The Jacksonville Jaguars pass rushers have been the stars of training camp. Dante Fowler has looked good against Jermey Parnell, Malik Jackson has looked good against Brandon Linder. Sheldon Day has looked good against A.J. Cann. Nearly everyone has looked good against Luke Joeckel and Mackenzy Bernadeau.
In short, we're six full days into training camp -- two of them being full pads -- and the offensive line is making us worry... in large part because we have a bitter taste in our mouths about how the line performed last year. After all, the team gave up 51 sacks last year. That's not good. In fact, that is bad.
But was the offensive line as bad as we remembered it last year? Does "51 sacks" tell the whole story?
There are a number of reasons the offensive line doesn't deserve the lion's share of the blame from last year and here are a few.
Bortles' gunslinger mentality
Blake Bortles is a gunslinger. He's got a strong arm, he's unpredictable because he can default to instinct, and he makes incredibly high-risk/high-reward throws.
But what's that got to do with getting sacked? Bortles' mentality can border on recklessness often and his mentality can sometimes be, "I'm gonna score 21 points every time I have the ball." It can mean a high ceiling and incredible production, but it can also mean taking a sack when he's looking for a home run.
As @HankJoness pointed out at the end of last year, the starting five offensive linemen were directly responsible for just 20 of the team's 51 sacks last year. The rest came from rookie T.J. Yeldon struggling in pass protecting, backup Sam Young, good pass coverage by the defense, a free blitzer that couldn't really be pinned on any one player, and...
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Again, a gunslinger mentality can be good, but only in the right system where his volume is balanced. Not when he's asked to pass the ball (606 attempts) more than twice as often as the team runs it (302 non-Bortles rushing attempts).
Which brings us to our next point...
The Jaguars threw the ball way, way too much
When you mix a high volume of passes with a young quarterback who displays the kind of mentality described above, you're going to get sacks that are Bortles' fault. You're also going to get sacks that are the offensive line's fault, but only because they're being asked to block for longer than an average quarterback would hold onto the ball.
There are only a handful of quarterbacks in NFL history who have thrown as much as Bortles did last year. Name another gunslinger who threw at least 606 passes in a single season by the time he was 23.
Brett Favre? Nope. He didn't throw that many until his 15th season.
Dan Marino? Not until his fourth season.
Aaron Rodgers? Never.
The only quarterbacks in NFL history who have thrown more passes in a single season at the same age as or younger than Bortles are Drew Bledsoe, Andrew Luck, and Matthew Stafford. That's it.
Can we say the Texans game is an outlier?
It's revisionist bias to look only at the first 15 games and not count the 16th one in evaluating an offensive lineman's work. I'm not advocating that here.
What I am asking, however, is to remember that Luke Joeckel was at fault for just two sacks leading up to the season finale in Houston where he was at fault for 5.5 sacks.
That's a bad day. That's a career bad day. That's the worst day any offensive tackle is going to have in their entire life. And it happened to Joeckel on the final game of the season.
Do not take away what happened in Houston: Joeckel gave up 7.5 sacks in 2015. But view the season in its proper context: Joeckel was having the best season of his career and then had a complete and total meltdown (along with the rest of the team and coaching staff, to be honest) in Week 17.
The running backs had a hard time blocking
T.J. Yeldon is the best running back on the roster when it comes to catching passes, but he was dreadful last year in pass blocking. His four sacks allowed were the most on the team by any running back and Denard Robinson, Toby Gerhart, and Corey Grant weren't any better. But it was Yeldon who was called upon to pass block far more often than his compatriots.
Of all the points listed above, this is the only one that may continue to struggle in 2016. Chris Ivory was brought in and he'll probably get more playing time than Yeldon, but he's been up and down the last few years -- with PFF ranking him as one of the worst in the league in 2013 and 2014 but improving to be a top-seven talent in 2015. We just don't know which Ivory we're going to get.
But Bortles' risk management and the volume of his throws has the potential to help us see the offensive line's production in 2015 in its proper light.