While the Jacksonville Jaguars offensive line struggled with injuries against the Minnesota Vikings, starting left tackle Eugene Monroe kept defensive end Jared Allen off the stat sheet entirely. The Jaguars first-round pick from the 2009 NFL Draft, and the first of the Gene Smith era, has come into his own over the past 17 games.
Monroe struggled out of the gate a bit as a rookie, but showed the reason why the Jaguars drafted him with the eighth overall pick more often than not. Monroe turned into a very reliable pass protector during the 2011 season, despite the team allowing a ton of sacks, and once again proved he's reaching that upper tier status on Sunday against the Vikings.
While Allen looked like he was going to have a great day on the first couple of plays, jumping the snap on Blaine Gabbert's hard count, after those plays he was virtually non-existent the rest of the game. The Jaguars offensive line struggled to keep bodies off the quarterback, but Allen wasn't one of the players they were worried about because of the great play of Eugene Monroe.
If you're familiar with Pro Football Focus, when they went back and "re-focused" the Jaguars Vs. Vikings matchup, Monroe was basically flawless with his performance on Sunday:
If you're going to make things easier for a young quarterback the first thing you need to do is keep him upright, and while the Jaguars offensive line was suffering on Sunday, at least they were solid as a rock at left tackle. Going up against Jared Allen, fresh off a season in which he sacked the passer 24 times, Eugene Monroe (+5.4) was perfect in pass protection and made several big plays in the run game too, springing the Jaguars rushers for additional yardage and giving them the corner by pinning Allen inside.
To pass block 46 times in a game and keep Jared Allen entirely without pressure is an extremely impressive feat.
Monroe's rookie contract currently runs through the 2013 NFL season, but he may be a young player the Jaguars look to lock up early.