The Jacksonville Jaguars are slowly but surely marching along with the rest of the NFL to the start of the 2021 season, arguably the most anticipated season in franchise history. As fans count down the seconds until the debuts of Urban Meyer and Trevor Lawrence, the Jaguars are putting in time, energy and sweat to prepare for the season.
From now up until the start of Week 1, we will see the Jaguars grow as a team in Meyer's vision. The 90-man roster will be cut down as position battles take place throughout the roster.
As this offseason progresses, we will take a look at each position and give our best guess as to what the depth chart will look like come Week 1 -- at least based off the information we currently have.
The Jaguars are returning their entire starting offensive line from a year ago, along with veteran offensive line coach George Warhop. A year after the Jaguars stressed that continuity would help lead to improvement, the team is once again hoping the unit will take their game another step forward as they grow together.
"I’m of the belief that there [are] very few teams, if we decide that we want to hand a ball off, are going to stop us from running the ball. But where we struggled last year at times was in pass protection," Warhop said last week during minicamp.
"And that’s a technique issue and a consistency issue. And that’s been addressed and will continue to be addressed, those guys know it. It’s something that we’re not shying away from, so it’ll get better.”
With the Jaguars' line undergoing little change sans one major draft acquisition this offseason, what should we expect the offensive line to look like? We take an early guess at the depth chart below.
No. 1 LT: Cam Robinson
No. 2 LT: Walker Little
One of the Jaguars' highest-paid players in 2021, Cam Robinson is more or less a lock to start the season at left tackle after Trent Baalke and Urban Meyer opted to franchise tag him in March. The former second-round pick has been the unquestioned starting tackle throughout the offseason, even with the addition of 2021 second-round select Walker Little to add some immediate and long-term competition.
Robinson, 25, has been a mainstay for the Jaguars at left tackle since the team selected him No. 34 overall in the 2017 NFL Draft. He started 18 games during the team's 2017 playoff run and has started 47 games in his career, including each of the last 30 games. And thus far, it appears the Jaguars intend to give him every opportunity to prove their decision to franchise tag him was the correct one.
Considering Robinson's experience and 2021 price tag, the only logical scenarios where he isn't taking snaps at left tackle this fall are due to either injury or the Jaguars pulling the plug on his time as the starter during a losing season so they can see what they have in Little.
Little, the No. 45 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, has already been called the team's backup left tackle by Urban Meyer in the wake of the draft. The former five-star recruit and Stanford left tackle was considered by many to be a likely first-round pick before a season-ending injury took away his 2019 season. He opted out of the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, creating a unique circumstance in which he played just one game in two seasons.
But despite this, Little has earned praise from Warhop and Meyer each for his work ethic and how prepared he entered the offseason. He will start the year as Robinson's backup, but the Jaguars likely believe they have an eventual starter in Little who is showing very few signs of early rust.
“I’m going to be completely honest with you. I’ve had multiple tackles drafted in the first or second round and [Walker Little] came in as prepared or more prepared than any of those guys; in terms of movement skills, in terms of intellect, in terms of communication," Warhop said last week.
"We ask guys to do things differently than they do in college, so there’s a learning curve there. But in terms of how he came in, the fact that he didn’t play for two years, you really couldn’t notice that.”
No. 1 LG: Andrew Norwell
No. 2 LG: Ben Bartch
Another spot on the offensive line in which there is an entrenched starter with a developing young lineman behind them, the Jaguars' left guard spot is unquestionably Andrew Norwell's entering the 2021 season. Norwell is not only the Jaguars player with the largest cap hit this season, but he is also coming off a strong season in 2020 and has more experience than the raw and still-developing Bartch, along with experience with Meyer.
"He’s one of my favorite players I’ve ever coached. He’s a guy that was the underdog when we got there at Ohio State. The offensive line at Ohio State was one of the worst in the Big 10, it became the best in the Big 10. He was a big part of it," Meyer said in March.
"I was not surprised to see him get a high free agency contract because he’s a grinder, he’s a worker, he’s a team guy, he’s a locker room guy. I see him being part of the Jaguars and I want him to be part of the Jaguars. For me personally, I love the guy because I know him better than most.”
According to Pro Football Focus, last year was Norwell's best season as a pass blocker in Jacksonville. He No. 25 among guards in that area in 2019, but went all the way up to No. 8 in 2020. Norwell started 13 games at left guard last season and has started 40-of-48 games since signing with the Jaguars in 2018. He played 11 games in 2018 and 16 in 2019.
Bartch, meanwhile, will likely serve in a depth role for the second year in a row. He could have a chance to earn a spot in the starting lineup in 2022 since both of the Jaguars' starting guards are in the final years of their contracts, but 2021 is set to be another year of development for the former fourth-round pick.
Jacksonville's first pick of Day 3 (selected No. 116 overall), the 'Smoothie King' entered as a left tackle convert who the Jaguars asked to shift inside to guard. He made one start in 13 appearances, one start, allowing eight pressures as a rookie according to Pro Football Focus. He should be expected to see snaps in any event Norwell or right guard A.J. Cann are injured, but not in any other scenario.
No. 1 C: Brandon Linder
No. 2 C: Tyler Shatley
Arguably the deepest position on the Jaguars' offensive line, the Jaguars are anchored at center by Brandon Linder and longtime backup Tyler Shatley, who has served as the Jaguars' top depth interior offensive lineman for the last several seasons.
Linder has been one of the NFL's most consistent centers in recent seasons, with the only downside to his game being his durability. Linder started 15 games as a rookie, 14 games in 2016, 13 games in 2017, and 16 in 2019, the only year in which he played 16 games. Linder missed seven games last season, which led to the Jaguars leaning on Shatley more as the season progressed.
When healthy, Linder is the lynchpin of the Jaguars' offensive line. His ability to communicate and set protections is crucial to the offense, especially considering the Jaguars are set to start a rookie at quarterback in No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence.
Behind him, Shatley has played like a starting quality center in his time on the field in recent seasons, while also giving the Jaguars flexibility as an option at guard. Shatley has appeared in all 16 games since 2016, including making 10 starts in 2020.
No. 1 RG: A.J. Cann
No. 2 RG: Tre'Vour Wallace-Simms
One of the most consistent performers and faces on the Jaguars' offensive line over the last several years, A.J. Cann is another starter whose spot along the first-team offense is perfectly in place. Cann won't face any legitimate competition for the starting role, either, with him being the only lineman of the team's starters without a bona fide backup.
Cann is coming off one of the best seasons of his career as both a pass-blocker and run-blocker, with PFF ranking him as the league's 28th-best guard entering the 2021 season. Cann has started 77 of 80 games at right guard in the last five seasons, giving the Jaguars a consistent veteran to rely on week in and week out.
Behind Cann, the Jaguars have a few options for immediate depth outside of Bartch and Shatley. Second-year offensive lineman Tre'Vour Wallace-Simms has seen reps as a guard throughout the offseason and is an interesting developmental piece who Warhop is familiar with, albeit not a player who will challenge Cann for snaps.
No. 1 RT: Jawaan Taylor
No. 2 RT: Will Richardson Jr.
If Robinson has the most pressure on him of any Jaguars' offensive lineman, than right tackle Jawaan Taylor is right behind him. Taylor earned compliments from Meyer early in the offseason for his potential and his athletic skill set, but Meyer didn't shy away from stating consistently this offseason that the Jaguars needed to have improved play at offensive tackle. That starts and ends with Robinson and Taylor, each of whom struggled as pass-blockers in 2020.
Taylor has started every game at right tackle since the Jaguars made him the No. 35 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. Taylor had a stellar rookie season considering his youth and the fact he was thrown to the wolves as a rookie right tackle, but he failed to take a step forward in 2020, being among the league's leaders in allowed pressures.
Richardson is a swing tackle who was seen snaps at left tackle in the regular season but has now been firmly moved to right tackle -- the position he was first drafted to play. Entering his contract season, Richardson gives the Jaguars flexibility and depth at right tackle since he is a fourth-year veteran with starting experience, but he won't push Taylor for the job.