The offensive line didn't seem like a strength for the Jacksonville Jaguars entering the 2023 season. However, it was hard to imagine the group would turn out to be the liability it's been. They can't give Trevor Lawrence enough time to throw or open lanes in the running game. This has had a considerable impact on the team's overall efficiency on offense. Not surprisingly, the Jags got a low spot, near the cellar, in Pro Football Focus' latest offensive line rankings.
Zòltan Buday was in charge of ranking all 32 offensive lines and placed Jacksonville at No. 29, pointing out that their pass-blocking efficiency has decreased considerably since the opener. He adds that Ezra Cleveland gave up a league-high eight pressures in Week 16, naming him, along with right tackle Anton Harrison and center Luke Fortner, the weakest link for the Jaguars up front.
"While the Jaguars' offensive line ranked second in pass-blocking efficiency between Week 1 and Week 12, it ranks just 25th since Week 13. The unit has allowed a league-high 70 pressures across the past four weeks.
Left guard Ezra Cleveland struggled against the Buccaneers on his way to a 13.8 pass-blocking grade. The eight pressures that he surrendered against Tampa Bay were the most by any guard in Week 16."
If you were wondering, the Tennessee Titans, the New York Giants, and the New York Jets are the only clubs whose offensive line got worse rankings than the Jags.
While PFF grades aren't the only way to measure a player's success or lack thereof, they give you an idea of how well (or badly) they're performing. Anything below 60 is subpar, and the only Jaguars hog mollies with an overall grade higher than 60 are Cam Robinson and Brandon Scherff, with 63.5 and 66.8, respectively.
Not everything is doom and gloom though. Although Anton Harrison was dubbed a weak link, he didn't give up a single pressure in Week 16 and posted a team-best PFF pass-blocking grade of 77.1. The former Oklahoma standout left the game with a back injury but head coach Doug Pederson told the media he's fine and will suit up against the Carolina Panthers.
The Jaguars can't wait to have Cam Robinson back in the mix
While the Jaguars will need to wait until the offseason to make changes, they're getting reinforcements for the last two games of the season. They've just announced they placed Cam Robinson from the Reserve/Injured, Designated to Return List. Robinson is set to have a massive cap hit of $22.75 million in 2024 but Jacksonville would create $17.75 million in space if they release or trade him.
It's currently uncertain if Robinson will be back next year but having him back for the remainder of the season will be a huge boost in the offensive trenches. With him returning at left tackle, the coaching staff can go with Ezra Cleveland or Walker Little at left guard. Having said that, the team's brass will need to make changes to the interior offensive line in the offseason.
Cleveland could return on a one-year deal but the Jaguars need to bolster the center and right guard positions. Brandon Scherff hasn't been necessarily bad but his play doesn't match his top-market salary. The Jags gave him a three-year, $49.5 million contract in 2022, and is scheduled to count $ 23.9 million next year.
Moving on from Scherff would create $9.09 million in space with $14.8 million in dead money. The team's brass could use those savings to upgrade the position or pursue a center in free agency. Luke Fortner has improved as a pass blocker but has been a liability in the running game. Jacksonville either needs to bring in someone to compete with him or outright look for his replacement.
The bottom line is that the offensive line has held the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2023. It's hard to see the group improving considerably the rest of the season. However, the coaching staff needs to find a way to get slightly better production up front if they want to avoid getting knocked out of playoff contention.