Left guard Ezra Cleveland hadn't seen the field much since the Jacksonville Jaguars traded for him at the deadline. That changed against the Houston Texans in Week 12. Cleveland was pressed into action when left tackle Cam Robinson suffered a knee injury. Walker Little filled in for Robinson, and Cleveland stepped in at left guard. Suddenly, the decision to acquire him in exchange for a sixth-round pick in 2024 seems like a bargain.
With Robinson expected to miss between three to six weeks, Cleveland will remain in the lineup the remainder of the season. Following the game, head coach Doug Pederson praised him and Walker Little for stepping up after Robinson left the field.
"I thought our offensive line played outstanding," Pederson told team reporter Bucky Brooks. "There wasn't a lot of pressure around Trevor today. With Cam going down, bumping Walker out, and Ezra in, he's only been with us a couple of weeks. Hats off to those two guys to really come in, settle in, prepare themselves in games like this, and make plays."
Cleveland, a second-round pick by the Minnesota Vikings in 2020, had appeared in 53 games with 49 starts prior to being traded to Jacksonville. The former Boise State Bronco was dealing with a foot sprain when he joined the Jags but has been a full go the past two weeks.
Not wanting to keep Cleveland on the sidelines, the coaching staff plugged him into the lineup for one series against the Tennessee Titans in Week 11. Pederson said after the game that he wasn't sure if they were going to keep giving Cleveland playing time but Robinson's injury and Little's subsequent switch to left tackle have paved the way for him to play left guard the upcoming weeks.
Ezra Cleveland should provide stability at LG for the Jaguars the rest of the way
It took the Jags a while but it looks like the revolving door at left guard will come to an end. They originally expected Ben Bartch to bounce back from a dislocated knee he suffered last year but he wasn't fully healthy when he returned. Bartch struggled in three starts and was benched by Week 4. He was later released when Jacksonville traded for Cleveland.
After benching Bartch, the Jaguars went with Tyler Shatley at left guard. However, he wasn't much of an upgrade, so they moved Walker Little inside when Cam Robinson returned from the suspension he served to start the season. Unfortunately Little suffered an MCL injury not long after taking over at left guard and missed three games. He came back in Week 10 and progressively got more comfortable at left guard.
Moving forward, Little will return to left tackle, and Cleveland will step in that guard. Prior to arriving in Jacksonville, he had just surrendered one sack this season, so the offensive line shouldn't miss a beat during Robinson's absence. In fact, there's a chance Little and Cleveland will give the running game a boost.
It's also worth noting that Cleveland is in a contract year, so he'll be incentivized to perform at a high level. If he does, he'll be in a position to get a multi-year contract from the Jaguars or another team if he hits the open market.
The bottom line is that teams don't have control over injuries but having Ezra Cleveland and Walker Little in the fold will help the Jags overcome Cam Robinson's absence the next few weeks.