JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser examines the week that was around the Jaguars, with an eye on the Jaguars’ offensive line as 2019 free agency moved forward.
A feeling among some observers is the Jaguars’ need to overhaul the offensive line.
The reality is that the changes to the starting line this offseason will be more of a tweak, with the overhaul limited to backups.
That became clear last week when the team re-signed veteran right guard A.J. Cann, and Jaguars Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin shortly after the move said injuries were the primary reason a line that performed well in 2017 struggled at times last season.
“If we get our guys back healthy and can add a little bit here and there … I was happy and confident with our offensive line last year until it started to disappear,” Coughlin said Thursday, shortly after the Jaguars signed quarterback Nick Foles as an unrestricted free agent.
Cann’s re-signing means four of five Week 1 offensive line starters from last season will return: Cann, left tackle Cam Robinson, center Brandon Linder and right guard Andrew Norwell.
As Coughlin mentioned, injuries were a major factor for the line last season. Not only did Robinson miss the final 13 games with a torn anterior cruciate ligament, Norwell missed the final five games with an ankle injury and Linder missed the final seven games with a knee injury.
The injuries to Norwell and Linder weren’t believed serious enough to linger deep into the offseason. And while General Manager David Caldwell declined to discuss the specifics of Robinson’s return, the timing of the injury was such that a return by Week 1 is reasonable.
Whereas the starting offensive line seems likely to undergo just one change, the situation among the reserves is different. The Jaguars had seven linemen who started at least one game last season become free agents: tackle Josh Wells, center/guard Tyler Shatley, guard Patrick Omameh, tackle Ereck Flowers, guard Chris Reed, guard/tackle Josh Walker and tackle Corey Robinson. Flowers, the No. 9 overall selection by the New York Giants in 2015, signed with Washington this week. Perhaps the most notable of the others were Wells and Shatley. Wells played well in place of Cam Robinson last season but struggled to stay healthy in five Jaguars seasons. Shatley started 15 of 62 games played in five Jaguars seasons. While the team could re-sign one or two of last season’s reserves, it’s more likely the offensive-line depth will have a dramatically new look in 2019.