Andy Heck (Getty Images)
The Jaguars certainly seemed to follow through with their best player available philosophy during the first day of the draft, as they found great value in the big guys. Offensive tackles usually yield a pretty solid return in the early rounds, and Jacksonville did a fine job with Gene Smith’s “base-hit” approach.
The Jaguars need for more offensive line talent and depth became extremely apparent just one quarter of one game into the 2008 season, as the team found themselves without starting guards Vince Manuwai and Maurice Williams. With those players out for what would be the entire season, the Jaguars offense couldn’t get into any groove, and the team obviously struggled.
Offensive line coach Andy Heck was more or less hamstrung, being forced to suit up players such as Milford Brown, Dennis Norman, Charles Spencer, and a once-effective but now very long in the tooth Chris Naeole. Andy Heck certainly seemed to have a big say in the Jaguars draft plans this year, as they hope to never again be in the position they were in last fall.
Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio spoke about how the team’s first-day picks will affect the look of the offensive line.
“I think we just made the group a lot more competitive, a lot stronger,” Del Rio said. “Obviously we’ve had some injuries and some age kind of creep into our offensive and defensive lines. I think to be able to add two big, strong offensive linemen on the first day is very encouraging.”
Eugene Monroe is the first, first-round pick the Jaguars have used on an offensive lineman since their inaugural draft pick in 1995 of Tony Boselli, a pick that worked out pretty well. Jaguars offensive line coach Andy Heck used to coach at Virginia and is pretty familiar with Monroe’s work.
“I have gotten a chance to know Eugene and I’m close to the Virginia program having been there and this is a top flight character guy,” Heck said. “The things I’m most excited about are his work ethic, determination, serious approach to football and anything he wants to be good at really.”
Heck was gushing to the media when asked about his new first-round pupil.
“I think the thing that will be most impressive is he is a big man, a quiet man,” Heck said. “He’s very intense, purposeful and professional. He is going to find out what he needs to do and he is going to do that and then some. There is not going to be a lot of jacking with this guy because he is about business.”
After the Monroe pick, few thought the Jaguars would pick another tackle in round two, but the best available player, Eben Britton, made the line a certain strength of the team.
Eben Britton (Getty Images)
“He can play left or right tackle,” Del Rio said. “I would think he could also slide in and play some guard, but at Arizona he played both left and right tackle. He’s, I believe, been a three-year starter. He’s a two-time team captain. A smart, mature guy. This is a good football player, well-coached, one of the better interviews that we had in terms of a young man that has his life together. He’s very excited about getting here. I think he was a little disappointed that he lasted as long as he did, and he’s excited to get here and get to work.”
The Jaguars believe that they’ve hit “home runs” with “base-hit” type of selections.
“We think we’ve added two quality people, two competitive guys, two well-coached guys that are coming in,” Del Rio said. “They’re both mature. They should fit nicely here.”