When the Jaguars drafted Eugene Monroe out of Virginia 8th overall in 2009, most considered the pick one of the steals of the draft. He was supposed to be the heir apparent to Tony Boselli, and expectations were set accordingly. However, a lengthy holdout meant that he came into camp slightly out of shape and behind the eight ball from the get go. It culminated in a Week One whooping by Dwight Freeney, that saw Monroe resemble Tony Mandarich more than Tony Boselli.
However, things began to improve, and culminated ironically enough, against the rematch vs Indy. Although Dwight Freeney played sparingly, he was never a factor. In addition, Monroe showed his potential as a run blocker, throwing several devastating blocks for Maurice Jones-Drew.
Coming into this offseason, it was clear Monroe wasn't going to be making the same mistakes he made early in his rookie year.
"It was just a product of the work I put into this offseason. I'm eating better, training differently. Those things just contributed to it, and just being dedicated to it that entire time," and "At this point compared to now, I see myself watching film as a completely different player, a guy able to move a lot better," Monroe said to Vito Stelino.
He came into camp leaner and meaner, and has been consistently earning praise from the staff. Although injuries kept him out of a few practices and the first preseason game, he returned vs Miami and played well. It's clear that barring injury, he is the best offensive lineman the Jaguars have.
The AFC is loaded with quality young left tackles such as Jake Long and Joe Thomas (I think Ryan Clady is overrated, but that's not here or there.) Eugene Monroe certainly has the ability to join that group. He certainly has the schedule to prove it. He'll face Dwight Freeney and Mario Williams twice. Not to mention guys like Trent Cole, Justin Tuck, and DeMarcus Ware. If Monroe can come out of that schedule smelling close to a rose, he'll deserve a Pro Bowl nomination.
In short, Monroe has been working harder than ever this offseason, and has the talent and schedule ahead of him to prove he's one of the best tackles in the NFL.