JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser and senior correspondent Brian Sexton examine the Jaguars' offensive line in this position-by-position look at the '20 offseason.
Position: Offensive line.
2019 starters: Left tackle Cam Robinson (14), left tackle Will Richardson Jr. (2), left guard Andrew Norwell (16), center Brandon Linder (16), right guard A.J. Cann (16) and right tackle Jawaan Taylor (16).
Others: C/G Tyler Shatley, Cedric Ogbuehi, Ben Ijalana, Tyler Gauthier, Donnell Greene, Blake Hance, KC McDermott, Ryan Pope, Brandon Thomas.
2019 at a glance: This group, after finishing the 2018 season with just one healthy starter, remained remarkably healthy in 2019; Robinson missed the first two games while returning from a season-ending torn anterior cruciate ligament from the previous season, but no other starting offensive lineman missed a game. This unit was difficult to gauge in 2019, with most of the Jaguars' starting linemen playing at a starter level much of the season – but with the offense overall inconsistent much of the season. The Jaguars allowed 42 sacks in 2019, the 15th most in the NFL. The offense as a group finished 17th in the NFL in rushing with 1,708 yards – 106.8 yards per game.
Offseason storyline: The Jaguars' first offseason task here is determining what – if any – changes to make. Do the Jaguars like Robinson at left tackle, or could he move to guard? Will they retain Norwell, who – like Linder – has a salary-cap figure and contract situation that make it possible (though perhaps not likely) to release or trade him for cap reasons. Do they move forward with Cann, who has been solid in five seasons as a starter? Taylor, a second-round selection in the 2019 NFL Draft, showed signs throughout his rookie season of being a future Pro Bowl selection and he figures to start at right tackle for the foreseeable future.
Free agents as of March 18: Shatley, Ogbuehi, Ijalana, Thomas.
Oehser analysis: There may be no trickier Jaguars position group to analyze entering the 2019 offseason. Many observers believe the group must improve and that personnel changes are needed. But the reality is there are no clear-cut, obvious positions that absolutely must be changed. All five of the starters – Robinson, Norwell, Linder, Cann and Taylor – are minimum solid NFL starters and all have at least a year remaining on their contract, with Taylor having the look of a future elite player and Linder widely considered at least very good. While Norwell has been the subject of criticism, he played at a generally high level aside from some standout bad plays. Cann is entering his sixth season – and while he's not a Pro Bowl level player, he would start for many teams. Robinson has been inconsistent at times but played last season after rehabilitating from a torn anterior cruciate ligament the previous season. Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone and General Manager David Caldwell both spoke highly of this group at the recent 2020 NFL Scouting Combine, emphasizing that they expect Robinson to improve in his second season after ACL surgery. The guess here is the Jaguars might address this area in the draft, though perhaps not as early or as dramatically as some observers believe necessary.
Sexton analysis: This group needs a lot of attention this offseason. By my count they have two guys they can depend on – and maybe a third if you give Cann the nod at right guard, where he has been a solid-if-unspectacular starter for five seasons. Taylor is going to be star; we saw it from him all season long. Penalties aside, he played to the level of hype that accompanied his arrival from the University of Florida. He has got all the physical tools and is a bright kid who will use the lessons learned on the field this past season to make a big jump next fall. Linder is a good center and worth his $8 million salary; he's tough, smart and the unquestioned leader of the offensive line. I watch him week to week on the sidelines as he works back and forth between the offensive line and the quarterback and running backs to get things aligned right. Don't make the mistake of blaming him for the issues around him. The problems in 2019 were on the left side of the line. Robinson struggled in his return, and Norwell played more like an undrafted rookie than a former All-Pro. Maybe Robinson rebounds in 2020 and plays like the guy who was rising by the end of his rookie season – or maybe he belongs inside at guard. If the Jaguars used two of their first three selections in the 2020 NFL Draft to upgrade their offensive line, they wouldn't get any pushback here – or, I would assume, from the new offensive coordinator. The Indianapolis Colts used their first two picks in 2018 on offensive linemen to go with two other former first-round picks and have made a major leap forward. The Jaguars might use the same model to make their offense much more effective in 2020.