Can the Jaguars find the missing links to their less than mediocre offensive line play from 2019?
The Jaguars offensive line in 2019 had fewer injuries than the ones that decimated them in 2019. The starters played as a unit most of the season. The team did suffer through a season of penalties at inopportune times, inconsistent play, missed assignments, and poor blocking. there was no momentum despite having a 1,000-yard runner this past year.
Will the upcoming season be the one where the offensive line plays better, which will give the Jaguars offensive weapons more opportunities to find the end zone?
“Jacksonville has been chasing an ability to be consistent all season long, and perhaps the unit most snake bitten by up and down play has been the offensive line,” writes John Shipley of SI.com. “What was supposed to be one of the team’s strengths this season, with three highly paid interior lineman and two former second-round NFL Draft selections at left and right tackle, Jacksonville has invested too much into its offensive line to see it struggle.”
He could not have said it any better.
There are obvious issues the Jaguars must address in the offensive line. It appears the talent may be there, but you have to wonder if its coaching or chemistry. Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone brought in George Warhop last season as the team’s new offensive line coach. While the team gave up fewer sacks, there were still plenty of problems with an undisciplined group.
If the Jaguars are going to look at adding offensive linemen in free agency (which begins in March) and/or the NFL Draft (in April), here are some things to consider.
As Joe Fitzhenry of Bleacher Report wrote, offensive linemen need intelligence, short term memory and quickness to be successful at the NFL level. The Jaguars have spent money in free agency to make changes to their line, and have also used the Draft to ad tackles they hope will be cornerstone pieces. So far, it seems a work in progress.
“The offensive line may not be the most glamorous position on a football field, but it is arguably one of the most important in the NFL,” he wrote. “We may only notice these guys when they make a mistake that leads to a sack or tackle for loss, but when those negative plays happen, you certainly are aware of their presence.”
It’s not just the tackles that are the most important part of the puzzle on the line. Guards must possess raw strength to open holes for the run game. In addition, hand and footwork, leverage, stance. The offensive tackle and center are two of the hardest positions to play in the NFL. Some writers believe their work is as important or almost as important to quarterback play.
The Jaguars have nine offensive linemen on the current roster but you can bet there will be some changes. The tackles are Cam Robinson, Jawaan Taylor, and Cedric Ogbuehi. The guards are Andrew Norwell, A.J. Cann, Will Richardson, Tyler Shatley, and Tyler Gauthier. In addition the Jaguars have center Brandon Linder. Center is another very difficult position to learn and be effective. He makes calls and blocking adjustments.
If the Jaguars go the free agent route, there are some players out there to consider.
Tackle Jack Conklin of Tennessee may be available. So might Matt Feiler of Pittsburgh. The front office could also look to add guard Joe Thuney of the New England Patriots. Free agents are hard to get. Teams are well aware of the value of their linemen.
Offensive tackle Andrew Thomas from Georgia is a potential top 10 draft choice from Georgia. Mekhi Benton from Louisville is a 1-2 round choice. He is a massive blocker at 6’7’’ and 330 pounds. Jedrick Wills a starter from Alabama looks like an instant starter and is another 1-2 round choice in the draft. Shane Lemieux from Oregon is a potential 1-2 round choice. He is one of the top guards in the nation. Another guard to consider is Ben Bredeson from Michigan. He has good size and is a good blocker.
When fans go to football games we tend to cheer on the quarterbacks, receivers, and runners. We should take more notice of the guys up front They are the engine that drives the train. Offensive linemen can make or break your team. The Jaguars are learning that after this past season.