Jaguars guard duo of Brandon Sherff and Ezra Cleveland among the best in NFL

• Guard is seemingly a position of strength for the Jaguars heading into the 2024 season.
Oct 29, 2023; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA;  Jacksonville Jaguars guard Brandon Scherff (68) at Acrisure Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 29, 2023; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars guard Brandon Scherff (68) at Acrisure Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports / Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Jacksonville Jaguars opted for continuity on the interior offensive line in 2024. While they signed center Mitch Morse, they made an effort to keep offensive guards Ezra Cleveland and Brandon Scherff. Both of them earned recognition in PFF's latest top-32 list.

Thomas Valentine of PFF made a list of the top 32 guards in the NFL. Cleveland and Scherff made the cut. The former popped up at No. 24 and the latter at No. 17. Regarding Scherff's inclusion, Valentine argues that even if his grade for 2023 doesn't reflect it, he was among the best players at the position in several categories.

"Scherff rolled back the years in 2023 after allowing six sacks in 2022. The former Commander struggled to stay healthy in his seven years with Washington but was consistently one of the best guards in the NFL when on the field."

A first-round pick by the Washington Commanders in 2015, Scherff signed a three-year contract with the Jaguars in 2022. He was somewhat underwhelming in his first season in Jacksonville, giving up six sacks and 27 total pressures. The former Iowa Hawkeye was much better last year, surrendering just two sacks and 15 total pressures.

In the offseason, there was chatter about Scherff being a potential cap casualty. Had the Jaguars chosen to release him, they would've created $9 million in space. However, they opted to restructure his contract to keep him around in 2023. Although Cleveland wasn't nearly as productive, the Jaguars wanted him to stay, so they gave him a three-year worth $24 million.

Here's what Valentine had to say about Cleveland's performance after being traded to the Jags midseason.

"Cleveland was traded to the Jaguars midway through the 2023 season to solve the team’s interior offensive line issues, but he struggled. His 46.0 PFF overall grade in seven games with Jacksonville was poor, but Cleveland showed more of his stuff with the Vikings in the first six games of the season, earning a 73.8 grade.

The Jaguars gave Cleveland a three-year, $24 million in the offseason, so they’re betting on him to find his footing in Year 2 with the team."

As Valentine noted, Cleveland wasn't able to hit his stride, mostly bacause he dealt with injuries throughout the year. Before being traded, he suffered a foot sprain that ended a streak of 49 consecutive starts.

Cleveland, a second-round pick in 2020, became a starter in his rookie season and never looked back. In Jacksonville, he was reunited with offensive line coach Phil Rauscher, his position coach with the Vikes. With enough time to heal and get acclimated to Jacksonville, the former Boise State Bronco should improve considerably in 2024.

Brandon Scherff and Ezra Cleveland as part of the solution to the Jaguars woes

If teams want their offensive line to play to the best of their capacities, they need continuity. As head coach Doug Pederson pointed out, injuries prevented the Jaguars' starting five up front from seeing the field on a consistent basis. Similarly, left tackle Cam Robinson recently talked about the importance of playing together.

If the offensive line manages to stay healthy for most of 2023, they should do a much better job of protecting Trevor Lawrence and opening running games. Another thing going in their favor is that Mitch Morse will be joining Brandon Scherff and Ezra Cleveland inside.

Last year, Luke Fortner was among the worst starting centers in the NFL. The Jaguars signed Morse in the offseason with the expectation that he'll be an upgrade at the position. All things considered, it was a bit surprising that the front office didn't make other tweaks at the line of scrimmage. Then again, that goes on to show that their confident in their current group.

The bottom line is that the offensive line was one of the Jaguars' biggest weaknesses last year. Scherff and Cleveland are expected to be part of the solution.

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