The Jaguars offensive line returns four of five starters from a season ago, yet the group feels much, much different.
The addition of free agent Andrew Norwell, an All-Pro left guard, showed the Jaguars wanted to improve on the interior of the offensive line. His presence certainly makes things feel different on the inside. In week one he played well in pass protection, but did allow a sack early. He failed to create a major push in the running game, especially in the second half.
On the left side Cam Robinson is now in his second season. His maturation gives hope and his play in week one, despite a couple of penalties, gave reason for optimism. He was the Jaguars best run blocker on Sunday and didn't allow a sack in pass protection.
At center Brandon Linder is as steady as they come. Per usual, he was excellent in pass protection against the Giants. Like the rest of the Jaguars offensive line (outside of Cam Robinson) Linder struggled to create holes in the run game against the Giants. He's battling a knee injury but is participating in Thursday practice and should be good to go against New England.
Next to Linder on the right side is AJ Cann. He was seen as the weak link on the Jaguars offensive line heading into 2018, but a strong training camp solidified his role as the starting right guard. He was the Jaguars least effective offensive lineman against the Giants, but he'll have a chance to rebound against the Patriots in week two.
At right tackle is Jermey Parnell, who didn't allow a sack in 2017. When he's been healthy he's been as good as they come at right tackle. He's a strong man and should be relied upon through the remainder of the 2018 season.
In 2017 the Jaguars offensive line excelled in pass protection, but left a bit to be desired as a run blocking unit. Unfortunately, in week one it was more of the same. Really strong pass pro, but a lack of push up front in the running game.
If the Jaguars hope to have an effective offensive attack (they do) against the Patriots, they'll need their offensive line to continue to improve.
The Patriots pass rush got after the Texans last week, registering the highest pressure percentage in the league at over 50%. They were able to hit DeShaun Watson 12 times last week, registering three sacks, a forced fumble, and held him under 200 yards passing. The Texans O-Line is one of the worst in football.
But the Jaguars know all too well how effective the Patriots pass rush and pass defense can be. The Jaguars fell just short against the Patriots in the AFC Championship game last season, and a big chunk of the blame fell on the offensive line in the second half. There wasn't much room for the running backs to work against the Patriots in that game. The Jaguars averaged only 3.2 yards per carry on the day. And the Patriots pass rush came alive in the second half against the Jaguars and made it very difficult for Blake Bortles to be effective late in the game. With Trey Flowers, Kyle Van Noy, Deatrich Wise all returning for the Pats and the addition of Adrian Clayborn the Patriots will be ready to get after the Jaguars if the offensive line isn't ready.
This is the biggest regular season game the Jaguars have participated in in over a decade. The Jaguars offensive line will have a major role to play in the outcome. If they bring their A-game there's a good chance the Jaguars come away with a victory over the greatest dynasty in sports and a Patriots team that they've never beaten in eight tries.
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