INDIANAPOLIS – He has known expectations since the beginning. He was fine with them from the start, and Eugene Monroe said he&39;s not complaining now. Far from it.
A franchise left tackle. A cornerstone of the offense.
Monroe, a third-year NFL veteran, was selected by the Jaguars two years ago to be those things, and although he said he hasn&39;t reached that level yet, he doesn&39;t mind people expecting it. That should be his expectation, he said, and he said the time will come when he will fulfill it.
More than that, he said the time is at hand.
"That&39;s what I expect myself," Monroe told jaguars.com this week. "Any player should expect that. Regardless of where you get drafted, or even if you don&39;t, you should have that drive to want to be the guy."
Monroe, since being the number eight overall selection in the 2009 NFL draft from the University of Virginia, has been a key part of the Jaguars&39; offensive line. He has started 28 of 30 career games, and he said when examining his first two NFL seasons, there are good things.
He has seen a player who is solid pass blocking much of the time, and who has shown signs of being a very good run blocker.
But he also said he sees a player who hasn&39;t quite fulfilled his potential.
Not yet, at least.
"I built on my first season this past season and definitely played better," Monroe said. "I definitely have not reached the ceiling. I don&39;t think there is one, but I think my game is only going to get better.
"That&39;s where my mind is right now. I&39;m already working toward those goals. I started working out this off-season earlier than most, and I&39;m just trying to get ready, trying to take this thing to where I know it should be. I want to meet my expectations and surpass them."
To reach that potential, Monroe said improvement must come everywhere. Franchise left tackles must block and nullify elite defensive ends, and players with glaring flaws don&39;t do that.
But Monroe said if there is a specific area he wants to see improve it&39;s his run blocking. Monroe said while pass-blocking didn&39;t come easy, exactly, it was something of a strength early in his career. Blocking for the run, he said, has come harder.
"I think that part of my game is really what&39;s going to propel me to the next level, is becoming a more dominant force in the run game," Monroe said. "That&39;s only going to help myself and the Jaguars perform a lot better, when I can take to the next level. You can&39;t just be a one-dimensional player. You have to be able to do everything.
"My focus is on becoming a complete player, but that (run-blocking) is a part of my game that can really take off. It has to for me to have a successful career, a career where I&39;m that dominating guy, whether it&39;s pass or run, every play."
While Monroe said technique, footwork and other factors are key to the strides he wants to make, "it&39;s a combination of a lot of things.
"It&39;s mainly getting a better understanding of the run game, the techniques, the intricacies," Monroe said. "I learned a lot of that working with my veteran guard, Vince Manuwai, this past season. There are a lot of technical things. It&39;s raw power, being mean – those things, too – but there are a lot of technical things in the run game that can help you excel if you know them. It&39;s little tricks of the trade. I&39;ve seen growth in my game by doing those things.
"This year, I want to take that to another level."
Monroe was asked what that level will entail – i.e., what will fans see if he indeed has improved. He said the answer was simple.
"If things go as I want, you should never hear my name," Monroe said. "That&39;s the sign of a good offensive lineman – no penalties, no flags, he&39;s not getting the quarterback hit and he&39;s consistent."
Monroe said mostly when he thinks of his first two seasons, he thinks of improvement. He said his mental approach has improved, as has his communication with his fellow linemen. And while improvement is still very much needed, he said he very much knows what it will take to attain it.
"I think the third year is very important," Monroe said. "My first year, I got hit immediately with a brand new brand of football. I was switching over from college to the NFL and had to work on understanding the differences in the game, what it takes to prepares. In my second season, it was about expanding on the things I learned that first year. I have a much better understanding of the game.
"I&39;m looking forward to that progression, and looking forward to this third season of mine coming up as a season when I really break out as a player.
"These are just words right now, but it&39;s something I&39;m working to make happen."