What is the State of the Jaguars’ Offensive Line Ahead of the Draft?
In only a few weeks, the 2020 NFL Draft will at last commence. This year's draft will obviously be dramatically different due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has forced the draft to become a completely virtual event. But nonetheless, the show marches on.
While we gear up in preparation for the draft, we will be looking at each position group on the Jaguars' roster to gauge where it stands before this month's draft. Which groups need more attention, and which appear to be set?
In this edition, we take a look at the Jaguars' offensive line unit and determine which of the five spots require some additional help, whether it be in the starting lineup or as depth.
What the Jaguars have said about the group
"Andrew [Norwell] actually played at a high level. [Brandon] Linder probably played at an extremely high level as a center. A.J. [Cann] and Will [Richardson] did a nice job as a rotating guard. And we have a guy that we feel like has a very high ceiling in Jawaan Taylor," general manager Dave Caldwell said at the NFL Scouting Combine, via John Reid of the Florida Times-Union. "I think [head coach] Doug [Marrone] feels like that is one position group that could be even better this year for us."
"I think offensively we’re expecting our offensive line to take a big jump from what they did last year," head coach Doug Marrone said last week.
Who the Jaguars have lost in 2020:
Cedric Ogbuehi, last year's swing tackle who also came in on six-man blocking formations, signed with the Seattle Seahawks this offseason as an unrestricted free agent. Ogbuehi appeared in 14 games last season and played 155 offensive snaps (14% of offensive snaps) and 33 special teams snaps (eight % of special teams snaps).
Aside from Ogbuehi, the Jaguars will be returning all of its linemen who started games in 2019, as well as the two most important reserve interior offensive linemen in Tyler Shatley and Will Richardson.
Who the Jaguars currently have at the position:
LT Cam Robinson: 24-years-old, 31 career starts. Entering fourth season.
RT Jawaan Taylor: 22-years-old, 16 career starts. Entering second season.
OT Donnell Greene: 24-years old, zero career starts. Entering second season.
OT KC McDermott: 23-years-old, zero career starts. Entering second season.
OT Ryan Pope: 23-years-old, zero career starts. Entering second season
LG Andrew Norwell: 28-years old, 81 career starts. Entering seventh season
RG A.J. Cann: 28-years old, 75 career starts. Entering sixth season.
RG Will Richardson: 24-years old, two career starts. Entering third season.
OG Blake Hance: 24-years-old, zero career starts. Entering second season.
C Brandon Linder: 28-years old, 70 career starts. Entering seventh season.
C/OG Tyler Shatley: 28-years-old, 15 career starts. Entering second season.
C Tyler Gauthier: 22-years-old, zero career starts. Entering second season.
The most obvious issue among this list of rostered players is the lack of offensive tackle depth. Jawaan Taylor started 16 games as a rookie and his youth and potential make him one of the most important players on the entire offense, but it is a bit of a bare cupboard behind him.
Cam Robinson returned in 2019 from an ACL injury that ended his 2018 season prematurely and started 14 games at left tackle. While Robinson's run blocking helped revive a Jaguars' rushing attack that was dormant to start the year, he had enough issues in pass protection to make it a fair question of whether he is the long-term answer at left tackle, though some leeway should be granted since he was recovering from a serious injury.
Beyond that, the Jaguars have no offensive tackles on their roster with starting experience and no clear option for the swing tackle spot. Because of this, look for the Jaguars to add at least one offensive tackle this month, whether it be a first-round left tackle or a mid-round prospect who can be the third offensive tackle.
At guard, the Jaguars have three viable options who they appear high on. Andrew Norwell hasn't lived up to his massive contract, but he is an above-average starter. A.J. Cann had one of the better seasons of his career in 2019, in part due to Will Richardson pushing him for the starting right guard position. Marrone has said in the past the Jaguars will find a spot for Richardson, so it appears he is in the young lineman's corner.
The Jaguars could look for a young option at guard to potentially overtake Norwell down the road, but this appears like an only moderately probable option.
At center, the Jaguars have two veterans with starting experience who have been on the roster for a number of years in Brandon Linder and Tyler Shatley, and Linder has consistently been one of the leaders of the Jaguars' offense since being drafted in 2014. The Jaguars drafting a center this year would be a shocking move considering the two presences already at the position.
The Jaguars' offensive line needs to take a big step forward in 2020, but it appears as if that step will have to be taken by players who started last season. Jacksonville is a candidate to take an offensive tackle at No. 9, but drafting a lineman at any other spot seems up in the air.