Wednesday, June 27, 2012
Could Jags live with so-so pass protection?
By Paul Kuharsky
Not long ago, I pondered whether it would be so terrible if the Titans had a great pass-protecting offensive line that was only average at run-blocking.
Can we flip that question for the Jaguars?
Presuming Maurice Jones-Drew is back in time to not miss a paycheck -- and he will be -- can the Jaguars’ offensive line continue to block well for him, make a modest improvement at pass protecting, and be part of a good offense?
I’d say in today’s NFL, if you had to choose whether your offensive line would be better in either the passing or running game, you’d rather get the pass protection. The Jaguars got great run-blocking last year and won only five games. The direction the league is going, it’s more and more about the quarterbacks. And you need to maximize your quarterback’s chances to succeed.
Here’s what right guard Uche Nwaneri, arguably the team’s best lineman, recently told John Oehser of Jaguars.com:
"You kind of wonder what people are really looking at. You hear people say things like, ‘Those guys are a mediocre line. We don’t consider them a Top 10 offensive line.’ To me, how many lines that are below average have the rushing title? On a team that didn’t have wide receivers and had to play against eight-and nine-man boxes – every time? If we’re such a bad line, how do we get the rushing title? When it comes to pass protection, we’re adequate, but we can get better. Everything works hand in hand when it comes to pass protection. When a quarterback gets hit, yes that has to do with protection but you also have to look at it from the perspective of, ‘Why did he get hit? Was the ball held too long? Was the receiver open? Was it a timing route? Was the wide out where he was supposed to be?’ We know we can do better. We always want to get better. We’ll continue to work at it."
With better weapons and, presumably, better coaching, Blaine Gabbert will be expected to do better with the pass protection he gets.
If the Jaguars' line isn't as bad as the 44 sacks allowed in 2011 indicate and the team gets better up front in a new scheme, Gabbert will have a much better chance to show he can be an NFL quarterback.