Jags Get Big Up Front But Will it Pay Off?
The Jacksonville Jaguars finished last season coming up short in the AFC championship against the vaunted Patriots. As this opening week of free agency talks has kicked up a notch the Jags’ biggest signing by far is Andrew Norwell. I’m not going to be naïve and pretend like Norwell is a household name so let me introduce him formally:
Andrew Norwell. Ranked by Pro Football Focus as the third best guard in the NFL and has a rating of an 88.8 He stands at 6’6 and 315 pounds out of Ohio State and is ranked as an elite run blocker AND pass blocker. At only age 26, this undrafted free agent is regarded as one of the best offensive line players in the league which led to Jacksonville giving him $30 million guaranteed.
Let’s stop beating around the bush, shall we? What exactly does this mean for the Jaguars in terms of improvement? Perhaps bigger holes for Leonard Fournette to run in, but Jacksonville is already coming off a season in which they led the league in rushing. Maybe you can say it’ll help the Jags in the passing game where they ranked 30th in the league last season only giving up 24 sacks. Long story short, the Norwell signing simply puts Doug Marrone’s team in a position to be better at what they were already good at. Let’s be careful not to mistake the magnitude of this signing though.
Once NFL teams get to the final four of conference championships and lose they are automatically the recipients of the phrase “over the hump. I.e “they had a great season last year, what can they add to get over that last hump?”. As good as a player Andrew Norwell is, him being brought to Florida isn’t an “over-the-hump” move in my opinion. The Jaguars didn’t lose the AFC championship because they couldn’t run the ball. Their backs combined for over 100 yards while averaging at least three yards or more per carry. They didn’t lose because they didn’t have time to throw the ball. Blake Bortles threw for seven yards shy of 300. Jacksonville lost that game because they feared their own quarterback.
Down the stretch, the Jags played “not to lose”. There were no big throws by Blake Bortles, just the usual dink, and dunks and run plays. Doug Marrone relied on his defense and perhaps too much to a fault. The truth is hey, Norwell is REALLY good at what he does, but he doesn’t make Blake Bortles a better passer. I’m not sure if you add him to that AFC championship game last year that a different result would’ve been the outcome. If Bortles doesn’t improve, the additions to this already stout team will be in vain.