Brandon Linder played in 12-13 games every season he was at Miami, starting five games as a true freshman, then starting every game for the rest of his college career. He made the most of his starts at right guard, but also played right tackle for a few games as well, displaying his willingness to adapt.
Despite not getting much attention from major media sites or networks, Linder received an invite to the 2014 Senior Bowl.
Fit with Jacksonville
The reasons Linder makes sense for Jacksonville in terms of fit is pretty obvious. Linder fits the athletic offensive lineman profile the Jaguars seem to value, as evident by Luke Joeckel, Austin Pasztor, and Zane Beadles.
Due to his athleticism, Linder is a very good fit for the zone running game Jedd Fisch employs, as well as being a good fit for the moving passing pockets and heavy doses of screens in the offense.
Linder fills a hole at right guard, while also having versatility to play other interior spots, which is key for Jacksonville's depth right now. Linder also has obvious experience with Jedd Fisch, due to his days as offensive coordinator for Miami.
Linder was seen by most networks as a Day 3 pick, so to many it was a surprise to see Linder being taken as high as he was. Linder's value was even more inflated by the fact that the Jaguars traded a fourth and sixth round pick to select him.
Talent wise, Linder was a reach. Also factored in is the fact the Jaguars passed up more talented, in my opinion, guards to select Linder, specifically Dakota Dozier. the value of the pick is helped by a realistically near perfect scheme fit.
Brandon Linder's Biggest Strengths
Athleticism, Second-Level Blocking, and Fit in Zone Offense
The traits that Linder is going to hang his hat on, especially in Fisch's offense, will be his ability to use his above average athleticism to execute a number of plays.
In this GIF, Linder (RG, #65) is able to effectively get to the second level thanks to his quickness of the ball and up the field.
Second-level blocking is much more than just getting in the linebackers way though. Linder is able to take a good angle and use body control and leverage to position himself to wall off the linebacker from the play, momentarily. If not for the defensive tackle penetrating the backfield, this play likely goes for much more yards, in large part thanks to Linder.
Linder displays his quickness on downfield screens as well, which as I've touched on earlier in the series, is a common practice by Fisch. Having a guard who has the athleticism to make blocks in space at several levels of the field is a big advantage:
Here's more examples of Linder's body control and leverage at second level, which correlates to effective space blocking.
The style of run offense that fits the Jaguars offensive line the best is zone running plays, thanks to the athleticism they have across the board. Linder is no exception, and he excelled in this area at Miami.
Here on a zone stretch play, Linder does a good job beating the defensive tackle off the ball, then making the reach block and getting good hand and head placement. This is a textbook zone block by Linder.
Here is a similar block, but this time with help from the right tackle. They are able to use their quickness and cohesiveness to get movement off the ball.
Zone blocks require quickness off the ball and in an offensive lineman steps towards a defender, and Linder consistently shows the athleticism to thrive on zone blocks.
All in all Linder has the athleticism and ability to block in space to allow the Jaguars to open up the playbook a bit more than they did last year, with Will Rackley and the less than ideal zone blocker Uche Nwaneri.
Bandon Linder's Biggest Weaknesses
Leverage and Balance
Where Linder gets beat the most right now is in pass protection, and that is due to poor balance. He has a flexible lower body to be able to mirror defenders and absorb contact, but instead he normally opted to try to anticipate defenders movements instead of making contact, leaving him prone to quick counters, which resulted in him bending at the waist, which is one of the things you wish to never see from an offensive lineman.
Here, you'll see him stop moving his feet, to try to anticipate the defensive lineman's counter, but instead Linder is forced to bury his head into the defender, leaving him off balance and thus giving up pressure.
More poor balance on Linder's part can be shown here.
If Linder keeps moving his feet to mirror, he would have been able to at least make some kind of attempt to block the defensive tackle. But he stops his feet, loses balance, and gives up pressure to an inside move.
If he does not improve moving his feet and working through contact in pass protection, some major issues could arise.
Linder's issues with balance are not isolated in pass protection, but they are amplified there. He shows similar issues with balance and poor pad level when run blocking.
Here, Linder is able to stall the initial penetration, but he stands up way too much off the snap. Doing this against more advanced NFL defensive tackles will result in much worse scenarios than this play.
On this play, Linder gets a good initial push, but ultimately you never want to see a player finish a play like he this.
I like Linder's skill set as a whole, but he has quite a few areas he will need to improve on if he ever hopes to become a consistent performer.
The Best Case Scenario for Brandon Linder's Rookie Season
The best case scenario for Linder's rookie season is that he, along with the rest of the new offensive linemen, provide stability along the line. For years the Jaguars have gotten both subpar play and a lack of continuity along the line -- which is vital for effective line play.
The Worst Case Scenario for Brandon Linder's Rookie Season
The worst case scenario for Linder's rookie season is that he does not get a firm grip on the starting right guard spot. It is fully expected that he does, but if he does not prove to be significantly better than his competition (or lack thereof) then it'll be pretty troubling, considering the Jaguars traded up for him.
Reasonable Expectations for Brandon Linder's Rookie Season
Most realistic scenario for Linder in his rookie season would be for him to win the starting right guard spot in training camp, handily. Due to his skill set, I think inconsistent game-to-game performance should be expected, but he will bring a refreshing change of athleticism to the Jaguars interior offensive line and the results from his play should be much better than the Jaguars saw at guard last year.
Overall Opinion of Pick
Linder has clear issues to me, but he's also a player that can be starting quality.
I foresee inconsistency, even after rookie season, due to his skill set, but he is an upgrade at right guard and a near perfect fit for the Jaguars offense. A lot of things hinge on the offensive line's development this year, and I think we will learn even more things about Linder. While I liked other guards over him where he was selected, I am a fan of the pick.