Reading the newspaper this morning I saw an article that I was confused by. It was in the Sports section of the Florida Times-Union and it was written by Vito Stilleno. It was dealing with Vince Manuwai, who's still recovering from the knee injury he suffered in 2008, and how he'd been demoted to the second team.
How does an offensive lineman get demoted in organized team activities, where there are no pads or contact?
"I think Vinny still has a ways to go," Del Rio told Vito Stellino. "I think Vinny's working at it. He's got his weight down. He's trying, but he needs to play better. I think he knows that. He's working hard at it."
Working on it he is, as Manuwai is currently listed as the heaviest Jacksonville Jaguar at 333 pounds (not Terrance Knighton at "375"...), but 333 pounds for an interior offensive lineman isn't really considered "huge" by any means. His teammate and fellow guard Uche Nwaneri is listed at 329 pounds, and they're roughly the same height. It's true Vince is hobbled a bit by his knee still and he suffered an abdominal injury last week, but he should be ready to go the closer we get to the regular season.
"At some point, you've got to get beyond that, and he knows that," Del Rio said. When asked if Manuwai has been playing with a hurt abdominal region, Del Rio said "Yeah but he’s kind of played through that. He’s a tough guy so he’s played through that."
"I understand," Manuwai said when asked about Del Rio's comments. "I feel the same way."
Still, the notion that Manuwai has been relegated to second team in May is jumping to conclusions a bit. The Jaguarswere already experimenting with interior line combinations at Mini-Camp and throughout OTA's rotating players in and out during reps. The speculation that Manuwai is competing for his job with the acquisition of new guard Justin SmileyI believe is a bit rich. First of all, Manuwai isn't expensive at all and graded out as the best interior lineman of the three last season (according to ProFootballFocus.com) while playing on a still recovering knee. Not to mention that Manuwai is being moved to the right side of the line, where his strength's will be better utilized. The other three guards (Forney, Nwaneri, and Smiley) can all play the right side if necessary, but all are better utilized on the left side of the line.
I don't believe Manuwai is in danger of losing a roster spot. Frankly, if you release Vince Manuwai you not only weaken the offensive line as a whole and in the run game, but you put a big dent in the depth of your offensive line. While it's true Smiley has played both left guard and right guard in the NFL, he will most likely be playing left guard for the Jaguars as he is best at pass blocking. The real person to worry on the offensive line is veteran center Brad Meester. Uche Nwaneri has been groomed for the future center position since he got to Jacksonville and unlike Meester, he can play multiple positions on the line. Kynan Forney provides versatile depth on the line, and young interior lineman John Estes and Cecil Newton are favorites with potential among the coaching staff. If you release Manuwai, who can legitimately replace him with confidence?
Again this all points back to... how does a player at a contact position get "demoted" in non-contact practice? Vince is still hobbled a bit due to the major injury he suffered, but to say his job is in jeopardy?
It's May. It's only OTA's and there's a reason I've tried to steer clear of writing about what's going on. I even steered away from writing about Garrard throwing three picks last Tuesday and by all accounts just looking "OK" so far. It's May!
Dare I say... we're jumping the shark...?