Linebacker Devin Lloyd and edge rusher Travon Walkers have often been discussed as players that need to improve in 2023 but they might not be the only Jacksonville Jaguars players under pressure to perform next season. Gordon McGuiness of Pro Football Focus believes center Luke Fortner should be part of the conversation.
McGuinness recently posted on social media a list of sophomores who must make strides in 2023 and Fortner made the cut, along with Lloyd. This isn't necessarily surprising but saying that Fortner is under pressure to perform might be misleading.
A third-round pick in last year's draft, the former Kentucky Wildcat mostly practiced with the second season throughout offseason workouts but was installed as the starter in training camp and never looked back.
Is Jaguars center Luke Fortner legitimately under pressure to perform in 2023?
Fortner went on to make 19 consecutive starts (two in the playoffs last season) and ended up giving up 32 total pressures and one sack on 685 pass-blocking snaps. For comparison, fellow center Tyler Linderbaum, who went to the Baltimore Ravens in the first round, allowed 26 total pressures and three sacks on 596 pass-blocking snaps.
However, Fortner got a measly 49.6 Pro Football Focus overall grade while Linderbaum got a 74.7 overall score. The difference? Run blocking, where the former earned a 46.4 grade while the latter got an 84.2 mark.
This is to say that Fortner must improve as a run blocker but saying that he's under pressure might be hyperbole. How do you know? The Ohio native isn't facing competition and is entering the 2023 season as the starting center. On the off chance he struggled, the Jags could roll with veteran Tyler Shatley, who can play all three positions on the interior offensive line and made eight starts at center in 2021 when Brandon Linder went down. However, that seems like the worst-case scenario and even if Fortner has a few bad outings, the coaching staff will stick with him.
Also, the Jaguars' brass were pleased with Fortner's performance as a rookie. Following the conclusion of the 2022 season. Head coach Doug Pederson praised him for coming in as a rookie and being up to the task of playing center. Similarly, general manager Trent Baalke said that he's a "guy that' got the chance to have an outstanding career in the National Football League".
Does Fortner need to get better? Certainly, and the Jacksonville Jaguars expect him to do so. However, his sit isn't warm and he'll have a chance in the 2023 season to prove he's the long-term answer at center.