The Jacksonville Jaguars finished with the NFL’s best rushing attack in 2017, averaging 141.4 yards per game and scoring 18 rushing touchdowns.
What makes these stats crazy is that the Jaguars offensive line, in terms of run blocking, wasn’t great in 2017, despite allowing only 24 sacks in pass protection. It saw improvement from years past as right tackle Jermey Parnell had a very solid bounce-back season after bring injury-riddled in 2016, and when healthy, rookie left tackle Cam Robinson played like a veteran at the position. Plus, Brandon Linder continued to look like one of the best centers in the league.
However, both guard spots underperformed last year, despite success being found in the run game. Patrick Omameh was never more than average and missed several games later in the year due to injury, and A.J. Cann continued his inconsistent level of play that has been seen in the past. The Jaguars ranked 22nd in adjusted line yards (measuring offensive line value on run plays) with 4.01 ALY/rush when targeting the interior last year, despite ranking 4th in carries to the interior among rushing offenses in 2017 (per FootballOutsiders.com)
The Jaguars approached the offseason with offensive guard at the top of their free agency to-do list, bringing in former Carolina Panthers guard Andrew Norwell on the largest iOL contract in NFL history: Five years, $66.5 million. On top of signing Norwell, the Jaguars used their fourth round pick on NC State offensive tackle Will Richardson. In the long term, Richardson will likely replace Parnell when he decides to hang up the cleats or is cut by the team, but he could immediately compete at the right guard spot with Cann.
Projected offensive line depth chart
*Note: Italics = projected starter, Underline = Acquired in 2018 FA/draft*
Left Tackle: Cam Robinson, Josh Wells
Left Guard: Andrew Norwell, K.C. McDermott
Center: Brandon Linder, Tyler Shatley
Right Guard: Will Richardson, A.J. Cann
Right Tackle: Jermey Parnell
I’d figure the team will carry either nine of ten offensive lineman on the roster, so I opted with the lesser due to the potential of six receivers due to special teams contributors. While the left/right tackle and center positions carry incumbent starters, Norwell takes over at left guard position as he played there during his four years in Carolina and Richardson could very well beat out A.J. Cann at the right guard position.
As for depth, Tyler Shatley is likely a lock to make the roster. He started four games at center and right guard last year when Brandon Linder and A.J. Cann sat out with injuries and played very well, allowing only one sack in all four starts (per Ryan Day of BigCatCountry.com.
K.C. McDermott is my wild card of the current lesser-known depth OL on the Jaguars roster: The former Miami Hurricane signed as an undrafted free agent with the Jaguars last month. He fits the Jaguars apparent size thresholds (if the projected depth chart above holds true, the Jaguars entire offensive line will stand at 6-6, and weigh at least 306 lbs) at 6-6, 311 lbs, and according to Lance Zierlein’s scouting report at NFL.com, he possesses strong hands and enough bend and length to play along the interior at the NFL level.
On paper, the Jaguars are seemingly set at both tackle spots, left guard and center. Right guard is the position along the OL to watch when training camp comes around, as it will likely be one of the team’s most important position battles this offseason.
The Jaguars rushing offense ranked at the top of the league last year, and if the team’s offensive line sees the dramatic improvement along the interior that it’s hoping to, they should have no struggle finishing near, if not at, the top of the NFL in 2018. In terms of pass protection, it almost begs to ask: Could the Jaguars finish the 2018 season with less than 20 sacks allowed? That would be quite the feat, but the potential is there for this offensive line to be one of the best all-around lines in the league.
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