JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser and Jaguars analyst Bucky Brooks examine the Jaguars' offensive line in this position-by-position look at the '21 offseason
Position: Offensive line.
Position coach: George Warhop.
2020 starters: Left tackle Cam Robinson (16), left guard Andrew Norwell (13), center Brandon Linder (10), right guard A.J. Cann (15), right tackle Jawaan Taylor (16), center/guard Tyler Shatley (9), left guard Ben Bartch (1), Guard Will Richardson Jr. (1).
Others: guard/center K.C. McDermott.
2020 at a glance: The Jaguars stayed comparatively healthy along the offensive line, with Linder the only Week 1 starter who didn't start at least 13 games; Taylor started 16 games for a second consecutive season to begin his career and never has missed a snap in two NFL seasons. This group was key to the development and emergence of rookie running back James Robinson, who was on pace to set league records for rushing by an undrafted rookie running back before missing the final two regular-season games with a knee injury. Robinson rushed for 1,070 yards and three touchdowns, but the Jaguars as a team also finished tied for last in the NFL with nine total rushing touchdowns. The Jaguars also allowed 44 sacks, which tied for seventh-most in the NFL.
Offseason storyline: The major story entering the offseason along the Jaguars' offensive line: left tackle Cam Robinson, a second-round selection by the Jaguars in the 2017 NFL Draft who is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent when the 2021 League Year opens in March. Robinson (6-feet-6, 320 pounds), who started 16 games last season and who has started 47 of 47 games in four seasons, is not widely projected among the top offensive linemen in free agency but he likely will be highly coveted if he hits the open market; such is the importance of a veteran left tackle with experience. The Jaguars have yet to indicate if they will pursue re-signing Robinson and have until Tuesday, March 9, to decide if they want to apply the franchise or transition tag to him; either would significantly restrict his options in free agency, with a franchise tag likely meaning he would play for the Jaguars in 2021 under a one-year contract. The Jaguars' other free agent offensive lineman – Shatley – has been a key "swing" player throughout his six seasons with the team; he has started 25 games during that span.
Free agents as of March 17: Robinson, Shatley.
Bucky Brooks' top three free-agent offensive tackles: Trent Williams, San Francisco 49ers; Taylor Moton, Carolina Panthers; Alejandro Villanueva, Pittsburgh Steelers.
Bucky Brooks' top three free-agent offensive guards: Brandon Scherff, Washington Football Team; Joe Thuney, New England Patriots; Lane Taylor, Green Bay Packers.
Bucky Brooks' top three free-agent centers: Corey Linsley, Green Bay Packers; David Andrews, New England Patriots; Bustin Reiter, Kansas City Chiefs.
Bucky Brooks' top three offensive tackle prospects: Penei Sewell, Oregon; Rashawn Slater, Northwestern; Christian Darrishaw, Virginia Tech.
Bucky Brooks' top three offensive guard prospects: Alijah Vera-Tucker, Southern California; Wyatt Davis, Ohio State; Trey Smith, Tennessee.
Bucky Brooks' top three center prospects: Creed Humphrey, Oklahoma; Landon Dickerson, Alabama; Josh Myers, Ohio State.
Oehser analysis: This has been among the Jaguars' most-discussed – and most-criticized – positions in recent seasons, and that remains the case as the league year approaches. But the reality is the Jaguars' offensive line played far better last season than many observers believed, and major turnover this offseason seems unlikely here. "Our offensive line is pretty good," Jaguars Head Coach Urban Meyer said recently. "It's not a blow-up offensive line. We've got some other areas we've got to fix." The Jaguars also retained Warhop, a sign that continuity is key at this position – an approach that makes sense considering the Jaguars likely will start a rookie quarterback in 2021. The primary question could be Robinson's future. He has played well at times in four seasons, but hasn't been consistent enough to make it an automatic decision to renew his contract for the long term. Options could include placing the franchise or transition tag on him to allow the new decision-makers an opportunity to see if he's a long-term fit. This is perhaps the Jaguars' major unknown question as free agency approaches.
Brooks analysis: The Jaguars' offensive line didn't get enough credit for their solid work throughout the season. The front line held its own in the trenches and the ability to move defenders off the ball will become a focal point under Meyer. Robinson's uncertain status could prompt the team to invest significant draft capital in at left tackle to replace the veteran or upgrade the depth at a marquee spot. The interior positions are in good hands with Norwell, Linder and Cann but that shouldn't dissuade the team from looking for some intriguing developmental options at center or guard. With Ben Bartch already set in the bullpen, the addition of another young interior blocker would fortify the position for the future.