With training camp just four days away, it’s time to start previewing every position on the Jacksonville Jaguars roster. We started with the quarterback position last week, then previewed the running backs and tight ends this week. Now, it’s time to look at the offensive line, which is a group that will need to show significant growth this season.
The Jags spent a lot of money on the line this offseason by snagging Brandon Scherff off the free agent market and giving Cam Robinson a new long-term deal to protect Trevor Lawrence’s blindside for a few more years. The team also spent a high draft choice into getting their center for the future in Luke Fortner.
Despite those moves, the Jags will enter this offseason with a lot to figure out when it comes to their starting five, as well as the depth behind them. Let’s take a look at the offensive line, which currently has 13 players on it heading into camp:
Many came into the offseason wondering what the Jags would do at both offensive tackle positions, and it seems possible they could run it back with the same two starters they had last season. The team initially franchise-tagged Robinson but ended up giving him a three-year $54 million contract that guarantees $33 million, which cements him as the starter on the blindside for a while.
Jaguars OL (74) Cam Robinson pushes a weighted sled during Tuesday’s minicamp session. The Jacksonville Jaguars held their Tuesday morning session of the team’s mandatory minicamp at the practice fields outside TIAA Bank Field, June 15, 2021. [Bob Self/Florida Times-Union]
As for the right tackle position, it’s not a guarantee that Jawaan Taylor will remain the starter as he will compete with 2021 second-round pick Walker Little. Taylor was penalized 12 times last season, according to Pro Football Focus, which made him one of the most penalized players in the league. However, he is a young player who still has a long career ahead of him, so the Jags have a reason to believe he can be coached up.
Little, on the other hand, started in three games at left tackle last season and held his own. One of those games occurred against the Buffalo Bills, who were the league’s top defense at the time. Despite that, Little earned a 70.4 Pro Football Focus grade in pass protection in that game. He ended the season overall with a 70.2 overall pass blocking grade on the year. However, his overall run blocking grade (61.7) will need to improve in 2022, and if it does, he has a good chance to be a starter.
The two tackles who will be looking in from the outside are Badara Traore and Coy Cronk. Traore spent all but one regular-season game on the Jags’ practice squad. That’s likely where he could end up in 2022 as the Jags have good depth at tackle when looking at the first and second-team players.
Cronk is listed as a tackle, but the Jags may give him a majority of his reps at guard as he received looks there this offseason. If that’s the case. he’s going to need a strong showing at camp to make the team as there are other veteran guards with more experience on the roster.
Nov 14, 2021; Landover, Maryland, USA; Washington Football Team guard Brandon Scherff (75) smiles while leaving the field after the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at FedExField. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
The Jags signed a big-time addition at the right guard spot in Scherff, who has been named a Pro Bowler four times and an All-Pro once. When healthy, there aren’t many better at the position than him, and he’s a significant upgrade over former starter A.J. Cann, who is with the Houston Texans now.
The Jags will also have a new starting left guard this season as Andrew Norwell wasn’t extended and became a free agent. Right now, it seems like third-year player Ben Bartch is the front runner to replace him. Bartch started in 11 games last season as Cann sustained a Week 4 knee injury that sidelined him for the rest of the season. Bartch received a lot of snaps and experience as a result and it showed in organized team activities as many praised him for being a significantly improved player.
Behind Bartch and Scherff, are veterans KC McDermott and Wes Martin, as well as second-year player Jared Hocker and undrafted rookie Nick Ford. Of the four, Martin and Ford may be the two to watch as Martin has 11 career starts to his name, and Ford is a player who has played guard, center, and tackle. McDermott has a chance to stick around, too, as he’s participated in 16 games with the Jags while starting in one.
Some of the backup options we named could end up surprising fans this preseason as the team has several options who have starter experience and versatility. That would be a welcomed issue for the staff, although it wouldn’t make final cuts easy.
Oct 17, 2021; London, England, United Kingdom; Jacksonville Jaguars center Tyler Shatley (69) directs the line against the Miami Dolphins at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
The Jags lost their best offensive lineman in center, Brandon Linder, who retired this offseason. Linder was one of the best players at his position and was a team captain, so it’s not going to be easy to replace his presence.
Luckily, the Jags have a player in Tyler Shatley who was able to get a ton of experience as a starter due to Linder’s injury issues. Shatley, who the Jags re-signed through a two-year deal this offseason, will enter this season with 33 starts. Over half of those starts (18) came in the last two seasons as he registered eight last season and 10 the season before.
While the Jags drafted Fortner in the third round, he may not even start right away due to Shatley having so much experience. Still, the rookie should end up being a good competitor for Shatley as he brings a high football IQ and quickness into the mix. Fortner is also a versatile player who can play guard, too, so he will at least be a very valuable backup as a rookie.
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