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Jaguars vs. Jets: Walker Little, Reshuffled OL Set to Face 'Wave of Defensive Linemen'

Walker Little will make his fourth career start on Thursday night, and it will come against a Jets team that has a fierce pass-rush.

When Walker Little makes his fourth career start at left tackle for the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, it will come against one of the NFL's fiercest pass rushes. Luckily for Little, that is exactly what his Jaguars career has prepared him for so far.

In Little's two signature performances as a Jaguar since being selected with the No. 45 overall pick in 2021, Little has come into the game cold against a defensive front that smelled blood in the water. He made his first career start against the No. 1-ranked defense in the Buffalo Bills in 2021 after starting left tackle Cam Robinson was injured during pre-game warmups.

Then, in Week 15 against the Dallas Cowboys and Micah Parsons, Little played 15 snaps at right tackle and 15 at left tackle, filling in for injured right tackle Jawaan Taylor until he returned, and then filling in for an injured Robinson. 

"Like, I mean, how crazy is that? You know, I'm saying the guy goes in playing both tackles against very good rushers. You know, played a heck of a game. So you know, I'm happy for him," Jaguars left guard Tyler Shatley told Jaguar Report after the game on Sunday.

"Yeah, I mean, it was a whirlwind of a day for sure. Not your average Sunday for me, but you prepare for that," Little said in the locker room after the 40-34 overtime win. 

"Every week in practice, you know, we're taking reps on both sides, swing tackles and swing guards and a backup center. So you're always prepared for something like that. Usually, you know, you go in, you're stuck at one side for the rest of the day. But with [Jawaan Taylor] getting hurt there for a second and then Cam going down, we had to kind of swap around. So definitely a crazy day."

For a young offensive tackle who took his first-ever snaps at right tackle in 2022, Little held his own against Parsons, Demarcus Lawrence and the Cowboys' NFL-best pass-rush. And with Robinson now sidelined indefinitely with a knee injury, it will be Little who the Jaguars turn to, starting with this Thursday against the New York Jets. 

"Yeah, I mean, that was, that's one of the craziest games football I've been a part of, you know, college, high school, pro. And so it's great for this organization to carry on some momentum that we've been building lately and just build on this culture of winning that we're trying to create," Little said. "And I think we are creating and so you know, we're excited for our next opponent being the Jets and carry this momentum in the short week."

“Just that he always is prepared, number one. He went in there with some adverse conditions against those two edge rushers and did a nice job," Jaguars head coach Doug Pederson said on Monday about Little. "We got a lot of confidence in Walker and look forward to getting him in there and getting him going.”

"I thought he did a great job. That’s part of that role of being that swing tackle is playing both sides. He didn’t have time to think about it, he was in there. I thought he did a good job and now he’ll get two days of preparation, really three days, and go play on Thursday night.”

Little is the second backup offensive lineman from the start of the season who is now starting for the Jaguars, joining Shatley at left guard. With a left side of the offensive line that is being completely revamped entering a key Week 16 battle, the Jaguars know it will be a test.

The Jets have been one of the NFL's best defenses over the course of 2022, and they are a defense that is built from the inside out. They are tied for seventh in sacks with 39, including 11 from likely All-Pro defensive tackle Quinnen Williams. 

“Yeah, he is a great player, causes a lot of disruption in there. It’s tough when it’s inside, because it’s not like you can put a tight end on the edge and try to help," Jaguars offensive coordinator Press Taylor said this week. 

"When you can, you try to send a double team to him, but that’s the versatility of being able to move around inside. They present issues when there’s going to be one-on-one situations, he’s a very good player that can cause a lot of problems in there.”

Williams is joined by a deep depth chart of pass-rushers, which presents the next challenge for Little and the Jaguars' offense. Little and the rest of the offensive line will play a critical role in determining whether the 6-8 Jaguars can continue to close in on the Tennessee Titans. 

“It feels like there’s just a wave of defensive linemen coming in and out. It doesn’t feel like there’s a major drop off and then the backup D-line comes in, which is not always common across the board with defenses you face," Taylor said. "It just feels like they keep throwing pass rushers out there. They’re playing with their hair on fire, they’re flying up the field at the quarterback, they’ve done a good job. I think they’re top ten in the league in sacks."