Jaguars Off-season Review: Offensive Line

Second overall pick, Luke Joeckel, figures to start for the Jaguars at right tackle in 2013.
Second overall pick, Luke Joeckel, figures to start for the Jaguars at right tackle in 2013. (photo by NESN)

by Cole Pepper

Each week during the off-season, I’ll break down a position group for the Jaguars. This week, it’s the offensive line.

In an off-season of dramatic change, there may be more consistency on the offensive line than at any other position group for the Jaguars. That being said, it doesn’t take much to be more stable than the rest of this team.

There are questions–plenty of questions.  But let’s start with what we (think we) know. Eugene Monroe will start at left tackle, Brad Meester at center and first round pick Luke Joeckel at right tackle.

Much has been written about Gus Bradley’s plans for Joeckel. It flies in the face of traditional football logic to use a player at a “non-premium” position. But perhaps right tackle is beginning to join left tackle as a premium position in the current, pass-happy NFL.

There are more teams running hybrid defenses. There are more teams who put lighter, faster pass rushers on the field on 3rd down. It makes some sense. And with Monroe’s contract up after 2013, if the Jaguars don’t re-sign him, Joeckel can always move over to the left side, where he will see the opponents best pass rusher more often.

I’ll be interested to watch Joeckel’s development.

At guard, Uche Nwaneri has to get healthy. When he’s not injured, Nwaneri can be a better than adequate guard. He’s athletic for the position, but with the change in the run blocking scheme, it will be interesting to see what kind of guard is favored by the Jaguars going forward.

Left guard is going to be up for grabs. The Jaguars used 9 different players at that position last year (including preseason starters). Will Rackley is returning from a foot injury. Veteran Jason Spitz, Austin Pasztor, Drew Nowak and center-turned-guard (for now) Mike Brewster are also in the mix. The previous coaching and scouting staffs liked Brewster as a developmental center, Brad Meester’s heir apparent. If he is viewed the same way by the new regime, it might make sense to keep Brewster in the starting lineup. He’s not as powerful as Spitz or Paszstor, but he moves well and has a high football IQ.

And so we come to Brad Meester. Mr. Jaguar. Nobody has started or played more games in a Jaguars uniform. The 36-year old father of six girls told me at the end of last season that he only wanted to return as a Jaguar. He wasn’t going to shop himself to another team for a year, maybe two (even with six future weddings to pay for!). Whatever the football equivalent of a crafty left handed pitcher is, Meester is that. When his playing days are done (some thought that would happen years ago), he wants to open up a motorcycle repair shop. No, I”m not kidding. He’ll have to wait at least another year. Maybe his most signification contribution to the team will be as a leader.

What is Success for this group? Improving pass protection, adapting to new run blocking scheme, giving the quarterback (whoever it is) a chance.

Secondary success: Figure out whether Mike Brewster is Brad Meester’s heir apparent.

Projected Depth Chart:

OLine Depth Chart

On Fan-dom and Media

“C’mon, you can admit it,” said a friend of mine. “You’re a Jaguars fan.”

No, in fact I am not. At least, not the way he assumed. For some, it’s hard to imagine passionately covering or following a team without being a fan. But for me, there is a clear distinction. A fan has his emotions invested in the outcome of a game.  For me, the outcome of a Jaguars game doesn’t matter. It’s the story.

Okay, that’s the pure journalist side of the story. But I’ll be honest: sometimes the outcome of the game did matter. Or at least, I thought it did. I will tell you unabashedly, that I am a fan of the city of Jacksonville. Not a blind acolyte of whoever is currently in power, but I am an advocate for what Jacksonville is and what it can become. I’ve turned down jobs in other markets to stay here because I love what life can be like in Jacksonville.

When the Jaguars do well, its good for business. It’s good for the city. At least, it can be.

I don’t think we’ve done enough to really capitalize on the Jaguars, but that’s a topic for another time.

Back to the topic at hand. And really, it’s a question: as a fan, do you want another fan giving you analysis or do you want informed, opinionated analysis?  I suppose it’s the same question we should all be asking ourselves about political coverage.

For my part, I’ll continue to cover the Jaguars, not as a fan. In fact, because I no longer work for the organization, there may be more of an opportunity to serve as a watchdog. Afterall, the media’s most important roles are to disseminate truth and serve as a watchdog for government and business, and there is no more important business in Jacksonville than the Jaguars.