The first thing you notice about guard Andrew Norwell is his size. He looks like the part of the immovable object on this Jacksonville Jaguars offensive line. It’s one of the reasons the Jaguars, who led the NFL in rushing last season, will stay committed to the run and has beefed up its offensive line this coming season.
Norwell’s path to the Jaguars, by way of the Carolina Panthers, has proven once again the front office has shown a commitment to improving areas of this roster that show improvement but aren’t where they should be. Leonard Fournette had a solid rookie campaign rushing for 1,040 yards. The pass blocking for quarterback Blake Bortles was the best he has had in his first four seasons in the NFL. Still, nothing jumps out at you and screams “best offensive line in the NFL.”
That might change this season. The Jaguars, with Norwell on the left side next to Cam Robinson, might be a top 10 unit in 2018.
When is the last time anyone said that about Jacksonville’s big uglies?
Norwell has fit right in from the start, putting in work with his new teammates during OTAs and minicamp. Now, with the five weeks away from TIAA Bank Field, he will continue to learn the playbook, work on staying in shape and waiting for the day he returns to the stadium to participate in the team’s training camp.
"“It’s been a little bit of an adjustment,” Norwell said a month ago when he met with the media during OTAs. “You know, different terminology in the playbook, learning that, learning how to work with Brandon [Linder] and Cam [Robinson]. That’s what this time is for. Good thing we have this time, coming together and working to be the best.”"
That’s the kind of leadership quality this team thrived on last season. The defensive players became the vocal leaders in the locker room and on the field. This season, a balance on offense could lead to even more continuity. It’s a recipe that should make Jacksonville a Super Bowl contender once again.
NFL.com’s senior analyst Gil Brandt loves the Jaguars’ choice of Norwell in free agency. The former Ohio State player was an undrafted rookie free agent has made a living overcoming odds to become an All-Pro and Pro Bowl performer. He was at the top of the team’s free agent needs. Once again, general manager David Caldwell targeted the player he wanted and made him an offer he could not refuse.
"“Norwell made first-team All-Pro in his final season with the Panthers, and a Pro Bowl nod should follow suit in 2018 after the well-compensated guard makes the top-ranked running game from 2017 even better,” Brandt wrote. “Norwell is a huge man (6-6, 325 pounds) with excellent strength — it’s surprising he wasn’t drafted.”"
Brandt named Norwell as one player who should make the Pro Bowl in 2018 from the Jaguars. Last season, six Jaguars made the trip to Orlando, but they all played on the other side of the line on defense. Having a few candidates on offense to receive postseason honors would be a testament to the team getting better, growing from last season in offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett’s system.
It’s one of the reasons he is now ranked as the sixth best general manager in the NFL, according to Vinnie Iyer of The Sporting News.
The Jaguars have two solid tackles in Robinson and Jermey Parnell and one of the better centers in the league in Linder. The guard position has been a question mark the past few seasons. Norwell adds more stability. A.J. Cann returned from injury and participated in minicamp. Things are coming together for offensive line coach Pat Flaherty.
Norwell told the media his comfort level with the offense and the game plan was good when he started OTAs. Now, with more time in the trenches for his new team, it should be more comfortable. The key for Norwell and his teammates is consistency – something the coaching staff would love more of this season.
"“I come into work every day, stay grinding. You know I’m like a sponge, learning everything new and it’s been pretty good,” he said."