The Jaguars offensive line will be under the microscope this Saturday when the Jaguars host the Tampa Bay Bucs, a week after the offensive line surrendered two sacks and a vicious roughing-the-passer hit on quarterback Byron Leftwich.
Hey, didn't we do this last summer?
"Same thing," left tackle Khalif Barnes said.
A year ago, the Jaguars offensive line was "the most questioned part of the team," in Barnes' words. The Jaguars weren't running the ball very well and they weren't protecting the quarterback very well, either, and it wasn't until center Brad Meester stood up in front of the media and said there was no problem and that the Jaguars would, in fact, have a great offense, that a kind word was said in defense of the five guys up front.
Meester said it would all change in the regular season and, as it turned out, he was absolutely right. By season's end, the Jaguars were just a few yards shy of producing two thousand-yard rushers and the Jaguars had allowed the second-fewest sacks in team history.
"We do prepare but it's not the same," Barnes said following Thursday's practice. "You study your opponent all week (during the regular season). These are the same questions we were going through last year and I think we turned it around during the season."
Barnes and right tackle Tony Pashos struggled at times in last Saturday's game in Miami. The tackle tandem would sure like to turn fans' eyes in a different direction against Tampa but, regardless of the outcome, Barnes isn't going to fret.
"It's preseason, and that's not an excuse. Do we care how we play? Of course we do, but it's not the end of the world … as long as we tighten it up by Sept. 9," Barnes said.
This week's practices began with a five-man sled session on Monday evening. Was there a message in that?
"The sled is a great fundamental tool; roll your hips, get your hands inside. The only message is that it's a tool we can use to get better. It's not a tool for punishment," line coach Andy Heck said.
As a rookie line coach last season, Heck had a dream year. Pashos was added for this year and Heck's group is considered to be one of the Jaguars' strengths, therefore, the failures in Miami were startling.
"The offensive line is always a work in progress. We have a situation where we have to make up for the loss of Brad (Meester) and I have all of the confidence in the world in the guys we have here," Heck added.
Barnes is considered to be a core player. At one of football's most premium positions, Barnes is expected to be the team's lead pass-blocker.
"Once the season begins, your preparation is intensified. It means a lot more and it's worth a lot more," Barnes said of the regular season.
"It's about building to make sure these things don't happen when it counts," Barnes added.