The Jaguars left tackle spot has been feast or famine. Tony Boselli was on his way to Canton before injuries cut his career short. Since then, Mike Pearson, Khalif Barnes, and Mo Williams have all tried their hand and come up short. Now it seems the Jaguars have a problem of riches. The team signed Tra Thomas in the off season to be a stop gap while the team went to look for a longer term solution. Then, to the surprise of everyone, that long term solution fell into the Jaguars lap on draft day with Eugene Monroe.
Monroe was taken over Michael Crabtree, BJ Raji, Jeremy Maclin, and other capable players because he provided stability at the position. However, can Monroe begin his tenure this year or will the veteran Thomas keep him on the bench?
Thomas spent the first eleven years of his career with the Philadelphia Eagles. A Pro Bowl selection in 2001, 2002, and 2004, Thomas was regarded as one of the top tackles in the NFL. Thomas was the 11th overall pick in the 1998 draft out of Florida State.
Along with Torry Holt, Thomas was one of the key free agent signing of the off-season. At that point, it was looking like the only quality tackle available to the Jaguars in the draft was Michael Oher, and he had slipped out of Top 10 consideration. Unlike other offensive linemen his age, it seems Thomas doesn't have as much wear and tear on him. He started all 16 games last year, which is an accomplishment for a left tackle in his 30s.
Thomas' biggest problem is that team he played for the last eleven years. The Eagles offense is the opposite of the offense Jacksonville uses. The Eagles version of a running play was a dump off pass to Brian Westbrook. It remains to be seen if Thomas can be that physical blocker the Jaguars will need him to be.
If Thomas does get the starting job this season, there are two questions that need to be asked; Can he stay healthy and consistent all season ,and, can he be a physical run blocker when needed.
To say it was a shock that Monroe was available at #8 on draft day is an understatement. Monroe was passed over by Kansas City, Seattle, and Cincinnati; teams that had a legitimate need to bolster their lines. Their loss was the Jaguars gain as they made Monroe their highest picked lineman since they drafted Tony Boselli.
Monroe kept the Chiefs' 2007 first rounder, Brandon Albert, from playing Left Tackle at Virgina. Monroe ended his senior year by winning the Jacobs Award, presented to the ACC's Best Offensive Linemen, and was named to several All-American teams.
The biggest knock on Monroe is that he wasn't the most aggressive blocker on the field. In a division with Dwight Freeney, Mario Williams, and Kyle Vanden Bosh he'll have to assert himself and set the tone. In addition, it has been speculated that Monroe fell on draft day because teams had second thoughts on knee injuries he experienced in college. However, I have to think the Jaguars medical staff gave their ok before he was drafted.
What to Expect
I think Monroe will win out eventually. Thomas was brought here as a stop gap and the coaches know that. Monroe is the future of the position. The quicker he becomes the starter, the quicker the Jaguars can resume being a Super Bowl contender.