The Jaguars offensive line enters 2017, like in previous years, with question marks surrounding it. Last year, the starting line up for Week 1 was:
Left tackle: Kelvin Beachum
Left guard: Luke Joeckel
Center: Brandon Linder
Right guard: A.J. Cann
Right tackle: Jermey Parnell
Entering training camp last year, the center, right guard, and right tackle positions were set, while Beachum and Joeckel battled for the left tackle spot with the loser projected to start at left guard.
Entering Jaguars training camp this year, the only lock across all five positions is Parnell at right tackle. Otherwise, the Jaguars offensive line is a total mystery.
Linder is the best offensive lineman on the team, and with both experience and proven ability at both right guard at center, the team is trying to find the best spot for him to play at going forward. Linder received a five year, $51.7 million extension yesterday, which will make him either the highest paid center in NFL history or the fifth-highest paid guard in the league, depending on where he lines up.
Once Linder finds a home along the line, three positions across the front five will remain open to:
- A.J. Cann, who has started 29 games at right guard since 2015
- Cam Robinson, who the Jaguars drafted in the second round this year as the team’s “future” at left tackle
- Offensive tackle Branden Albert, who the Jaguars sent a 2018 7th round pick to Miami for
- Luke Bowanko, who started 14 game at center for the team in 2014 and has been a backup ever since
- Tyler Shatley, who has been a reserve interior offensive lineman for the Jaguars since 2014
- Patrick Omameh, who started seven games for the Jaguars at left guard in 2017
- Earl Watford, swing guard/tackle who started 12 games for the Arizona Cardinals from 2013-2016
- Chris Reed, who has started four games at guard in two seasons in Jacksonville after signing as an undrafted free agent in 2015
- Josh Wells, who has been a reserve tackle for the Jaguars since 2014. He has payed in 17 career games
- Jeremiah Poutasi, reserve interior lineman who started one game for Jacksonville in 2016 and seven in 2015 for Tennessee
- Avery Gennesey, 2017 undrafted free agent out of Texas A&M
- Nila Kasitati, a guard who has never played in an NFL game
- Demetrius Rhaney, former Los Angeles Rams backup center with no career starts
Realistically, Robinson, Albert, Cann, Shatley, Bowanko, and Omameh are the only players of those listed competing for the remaining positions. Robinson and Albert will compete for the left tackle job, and Cann has been working at left guard, the position he played in a power scheme during his college days at South Carolina. Omameh will likely compete with Cann there, and loser of the left tackle battle may be involved in the battle at left guard.
With Linder taking snaps at right guard during OTA’s, the center position seems to be a question mark as of right now. That could change if Linder returns to center, but if not, it will likely be left Bowanko and Shatley to battle for the starting job. Bowanko has flashed ability at center before, so I would give him the edge over Shatley.
If players not named Cam Robinson or Branden Albert get the starting nod at left and right guard, then either the 2017 second round pick in Robinson or the traded-for Albert will start the season on the bench. This would be odd, as the team went out of their way to target both players — The Jaguars traded from the 35th to the 34th pick in this year’s draft for the former Alabama left tackle, and as I stated before, the Jaguars sent a 2018 7th round pick to Miami for Albert.
The bottom line is, the Jaguars offensive line is seemingly in shambles, and it’s by design. Head coach Doug Marrone, who was the Jaguars OL coach for the previous two years, stated that he was shaking up the offensive line in order to play the best five players:
“Right now, we have multiple people playing. Whether it is Brandon Linder playing guard, [Tyler] Shatley playing center, [Luke] Bowanko can play all three. We can’t pigeon hole ourselves.
It is not like we can sit here and say, ‘We know we are good enough to do this. Let’s just do it and go.’ We are not there yet, nor does anyone feel comfortable, whether it is coaches or players being able to say this is our best five.”
“We want to make sure we are in position to put the best guys out there and just let them compete and let’s see who wins it. People come back and will say, ‘What about chemistry and continuity?’ Listen, would you rather have good chemistry and stink or would you rather have less chemistry and be better? We are just trying to be better and see what we can do there. I don’t have a great answer for that, but that is what we are doing with those guys.”
Although this may end up working out in the long run, the Jaguars currently have very little stability along the offensive line. Until we get through training camp and get a better feel as to who’s performing well at each position, the offensive line group looks to be in a worse situation than it did at this time last year.
How does the Jaguars offensive line group compare to this point in the 2016 offseason?
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