JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — For the majority of the 2019 season the Jacksonville Jaguars had a unique plan for their offensive line due to having two starting-quality right guards, but that ended on Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons.
For the better part of each game since Week 3, the Jaguars had a rotation at right guard between veteran A.J. Cann and second-year lineman Will Richardson. Unlike most teams who preach continuity along the offensive line, Jacksonville was making intentional substitutions several times a game.
This changed in Week 16's loss to the Falcons though, with Cann taking 100% of the snaps and Richardson only seeing the field for special teams. After head coach Doug Marrone said for weeks that the battle for right guard would end when one lineman separated himself, it appears that Cann has done so.
"We thought that A.J. has started to play a little better with the competition," Marrone said during his Tuesday press conference at TIAA Bank Field. "He really started to separate a little bit from what we were watching. Again, we watch every play, every practice. A.J. has earned that. I think part of A.J. getting better was because of the competition with Will."
Richardson, a fourth-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, spent the first two games of 2019 at left tackle due to an injury to Cam Robinson but would go on to play 279 snaps over the next 13 weeks at right guard. While he lost the battle to Cann in the end, Marrone still seems optimistic about the 23-year old lineman, especially because of his performance at tackle.
"Is Will at a spot that he can’t regain it or be a starter? I think Will Richardson will be a starter," Marrone said. "I think we have to do a good job of where we think he can play because I think when I went back and I looked at the games early when he started the two games at tackle, I kind of probably took that for granted at the time, trying to survive it. When you go back and look at it, he did a good job. Now you have someone, and you have to figure out where to put him in the mix."
Richardson was of course behind the eight ball in terms of development as a result of switching from guard to tackle and then finally back to guard, and Marrone was conscious of this Tuesday. It likely did help give Cann a leg up, he noted, but it also showed the coaching staff his versatility.
"That was a good situation – that the [competition] happened," Marrone said. "I think to Will’s credit, A.J. was just concentrating on the one position when we had some injuries at tackle and didn’t know whether our tackles were going to play or if we were going to have the backup or Cedric [Ogbuehi] was going to play.
"We had to move Will from guard and get him some [reps] at tackle, and I think that when you are a young lineman, you have to be able to do that, but it’s very difficult … It is a greater challenge than if you are just set at one position and you are working to win on that position. That probably went against Will, being able to do both. If it was the other way, if A.J. was the one that we were able to do that with, Will might have won the position. It was that close.”