The Atlanta Falcons signed Pro Bowl center Alex Mack this offseason, satisfying an interior need with a veteran mauler.
The Jaguars, meanwhile, did not sign Alex Mack. Mack, a Jacksonville fan-favorite ever since landing inches away from Dave Caldwell's feet last offseason, would have abolished the very conversation we are about to have.
Yet, here we are.
Then again, this conversation isn't nearly as painful as, dare I say, the defensive end conflict. The Jaguars do hold several options at center.
If there's one expanse where this current Jaguars' regime has demonstrated competence, it's drafting interior linemen. Brandon Linder, A.J. Cann, and my good friend Luke Bowanko were all very good value picks from the last two draft classes.
And, interestingly enough, all three of these lineman can play center. Bowanko is the only of the three to have ever snapped in meaningful games for the Jaguars -- he started 14 games at center in 2014. Bowanko's short starting stint came to an end last offseason after losing his job to veteran Stefen Wisniewski. Wisniewski is not expected to be back with the team in 2016.
This offseason, as far as in-house center options go, the Jaguars beat has been mostly fixated on Brandon Linder. This is no groundswell, however -- both Dave Caldwell and Gus Bradley have alluded to Linder's ability to snap the ball in the past.
And here's something a few of you might not know -- before breaking out at right guard during his rookie season, Linder did play snaps at center during the preseason. In the second preseason game of 2014, the Jaguars plugged Linder into the center role for the second-string Blake Bortles-led unit.
Brandon Linder at center -- preseason week 2, 2014 https://t.co/2yMoA54gJ6— Cole Hartley (@ColeFartley) March 14, 2016
Linder, a wide-eyed rookie at the time, handled his newfound responsibilities pretty well. Of course, the offense was in it's primal preseason form playing against a second-string defense.
More Linder at C -- any excuse I have to show this pass, really https://t.co/iZh4rLZuuu— Cole Hartley (@ColeFartley) March 14, 2016
Last one https://t.co/5KW04xeDM7— Cole Hartley (@ColeFartley) March 14, 2016
In 2014, Linder appeared to embrace the bare requirements for the center position -- good feet, some form of athleticism, and a basic understanding of the happenings around him. In fact, in a lot of ways, Linder bared a strong resemblance to the lineman who would eventually absorb the starting center role in 2014 -- Luke Bowanko.
Now, two years later, it'll be interesting to see if the Jaguars choose to explore a position change for a lineman that many fans identify as the most valuable player on the line. Motives for Linder's shift to center could include guard A.J. Cann's rapid development as a rookie last season. Cann played pretty damn well in Linder's position after an injury ended Linder's season last year.
The Jaguars are bound to target one or two more interior line prospects in April's draft as well. We'll know more then about how the offensive line puzzle pieces fit together.
Until then, don't overlook the possibility of Brandon Linder at center next year.