October 16, 2011; Pittsburgh,PA, USA: Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert (11) and center Brad Meester (63) point out the Steelers defensive set during the quarter at Heinz Field. The Steelers won 17-13. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USPRESSWIRE

The 2012 Jaguars Linchpin: Brad Meester

Linchpin: A person or thing vital to an enterprise or organization.

A linchpin is something that is necessary to something or someone else.  It is difficult or impossible to live without the linchpin in an organization.  Entire theories of economic, organizational, and even global collapse can be extrapolated from linchpin theory.

I don't know how he did it, but somehow he made us all overlook that defense every year. Source: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

Some linchpins are obvious.  Peyton Manning made Indianapolis a perennial Super Bowl contender and made even terrible defense look good.  Michael Vick during his tenure with Atlanta had the entire team thrust on his shoulders and it all came crashing down when he was arrested for dog fighting.

When talking about linchpins it is important to differentiate between an absolutely vital part of a team and a leader.  Leaders are incredibly important and difficult to live without.  Clay Matthews is the leader of the Packers defense, becoming the face of the Packers D over the last few years.  Similarly, Ray Lewis in Baltimore is the leader of the defense (some would say the whole team) and brings experience and bravado to each game.  Neither of these two men are vital to the success of their respective teams though.  If Matthews went down, he would be replaced by another linebacker and more attention would be put on A.J. Hawk and Charles Woodson as leaders.  Lewis has lost a step over the past few years but his leadership is still more valuable to the Ravens than his (slowly) declining play.

Some teams don’t have linchpins.  Instead they are teams that are a motley crew of “guys” who have yet to distinguish themselves from the pack.  There are leaders, there are faces of franchises, but none of them have made themselves absolutely vital to the success of the team.  Does Jacksonville have linchpins in their organization?  Who are the guys that could make that case?

Here again we have to make sure that we differentiate between who needs to step up and who is vital.  Blaine Gabbert needs to step up if the Jaguars are to be successful.  The receivers also need to step up.  The receivers nor Gabbert have proven themselves to be vital to the organization thus far though.

In the case of the 2012 Jaguars, I would argue that Brad Meester is the linchpin for the Jaguars heading into the season.

Aside from Meester’s vast experience and knowledge of the game, his skill level and leadership are also invaluable to the Jaguars.  Beyond that, if he goes down the Jaguars will have a very, very hard time being even remotely relevant.  The ripple effect of losing a center in the NFL is tremendous.  If the depth behind that starting center is limited then there is an even sharper decline.

Behind Meester, the Jaguars have John Estes and Mike Brewster.  While there has been talk recently of Estes (or even Brewster) overtaking Meester during the season and finally making the 35 year old redundant, the skill drop-off between Meester and his backups is far greater than imagined.  Of the 40 sacks Gabbert took last season, only 2.5 are attributed to Meester.  Beyond that, he has proven to be crucial to the running game.  He no longer has the speed and pure power to push into the second level of the defense as quickly as he used to, but he still has the skills to do it and to open holes.

The center position is crucial to the game of football and can make a huge diference on ever play.  Meester makes this even more important for the Jaguars with his continuously stellar play.

Who do you think is a linchpin for the Jaguars?  Anybody that could make the case?

– Luke N. Sims

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Tags: A.J. Hawk Atlanta Falcons Baltimore Ravens Blaine Gabbert Brad Meester Charles Woodson Clay Matthews Green Bay Packers Indianpolis Colts Jacksonville Jaguars Michael Vick Peyton Manning Ray Lewis

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