There is no reason to beat around the bush on this one. Brandon Linder was not only the Jaguars best rookie (in a rookie class where nearly every pick contributed), but he was the best player on the entire offensive side of the ball.
When the Linder pick was made, I had no idea who he was. I never watched a snap of his at Miami, despite watching a good majority of his teammates. I reviewed him after the pick was made and came away pleasantly surprised. I figured the Jags got a decent Guard who was a good scheme fit. Not great, but an upgrade.
He blew those expectations out of the water.
Best Case Scenario
"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."
I clearly didn't have extraordinary expectations for Linder. My hope was he would at the least be serviceable and end the tunrstile at Guard. He obviously did that, and more.
Worst Case Scenario
"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."
There was never really a chance of this happening, as Linder essentially won the job the second the team took its first practice snap.
"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."
I was partially correct here, but this is where I underestimated Linder. I thought he would be a player that would see a lot of ups and downs throughout the season, but from week 4 until the final snap of the year, there were no inconsistencies. At his worst, he was steady. At his best, he was near dominant.
You can honestly point to nearly any of Linder's game and make a case of it being his best. His performances from week to week all nearly resembled each ther one way or another.
But if I had to single out one game, it'd be vs the Titans on TNF. He went up against one of the NFL's top DT's in Jurrell Casey on a number of occasions and held his own. His biggest play came on Jordan Todman's long TD run (Titans, you really suck). He washed the DT completely down the line, at least 3 yards, and opened up a HUGE hole for Todman to run through, essentially closing the game out.
Looking ahead, Linder is clearly one of the team's core players for the future (something I will touch on in a later post.) He can still improve in some areas, such as his strength and balance, but his rookie year was about as good as you can ask for from a Guard. He can only realistically get better at this point.