jason Spitz on the roster. As stoked as I am about Nwaneri’s development and Rackley’s potential, the team just isn’t on track to make sure they can protect their number one investment from last year.
Blaine Gabbert suffers from phantom pressure. Really, really badly. With a solid interior line, he won’t have to worry so much about the semi-pervious membrane that acts as a front line for him, instead he knows that he has a wall in front of him that opens up throwing lanes and allows him to get his game elevated.
Nicks provides that stability.
With Brad Meester’s ever increasing age, it’s logical to assume that Nwaneri may have to slide over to center for the season if Meester falters. John Estes could be serviceable at this point in his career, but Nwaneri is a proven commodity who provides exactly what the coaches and the front office expects when he plays center.
But that’s just one situation. What if Will Rackley isn’t as game ready as we predicted? We’re not certain how he’ll pan out still, though we have heard good things coming from the front office and the coaches since he was drafted last year. Besides that, Rackley is also a potential to move to center.
Who would that leave us if Rackley doesn’t develop in his second year? Even with 14 games started under his belt, there is a possibility for that sophomore slump.
But besides that, we know that the Jags’ interior line needs to improve. It’s time to start considering that Meester has officially lost a step. It’s also time to guarantee Gabbert’s protection. Rackley is fine, Nwaneri is good, but Nicks is great.
Oh, did I mention big before?
Nicks is 6’5″ 343 pounds. Nwaneri is 6’3″ 303 lbs, Rackley is 6’3″ 309 lbs. Put that in your offensive line and you’re golden. Nicks fits the planet theory (get anybody big in height and in weight) and can provide a brilliant presence in the line for years to come.
Not many defensive linemen are unstoppable forces, and even if they are we’re still not certain who wins when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object. My money’s on the latter.
While the smaller size of Nwaneri and Rackley is more beneficial for a zone blocking scheme and mobile, outside run plays, but when you’re talking about protecting and developing a young QB, you want the biggest guy you can find. Nicks is not only the biggest, but he’s also the best.
I think that Mularkey will try to convince Gene Smith to go after Nicks. The guards on the Falcons’ roster are big guys (including the ex-Jaguar Vince Manuwai). He’ll want someone who can best help Blaine Gabbert grow, Nicks is that man.
Making sure that Gabbert has an environment to grow should be a high priority for the Jaguars. In 2011, Gabbert was sacked 40 times. Having a very skilled lineman in the interior of the offensive line will help Gabbert develop, it will definitely stop him from landing on his rump so many times in a game. Also, Nicks has experience helping quarterbacks have clear throwing lanes. With the small stature of Drew Brees, Nicks was very good at understanding where his quarterback was and how to best shift himself and the defenders he was blocking to get them out of the way so Brees had a good line of sight.
All in all, Gabbert and the Jags could use a big boy like Carl Nicks.
If the front office doesn’t make a play for the guard out of New Orleans, I will be shocked and pissed. Gene Smith needs to realize that as good as it is to build through the draft, it’s just as crucial to bring in outside building blocks that are established and can help now and for years to come.
- Luke N. Sims