On to ’19: Offensive line

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Jacksonville Jaguars center Brandon Linder (65) and guard Andrew Norwell (68) against the Kansas City Chiefs in an NFL game Sunday, October 7, 2018 in Kansas City, Mo. (Rick Wilson via AP)

JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser and senior correspondent Brian Sexton examine the Jaguars’ offensive line position in this look at the ’19 offseason

Position: Offensive line.

2018 starters: Left tackle Cam Robinson (2), left tackle/right tackle Josh Wells (6), left tackle Josh Walker (3), left tackle Ereck Flowers (7), left guard Andrew Norwell (11), left guard Patrick Omameh (5), center Brandon Linder (9), center Tyler Shatley (7), right guard A.J. Cann (15), right guard Chris Reed (1), right tackle Jermey Parnell (13), right tackle Corey Robinson (1).

Others: Brandon Thomas, KC McDermott, right tackle Will Richardson Jr.

2018 at a glance: The Jaguars started 12 offensive linemen in 2018, including four at left tackle and three at right tackle. One Week 1 starter – Cann – was on the active roster in Week 17. The Jaguars finished 19th in the NFL in rushing and tied for 30th in the NFL with 53 sacks allowed.

Offseason storyline: The focus here likely will be the right side of the line, with Cam Robinson, Norwell and Linder expected to start next season after missing significant time with injuries. With Cann scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent and Parnell entering the fourth season of his contract, their Jaguars futures will be question areas.

Free agents as of March 13: Reed, Wells, Flowers, Corey Robinson, Shatley, Cann, Omameh, Walker. 

Oehser analysis: This will be an intriguing area moving forward because the reality is there are as many unknowns as knowns here. A case can be made that this remains an area of strength, because Cam Robinson, Norwell and Linder have potential to a very good left side of the line; but Robinson has struggled at times as a starter, Norwell was hampered by injuries in his first Jaguars season last season and Linder also has struggled with injuries in five NFL seasons. The quality of that trio is a legitimate unknown entering ’19. The right side is less certain, with Cann expected by many to sign elsewhere as an unrestricted free agent and Parnell also not guaranteed to return in 2019. Will the Jaguars retain Parnell and look to draft a guard to replace Cann? Could they release Parnell and draft his replacement? Could they release Parnell, move Robinson to the right side and draft a left tackle in the first round? Could a center be drafted with Linder returning to the guard position he played early in his career? All are viable options, with the Jaguars’ direction likely depending on free agents and rookies available – and moves they make at other positions. Whatever their direction, this unit must improve. The Jaguars envision themselves as a physical, dominant team. It’s hard to be that if the offensive line isn’t performing at a high level.

Sexton analysis: You can’t argue that the Jaguars didn’t put a lot of effort into their offensive line the last few seasons. They spent a second-round draft pick on Cam Robinson in 2017 and rolled out the red carpet and lots of green for Norwell in 2018. It’s tough for that to show on the field when injuries force eight starting combinations in 16 games – and when four starters finish the season on injured reserve. Robinson and Norwell expect to return from injuries to reclaim their spots on the left side and Linder should be ready after missing most of the second half of the season. The right side will be in flux with Cann set to become a free agent and Parnell a candidate to play elsewhere thanks to a combination of injuries, age and salary. New line coach George Warhop might have different ideas, but it seems safe to assume the club’s fourth-round pick last season – Richardson – figures into the equation at one spot on the right side. The same is true of tackle Josh Wells, who played well at left tackle and in relief of Parnell on the right side. Shatley is back to compete and both guard and center. Don’t forget about Flowers, who joined the Jaguars after Wells went down in October and worked his way into the starting lineup in the second half of the season. He’s not played to the level of the top 10 draft pick he was for the Giants, but he’s a talented athlete worthy of development. In a draft with some good offensive linemen, I expect the Jaguars to try and build their depth and work to stay healthy in 2019.

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