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View from the O-Zone: Linder? Worry? Not likely


JACKSONVILLE – Brandon Linder is getting healthy, and he feels good. Really good.

He also expects to be on the field and 100 percent when the Jaguars begin their offseason program next month.

Those were the points the Jaguars' third-year offensive lineman emphasized during an interview at EverBank Field late last week. What didn't seem to worry him in the least was where he might play next year.

On that subject, Linder was characteristically low-key.

"Whatever happens happens," Linder said with a smile.

Where will Linder play next season? What position? That's a key Jaguars topic with the 2016 free-agency signing period set to begin Wednesday at 4 p.m. A lot about Linder's future could become clearer then.

Will the Jaguars play Linder at guard, where he played 15 games as a rookie and three last season before a season-ending shoulder injury? Or will he move to center, a move that would enable the Jaguars to sign a guard and possibly improve the interior of their offensive line?

The answer won't be known until at least Wednesday, but Head Coach Gus Bradley said during the NFL Scouting Combine in late February that Linder playing center is a possibility.

It's a move makes sense. Linder is considered the team's best interior offensive linemen, and center is considered the most important interior offensive line position. He has the skill set to play it well, and if the team signs a guard in free agency, moving Linder inside could strengthen the offensive front overall.

Time will tell, but here's what Linder will tell you: Yes, whatever happens will happen …

And he's cool either way.

"It's obviously based on free agency, and what they're thinking," Linder said. "I played some center in college [at the University of Miami] and I've played some center here. Wherever they put me, I'm going to try to do my best and help the team. That's my end goal – to try to help the team.

"Obviously at guard I'm a little more comfortable. With center, I'd have to learn a little different technique and stuff like that – but again, I'm here to help the team."

Here's one thing not to expect:

For Linder to spend the coming days hanging on every tweet and every national/local report of what the Jaguars might do in free agency. He's not a social media guy, and he's not going to turn into one Wednesday afternoon.

"I'll probably be fishing," he said with a smile. "I don't have a say in it. I'm one of those guys where I kind of don't like to read into things."

So, no Twitter?

No refreshing Facebook?

"The only reason I use social media is to post hunting and fishing pictures," he said, laughing.

Linder said if he does move, the experience playing center at times in high school, college and briefly in the NFL would help. He said he always has tried to study the game from a center's perspective, and if the move does happen, "I'll just have to evolve."

What's more perhaps important is wherever Linder plays next season he expects to be healthy. Linder said last week his rehabilitation from surgery has been "going great," and that he continues to work out and progress in his rehab.

"I'll be ready to go in OTAs," he said. "There should be no caution and ready to go."

Linder's excited about the offseason – and next season. That's true because of his health, but also because of his feelings on the Jaguars' offensive line as a whole.

That line remains a critical area for the Jaguars. While the group improved last season from 2014, more improvement is needed. The 51 sacks allowed, down from a franchise-record 71 in 2014, was still too many, and push up front in the run game again was an issue.

The hope is that the right offseason move on the interior – whether that means Linder at center, second-year guard A.J. Cann at guard and a new guard or Linder/Cann at guard and a new center – can provide the final piece of what has been an elusive puzzle.

"I feel like as an offensive line we can be good," Linder said. "A.J. definitely stepped up this year for us. I was very happy to see how he played as a rookie. We're all here in the offseason working out together. As a unit, we're cohesive and we will build on that. [Assistant head coach-offense/offensive line] Doug [Marrone] will help us in that process. We're all excited. It's another year for us to gain."

Where Linder will be during those gains remains anyone's guess. Perhaps we'll learn in a day or two. Just don't check Linder's Twitter account for the most up-to-date news.

Unless you're, like, really into fishing.

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