The Jacksonville Jaguars were stunned by the sudden retirement of presumptive starting left tackle Branden Albert on Monday morning prior to the start of practice. After just three days of training camp, Albert apparently could tell he just didn’t have it in him to go another season and called it a career. No one on the team seemed to see it coming.
“I was just as surprised as everyone else. I had no idea,” Jaguars second-round pick Cam Robinson said after practice on Monday. “I wish him the best in whatever. Great guy. I learned a lot from him in the amount of time he was here.”
It’s not a fatal blow for the Jaguars offensive line, but it does kind of put them in a weird spot. It certainly lessens the talent pool of the group as a whole by quite a bit, as he was set to battle for a starting role and despite the coach speak, likely allow either himself or Robinson to slide to a guard position. With Albert now out of the picture, it opens up Robinson to take the starting left tackle position, but it still leaves a big question mark on at one of the guard spots.
The sudden retirement changes quite a bit, at least with overall changes to the disappointing offensive line from a season ago. Rather than going for a potential upgrade in Albert replacing Kelvin Beachum and potentially Robinson playing a guard spot, you’ve now likely simply just swapped Robinson for Beachum. The other four spots are likely to be players who started for the team in 2016.
So did anything really change?
There was plenty of opportunity to upgrade the offensive line during the offseason, in the form of free agency and the draft that the team chose to pass on, but it seems like a big gamble to essentially now just add a single player to the offensive line and expect drastic changes. You can change your offensive scheme and how you block and all of that, but the sheer lack of adding talented bodies could come back to bite the Jaguars.
A lot of the focus will be on quarterback Blake Bortles during training camp and the preseason, rightfully so, but the story off the offensive line is a big one that seems to be flying under the radar. Reports out of training camp, albeit only two days of padded practice, haven’t exactly spawned confidence. We know the Jaguars internally are a lot higher on the players on their offensive line than fans and most analysts, so it will be one to watch in the coming weeks.