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Jaguars Training Camp Preview: Interior Offensive Line

Who are the interior offensive linemen to look out for that can play a big role for the Jaguars this fall?
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The Jacksonville Jaguars are a couple of weeks away from kicking off Doug Pederson’s first training camp at the helm, giving us plenty of time to take a look at each of the team’s position groups before the 2022 season.

Jacksonville wasn’t afraid to make a number of big moves on both sides of the ball this offseason, both via free agency and the draft. Now, they have a new-look roster that contrasts in a big way from the roster we saw the team field in Week 1 of 2021.

Related: Jaguars Training Camp Preview: Quarterback

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Related: Jaguars Training Camp Preview: Linebacker

Related: Jaguars Training Camp Preview: Offensive Tackle

Related: Jaguars Training Camp Preview: Safety

Related: Jaguars Training Camp Preview: Cornerback

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Related: Jaguars Training Camp Preview: Edge Rushers

Next up: the interior offensive linemen. What does it look like today, what changes did the Jaguars make, and what needs to be addressed ahead of camp?

The depth chart

Brandon Scherff

Age/Experience: 30/eighth season

2021 Stats:

  • 697 offensive snaps
  • 5 penalties
  • 2 sacks allowed
  • 76.7% run block rate
  • 93% pass block win rate

Despite missing 6 games last season due to injury, Scherff showed what he could do when he’s on the field. His 76.7% run block rate led all guards, and his 93% pass block win rate ranked 27th per ESPN. The 5-time pro-bowler and 2020 first-team All-Pro has proven to be the anchor of an offensive line when healthy and was ranked as the NFL’s third-best guard in ESPN’s most recent ranking of the best offensive lineman. With 22 missed games over the last four seasons, there will always be injury concerns with Scherff, but he represents a huge upgrade to a Jags offensive line that ranked 22nd last season.

Ben Bartch

Age/Experience: 23/third season

2021 stats:

  • 2 penalties
  • 705 offensive snaps
  • 3 sacks allowed
  • 62.1 player grade (PFF)

Ben Bartch emerged as a starter during the 2021 campaign, starting 11 of the 15 games at the left guard position. The 2020 fourth-round draft pick was a former tight end coming into the NFL but has quickly shown that he can utilize his athletic ability and above-average speed to his advantage. Bartch has steadily shown improvement in his pass blocking technique that allows him to stay in front of rushers and react quickly to potential counters. Current projections have Bartch set to retain his starting role opposite Brandon Scherff, as the Jags opted not to bring in any competition for the role during the offseason. The Jags appear to be all in on Bartch’s athletic potential and you should be as well.

Tyler Shatley

Age/Experience: 31/ninth season

2021 stats:

  • 60.7 player grade (PFF)
  • 532 offensive snaps
  • 3 penalties
  • 0 sacks allowed

The longest-tenured offensive lineman on the roster, Tyler Shatley is projected to be the starting center following the recent retirement of stalwart Brandon Linder. Shatley has appeared in 114 career games for the Jaguars, starting in 33 of them, including 18 in the last two seasons because of injuries. Shatley’s experience makes him one of the most valuable members of the offensive line, and the guy who the younger players can rely on to help them get acclimated to the expectations of the NFL. Expect a very motivated Shatley entering training camp, as he is out to prove that he is more than capable as the starting center.

Luke Fortner

Age/Experience: 24/first season

2021 stats (college):

  • 90% run block rate
  • 86% pass block percentage
  • 5 total pressures
  • 2 sacks allowed

A key piece of Kentucky’s “Big Blue Wall”, Luke Fortner ended his college career with a bang, appearing on the Rimington Trophy Watch List for the nation’s top center and was named to the Second Team All-SEC. Fortner’s versatility is his calling card, having experience at left guard, right guard, and center over the course of his six-year college career. The 2022 third-round pick displays above-average quickness and solid athleticism that allows him to get in front of rushers and quickly settle into his stance. The Jaguars prioritized the addition of versatile offensive lineman this offseason and Shatley fits right into that ideology. He enters training camp as the backup center and with the potential to swing over to guard for snaps in the fall.

Wes Martin

Age/Experience: 26/fourth season

2021 stats (NYG):

  • 7 games played (1 start)
  • 130 offensive snaps
  • 1 sack allowed
  • 40.3 player grade (PFF)

Wes Martin has bounced around the league to start his career, being drafted in the fourth round of the 2019 Draft by the Washington Commanders and appearing in 7 games with the New York Giants during the 2021 campaign. The Giants subsequently placed Martin on waivers in May, where the Jags quickly snatched him up to add to their depth at the guard position. Martin has experience at both the left and right guard positions and projects to compete for a backup spot entering training camp.

Will Richardson Jr.

Age/Experience: 26/fifth season

2021 stats:

  • 135 offensive snaps
  • 13 games played (2 starts)
  • 1 penalty
  • 55.5 player grade (PFF)

The 129th pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, Will Richardson Jr. is one of the longest-tenured Jags offensive linemen and depth pieces at the left guard position. At 6’6” and 306 pounds, Richardson effectively utilizes his size to keep blocks centered and has enough athleticism to recover when beaten off the line. His physicality allows him to impose his will on opposing defenders but he can be a step slow in lateral movement, resulting in a tougher time stopping counter moves and shiftier defenders. Richardson projects to compete for a backup spot and has a good chance at maintaining a roster spot as a serviceable depth piece and veteran presence in the locker room.

Jared Hocker

Age/Experience: 24/first season

Jared Hocker arrived in Jacksonville this offseason following brief practice squad stints with the Seattle Seahawks and Los Angeles Rams in 2021. During the 2020 season at Texas A&M, Hocker started in all 10 games, logging 667 snaps at right guard. The Aggies had one of the SEC’s best units that season, being named a finalist for the Joe Moore Award. At 6’5” and 325 pounds, Hocker is a powerful force at the point of attack and is effective in run coverage, but needs work on his pass blocking technique. Training camp reps are going to be critical for Hocker as he looks to compete for a backup spot.

KC McDermott

Age/Experience: 26/fourth season

2021 stats:

  • 9 games played (1 start)
  • 46 offensive snaps
  • 2 penalties
  • 66.5 player grade (PFF)

KC McDermott is entering his fourth season with the Jags after signing as an undrafted free agent in 2018. McDermott has played in 16 career games, with 9 coming in 2021, and 7 in 2020. The versatile McDermott has experience playing both tackle positions and left guard during his time at the University of Miami and does a good job of keeping his feet square, allowing him to gain position quickly and adjust his body to counter oncoming defenders. McDermott’s versatility makes him an interesting player to keep an eye on in training camp as he vyes for a backup role.

How the room changed this offseason

The departures of Andrew Norwell and A.J. Cann, along with Brandon Linder’s sudden retirement, forced the Jaguars to act quickly in order to replace them. The addition of Brandon Scherff on a 3-year $49.5 million contract with $30 million guaranteed presents a massive upgrade at right guard. Longtime veteran Tyler Shatley will finally get his chance at the starting center job and is motivated to prove himself in training camp. 

The Jags utilized the draft to secure the versatile Luke Fortner in the third round. Fortner currently projects to start the season as the backup center but has experience playing right guard and could potentially see snaps there should any injuries arise this coming season. The rookie’s leadership skills and football intelligence has caught the eye of the coaching staff during the offseason program. Overall the unit got younger and added guys that can play multiple positions along the offensive line.

The biggest storyline surrounding the group following the offseason

Will Tyler Shately secure the starting center job? The veteran is entering training camp with a chip on his shoulder. After 8 seasons as a backup, his chance to earn the spotlight is here and he is ready to seize the moment. With intriguing rookie Luke Fortner lurking in the shadows, this is Shatley’s chance to prove that he is ready to assume a starting position with the team and elevate his game to new heights. 

Shatley performed well in OTA’s and saw a large chunk of the first-team reps at center, showing that the coaching staff does have faith in him to perform up to par. Training camp will be the opportunity for Shately to build upon that trust and make his mark.