AFC South: Eugene Monroe

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Luke Joeckel has participated in hundreds of practices and workouts throughout his football career, yet he was pretty nervous on Monday night.

The Jacksonville Jaguars’ left tackle was apprehensive about how his surgically repaired right ankle would handle the most strain it has been under since he injured it during the Oct. 6, 2013 game against St. Louis.

That anxiety ended once he did his first few reps in position drills.

"Once I was back out there on the field, everything was back to normal," Joeckel said.

[+] EnlargeLuke Joeckel
AP Photo/Tom DiPaceLuke Joeckel played left tackle briefly in 2013, and is excited to get back in the lineup for the Jags.
That was Joeckel’s goal ever since he was carted off the Edward Jones Dome turf in just the fifth game of his rookie season. After the surgery (which revealed more damage than originally thought), the nine weeks in which he had to stay off his right foot, and the countless hours of rehab and treatment, all Joeckel wanted was things the way they were before the injury.

Once he reached that point, he could resume his spot as the starting left tackle, which was a job he held for less than a quarter before the injury.

"I’ve really never been hurt in football," Joeckel said. "The last time I was hurt was sophomore year in high school. Never missed a game or a practice in college. You get kind of negative about it all, but once you get back and really once you’re able to start working out again, that’s when you start feeling good.

"When you’re just taking your pain meds and lying in bed and sitting on the recliner, that’s when you feel like a piece of crap. When you start working out again you’re ready to start getting back into football and feeling good."

More important to the Jaguars is that Joeckel looks good. It has only been two days of OTAs, but coach Gus Bradley said the 6-foot-6, 306-pound Joeckel looks just like the player they saw dominating the Rams’ defensive front in his first action at left tackle.

"I can say this: What we saw on tape [against St. Louis] we really liked," Bradley said. "Now, in practice, seeing him in drill work and all the other offensive linemen, he’s special. He’s a special talent. He’s very athletic. He’s very smart. He’s mature for playing that position. Now he just needs game reps and that will be a learning process, but we just feel like he’s really got a really good upside to him."

That is why the Jaguars took him with the No. 2 overall pick in 2013. They envisioned him as the anchor to the offensive line at left tackle for years, but started him at right tackle because Eugene Monroe, the team's first-round pick in 2009, was at left tackle. General manager David Caldwell traded Monroe to Baltimore after Week 4 and Joeckel slid over to left tackle. It is his natural position and he was clearly more comfortable there, but that lasted less than a quarter because of his injury, which occurred when a player fell across his lower leg on a running play.

Tuesday was Joeckel's first time on the field with his teammates since then and he was somewhat limited, taking the first two reps during a drill before giving way to someone else for a rep or two. He said that is the plan for the foreseeable future. He’s not wearing a brace on the ankle, though he is wearing extra tape, and the medical staff doesn’t want to over-stress his ankle.

Joeckel still has a metal plate and two wire ties in his ankle. Those were needed because the injury was a little more severe than just a fracture. Joeckel said he also suffered cartilage damage and tore the deltoid ligament off the bone. A slow and steady approach for his return, especially in May, is the best approach, he said.

"My offseason was way too long," Joeckel said. "Looking back at it all, it was a terrible rookie year, but I’m excited about going into this year. A lot more excitement going into the year, and excited to be back and playing ball again."

And to be normal again.
Each day for the next two weeks we'll review how each position group performed in 2013, and take an early look at 2014. Today we'll examine the offensive line. We did quarterbacks on Monday running backs on Tuesday, tight ends Wednesday, and wide receivers on Thursday. We will do the defense next week.

Offensive line

Breakdown of starts: C Brad Meester (16), G Uche Nwaneri (16), T Austin Pasztor (12), T Cameron Bradfield (11), G Will Rackley (11), T Luke Joeckel (5), T Eugene Monroe (4), G Mike Brewster (3), G Jacques McClendon (2).

Recap: The Jaguars finished 31st in rushing (78.8 yards per game) and gave up the second-most sacks in the league (50). All the blame for those poor stats doesn't fall on the offensive line, but a good bit does. Injuries played a large role because several players started the season banged up and three ended up finishing the season on IR.

Only two players who started the season opener were in the starting lineup for the season finale: Meester and Nwaneri.

The group really struggled in the first month adjusting to the new zone-blocking scheme and it wasn't until Monroe was traded that things started to get better. The timing was a bit unusual because Monroe is regarded as one of the better young tackles in the game and Joeckel lasted less than a half at left tackle because of a season-ending ankle injury.

Nwaneri and Rackley were banged up with knee issues early in the season but as they got healthier the middle of the line played better.

The biggest surprise, though, was the play of Pasztor. Bradfield had started 12 games at right tackle in 2012 so he was experienced enough to handle things at left tackle after Joeckel got injured. Pasztor had started just three games at left guard as a rookie in 2012 but he did a solid job at right tackle over the final 12 games of the season. He was promising enough that coach Gus Bradley and GM David Caldwell are willing to give him a further look at that spot to see if he can develop into the team's answer at right tackle.

Rackley missed the final four games because of a concussion. Brewster was supposed to be his replacement but he suffered a fractured ankle as well and that forced McClendon into the lineup.

Looking ahead to 2014

Players under contract: Nwaneri, Joeckel, Rackley, Brewster, McClendon, G Stephane Milhim, C Patrick Lewis, G Drew Nowak, T DeMarcus Love, C Matt Stankiewitch.

The skinny: The top priority is finding a center because Meester retired after 14 seasons. It may be someone already on the roster -- McClendon also can snap -- but it also may be someone the Jaguars sign in free agency (Cleveland's Alex Mack is regarded as the top center that could be a free agent).

Upgrading at left guard and making sure things are settled at right tackle are on the list as well. Pasztor may end up being the starter against but he has to show progress and prove he can handle the quicker rushers.

There are still questions about Joeckel. He looked good in his first game at left tackle (his natural position), but he was only on the field for less than a half before he got injured. He should be healthy in time for OTAs.

The Jaguars are likely going to add several free agents and draft picks in the interior. The run game has to improve and that starts with the center and guards.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- As expected, the Jacksonville Jaguars were announced as one of the two teams that will coach in the Reese’s Senior Bowl later this month.

Head coach Gus Bradley and the staff will coach the South team while Atlanta head coach Mike Smith and his staff will coach the North team. The game will be played Jan. 25 at Ladd Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Ala.

This should be a huge benefit for the Jaguars (4-12), who have the No. 3 overall pick. Getting a firsthand look at some of the country’s top senior talent, as well as getting hands-on coaching experience with them, is valuable additional information that should give the Jaguars and Falcons a leg up over other teams.

"I think it’s awesome," Bradley said. "I think it’s a great opportunity. I did it one year and was part of it when we did it in Tampa and I think it’s great.

"It’s a great evaluation tool. It’s maybe better for us as coaches instead of sitting in our rooms watching tape over and over again. We can evaluate all aspects of the game. I don’t want to make a habit of it but as long as we have this opportunity we need to take advantage of it."

Coaching in the game should provide valuable insight into how each player handles himself in the locker room and meeting room and how well they handle being pushed at practice. The game plans will be stripped down and simplified, but it will still give the coaching staff a chance to see how quickly players can pick up and adjust to NFL concepts.

That’s especially important for the quarterbacks, which is the Jaguars’ most pressing need. Rosters won’t be released until mid-January but so far six quarterbacks have accepted invitations to play in the game: Clemson’s Tajh Boyd, Fresno State’s Derek Carr, San Jose State’s David Fales, Miami’s Stephen Morris, Virginia Tech’s Logan Thomas and Georgia’s Aaron Murray. Murray will not play because of a torn ACL.

The Jaguars’ No. 2 need is pass-rusher and so far eight defensive ends have accepted invites: Georgia Tech’s Jeremiah Attaochu, Auburn’s Dee Ford, Virginia Tech’s James Gayle, North Carolina’s Kareem Martin, Missouri’s Michael Sams, Arkansas’ Chris Smith, Louisville’s Marcus Smith, and Virginia’s Brent Urban.

This is Bradley’s second chance to coach the Senior Bowl -- he was part of a Tampa Bay staff that coached in the Senior Bowl in 2006 -- and he’s hoping the Jaguars do a better job of capitalizing on the opportunity than the Bucs did. Their No. 1 pick, Oklahoma guard Davin Joseph, developed into a Pro Bowler and second-round pick Jeremy Trueblood just finished his eighth season (he’s now with Atlanta).

Quarterback Bruce Gradkowski, whom the Bucs took in the sixth round, has been a backup for five teams. The other seven draft picks lasted three or fewer seasons.

This is the second time the Jaguars have coached in the game. Jack Del Rio and his staff coached in the game in 2009. Six of the nine players the team drafted that year are still active -- all with other teams. First-round pick Eugene Monroe was the lone remaining player from the Jaguars’ draft on the roster this season until he was traded to Baltimore a month into the season.

Offensive tackle Eben Britton (Chicago), defensive tackle Terrance Knighton (Denver), cornerback Derek Cox (San Diego), receiver Tiquan Underwood (Tampa Bay) and running back Rashad Jennings (Oakland) are also still active.

Receivers Jarett Dillard and Mike Thomas and tight end Zach Miller are out of the league.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars' lineup in the regular season finale on Sunday is going to look very little like it did in the season opener.

Depending on how some players respond to injuries this week, the Jaguars may only start nine players in Week 17’s game against Indianapolis that started against Kansas City in Week 1. All teams have to deal with injuries to key players throughout the season -- the Denver Broncos just lost linebacker Von Miller with a torn ACL -- but turning over more than half of the starting lineup in four months doesn’t happen on a regular basis.

The Jaguars (4-11) didn’t exactly have a deep roster to begin with, but they’ve somehow managed the through the personnel losses to win four games in the second half despite having to rely on some young, unproven players -- especially at linebacker and receiver.

"We really didn’t make that big of a deal about it, but what we did talk about was to really go in there and sometimes special stories take place with opportunities," coach Gus Bradley said. "We really taught our whole team the mindset you’ve got to have to go in there."

The results have been hit and miss, which is what you’d expect from those players. Good plays -- like receiver Kerry Taylor catching four passes for 45 yards against the Titans -- and bad, like Taylor dropping an easy reception that would have converted a first down against Buffalo.

"You’ve just got to do it all the time," Bradley said. "There’s going to be times when young guys get [out of position or make a mistake] but we just need to limit that. That’s what we’re seeing right now and that’s what happens sometimes with younger players especially if they’re getting their first opportunity."

Here’s a breakdown of the missing starters:

WR Justin Blackmon: Suspended for the first four games of the season for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, played four games, and then was suspended indefinitely for violating it again.

WR Cecil Shorts*: Placed on IR on Dec. 17 with a groin injury.

LT Eugene Monroe*: Traded to Baltimore on Oct. 2.

LT Luke Joeckel* (started Week 1 at RT): Suffered a fractured ankle against St. Louis on Oct. 6.

G Will Rackley*: Placed on IR on Dec. 17 with a concussion.

LB Russell Allen*: Placed on IR on Dec. 18.

G Mike Brewster: He replaced Rackley in the lineup and suffered a fractured ankle against Buffalo on Dec. 15.

DT Brandon Deaderick: He was on the field for starting DT Roy Miller, who did not play against Tennessee on Sunday, and suffered a dislocated elbow.

Here’s a breakdown of other starters who may miss Sunday’s finale:

LB Geno Hayes*: He did not play last Sunday because of a knee injury. He likely won’t practice this week.

DT Roy Miller*: He has battled a shoulder injury all season and did not play last Sunday. He likely won’t practice this week.

CB Dwayne Gratz*: He suffered a high ankle sprain last Sunday and likely won’t practice this week.

RB Maurice Jones-Drew*: He fought through a hamstring injury and started against Tennessee last Sunday but will be limited this week.

LT Cameron Bradfield: He joined the starting lineup after Joeckel was injured and suffered a high ankle sprain last Sunday and will be limited in practice this week.

*Denotes started season opener.

Jacksonville Jaguars mailbag

December, 19, 2013
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- It has been an ugly first half of the season for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

They’ve lost every game by double digits -- the average margin is 22 points -- and are riding a 13-game losing streak that dates back to a Nov. 25, 2012, when they beat Tennessee. They rank last in the NFL in total offense and rush defense, 31st in rush offense, and 27th in total defense.

They haven’t scored a touchdown at EverBank Field since the first quarter of the 2012 regular-season home finale.

Ugly, indeed.

There have been slivers of good work in parts of the team in the first eight games, but the overall body of work deserves an F.

In breaking that grade down, it's clear this midseason report card isn’t going to be pretty. In fact, it’s the kind of report card that gets you grounded for weeks:

Jaguars' first-half stock watch

October, 30, 2013
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- With the Jaguars on their bye week, it's the perfect time to evaluate the first half of the season stock-market style:

RISING

Offensive line: The unit really struggled in the beginning of the season adjusting to the zone blocking scheme, which calls for the linemen to create movement along the defensive line rather than opening a specific hole and for back-side linemen to cut block. Center Brad Meester and guards Uche Nwaneri and Will Rackley were not playing well at all, though Nwaneri and Rackley were dealing with leg injuries. Things looked bleak when the team traded left tackle Eugene Monroe to Baltimore after four games and rookie tackle Luke Joeckel fractured his leg the following game, but surprisingly the line has jelled and is playing significantly better. Young tackles Cameron Bradfield and Austin Pasztor are growing into their roles and the line has been better in the run game. Pass protection has improved, too. After giving up 18 sacks in the first four games the line gave up 10 in the next four.

QB Chad Henne: Since taking over as the starter for Blaine Gabbert (hamstring) before the Denver game, the Jaguars have averaged 283 yards passing. Though Henne has led the offense to just two touchdowns, he has thrown only three interceptions in those games -- two of which came after passes were tipped at the line of scrimmage. He's having trouble in the red zone and has made questionable decisions, but he still gives the Jaguars the best chance to win. That is why head coach Gus Bradley has named him the starter "right now" even though Gabbert is healthy.

WR Mike Brown: Brown missed four games after fracturing a vertebra in his back in the season opener. He has caught 12 passes for 212 yards in the three games since his return, including five catches for 120 yards against San Diego. His development gives the Jaguars a reliable third receiver.

RB Maurice Jones-Drew: He had a slow start to the season, but he had legitimate reasons: He was coming off a Lisfranc injury, the offensive line really struggled and he sprained his ankle in Week 2. But he's starting to get rolling now. He had a season-high 25 touches (19 rushes for 75 yards, six catches for 47 yards) against San Francisco and he's showing some of the old burst and tackle-breaking ability that helped him lead the NFL in rushing in 2011.

FALLING

Third-down defense: The Jaguars just can't get off the field on third down. Opponents have converted 44.8 percent of third-down attempts, which is the fourth-worst total in the NFL behind Minnesota (51 percent), Cleveland (46.4) and the New York Giants (45). That's extending drives and taxing the defense, especially when the offense can't stay on the field (the Jaguars have 35 three-and-outs). The biggest problem is there isn't anyone making plays other than linebacker Paul Posluszny (two interceptions, including one for a touchdown).

Red-zone production: The Jaguars have scored only five touchdowns on 20 red zone trips this season. That's a TD conversion rate of just 25 percent, which is by far the worst in the league. The next closest team is Philadelphia (39.1 percent). The Jaguars haven't scored a touchdown in their last seven trips to the red zone. Poor play calls, bad passes, dropped passes, poor decisions ... it has all factored into their ineptitude.

Turnovers: The Jaguars defense has forced just seven turnovers (one of the eight fumble recoveries came on special teams). That's another indication of a lack of playmakers, especially in the secondary. Posluszny has two of the three interceptions; cornerback Will Blackmon has the other. Bradley said players have been in position to make big plays but haven't capitalized.

Pass rush: This year's pass rush isn't any better than it was in 2012, when the Jaguars finished last in the NFL with just 20 sacks. They've got 11 at the midway point, with defensive end Jason Babin and Sen'Derrick Marks leading the way with two. Those two are pretty much the only ones getting to the quarterback because they're first and second, respectively, in quarterback pressures with nine and six. The second half of the season will essentially be a tryout for defensive end Andre Branch, who was drafted in the second round in 2012 to develop into an elite pass rusher but he has just two sacks in 21 games.

ST. LOUIS -- A few thoughts on the Jacksonville Jaguars' 34-20 loss to the St. Louis Rams:

What it means: The Jaguars lost their fifth game of the season but there was progress. The team scored a season-high 20 points, it was a seven-point game at one point in the fourth quarter and the running game finally got moving (96 yards, including 70 by Maurice Jones-Drew). But the kinds of mistakes the Jaguars have made all season resurfaced and resulted in the franchise’s 10th consecutive loss dating back to last season. Blaine Gabbert air-mailed a pass over Justin Blackmon's head that was intercepted and returned 82 yards for a touchdown. LaRoy Reynolds was penalized for an illegal block above the waist that nullified Ace Sanders' 88-yard punt return for a touchdown. The Jaguars did score on that possession, but it is an example of how penalties have hurt this team all season. Clay Harbor also fumbled and the Rams turned that into a touchdown, too. Still, the offense ended up with a season-high 363 yards.

Gabbert hurt again: Gabbert was forced to leave the game in the second half after injuring his left hamstring. He had completed nine of 19 passes for 181 yards and one touchdown but threw two interceptions. It was a typical Gabbert performance: He threw several passes that flashed his potential but he also had plays where he panicked in the pocket and took off running and overthrew open receivers. He was replaced by Chad Henne, who led the Jaguars to one touchdown.

Stock watch: The Jaguars’ offensive line is essentially down two starters from the unit that opened the season. The team traded starting left tackle Eugene Monroe to Baltimore early in the week and Luke Joeckel, the No. 2 overall draft pick last April, moved from right tackle to left tackle but injured his ankle in the first quarter and did not return. Cameron Bradfield, who started 12 games at right tackle last season, stepped in for Joeckel.

Now you see him, now you don’t: Blackmon returned from a four-game suspension and made an immediate impact on the offense, catching five passes for 136 yards and a touchdown. The touchdown came on a pass over the middle and he out-ran the secondary for 67 yards. But Blackmon had only two more catches.

What’s next: The Jaguars play at Denver on Sunday.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Eugene Monroe made a quick appearance in the Jaguars' locker room on Wednesday to shake hands and say goodbye to teammates before he left to join the Baltimore Ravens.

It may not be the last time a veteran player does that this month.

Several other players could possibly find themselves headed elsewhere before the Oct. 29 trade deadline if general manager Dave Caldwell decides to stockpile more draft picks for 2014 and beyond.

"Can't think about it like that," guard Uche Nwaneri said. "You just can't look at it from that perspective or you're going to be walking around like a ghost in here. You just have to move forward."

Coach Gus Bradley tried to help players do that by addressing the Monroe trade in a team meeting. He told them the deal didn’t signify that the team has thrown in the towel on 2013 -- they’re 0-4 heading into Sunday’s game at St. Louis -- and there currently are no other deals in the works, but he couldn’t guarantee the Jaguars won’t unload another veteran as part of a salary purge.

"I addressed that, but I guess if they think that how can you blame them?" Bradley said. "Right now there are no moves. I talked to Dave and he said right now we have nothing pending and nothing going on. I wish I could alleviate that for some of the players but as you know the NFL is a business.

"This [Monroe trade] just popped up so I understand that and what I asked of them is to just come back and concentrate and let’s go to work."

Tight end Marcedes Lewis said he didn’t get the sense that the young players were upset or worried even before the meeting. Most of them understand that there’s a business side to the game.

"[Bradley] put everything in perspective for us,” Lewis said. “But even coming into the building, there wasn't a whole bunch of grumps. That's how the NFL is. In my eight years, I've seen some stuff that shocked me. You take it and you roll on. We wish Eugene the best of luck and move on."

It’s not like trading Monroe was a shock. He hadn’t played particularly well and wasn’t a good fit in the team’s new zone-blocking scheme. Plus, he was in the final year of his contract.

Even if it was a huge surprise, Maurice Jones-Drew would have taken it in stride just as he did on Wednesday.

“We all understand it,” he said. “I’ve been here when we’ve cut our quarterback Week 1 twice. I don’t think there’s too much more that can shock you about this deal.”

Monroe trade may be just first move

October, 1, 2013
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars' trade of offensive tackle Eugene Monroe to the Baltimore Ravens for multiple draft picks, first reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter, is likely to be the first of numerous moves involving some of the team’s high-profile players in the next several months.

The 2013 season was going to be a wash anyway, but now that it appears the Jaguars are headed for what could be a historically bad season, general manager Dave Caldwell is turning his attention toward the 2014 season and beyond.

[+] EnlargeJacksonville's Dave Caldwell
AP Photo/John RaouxJaguars general manager Dave Caldwell is getting a jump on 2014 by trading Eugene Monroe.
In trading Monroe, who is in the final year of his contract, the Jaguars at least get something for a player they apparently had no desire to re-sign. Draft picks, even late-round ones, are valuable commodities for a team that needs a near complete roster overhaul before it can even be competitive. Whether the team uses those picks for bottom-of-the-roster players or packages them to move up or down, Caldwell is giving himself some flexibility in next May’s draft.

And he’s likely not finished. The Jaguars haven’t played well and weren’t likely to win more than a couple of games, so why not essentially blow the team up now and get a head start on 2014 and 2015? There are several other veteran players who could be traded: guard Uche Nwaneri and running back Maurice Jones-Drew, for example.

Nwaneri signed a five-year extension reportedly worth $24 million in 2010. He, along with center Brad Meester and guard Will Rackley, has struggled this season, although Nwaneri and Rackley are dealing with knee injuries. Jones-Drew is in the final year of his contract and is unlikely to be re-signed.

Tight end Marcedes Lewis, who has played only two snaps this season because of a calf injury, also could be a target. Lewis signed a five-year contract worth $35 million ($17 million guaranteed) in 2011.

Not one of those players, all of whom are 28 or older, is in the team’s long-term plans. If Caldwell can get anything substantive for them, it’s almost a no-brainer. It’s not going to be easy to watch the product on the field, but everything now is about 2014 and 2015.

As for what the Monroe trade means on the field right now, it’s time to welcome first-round pick Luke Joeckel to left tackle. That’s where he played at Texas A&M, but he was moved to right tackle once he arrived in Jacksonville.

Cameron Bradfield, a third-year player the team signed as an undrafted rookie in 2011, likely moves into the starting spot at right tackle. He started 12 games there last season.

Jaguars roster breakdown

September, 2, 2013
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jaguars made one roster move on Monday, adding rookie fullback Lonnie Pryor to the practice squad.

That was a pretty quiet day compared to Sunday, when the Jaguars were awarded seven players off waivers, cut seven players and signed seven more players to the practice squad, the Jaguars front office was pretty quiet. And while things won't be as busy as they were Sunday, GM Dave Caldwell and coach Gus Bradley have said they will be aggressive in terms of trying to improve the bottom part of the roster and special-teams play, which means the team will be signing and cutting players on a somewhat regular basis.

So while things are (relatively) quiet for now, here’s a quick breakdown of the 54-man roster (we’re including WR Justin Blackmon, who is suspended for the first four games):

According to data collected by The Philadelphia Inquirer and posted on its website, the Jaguars have the league’s fifth-youngest roster in the NFL. The numbers may not be 100 percent accurate now because the website used the rosters as of 9 p.m. Saturday and teams continued to add and cut players on Sunday, but it shouldn’t make too much of a difference in the final results.

Here’s how the Jaguars roster breaks down in terms of age:

The Jaguars have 38 players 26 years old or younger, including 12 projected starters: WR Cecil Shorts (25), LT Eugene Monroe (26), LG Will Rackley (23), RT Luke Joeckel (21), WR Justin Blackmon (23), QB Blaine Gabbert (23), DT Tyson Alualu (26), DT Roy Miller (26), DT Sen’Derrick Marks (26), LB Geno Hayes (26), CB Dwayne Gratz (23), S Johnathan Cyprien (23).

They have 12 players between 27 and 30 years old, including six starters: RG Uche Nwaneri (29), TE Marcedes Lewis (29), FB Will Ta’ufo’ou (27), RB Maurice Jones-Drew (28), LB Paul Posluszny (28) and S Dwight Lowery (27).

There are only three players older than 30, all of which are starters: DE Jason Babin (33), C Brad Meester (36) and K Josh Scobee (31).

Sixteen players are either rookies or first-year players.

The Jaguars have four players on the roster who were drafted under GM Shack Harris (2003-08) and 10 players who were drafted under GM Gene Smith (2009-12).

If you eliminate the 2012 draft class because those players are only in their second year and should still be on the roster (four of the six picks are), the number remaining from Smith’s tenure drops to six. The 2009 and 2010 drafts should have produced the core group of players that should be the strength of this year’s team since they would be entering their fourth and fifth seasons, which is when most players enter their prime. But only two of the 15 players taken in those two drafts remain: Monroe and Alualu.

RTC: Eugene Monroe gets noticed

August, 28, 2013
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jaguars offensive tackle Eugene Monroe is one of the NFL's most under-the-radar players.

At least, that's according to CBSSports.com's Pete Prisco, who tabbed Monroe to his 2013 All-Prisco Team. It's a list of players who meet a certain criteria, with one of the most important being players must be 26 years old or younger. Monroe, whom the Jaguars selected with the eighth overall pick in 2009, is 26.

What sets Monroe apart, Prisco writes, is his commitment to nutrition, variety of workouts, and his development into a quality pass protector and good run blocker. He proved that in the Jaguars' game against Minnesota last season when he dominated Jared Allen.

Here are some other pieces of content from around the web in the Jaguars' version of Reading the Coverage:

The Jaguars' official website mic'd up defensive end Jason Babin during last Saturday's game against Philadelphia. Listen to what he had to say here.

The Florida Times-Union's Ryan O'Halloran writes that receiver Justin Blackmon believes he's going to be able to handle his four-game suspension just fine. Coaches have seen some positive signs from Blackmon, but he has let the team down before.

Kicker Josh Scobee hasn't been as accurate this preseason as he normally is because his timing was off working with three long snappers. Now that the Jaguars have settled on Carson Tinker, he's feeling more comfortable, writes Vito Stellino of the Times-Union.

Stellino also writes that the Jaguars still have half the players from last season's 2-14 team heading into the final cuts this weekend.

Adam Stites of BigCatCountry.com provides a season preview, Q&A style.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Left tackle Eugene Monroe and Leo defensive end Jason Babin are two very important players for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

In training camp, they often square off against one another.

They spend some down time together competing in a friendlier way, going offshore fishing when they can.

“It’s fun practicing against that caliber of a player, just battling every chance that we’re facing each other,” Monroe said. “We’ve become good friends off the field, done some fishing together, so we always have a lot to talk about, we’re always competitive. Everything we do, we’re competing against each other.

[+] EnlargeJacksonville Jaguars fishing
Photo courtesy of Eugene MonroeJaguars left tackle Eugene Monroe and defensive end Jason Babin battle each other in practice but go offshore fishing together when they can. Here they show off the fruits of a fishing session along with Blaine Gabbert, Kyle Bosworth and Matt Veldman.
So who wins when they fish?

“He’s got a little more experience at this point, but I’m getting there,” Monroe said.

Replied Babin: “I appreciate his honesty. But in the spirit of full disclosure, I’ve been fishing much longer than he has. So we’ll see how things pan out in about five, 10 more years.”

I asked Babin specifically about Monroe and rookie right tackle Luke Joeckel giving Jacksonville strength at tackle.

His reply, however, included the whole line, not just the two first-round draft picks.

“The thing I like most about the O-line here, not just the tackles, is the fierce competitiveness,” Babin said. “We’re battling every period, our coaches are getting us fired up and at the end of the day we come in here and hang out, I’m fishing with Gene. We battle, we’re beating each other and then we’re good afterward.”

If the Jaguars are going to make progress in the win column in the first year with Gus Bradley as their coach, Monroe and Babin are going to be a big part of it.

It’s a bit unusual for guys at their positions to be especially tight and it makes for a cool wrinkle to see them, and the two lines, co-mingling in a locker room where they are positioned near one another.

Perhaps their friendship is just a coincidence. But maybe it says something about the team’s chemistry.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- I got to the Jacksonville Jaguars practice fields this morning just three plays into full-team work.

Some quick thoughts on what I saw and heard:

Blaine Gabbert: The quarterback had his right ankle heavily wrapped and didn’t participate in team work. But he said after practice that barring something crazy he’d be back to a full workload tomorrow. Mike Kafka worked as the No. 2 behind Chad Henne, with Matt Scott last.

Wildcatting: Denard Robinson ran several Wildcat plays, but didn’t throw on any of them, handing off or running.

I am generally anti-Wildcat, but the Jaguars are the right team to be playing with it -- a team without a high-quality quarterback.

Receiver Mike Brown did throw a pass on a trick play, after taking a lateral screen pass from Kafka to the left side. Brown threw to the right side of the end zone from about 40 yards out. Running back Jordan Todman had linebacker Julian Stanford beat, but couldn’t corral it. (See this play and some pictures from today on my Instagram account: pkuharsky)

I watched one-on-one pass rush (which was sometimes two-on-two), Andre Branch tried to bull rush Luke Joeckel and while he gained some ground, Joeckel had control. Will Rackley rode D’Anthony Smith wide on one snap. And Jason Babin slipped under Eugene Monroe’s left shoulder but then got pinned there and went to the ground. Tyson Alualu did some nice work against Mike Brewster working on an inside rush. That’s a matchup he should win. I’ll write more about Alualu and his move to end soon.

Good throw: One of Henne’s best throws was to Marcedes Lewis in the middle of the field for a mid-range gain. What made it especially good was that Henne initially looked and pumped left, then came back to find Lewis.

Fumble: Cecil Shorts and Henne shared responsibility on an end-around handoff being fumbled.

Well defended: Undrafted rookie cornerback Marcus Burley hasn’t been heard from much in camp so far, I am told. But he made a very good play in the end zone. From the 10-yard line, Henne threw a nice pass to Mohamed Massaquoi into the right side of the end zone. Burley realized he wasn’t going to be able to make a play on the ball, but that he could still prevent the catch and he broke it up even though he wasn’t on top of the receiver.

Option: Henne ran an option play to the left side, pitching to Maurice Jones-Drew on a well-executed snap.

Not long later, Henne easily hit Shorts under the goalpost for a red zone TD.

Detente? I was with some other reporters near the end of the open locker room and we had a fun, spirited chat with Jones-Drew, who was hanging out at a new, still net-less ping-pong table in the middle of the locker room. (Not so spirited that young receiver Tobias Palmer needed to check if MJD wanted his assistance to break free of it. But I found it to be charming naiveté.) MJD and I have some history, about which I try to be up front. We seemed to have benefited from a cooling off period. Perhaps we’ll have a chance to visit with a tape recorder running on Thursday.
We pick up our series in which ESPN.com’s resident scout, Matt Williamson, ranks the AFC South position by position.

Today, we examine offensive lines.

Williamson’s AFC South offensive line rankings:
1) Titans (Michael Roos, Andy Levitre, Fernando Velasco/Brian Schwenke, Chance Warmack, David Stewart)
2) Texans (Duane Brown, Wade Smith, Chris Myers, Brandon Brooks/Ben Jones, Derek Newton/Brennan Williams)
3) Jaguars (Eugene Monroe, Will Rackley, Brad Meester, Uche Nwaneri, Luke Joeckel)
4) Colts (Anthony Castonzo, Donald Thomas/Joe Reitz, Samson Satele/Khaled Holmes, Hugh Thornton/Mike McGlynn, Gosder Cherilus)

I place them in the same order.

Just on those lists, which try to outline the likely starting units and include 27 names for 20 spots, one-third of the players are newcomers to the division.

SportsNation

Matt Williamson's ranking of AFC South offensive line units is:

  •  
    41%
  •  
    42%
  •  
    17%

Discuss (Total votes: 1,052)

Everybody will be better.

My questions for Williamson based off his list:

Your overall assessment of the position in the AFC South?

Matt Williamson: I expect the Texans and Titans to have two of the best offensive lines in the NFL in 2013. Both should be drastically improved, and in fact, so should Indy's and Jacksonville's with the massive improvement at right tackle.

Any concern about Titans jelling with two or even three new starters? Are you expecting Roos and Stewart to play better than they did in 2012 with better talent between them?

MW: Tennessee’s offensive line could take a while to jell with the interior being so different and counting on a rookie, but you would think this coaching staff should excel in that department if nothing else. As for Roos and Stewart, I do worry that we have already seen the best of both players and they are starting to decline, but I still expect the Titans to feature a top-10 set of offensive tackles overall. And wow, was their interior bad in 2012!

What's Indy's potential for improvement based on its additions in free agency and the draft? How much will Pep Hamilton's quicker passing system protect the line?

MW: The short passing game will certainly help Indy in protection, but so will the addition of at least two new starters. The Colts just have much better football players starting right now than in 2012.

How did the right side of the Texans group fare last year, and why are you expecting better?

MW: I think Houston is much better off on the right side of its line than a year ago -- which could be huge. The right side of the Texans' line did struggle last year, but hopefully they get away from rotating players there in and out, and I expect Brooks and/or Jones to improve. (I am especially high on Brooks.) Plus, Williams is an excellent fit at right tackle for this scheme if he can seize the starting job.

How much better can the Jags' line be with the addition of Joeckel, return of a healthy Rackley, a healthy Nwaneri and a scheme heavier on zone stuff?

MW: I expect Monroe to continue to quietly be nearly dominant and Joeckel to do very well right from the start, but I don't have a lot of faith in the interior. But just improving on what might have been the league's worst right tackle situation in 2012 should pay off for the Jags.

Who are the weakest links in the division among projected starters?

MW: I would say the interior of Jacksonville’s line is the weakest spot in the division. Outside of the tackles, I don't see a real mobile group to transition to the zone-blocking scheme, either. And I have little faith in Rackley overall. That could be next year's offseason project (among many other things).

As for me …
  • I hope Brooks lives up to what we've heard about him this offseason. I'd like to see the Texans with a very big right guard who has special feet.
  • J.J. Watt's influence is certainly being felt here. The reigning defensive player of the year is part of why we could see entirely new interior line starters for both the Titans and Colts.
  • Rackley will be under a large spotlight and rightly so. He missed his second year with an injury. Will we see a second-season jump, or does he turn out to be a Gene Smith leftover who hurts this team? New line coach George Yarno will have a lot do with how it pans out.
  • The Titans' offensive line has to be good for the team's overall plan to have a chance to unfold. I expect it will be very good, and the depth will be better should they run into injuries again.
  • Cherilus reportedly had a major knee procedure. The Colts clearly are confident he will be OK.

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