JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Now that the 2017 season is beginning, it's time to bring back the Jacksonville Jaguars mailbag. Each Saturday morning I’ll answer a representative question hitting a topic that drew the most interest. Submit your questions via Twitter to @ESPNdirocco. Please use the hashtag #jagsmail.
What did the front office see from the interior O-line last year that made them not think it was worth it to upgrade? #jagsmail— Richard Ito (@rich_ito) September 1, 2017
I've asked myself this question since the draft ended, because the Jaguars clearly had a different opinion of the unit than the rest of us. This was a topic of conversation in the media room throughout the offseason as well. What are they seeing that we don't? The Jaguars' answer has been that they believe right guard A.J. Cann and right tackle Jermey Parnell will play better and Patrick Omameh played well at left guard before getting hurt.
That's why the Jaguars didn't pursue anyone in free agency and didn't feel a need to do anything more than to trade for aging left tackle Branden Albert, who hasn't played a full season since 2011 and who missed 20 games over the past five seasons, and to draft Cam Robinson in the second round. And don't forget, coach Doug Marrone and general manager Dave Caldwell each said the plan was for Robinson to compete with Albert, who was released Aug. 11, at left tackle and not move inside to guard.
The Jaguars believe center Brandon Linder, Cann and Parnell are rock-solid starters. Linder is clearly the best of the bunch, but Cann and Parnell really struggled in 2016. Based on what we've seen in the preseason, the right side of the line doesn't look much better than it was last season in the run game.
The Jaguars' failure to aggressively upgrade the offensive line the past two seasons has been one of management's biggest mistakes and it will keep the team from being competitive in the division in 2017. They passed on a chance to pursue center Alex Mack and guard Kelechi Osemele in March 2016 and both went on to have Pro Bowl seasons. They didn't want to pay the $31.5 million guaranteed that guard Kevin Zeitler got from Cleveland this March, either.
How much better would this team be right now if they had signed either Mack or Osemele and Zeitler? Would that make Leonard Fournette's job a bit easier this season? Would that (theoretically) help quarterback Blake Bortles?
Another thing to consider: Not only did the Jaguars not upgrade the starters, they didn't upgrade the backups, either, to create legitimate competition.
The Jaguars' offensive line, especially the interior, will be the team's biggest issue in 2017 and there's nothing they can do about it now.