Despite another losing record, the Jacksonville Jaguars have a lot of momentum going into the 2016 season.
With an emerging young quarterback, two playmakers at wide receiver, an improving second-year running back, and a former pro bowler at tight end, the teams offense became one of the most exciting in all of the NFL. However, to take that next step some improvements must be made, especially on the offensive line.
Jacksonville isn’t that far off from being one of the best offenses in the league. Sure, they have a suspect defense, but it would be wise to add another offensive lineman to the fold before getting to work on that defense.
A huge reason for finding an offensive lineman before all else is keeping franchise quarterback, Blake Bortles, on his feet and not his butt. As a team, the Jaguars offensive line allowed 51 sacks, or 3.19 per game. The scariest part of the Jaguars high sack totals is Bortles took all 51, making him the most-sacked quarterback in the NFL last season.
In the NFL it’s essential that your quarterback stay out of harms way. With Bortles making so many strides last season, the emphasis on offensive line becomes critical. He is the teams future, and must be well taken care of before the Jaguars elect to build up other parts of the roster.
There is some talent on the Jaguars offensive line, it just hasn’t panned out the way many had hoped. Jacksonville has taken a huge initiative to improve the line in recent years. They spent big on Zane Beadles during the 2014 offseason, and signed Jeremy Parnell a year later. And despite being very disappointing in his short career, Luke Joeckel, the team’s first round pick in 2013, has shown promise.
The Jacksonville offensive line just needs to find a few solid pieces to build upon. Considering the Jaguars gave up an unbelievable 71 sacks in 2015, the 51 they gave up this past season shows there has has been some improvement. So what does Jacksonville do to improve upon last seasons mild turnaround?
The Jaguars could look to the draft to find offensive line help. They won’t be able to land Laremy Tunsil, as he is expected to go first overall to Tennessee. Although, the Titans have expressed interest in trading the pick, but it’s highly unlikely Jacksonville trades up.
Another option for the Jaguars is selecting Ronnie Stanley from Notre Dame, as he could come into play when the team picks at five.
However, while it’s imperative the team focus on the offensive line, the Jaguars still need to address their woeful defense. It’s plausible that the team chooses to draft an offensive lineman later in the draft, and sets their sights on a defensive player such as Jalen Ramsey or Joey Bosa.
If going defense is the answer, you can rest assured that Jacksonville will target an impactful offensive lineman in free agency. The prize of the offensive lineman free agency class is Kelechi Osemele. It’s not likely the Jaguars are able to snag the tackle, but they should at least give strong consideration to doing so.
More likely options for the Jaguars are players such as Richie Incognito, Russell Okung, Bobby Massie or Mitchell Schwartz, lineman that have a good reputation around the league for their play, but wouldn’t command the high dollar amount of some of the other notable lineman in the free agent class.
The Jaguars have a lot of options at their disposal when it comes to developing a dominant offensive line. They do have money already invested in Beadles, Parnell, and Joeckel, but the three could be shifted around the offensive line to accommodate any drafted or free agent signings, which gives the team an immense amount of depth.
A team with a core of young players that includes Blake Bortles, Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns, T.J.Yeldon and Julius Thomas needs to be a more respected offensive unit. The Jaguars have a chance a chance at doing just that by beefing up an offensive line that showed improvements in both pass and run protection last season.
Jacksonville might be able to reach the playoffs at some point. And while it won’t happen overnight , obtaining offensive line help is a step in the right direction.