The biggest story out of the Jacksonville Jaguars organized team activities (OTAs) so far has been the move of Brandon Linder from center to right guard. As far as we know, this move isn’t officially permanent, but from the sound of it and the tea leaves it feels like it may be. This has led to a lot of questions as to why, if Linder was so good at center, the team would feel the need to shift him off and back to where he played as a rookie, right guard.
Something interesting that Ryan O’Halloran of The Florida Times-Union pointed out over this past weekend could reveal why this type of move is being considered and looked at. Quite simply, the Jaguars no longer value the center position as high as they did under the previous regime.
Marrone did reveal a philosophical change since he was promoted: He considers left tackle to be the No. 1 position on the line and right tackle to be No. 2. For years, the Jaguars felt center was the second-most important post after left tackle, evident by their 2014 pursuit of Alex Mack and their decision last year to move Linder there.
If the Jaguars have moved on from the center position being the second most valuable on the offensive line, then it would make sense to move what is arguably your best offensive lineman to a position where he can make more of an impact.
“The good thing for us with Brandon [Linder] – when Brandon played guard here he was one of the top guards in the league and when Brandon played center he was one of the top centers in the league,” Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone said on Friday when asked about Linder’s best position. “We have flexibility to take a player and not lose anything at each position and see what the other players are doing from a standpoint of mentally being able to handle it and make calls.”
I’m not sure where Linder would exactly rank in regards to his play at either position, but I think we can all agree that at either position, Linder starting there makes it a position you don’t really need to worry about. As Marrone mentions, you don’t really lose anything by moving Linder from center to guard, at least in his play. That leads, to what I believe, is the real question and likely reason for the flirtation with Linder shifting back to guard.
Is the drop off at center from Linder, be it Luke Bowanko or Tyler Shatley, more or less than the drop off at guard?
“With center we want to see how fast [Tyler] Shatley can go with the calls. We want to see if [Luke] Bowanko can get in there with the calls,” Marrone continued. “We have Chris Reed working in there. We are trying to find the best five.”
The guard position has been one of issue for the Jaguars for the past two seasons and the team actively chose not to chase any of the free agent guards, outside of general inquiry at the start of NFL free agency. It could be, because the team knew they would potentially be shifting Linder back to right guard and boost their offensive line as a whole.
For instance, Bowanko has started for the Jaguars at the center position and been fine. He definitely had things he needed to work on his rookie year, but he was hardly a liability starting for the team. With the importance of that position lessened, so to speak, the upgrade you would get at guard with Linder compared to what you’d lose at center with either Bowanko or Shatley would seem to be an acceptable “hit”. It would appear that the team is more comfortable with either of those players at center, rather than the alternative with Linder at center and whoever at the two guard spots.
Whatever the team ends up doing, it’s going to be something to watch in the preseason.