As we finish out the breakdown of the roster by position group, I wanted to save the one that will likely be talked about the most for last, the offensive line. Personally, I think the offensive line is going to be rather easy to cut, but there are certainly a few spots you could make an argument for a handful of players. So, lets go ahead and get into the discussion about who's available and who could be on the chopping block.
Returning player(s): A.J. Cann, Jermey Parnell, Luke Joeckel, Brandon Linder, Luke Bowanko, Tyler Shatley, Josh Wells
New player(s): Mackenzy Bernadeau, Kadeem Edwards, Chris Reed, Kelvin Beachum, Rashod Hill, Slater Pearce, Patrick Omameh, Jeff Linkenbach
Outgoing player(s): Zane Beadles, Stefen Wisniewski
Bubble player(s): Kadeem Edwards, Chris Reed, Rashod Hill, Slater Pearce, Tyler Shatley, Patrick Omameh, Jeff Linkenbach
First, these are the offensive lineman I think are a lock for the roster, barring trades or injury: Cann, Parnell, Linder, Beachum, Bernadeau, Joeckel and Bowanko. I tend to think Shatley and Wells will make the roster, but as I mentioned those would be my "locks" for the position group.
Most of the proceeding discussion and comments will likely center around Luke Joeckel, who a lot of people think will end up playing guard if he doesn't win the starting left tackle job. I'll go ahead and say I don't think Joeckel ends up being the left tackle on opening day and I also don't think he will be starting at left guard. There's a few reasons for this, most notably guard just doesn't seem to fit what Joeckel's strengths are. I've spoken about it a few times in comments in past posts, but Joeckel struggles with power and if he's playing at guard, that's predominantly what he's going to end up seeing. Sure, Joeckel has been whipped around the edge by speed rushers (see; Houston game), but the vast majority of the time that's because he's been beaten by power early in the game and it's now in his head and messes him up. The physical deficiency has would be his downfall playing guard, more so than it does playing tackle.
Outside of that, there is something a lot of people have to consider with the whole Luke Joeckel to guard thing, and I believe Ryan O'Halloran has mentioned it a few times when he's been on radio: Joeckel is going to be playing left tackle until Kelvin Beachum is ready to go, so when exactly is Joeckel supposed to make that transition to guard? During the season? The prevailing thought, and from what I've kind of gathered speaking to people, is that Beachum is the left tackle for the team. The hope is that Joeckel getting reps while Beachum is out might be able to spark something, but the plan is for once Beachum is ready, he's the starting left tackle. That might not be until Week 1 or 2 of the season, but with that potential time line, there's no way Joeckel will have enough time to transition to guard and that's not something you want to do on the fly.
Now that that is said and out of the way, the real battles on the offensive line is going to come in the form of backups. Josh Wells spent the last season on injured reserve, but he's a player as a swing tackle the Jaguars are high on. The question will be do the teams keep two swing tackles on the roster as bench players in Wells and potentially Joeckel?
On the interior line, Bowanko is dealing with a
shoulder hip injury so he will either end up on PUP and not count against the initial 53-man roster or end up on injured reserve, but he's someone the team believes can play all five offensive line spots if necessary. Shatley is someone who we keep hearing about as a talented player, but to be honest I'll believe it when I see it in games. He's certainly strong and athletic, but personally I haven't seen this show up on film yet. Bernadeau was an under-the-radar signing this offseason and has been getting the reps at left guard with the first unit, so unless he's a disaster I would guess he's starting at left guard. In reality, if that's the case, the final 2-3 offensive line spots will all be about who is more versatile and who can stay healthy.
I'm not sure if the team will keep nine or 10 offensive lineman this year, but like with the defensive tackle position, they're probably going to cut a player who can end up as a quality backup on someone else's roster.
The big question was if the Jaguars did enough on the offensive line this offseason, and I tend to think they did, if everyone is healthy. The reality is you have a potential new left tackle who's coming off a torn ACL, next to a new starting left guard who has only started two games the past two years and a center who is adjusting to a new position coming off season ending shoulder surgery.
The potential is there for the Jaguars offensive line to be good and much improved across the board, but the first few weeks of the season could very well be pretty rough as things get settled.