Previewing 2020: Offensive line

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Jacksonville Jaguars center Brandon Linder (65), offensive guard Andrew Norwell (68) and offensive tackle Cam Robinson (74) set up for a play at the line of scrimmage during the first half of an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Chargers Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser and senior correspondent Brian Sexton examine the Jaguars' offensive line as the 2020 offseason ends and the '20 season approaches…

Position: Offensive line.

Projected starters: Left tackle Cam Robinson, left guard Andrew Norwell, center Brandon Linder, right guard A.J. Cann, right tackle Jawaan Taylor.

Others: Left tackle Will Richardson Jr., guard/center Tyler Shatley, right guard Ben Bartch, tackle KC McDermott, Tyler Gauthier, Blake Hance, Steven Nielsen, Ryan Pope, Tre'Vour Wallace-Simms.

2020 offseason additions: Bartch (fourth-round selection 2020 NFL Draft), Nielson (2020 collegiate free agent), Wallace-Simms (2020 collegiate free agent).

2020 offseason departures: Tackle Cedric Ogbuehi (free agent, Seattle).

Offseason overview: The Jaguars remained relatively status quo here in the offseason, foregoing free agency and making their major offseason acquisition by selecting Bartch from Division III St. John's (Minn.) University. Ogbuehi, who left as a free agent, played 14 games as a reserve last season.

Oehser analysis: This was a major area of disconnect throughout the offseason between the team and observers, and it figures to remain that way. While many outsiders expected the Jaguars to make significant changes/upgrades in the offseason, the starting offensive line in 2020 likely be the same five – Robinson, Norwell, Linder, Cann and Taylor – that started the final 14 games of last regular season. The Jaguars' decision-makers' confidence in this group is based largely on Robinson improving from last season, when he was returning from a torn anterior cruciate ligament that cost him the final 14 games of the 2018 season. Taylor looks like a future star, and coaches will tell you Linder had a strong season in 2019. Coaches and front office also like Norwell more than observers, and they believe they can win with Cann. Still, the reality is this group hasn't been run-blocked effectively at key times in the last three seasons – and even in a remarkably healthy season last season, the group was inconsistent with too many lapses and penalties. Bottom line: this position may ultimately determine the Jaguars' season. If General Manager David Caldwell and Head Coach Doug Marrone are correct that this group is better than many believe, they will look like geniuses. If not …

Sexton analysis: I hope this group enjoys the chance to stick it to everyone – me, included – who doubted them since last season ended. I still doubt the line's left side and the Jaguars didn't bother to do anything about it in the offseason. They apparently like this group more than most of us on the outside do; since Marrone is a former offensive lineman and offensive line coach, he gets the benefit of the doubt from me. Linder's an excellent technician and the group's leader, though injuries have prevented him from being the dominant player he showed in his second NFL season when he stoned defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh against Miami. Taylor had a bunch of penalties that overshadowed his development as a rookie last season, but if you watched him in Week 2 in Houston against J.J. Watt, you'll get excited about his potential. Cann is a good, solid player; not everyone can be the NFL's highest-paid guard. Norwell has yet to show a dominant streak since arriving with the Jaguars in 2018, but the coaches defend him vigorously; since it's tough to determine if a guard is playing well, I'll give him the pass. Either way, the huge contract will always make it seem as if he is falling short of what he's supposed to be; it's just the nature of free agency. Robinson is the crux of the issue. He was a solid rookie starter, missed most of his second season and was up and down in his return last season. If he can fulfill the potential that made him a high second-round pick in 2017 this group will be just fine – and maybe better than fine. If he's not, Richardson could take his spot after rotating at right guard last season. He's big, long and knows the game – but he didn't take the guard spot from Cann last season so it's unknown if he can take the left tackle job away from Robinson. Richardson should be the sixth of seven linemen active along with Shatley, who can man any of the interior positions and has played well in extensive action while Linder was down. One story that will be interesting to follow is Bartch, who played Division III but held his own at the Senior Bowl in January. He won't be counted on this season but should be a guard for the foreseeable future if the scouts and coaches are correct.

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