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Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Jaguars position coach to watch: Andy Heck

By Paul Kuharsky
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

Andy Heck is the junior member of the AFC South offensive line coaching fraternity. By a lot.

Heck's is 42, with 18 years of experience. That trails Houston's 68-year old Alex Gibbs (24 years as an NFL coach), Tennessee's 49-year old Mike Munchak (25 years as a Hall of Fame player and a coach) and Indianapolis' 67-year old Howard Mudd (40 years as a coach and player).

Quick aside: By title, Gibbs is assistant head coach/offense and 45-year old John Benton is offensive line coach, with five years in the league. But Gibbs works with Benton and the line on a daily basis.

This hardly means Heck can't match the efforts of those veterans. In some instances younger is better. And when Jack Del Rio's Jaguars have been at their best, Heck's guys have been a key.

Under first-year general manager Gene Smith, the Jaguars looked to reload on the offensive line. They hope first-rounder Eugene Monroe and second-rounder Eben Britton wind up their long-term O-line bookends.

How soon will they be in the lineup? Heck will have a lot to do with that. The Jaguars signed veteran left tackle Tra Thomas and still have incumbent right tackle Tony Pashos.

Sooner is better for the Jaguars, who will benefit from getting younger. If the kids can be effective early, their growth curve will accelerate if they are playing.

Heck will have to get Monroe, regarded as an excellent pass blocker, to better learn how to run block for a run-first team built around Maurice Jones-Drew. And Britton comes into the league regarded as a better drive-blocker than pass protector.

How well Heck is able to round each into a complete tackle will have a giant bearing on the fate of the Jaguars over the next several years.