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The offseason: Offensive line
February 16, 2018 12:07 PM | John Oehser
JACKSONVILLE - Senior writer John Oehser and senior correspondent Brian Sexton examine the Jaguars' offensive line position in this look at the '18 offseason ...

Position: Offensive line.

2017 starters: Left tackle Cam Robinson, left guard Patrick Omameh, center Brandon Linder, right guard A.J. Cann and right tackle Jermey Parnell.

2017 reserves: Center Tyler Shatley, tackle Josh Wells, tackle William Poehls, guard Chris Reed, tackle Josh Walker.

Others: Avery Gennessy, Brandon Thomas.

2017 at a glance: Robinson, Omameh, Linder, Cann and Parnell proved reliable for the most part; all five missed at least one game, but none missed more than three starts. That enabled continuity in a season in which the group improved from the previous season. Still, assessing the line's 2017 season is tricky because there were games and stretches in which it played very well - and other stretches in which it struggled enough to cause the offense to be inconsistent. The Jaguars led the NFL in rushing, but a major issue for the offense was it was unable to run when it needed or wanted to at times. The Jaguars also allowed just 24 sacks, but there were stretches when quarterback Blake Bortles' mobility was necessary to allow him to extend plays.

Offseason storyline: The Jaguars enter the offseason with just one free-agent starter on the offensive line - Omameh - but left guard hardly is the only uncertain position. Robinson appears set at left tackle, but the Jaguars could address either or both guard positions. Linder started 12 games at center and one at guard, and moving him to the guard position he played in 2014 and 2015 could be an option. Parnell has two years remaining on his contract, but has no guaranteed money left; that makes his contract flexible because the team could release him without dead money on the salary cap. Beyond Robinson being the left tackle and Linder starting somewhere on the interior, little appears certain on the Jaguars' offensive line.

Free agents as of March 14: Omameh.

Oehser analysis: The Jaguars' offensive line situation entering the offseason is the sort of problem you want if you're a contending team: the unit in no way was terrible last season and at times it very good - but improving it could help make the Jaguars much better moving forward. The guess here is Robinson will remain the starting left tackle, though he must improve footwork and strength. Omameh seems unlikely to return, and the Jaguars likely will acquire two linemen - either through free agency or the draft - capable of starting somewhere, with Linder certain to start somewhere on the interior and Cann possibly needing to improve from last season to start next season. Parnell also seems likely to return, though the draft's depth and talent at tackle position could be tempt a Jaguars team that wants to build a front-line offensive line in front of running back Leonard Fournette. The guess here is that the Jaguars select at least two offensive linemen in the draft, with at least one starting as a rookie.

Sexton analysis: When you lead the NFL in rushing and set a franchise record for fewest sacks allowed in a season, your offensive line is doing something right. Head Coach Doug Marrone and offensive line coach Pat Flaherty added a rookie left tackle (Robinson) to a young veteran group - and, quite frankly, the unit overachieved in 2017. They didn't allow a sack in Week 1 against J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus in Houston; they allowed only 24 sacks the rest of the season. Bortles' improved accuracy and completion percentage benefited greatly from Flaherty's expert coaching and scheming the big guys up front. Robinson should only get better at left tackle and Linder became the game's highest-paid center last summer, so you have two excellent building blocks. It also seems reasonable right tackle Parnell will return in 2018 after a pretty good showing in 2017. The line must get stronger on either side of Linder, where neither Cann nor Omameh offered the push an offense with a power running game needs; Fournette was dodging arms and legs reaching for him in the A-gap and he rarely got to the line of scrimmage untouched. The Jags' ability to get better guard play will go a long way toward telling the story of 2018, because if Fournette can get the kind of running room the Philadelphia Eagles' backs got in the Super Bowl, the Jaguars could be the team to beat the New England Patriots next season.



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