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Best OL in Jags history?


Should Fred Taylor have a day in Atlanta as he did against the Saints yesterday, Taylor's blockers will have every right to claim the distinction as the greatest offensive line in Jaguars history.

Blasphemy! Who taketh the names of Boselli and Searcy in vain?

Tell it to the record book.

It goes like this: The Jaguars offensive line that featured Tony Boselli and Leon Searcy as its tackles holds the team record for rushing yards in a season, 2,102 in 1998, and fewest sacks allowed in a season, 36 in 1999.

Well, this year's offensive line is almost certain to set a new sacks-allowed mark, and should Taylor run wild against the Falcons, who happen to be the NFL's 27th-ranked run-defense, this season's offensive line will shatter both marks.

Center Brad Meester, guards Chris Naeole and Vince Manuwai, and tackles Maurice Williams and Mike Pearson have combined to allow a mere 27 sacks this season. And we're talking about protecting a rookie quarterback, too.

But it doesn't stop there. The Jaguars offensive line has helped Taylor rush for a career-best 1,451 yards – third among AFC rushers – and the Jaguars' team rushing total, 1,916 yards, is 186 yards behind the '98 standard.

Doable? Well, the Jags rushed for 243 yards Sunday against the Saints; Taylor got 194 alone.

"Some very good things are happening up front, with limiting sacks, protecting the quarterback and opening holes for the running backs," coach Jack Del Rio said at a brief press conference this afternoon.

What's best about what's happening up front is that it's being accomplished by a group of players who include a rookie (Manuwai), a second-year player (Pearson), a third-year player (Williams) and a fourth-year player (Meester). Naeole, in his seventh year, is the old man of the bunch.

All of them are locked up contractually through next season, when Naeole's and Williams' contracts are due to expire. Meester got a contract extension this fall that'll keep him in Jacksonville through '07. Manuwai is in the first year of a three-year contract. Pearson would be an unrestricted free agent after the '05 season.

"I've never coached a group that has collectively worked as hard as this group has," offensive line coach Paul Boudreau said. "That's the character of this football team."

Boudreau came to the Jaguars last winter from Carolina in a kind of swap; the Panthers got former Jaguars line coach Mike Maser.

"I liked the athleticism," Boudreau said of his reaction to seeing the Jaguars' offensive line on tape. "I liked their age. I saw some things I wanted to change. Every one of them, when I talk to them, I don't feel like I'm talking to the wall.

"If somebody comes in here and beats one of these guys out, he's going to be a darn good football player," Boudreau added.

The stats agree. There's no denying the quality of the Jaguars' offensive lines of the late-'90s. Boselli was the best left tackle in the game, Searcy was selected to the Pro Bowl in '99, guard Ben Coleman was also an accomplished left tackle, guards Rich Tylski and Zach Wiegert offered quality and depth, and John Wade moved in at center very quickly.

But how do you argue with the stats? This is the most productive and efficient offensive line in Jaguars history.

"It started in the weight room in the offseason. I think it was 119 percent (participation)," Boudreau said. "The big thing I stressed was whatever you do, do it together. If you hate me, you all hate me. If you're fighting, there better be five guys fighting."

Or five guys blocking.

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