This is part two of my six article breakdown of the performance of the Jaguars roster based on performance, statistics and the all important eyeball test.
Today I'll be talking about the Jaguars' Offensive Line. The unit, while not quite a strength, performed pretty well for the Jaguars this season. Injuries at Tackle hurt the teams' consistency on offense, and that combined with Garrard's tendency to hold on to the ball, led to the Jaguars allowing a league worst 111 QB hits. And not 1 "blow to the helmet" penalty... imagine that. Their 38 sacks allowed, however, puts the Jaguars only a little below average in that statistic (20th overall), and the line got great push all season, putting the Jaguars in the top 5 in yards per rush in 2010. Of course, all offensive line stats (like tackle totals) are unofficial. Anyways, lets get to it, shall we?Offensive Tackle: If you know one name on the Jaguars offensive line, it's probably Eugene Monroe. He was the Jaguars' first round pick in 2009, and in my opinion, he's proven to be worth the 8th overall pick. He struggled at times against premier pass rushers, but also had very strong outings against Houston, Indy and Cowboys, blanking three top pass rushers in those games. Monroe has been strong in the running game for his entire career, and he hustles downfield blocking on every play. I love his athleticism. He's so quick off the line in pass coverage. The problem with his play has been consistency and, on some level, the mental aspect. When his job is just to block someone, one-on-one, he can do it, but he has struggled at times against blitz-heavy teams, most notably the Philidelphia Eagles game. Once he knows who he's supposed to block, he can do it, and I wouldn't be surprised if he's on the roster from now all the way to 2020.
The Jaguars' other tackles are vary degrees of question marks. Eben Britten didn't look like himself early in the year before succumbing to injury. Word from the team was that he was dealing with a lingering leg injury in the offseason/preseason before going out for the year with a shoulder injury. Jordan Black filled in for Britton, and was not very good in pass protection. He's a strong run blocker, and I loved him early in the year as a Tackle-eligible, but he proved that he is not a very good pass protector over and over again in game situations. Teams often flipped their primary pass rushers over to Black's side because he was an easier target than Monroe. Guy Whimper also started one game at LT after Monroe went down with a concussion. I thought Whimper played 3 good quarters of football against a challenging Giants D-line, but when the fourth quarter came around, he found himself outmatched.
I wouldn't consider tackle a "position of need", but I do see it as a "position of want". I'd like to see the Jags find a "jar on the shelf" guy either in FA or in the draft this year, but I'd consider that a pretty low priority. Britton isn't 100% proven, and it'd be nice to have another reliable backup in case of injury as well.
Guard/Center: I've been thinking of this position as one that could use a little work. Meester is pushing 34, and while Uche Nwaneri is playing well, he's certainly not a very good option to replace Meester at Center. The Jaguars tried that in preseason and it didn't work out. Meester and Vince Manuwai, two of the Jaguars' longest tenured players, performed well in the running game. The Jaguars were consistent running to the left, behind Manuwai and Monroe, but did the best up the middle, racking up 67 rushing first downs on runs up the middle. Backup center John Estes is thought to be Meester's replacement. He missed the entire year due to an injury suffered in the preseason. I think we are likely this year to have another discussion about both Meester and Manuwai's place with the Jaguars. However, I can see both players remaining in the lineup. Not only are they currently the best players at their positions, continuity is also important in an offensive system.
Age is an issue inside since both Meester and Manuwai are over 30. It wouldn't surprise me at all to see an offensive lineman drafted by the Jaguars somewhere around the 3rd or 4th round. You have to get big guys early, so once you get past the 3rd or 4th there won't be anybody left, and 38 sacks allowed still isn't nearly where the Jaguars want to be, especially for a running team. All the talk about Justin Smiley as a potential starter for the Jags turned out to be just talk, and it seems like some time in the next two years, two new starters will be needed on the Jags O-line.
Well, that's two of these retrospectives down with me having to hate on any group too hard. I'll round out the offense by looking at QB in part 3.