Eager to put aside a disappointing preseason, the Jaguars’ offensive line came out last week against the Houston Texans re-energized and physical.
Instead of Texans’ J.J. Watt applying a ferocious pass rush off the edge, rookie left tackle Cam Robinson was strong enough to shield him from getting to quarterback Blake Bortles. From left tackle to right guard, they came out and delivered punishing blocks that sent some of the Texans’ defensive front seven sailing backwards instead of making tackles behind the line of scrimmage.
In their 29-7 victory at NRG Stadium, the Jaguars did not have trouble turning the battle up front into a mismatch and it led to a 100-yard rushing performance by rookie Leonard Fournette in his debut and Bortles had enough time to find receivers and avoid turnovers. With everything clicking, the Jaguars ended a six-game losing streak against the Texans.
And by raising their level of play, the Jaguars offensive line didn’t allow a sack.
”We got to keep working and keep building,” center Brandon Linder said. “Our goal is to always come out and force your will. I think the training camp we had and everything we’ve been through helped us along with that.”
The unit’s focus this week is trying to put forth the same caliber of performance in Sunday’s home opener against the Tennessee Titans at EverBank Field.
Going into Week 1, the Jaguars’ offensive line was the team’s biggest area of concern. The unit never appeared to be progressing in camp without setbacks, which began when veteran left tackle Branden Albert abruptly retired after the first few days of camp in July.
Then they struggled against Tampa Bay in the second preseason game by allowing three sacks before struggling to match Carolina’s physical play in Week 3.
Trying to find the right combination, coach Doug Marrone shuffled around several lineman. He didn’t even know who his starter left guard would be until two days before last week’s opener when he finally announced it would be Patrick Omameh.
Impressed by what he saw from his offensive line against Houston, Marrone chuckled on Monday that he wished he would have known what the magic potion was earlier, especially during training camp.
“I think now the level of expectation of how they’re going to play, they are going to be challenged each week and I think that’s a good thing,” Marrone said. “When they go out and show that they can do this, not only the coaches expect but their teammates and obviously the people that support the program.”
Robinson said the line intends to continue set the tone by being aggresssive from the start. At halftime last week, the Jaguars had outgained the Texans 178-52 and led 19-0.
”We want to do it every game,” Robinson said. “We just block everything out and come to work every day with the same mindset.”
The Jaguars’ offensive line will be facing a Titans’ defense that allowed 359 total yards, 250 passing in last week’s 26-16 loss to the Oakland Raiders. The line could see more blitz packages from the Titans than what they faced last week because their defensive front is not as strong as the Texans.
“We want to run the ball and execute,” guard A.J. Cann said. “When you get in a fight, you want to throw the first punch. We want to start fast and finish faster.”