Key free-agent signing will help Jaguars push up in O-Line power rankings

• The Jaguars landed in the bottom half of PFF's O-Line rankings but a free-agent signing could help them move up a few spots.
Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence (16) looks for a receiver against the Tennessee Titans during the first quarter at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tenn., Sunday, Jan. 7, 2024.
Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence (16) looks for a receiver against the Tennessee Titans during the first quarter at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tenn., Sunday, Jan. 7, 2024. / Andrew Nelles / The Tennessean / USA

The Jacksonville Jaguars opted not to make major changes to the offensive line even though they struggled to protect Trevor Lawrence and run the ball last year. The team's brass believes that being healthy and having continuity up front will help them perform better in 2024. This approach makes sense when you take into account that injuries ravaged the offensive trenches. However, Zoltán Buday of Pro Football Focus isn't overly impressed with it.

Buday ranked all 32 offensive lines ahead of the 2024 regular season and placed the Jags, at No. 3, noting that they had talent up front but didn't show it last season. That said, he believes that bringing in veteran Mitch Morse in free agency could go a long way.

"All five projected Jacksonville starting offensive linemen were selected in either the first or second rounds of their drafts, although only the two offensive tackles — Cam Robinson and Anton Harrison — were picked by the Jaguars. That talent did not necessarily show on the field last season, as Jacksonville often had to rely on quarterback Trevor Lawrence’s quick release. The Jaguars signed center Mitch Morse in free agency, hoping that he can bolster the interior offensive line."

As Buday noted, Lawrence's quick release masked the offensive line's inability to pass protect. The fact that they weren't equipped to deal with injuries didn't help matters. Left guard, in particular, was an issue throughout most of the year. Ben Bartch was recovering from a knee injury he suffered in 2022 and wasn't at full strength last season. He was eventually benched but Jacksonville didn't have an adequate replacement in place.

Eventually, general manager Trent Baalke traded for Ezra Cleveland but it was a bit too late by then. The fact that Cleveland dealt with injuries at the time prevented him from getting acclimated. Then again, the Jaguars believe he's part of the solution, as they gave him a three-year deal worth $54 million in the offseason. Signing Morse aboard should also help.

Center was arguably the club's biggest weakness in the trenches. Luke Fortner played nearly every snap but ranked near the cellar in the NFL in pass-block rate. He wasn't much better in the running game. Morse should be an upgrade. He's expected to compete with Fortner for the starting job but should have no trouble coming out on top.

Mitch Morse isn't the only O-Lineman that will be pivotal to the Jaguars success

All things considered, ranking the Jacksonville Jaguars at No. 23 is fair. On the other hand, they should be better than expected in 2024. Cam Robinson missed four games while serving a suspension last year. He'll be available from the get-go next season. Moreover, sophomore Anton Harrison should keep getting better.

Harrison mostly lined up at left tackle at Oklahoma but switched to the right side as a rookie. He struggled early on but improved as the season progressed. Having a better grasp of the position will help him build off of his strong finish to 2023. On top of that, right guard Brandon Scherff should be fully healthy.

Scherff played through injuries last year but gave up just two sacks and 15 total pressures. If he manages to stay healthy, he will be even better. The front office could've released him in the offseason and freed up $9 million in cap space. Instead, they reworked his contract to ensure he stayed put in 2024. Having him around will also benefit the team's younger offensive linemen.

While it's hard to see the Jags make the top 10 in any offensive line rankings, they should most definitely be better than they were last season. If they are, Trevor Lawrence and the running game will benefit greatly.

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