The Jags’ Offensive Line – How the Team will Win in 2012
By Luke Sims
The Jacksonville Jaguars have one very strong aspect of their offense: the running game.
In prior years the Jaguars had Fred Taylor, then Freddy T and MJD, and now it’s Maurice Jones-Drew and whoever happens to get picked to fill in for one play when he’s feeling slightly winded.
But really it comes down to the offensive line. The Jaguars are superbly talented along their front five (six if you count the tight end) and consistently decimate opponent coming after ball carriers. Whether it’s the age-old wisdom of center Brad Meester or the gritting footwork of Uche Nwaneri, the Jaguars know how to develop the big guys in the trenches.
Recently I went on a binge over at bleacherreport.com and found that their rankings of offensive line positions were pretty consistent with how grand the Jaguars are. In fact, ex-Jag players like Khalif Barnes and Tony Pashos were consistently ranked high (in their cases, higher) on the lists as well.
Here are the highlights:
- Eugene Monroe (LT): #5
- Will Rackley (LG): #32
- Brad Meester (C): #12
- Uche Nwaneri (RG): #14
- Guy Whimper (RT): #23
Outside of Will Rackley (who I think was unfairly judged), the other linemen are very well respected by the online (read: bleacherreport) community. Even Guy Whimper, who I think was closer to being the 32nd ranked right tackle rather than Will Rackley being the 32nd ranked left guard. But Guy Whimper is sitting pretty at #23, and he’s our backup for the foreseeable future.
On the whole the Jags’ offensive line averaged #17.2 which is slightly below 50%, but doesn’t truly reflect the talent level with Rackley not getting a full offseason workout and Whimper being brought in to replace Eben Britton. I can only imagine this group will get better.
When looking at the run blocking rating from bleacherreport, the Jaguars are generally (With the exception of Rackely) favorably viewed (Ranked out of 10):
- Eugene Monroe (LT): 9
- Will Rackley (LG): 1
- Brad Meester (C): 8
- Uche Nwaneri (RG): 6.5
- Guy Whimper (RT): 5.5
Once again Will Rackley scores dangerously low for the Jags, even with the help of Eugene Monroe and Brad Meester around him.
The Jags only average a six out of ten according to bleacherreport, but somehow managed to boast the NFL’s top rusher. Imagine MJD’s skills combined with a more developed Will Rackley (Apparently he can only go up) and a healthy Eben Britton! The Jags running attack should look even more dominant in 2012. Even with a more balanced offensive attack, I see the running game being the bread and butter of the offense. I think that Mike Mularkey would agree with my assessment as well. But who knows, maybe I’m just reading into this wrong.
But the offensive line isn’t the only blocking aspect for the Jaguars. They also have very talented tight ends. Of the top 50 tight ends, according to bleacherreport, the Jags had two:
- Zach Potter (TE): #33
- Marcedes Lewis (TE): #14
While the grades reflect pass catching and movement as well as blocking (I won’t dwell on Lewis’ six drops in 2011), we’ll focus mostly on the blocking abilities of the two wide receivers. Despite the good size of both tight ends, they didn’t score exceptionally well at run blocking (score out of ten):
- Zach Potter (TE): 5
- Marcedes Lewis (TE): 6.5
The average of the two puts the Jags just above average at 5.75. While this isn’t pretty, the sure size (6’6″ for Lewis and 6’7″ for Potter) make the two formidable when lining up outside the tackle to provide a little extra support.
Despite low rankings by one source, it’s apparent that the Jaguars can continue to effectively run the ball. With even greater consistency (the line wasn’t purely set until about week five last season) and better development through the offseason, I expect the Jaguars to rely even more on the brilliance of its offensive line and its run blockers.
Will Maurice Jones-Drew get another rushing title? Perhaps. But really all that matters is that the O-line helps the Jaguars get some wins.
I think they will.
– Luke N. Sims
Thanks to bleacherreport for their in depth rankings!