JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser and senior correspondent Brian Sexton examine the offensive line position in this post-2019 NFL Draft look at the Jaguars’ roster…
Position: Offensive line (15).
Projected starters: Left tackle Cam Robinson, left guard Andrew Norwell, center Brandon Linder, right guard A.J. Cann, right tackle Jawaan Taylor.
Others: Tackle Josh Wells, tackle Leonard Wester, tackle Cedric Ogbuehi, guard/center Tyler Shatley, tackle Will Richardson Jr., center KC McDermott, lineman Parker Ehinger, tackle Donnell Greene, guard Bunchy Stallings, lineman Brandon Thomas, lineman Jordan Agasiva.
Arrivals: Taylor (2019 NFL Draft, Round 2), Ogbuehi (unrestricted free agent, Cincinnati Bengals), Wester (unrestricted free agent, Tampa Bay Buccaneers), Greene (undrafted collegiate free agent), Stallings (undrafted collegiate free agent), Agasiva (undrafted collegiate free agent).
Departures: Right tackle Jermey Parnell (unrestricted free agent), left tackle Josh Walker, left tackle Ereck Flowers (unrestricted free agent, Washington Redskins), left guard Patrick Omameh, right guard Chris Reed, right tackle Corey Robinson.
Offseason breakdown: The major offseason moves here involved reshaping right tackle and retooling depth. That made the early days of free agency busy, with Cann, Wells and Shatley re-signing and with Ogbuehi and Wester also being added. The Jaguars traded up from No. 38 to No. 35 in the draft to select Taylor from the University of Florida, then signed Greene (Minnesota) and Stallings (Kentucky) as collegiate free agents before signing Agasiva after this past weekend’s rookie minicamp.
Oehser analysis: The Jaguars made multiple moves to improve and solidify this area in the offseason, including replacing offensive line coach Pat Flaherty with longtime NFL offensive line coach George Warhop. But no Jaguars offseason offensive line move was as important or high-profile as drafting Taylor. The Jaguars considered him a first-round talent, and Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin said their aggressive move to acquire him early in Round 2 made the team’s draft. He should improve a right tackle position at which Parnell gutted through ankle and knee injuries last season – and Taylor could have the added effect of helping Cann. But this area figures to improve if it simply stays healthier than it did last season. Cann was the only 2018 Week 1 starter who finished the season, with Robinson missing the final 14 games with a torn anterior cruciate ligament, Linder missing the final seven games with a knee injury and Norwell missing five games with an ankle injury. While Norwell and Linder figure to return healthy, Robinson because of the nature of ACLs figures to be brought along slowly and monitored into training camp. Either way, the threesome figures to be critical to the line and offense next season. When Norwell signed as an unrestricted free agent in the 2017 offseason, the belief was the trio would make the left side dominant. That didn’t happen last season, and it must happen in 2019 for this offense to make the improvements necessary to get this team to the postseason.
Sexton analysis: Questions linger here, but none seem insurmountable. The addition of Taylor filled the biggest need; if he’s as good as advertised, the running game should be back on track. I spent time with him in Nashville before the draft; he looks like a right tackle should: huge frame, long arms, huge hands and just enough of a sneer to remind you he pushes people around for a living. I like it. Plus, Taylor should allow Warhop to leave everyone else in place, which is a huge plus with so many other new moving parts on offense this season. I expect Norwell, Linder and Cann to return to form. Norwell and Linder finished the season on injured reserve and no one would have blamed Cann for joining them after struggling with a hamstring all season. The big question is the left side, where Robinson returns from a torn ACL which cost him all but two games last season. The loss of Robinson was the first – and biggest – of a cascading series of injuries to plague the offensive line in 2018. Robinson was solid as a rookie in 2017 and they had high hopes for 2018. The other question is depth. Few NFL teams have offensive line depth, but you must have a few guys who can at least line up and carry the load for a few weeks. Wells looked good in relief of Robinson last season but couldn’t stay healthy, and Shatley was better than just a fill in at center once Linder was lost in early November. Mix in Richardson and Ogbuehi – the latter of whom never found his footing as a first-round selection in Cincinnati – and you have the makings of whatever we can call depth in today’s NFL. Can they stay healthy? I know how strength and conditioning coordinator Tom Myslinski works to get his guys ready, but injuries can be random – and last year felt like it just wasn’t their year.