We have just about two weeks until the expected start of NFL training camps. Before the Jaguars, and the rest of the clubs across the league, reconvene to prep for the 2020 season, I'll be taking you through every position group for Jacksonville. I'll dive deeeeep into what the groups could look like in 2020, and I'll ultimately give them a pre-training camp grade.
So far, we've made it through: Safeties, Tight Ends, Cornerbacks, Defensive Tackles, Defensive Ends, and Offensive Tackles
Today, we're taking a hard look at the interior of the Jaguars' offensive line. The starters are comprised of (from left to right) left guard Andrew Norwell, center Brandon Linder, and right guard AJ Cann.
Andrew Norwell enters his third season with the Jaguars. After signing a mega-contract that made him the highest-paid guard in football prior to the 2018 season, Norwell has been underwhelming for the Jaguars. He certainly has not lived up to his price tag. Earlier this offseason, the Jaguars restructured his contract, reducing the total value, but guaranteeing $9 million of his 2019 salary. This could be a make or break year for Norwell, as the Jaguars would save $9 million by cutting him following the 2020 campaign. From a football perspective — contract aside — Norwell has been decent for the Jaguars. Despite dealing with nagging injuries in both of his seasons in Duval, Norwell hasn't been as bad as many make him out to be. At 28 years old, if he can have his best season yet for the Jaguars, he'll either stick around or earn a decent contract elsewhere. While his time in Jacksonville has been a letdown overall, Norwell is far from the offensive line's biggest concern.
At center, we find perhaps the Jaguars' most consistent player of the past half-decade. Dave Caldwell selected Brandon Linder in the third round of the 2014 NFL Draft. Since then, he's been one of the most impressive interior offensive linemen in the NFL. He's played both guard and center for the Jaguars and has performed well at both spots. Linder isn't perfect: he's missed the majority of two seasons with injuries. But he's been healthy more often than not, playing at least 13 games in four of his six NFL seasons. On the field, there's very little to complain about with Linder's game. He did rack up 13 penalties in 2019, more than he had in the rest of his career combined to that point, but more work with Minshew should see that stat regress back to the mean.
AJ Cann, the incumbent starter at right guard, might be the worst starter at any position for the Jaguars. He had a promising start to his career, but his play has fallen off a cliff over the last three seasons. Cann finished 2019 with the 10th most pressures allowed by a guard. Yikes. He's struggled in pass protection and as a run blocker. The biggest issue here is consistency. At times, Cann looks the part of an All-Pro, moving defenders off the ball with ease. But he also has plays, series, and games, where he looks like he doesn't belong on an NFL field.
The Jaguars hope that their fourth-round pick, Ben Bartch can come in and compete for the starting right guard job. But the small school prospect played left tackle in college. A transition from Division III left tackle, to NFL right guard, won't happen overnight. With a shortened offseason, it's highly unlikely that Bartch is ready to take over early on.
As for the rest of the interior offensive line depth, Tyler Shatley remains at the top of the list for depth across all three positions. He's been with the Jaguars his entire six-year career and has started 15 games due to injuries in front of him. Shatley is a reliable backup.
Behind Shatley and Bartch, there's not much to fall back on. Tre'Vour Wallace-Simms, an undrafted free agent from Mizzou, will compete to make the roster at guard.
Will Richardson, who's making the full-time switch to tackle, could also fill in at guard if need be.
The Jaguars' interior offensive line features one stud (Linder), one meh-guy (Norwell), and one dud (Cann). There is something to be said for continuity, which this group certainly has heading into 2020. This will be the third consecutive year with this interior offensive line group and the second year under the direction of OL coach George Warhop. Perhaps these three will gel in 2020 ... perhaps not. If Bartch is able to crack the starting lineup at some point, that could lead to better results at guard, but that seems like a long shot at this point.
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