Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

O-Line Must Learn to Mesh in a Hurry

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

O-Line Must Learn to Mesh in a Hurry

Article excerpt

Byline: Gene Frenette

The Jaguars will face a number of developmental challenges this spring and in training camp, none bigger for their long-term future than the progression of rookie quarterback Blake Bortles.

But in terms of becoming reasonably competitive in 2014, I'm not sure anything is more daunting for the Jaguars' coaching staff than getting the offensive line to function as a cohesive unit.

Aside from the sobering news Thursday that O-line coach George Yarno is being treated for cancer, which is a uniquely separate issue, this unit being charged with protecting starting quarterback Chad Henne and developing a previously anemic running game has a lot of learning to do on the fly.

The line needed a significant makeover after two years of being a major liability. It still doesn't change the fact a bunch of new faces must come together quickly.

As left tackle Luke Joeckel puts it: "We're in a race to be experienced."

Joeckel, a first-round draft pick, is returning from a broken ankle and has only 12 NFL snaps at his position. The center spot was such a concern, the Jaguars tried to pry Alex Mack away from the Cleveland Browns, only to have them match an offer. Now unproven Mike Brewster, who has recovered from a broken leg, finally gets his chance to show he can do the job vacated by the retiring Brad Meester.

The Jaguars are hoping third-round draft pick Brandon Linder can win the right guard job over Jacques McClendon, but that's no guarantee. Undrafted Austin Pasztor made enough strides last year to justify penciling him in at right tackle, though it remains to be seen whether "Frenchie," the nickname given to the Canada native, is a long-term solution there.

Except for 27-year-old left guard Zane Beadles, acquired in free agency from the Denver Broncos, every offensive lineman on the roster has minimal or no starting experience. Along with the receivers, it's the closest thing of any position group that the Jaguars have to a blank canvas.

"Not only have they not played next to each other, we don't have a veteran player in the group," offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch said. "They're all about the same age, really young. …

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