One of the highest-profile position battles throughout the summer for the Jaguars has been for the job at starting right guard. AJ Cann, the Jags' starter of the last four years at right guard, was the presumed starter as the Jaguars' entered their offseason program. But second-year offensive lineman Will Richardson has pushed the veteran to his limit. The competition has produced positive results from both players.
AJ Cann was initially a third-round pick for the Jaguars out of South Carolina. After a strong first two years in the NFL, Cann's consistency declined in '17 and '18 to the point where many believe the team would look for answers on the free-agent market this sprint. Instead, the Jaguars elected to re-sign AJ Cann to a two-year deal worth $5 million per year.
Will Richardson was a fourth-round pick in 2018. During his final year at NC State, Richardson recorded the highest pass protection grade since Pro Football Focus began grading players. But lower-body injuries and a lack of upper body strength kept the young right tackle on the shelf for his entire first season. Before Richardson ever got the chance to compete to start at right tackle, the Jaguars drafted Jawaan Taylor, a highly talented right tackle from Florida. That left many, including myself, wondering what might happen with Will Richardson. But the Jaguars decided to give him a shot at guard, and it appears to have been a heads up move by the coaching staff.
Now AJ Cann and Will Richardson are locked in a battle to see who will start at right guard on opening day when the Chiefs come to town. Throughout training camp, both played reasonably well. During the Jaguars' three preseason games AJ Cann has been slightly better than Richardson, who got off to a rough start in week one, but has since bounced back.
On Tuesday Doug Marrone shared with the media that both could see action with the starters during the regular season:
"I think both guys have played better than they have previously, which is a good thing," said Marrone. "I think it is a tough decision. I don't know if one guy is going to be the starter, and that is it. I have platooned players before a couple series. We have seen that around the league. I think those are the decisions that we will make going up to the first game."
While Doug Marrone seems comfortable with the idea of playing and mixing it up with both guys, one of them will need to become the full-time starter sooner rather than later. Offensive lines in the NFL work best when they have consistency and chemistry. I wouldn't be surprised if Cann and Richardson split time to start the season, and as Richardson gets more comfortable, he ends up being the guy.
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