Over the next few weeks I will be taking a quick look at what the Jacksonville Jaguars have at every position. Last week I took a look at the guards and centers. This week I will be breaking down who’s who at offensive tackle.
The overall protection for both Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne was nothing short of down right miserable in 2012. Both were sacked 20+ times. Is that a direct result of bad play from the blindside protectors? Look. There could be several reasons why a QB is sacked. Maybe the quarterback doesn’t go through his reads fast enough. Maybe the receivers are having a difficult time getting off press coverage. Besides these mishaps, having dependable tackles at both the left and right spots, despite what may go wrong between the QBs and WRs, never ever hurts and that’s exactly what the Jaguars addressed with their number 2 overall pick in the 2013 draft.
- OT Luke Joeckel: With the second pick in the 2013 draft, the Jaguars selected OT Luke Joeckel from Texas A&M. I was and still am thrilled with this pick. The Jags brass stuck with their board and got their highest rated player. It’s recently come out that analytics had something to do with the pick, something about how Gabbert played better with a few extra tenths of a second. That’s good and all, and I am a fan of using numbers to predict future success, but even without the numbers this pick was a no brainer. Joeckel was the most NFL ready player in this draft class. I’m not taking anything away from Eric Fisher, but when comparing the two, they were so close in just about all categories except for college experience. There’s a big difference between playing at Central Michigan than there is playing at Texas A&M. Some people still nag and complain that he’s playing right tackle. I tell those people to jump off the Matthews Bridge. Joeckel will be a 10-12 year starter and an eventual pro-bowler. Is it too early to say that?
- OT Eugene Monroe:I don’t care what anyone says, Monroe is a fantastic left tackle. This is another reason I liked the Joeckel pick so much. It automatically created a positive situation for whoever plays quarterback for this team in 2013, now having bookend tackles. Monroe has been a lone bright spot for the Jaguars as he graded out as a top 10 offensive lineman in 2012 which is just flat out crazy considering how bad this team was last year. He’s one of the best picks from the dreaded 2009 draft class, and I really, really hope we can re-sign him. If not – thankfully we drafted Luke Joeckel. Monroe and Joeckel should form a brick wall on the left and right sides. Having two talented tackles like Monroe and Joeckel is never, ever, ever, ever a problem.
- OT Cameron Bradfield: Cameron Bradfield came to the team as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2011. Since then he has gone from developing rookie, to gameday swing tackle, to starting right tackle. No, he did not play very well last year. He was thrown into a less than ideal situation in 2012. Who knew Eben Britton was going to be that bad? Well…that may not be the right question to ask. What I’m getting at is that Bradfield has position flexibility, actual NFL game experience and is still relatively young. As it stands he is the leading candidate to once again be the gameday swing tackle, but it won’t be easy. After drafting Joeckel, Caldwell brought in 3 UDFA offensive tackles and I’m sure every single one of these young men are gunning for Bradfield’s job.
- OT R.J. Dill: Dill was signed after the 2013 draft as a collegiate free agent. He has good size for the position at 6’6 316 lbs..He played at Rutgers last year, but before that he played 3 years at Maryland. He transferred to Rutgers after getting his degree from Maryland in order to get into a graduate program that Rutgers did not offer. Really, in all honesty, he just wanted to go to a somewhat competitive program. He can play left or right tackle.
- OT Jeff Nady: Yet another UDFA offensive tackle. I don’t know if anyone actually watched rounds 4-7 of the draft, but I did. Come the 7th round the guys on NFL network began trying to spitball players who would be worth taking, and Mike Mayock banged the table for Jeff Nady of Nevada. Nady was selected to the 2012 All-Mountain West First Team. He has the physical tools to work with, but will have to improve strength and technique. He will definitely benefit from an NFL coaching staff and weight room.
- OT Roderick Tomlin: The third UDFA offensive tackle Caldwell brought it, Tomlin started the final 37 games of his career at Murray State where he mainly played right tackle. He was a second team all-OVC selection and graded out at 90% on the season and blocked for one of the top running and passing games in the FCS.
- OL Mark Asper: Asper was drafted in the 6th round by the Buffalo Bills in the 2012 NFL draft. He was cut by the Bills in August and in September of last year he was picked up by the Vikings. After being waived by Minnesota, the Jaguars picked him up in late December. Asper was a late season add on and was brought on board only when the Jaguars were so incredibly decimated health wise that they were playing guys off the street. Asper played right tackle at Oregon, but is projected more as a guard in the NFL. I’m honestly not too sure where along the offensive line he’ll play, and even the Jaguars mothership has him listed as “OL.” If Asper does stick with the 90 man roster and goes to camp, it will be as a camp body only. At least he will have a fair shot to compete.
The starters are set on both sides with Monroe at Joeckel. After that, it’s really anyone’s ball game which is quite interesting. Having a dependable third tackle is just as important as having a dependable starting tackle. Whoever ends up being the gameday swing tackle is one rolled up ankle away from being thrown into action, and they better be ready.
To me, I find this position battle for back up offensive tackle to be one of the most important on this team, especially when you’ve spent two top 10 picks in the last four years on the position. You have to be sure that your back ups are ready. We’ll be rolling out a premiere offensive line in 2013 with two tackles taken in the top 10 of their respected draft classes and a 14 year veteran at center. If something goes wrong, whoever wins this battle will have to be able to fill in without any hiccups, much unlike last year.
- David R. Johns