The Jacksonville Jaguars offensive line was supposed to take that next step in the 2011 season, with young tackles Eben Britton and Eugene Monroe expected to take that next step. They should finally be gelling with a veteran interior and really step up their game. Two games into the preseason, and the offensive line is still looking rough. Part of the reason it's looking rough is because it's not the line they expected to have.
The loss of Vince Manuwai still looks like it could make the line take a big hit early on in the season. Blame him for being overweight or having a foot injury if you want, either way the loss still hurts. While I'm sure rookie Will Rackley will be just fine at left guard in time, he's struggled through the first two games in my opinion. That's not to be unexpected, however. He's a rookie and he's going to have to get used to playing next to Monroe and Brad Meester, to learn their tendancies. More so than any other unit, the offensive line is a "team" that has to work in unison.
The loss of Eben Britton for right now stings the most, most notably because you're not exactly sure when he's going to return. The team expects him to start week 1 of the season, but I have a hard time seeing a guy who struggled early in camp then went down with a back injury that required surgery rolling out there right away. Britton will have had no preseason whatsoever, so it will likely be a little rough in the first game he's back, whenever that is. I'm always leary of players having surgery on their back and short timetables. Typically, the timetable is longer than initially though. Britton could be ready week 1, but I'll believe it when he's on the field for the first snap. In Britton's absence, veteran Guy Whimper has taken the position for the lack of anyone else better. To be frank, Whimper has been pretty awful at right tackle, but the team seems to like him quite a bit for whatever reason.
Third year left tackle Eugene Monroe has been solid, as he has been in the past. The problem is however, he still has some brain fart mistakes that allows pressure on the quarterbacks blind side. I don't think Monroe is a concern or a liability on the offensive line, but he still has some issues with technique on some plays that will need to be hashed out before he can take his game to the next level and be the left tackle the team wants him to be. He's in phenominal shape, so he's able to recover from some of the technical mistakes he does make, but that won't always be the case going up against premier pass rushers.
Brad Meester is locked in at the center position, in what's likely his last season with the Jaguars. Meester is in the final year of his contract and I've been waiting for that day when his age catches up and his play takes a nosedive, but it's yet to happen. I thought he was done for after his second biceps injury a few seasons ago and he struggled when he came back, but Meester is a hard worker and got himself back up to a high level of play. There's not currently anyone on the roster who can really push him for his job, but at this point it's not necessary.
I do think there is a potential position battle brewing at right guard, however. Incumbent Uche Nwaneri has always been one of the better guards in the league when he's on his game, but the problem is that he's always been a bit inconsistent. He's been inconsistent in camp so far and it seems like newly acquired Jason Spitz is trying to make a run for the starting position. I don't think Nwaneri will relenquish the spot, most notably because he just signed 6-year $25 million contract last September, and it's hard to sit that money on the bench. I think Spitz would have to significantly outplay Nwaneri to take hold of the right guard position.
Typically the offensive line will look a bit rough in the preseason without much gameplanning and will look better once the first week rolls around, but with all the shuffling and new bodies, it might take a bit longer than that.