They are together now, perhaps permanently.
If all goes as planned, the next two weeks will be key for the Jaguars’ offensive line, because those two weeks will be a first chance to work together for more than a few days, as a group.
A chance to establish a lineup. A chance to establish confidence.
A chance to establish continuity, and if this is indeed the line the Jaguars believe it could be -- the core of a permanent line for this season and beyond – then establishing continuity is the whole idea.
The Jaguars have searched for a while for the right group at offensive line. There is a feeling around the organization maybe this is it.
Nothing is set in stone, and with second-year veteran
“This is a strong group,” Nwaneri said. “Everybody’s been out there for games on Sunday. They understand what type of attitude and performance is needed.”
There’s Monroe, a potential franchise left tackle. There’s Bradfield, an undrafted free agent a year ago who has shown enough that the team moved him to right tackle, moving Britton from outside to inside.
There’s Nwaneri, perhaps the line’s most consistent player a year ago. There’s Britton, whose aggressive, physical style could be more suited to guard than his former position.
And there’s Meester, a 13-year veteran who played well enough in camp that coaches believe he may be finishing plays as well as any Jaguars lineman right now.
It’s a group that long has been one of the NFL’s best run-blocking lines, and a group that has showed during three preseason games it remains just that. It’s also a group that is forthright about the need to improve as a pass-blocking unit.
Because of the presence of Rackley, and of several solid reserves who have played extensively during the preseason, there is a feeling on the line that no matter who plays, there is a chance to be a productive, solid group.
“We approach it the same way regardless of who we have rolling on that five,” Monroe said. “We have a group of guys that work hard together, work together. The next man’s always ready to go up. We’re always striving to understand each other.
“If we understand the concepts of what we’re doing, it doesn’t matter who’s in there.”
Still, when Bradfield moved to right tackle a couple of weeks ago, it seemed apparent this group – or something very close to it – was going to be the group going forward, and ideally, it would have worked together the last two preseason games. But with Monroe out those two games after a hit to the head, Bradfield worked at left tackle, with
Now, beginning Saturday, Monroe is back. The group worked in helmets and shorts Saturday, and will work in pads twice this week. It is expected to start together Thursday against Atlanta, but because the starters will play about 10-to-12 plays in that game, much of the work together before the opener together will come in four padded practices.
“It’s definitely a positive getting Eugene back, and working with the possible starting five, getting a feel for each other,” Britton said, with Bradfield adding, “The more gelling the guy next to you you can get, it’s important.”
Can it be done in practice?
“Definitely,” Britton said. “Practice is a huge part of it. Game situations, that’s the truest picture of how guys are going to react, and how we’ll work together, but you can cover a lot of ground in practice.”
The focus during that time will be about balancing the timing of blocks, getting used to one another. It is said that the offensive line – pass-blocking in particularly – is often one of the last areas of a team to come together. Continuity is the reason, because continuity is about trust, and that sort of trust can take time.
“There are a lot of things you’ll do in terms of assignments and techniques that are about trusting that the next guy is on top of his job,” Nwaneri said. “When you have a bunch of bodies shuffling in time after time, that trust factor is a very fragile thing. If you don’t have time with a certain player, you’re not sure how they will respond on certain plays. That’s pass. That’s run when you’re dealing with blitzes in the run game. It’s all based on trust.”
Basically, Nwaneri said, it’s everything. “A lot of it deals with communication,” Nwaneri said. “It deals with knowing what kind of help you can give in certain situations because you understand where your teammate is going to be. You’re able to gauge what you can help him on. As a line, when you shuffle around a lot of time there’s hesitation because you’re not positive your guy got the information.”
For now, it appears the shuffling is over, so for now, the task is working to rid themselves as much of that hesitation, and of any uncertainty. There are two weeks to accomplish that task, or at least to accomplish as much of it as possible.
And if this is Jaguars are right, and if this the group for which they have been looking, those two weeks will be very important ones indeed.