JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Weapons and protection. Protection and weapons.
In any fair-minded conversation about what around Blaine Gabbert needs to improve for him to fare far better in his second season as the Jaguars' quarterback, those have been the two huge themes.
But they did nothing of note on the offensive line outside of adding undrafted free-agent center Mike Brewster, who shouldn’t see the field on offense if he makes the team.
So why are we expecting Gabbert to benefit from better protection when he’ll be operating behind a line made up of the same guys? The one significant change will be the return of right tackle Eben Britton, who missed 12 games last season because of a herniated disk.
“It’s a different offense, it’s a different scheme, it’s different coaches, it’s a different offseason,” coach Mike Mularkey said. “There are a lot of different things going on. We run a different offense here and we will do what we have to do to protect him.”
Right guard Uche Nwaneri said running backs will be more involved in blocking the edges, that the protection schemes are called using numbers instead of words and that there are a lot more small nuances that will allow the Jaguars' offensive line to have more control in reacting to what a defense is doing.
Gabbert took 40 sacks last season and the Jaguars allowed 44. Not all of them were on the offensive line, of course. Placing blame for sacks can be subjective. Gabbert often held the ball too long or moved into trouble.
The progressions in the new offense should give him the ability to get rid of the ball more quickly when he needs to, and his pocket presence should improve. (More on that and Gabbert coming soon.)
Britton’s return and a season of experience for left guard Will Rackley should also help reduce the number of sacks the Jaguars allow.
“It’s about all five guys working in unison,” Nwaneri said. “With injuries and with young talent out there, that can shake up consistency at times and those are some of the things we dealt with last year. This year I think it’s going to be a lot better.
“We’re going to have a healthy line, a young guy like Will will know what’s expected and how to prepare for games. It’s going to give us a better opportunity to succeed.”