Maurice Jones-Drew (David Zalubowski/AP)
Just one quarter into the first game of last season, the Jaguars found themselves without three of their starting offensive linemen. With a pieced together offensive line, the Jaguars were certainly limited on offense. Teams stacked the line of scrimmage to stop their rushing attack, and the offensive line couldn't hold their blocks long enough to give David Garrard the time he needed.
"The offensive line wasn't thin until we had a rash of injuries," Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio said of last season's situation. "We felt pretty good about our line last year. Two years ago they helped us achieve franchise records running the ball, scoring points, and doing a lot of great things."
The Jaguars hope that those offensive line issues have been corrected as they spent their first two draft picks on offensive tackles Eugene Monroe and Eben Britton, and they will return starting guards Vince Manuwai and Maurice Williams from injuries that cost them 15 games each a year ago.
"It is good to see the guys that we had injured back healthy," Del Rio said. "It is great to see some young talent added to the room, and it will make for an ultra-competitive camp."
Rookie offensive tackle Eugene Monroe is known as a supremely talented pass protector, and the Jaguars are hopeful that he can be as nasty clearing room for star running back Maurice Jones-Drew in the running game.
"As a run blocker, you see more and more these days with the spread offenses, the two-point stance and less development in the run game out of these offensive lineman but that is no indicator to how though he is," Jaguars offensive line coach Andy Heck said of the team's first-round pick. "Now, he will improve as a run blocker as he starts to put his hand in the dirt and get accustomed to our system and way of doing things."
The Jaguars ran the football on just 44.2% of their offensive plays last season, a far cry from their 52.7% of rushing plays in 2007, when the team finished 11-5. The team hopes to be more balanced in 2009, and the additions on the offensive line should help the team return to the physical philosophy that head coach Jack Del Rio covets.
"I think for me, for us, there's really a need for us to get back to the true identity of who we are as a football team," Del Rio said. "I believe in smart, tough football. I believe in having a physical football team. I believe in having a team that can stop the opponent from running the ball and that can hassle the quarterback and harass the quarterback. I believe in having a locker room full of unselfish players, a staff of unselfish coaches, and that together we can accomplish great things."
Charlie Bernstein is the Editor-in-Chief of Sports Media Interactive, covering multiple teams in the National Football League, NCAA, and National Basketball Association. Charlie is a regular syndicated contributor to FoxSports and Sirius NFL Radio, and has been featured on the NFL Network. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Feel free to contact him -HERE- with questions or comments.
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