Jaguars Offensive Line Dominance

In the Jaguars thrilling 29-22 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday, the Jaguars had quite a few plays that could fill up a highlight reel. A main phase from Sunday's game that shouldn't go unnoticed is certainly the play of the Jaguars offensive line.

David Garrard threw for three touchdowns, including a 55-yard strike to Dennis Northcutt. Fred Taylor broke off quite a few long runs in which he ran over or around Pittsburgh defenders, and Maurice Jones-Drew carried members of the Steelers defense seemingly all day long.

The Jaguars starting offensive line of Khalif Barnes, Vince Manuwai, Brad Meester, Maurice Williams, and Tony Pashos dominated the Pittsburgh defense for all 37+ minutes that the Jaguars had the football. The Jacksonville line paved the way for 224 yards rushing, the highest total against Pittsburgh in nearly seven years, when Fred Taylor and the Jaguars gashed them for 234 yards on the ground. Steelers Pro Bowl nose tackle Casey Hampton talked about the Jags rushing attack after the game--

"They just worked the ball right down. They're just physical, man. They've got two really good backs and they ran the ball right down our throats. I'm not making any excuses. We've got to do better."

Steelers linebacker James Farrior was asked if the Jaguars offensive line was that good, or if it were the dominant running backs? Farrior responded--

"We missed some tackles sometimes and other times we weren't gap sound. When you're out of your gap with a guy like Fred Taylor, he's going to kill you."

With all due respect Mr. Farrior, I disagree. Pittsburgh was certainly undisciplined in their gap assignments, but the truth is that they were dominated all day long up front, and they were knocked back repeatedly. In short yardage situations, Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio rolled the dice on fourth down and converted three times in three attempts. That type of decision making told anyone all that they needed to know about what the Jaguars coaching staff thought of the Pittsburgh defensive front.

Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau is known for his various blitz packages that confuse opposing offensive lines and quarterbacks. Sunday afternoon, LeBeau threw everything he had against the Jaguars and the final result was a total of zero sacks. The Jaguars offensive line protected quarterback David Garrard against the Steelers athletic linebackers and defensive ends, and allowed him enough time to cut through the heavy wind and snow to complete more than 50% of his passes, and maintain a solid passer rating, which was something that none of the other quarterbacks playing in the snow could do on Sunday.

Many believed that if the Jaguars were going to have a legitimate shot to win on Sunday against the previously undefeated Steelers in their house, they were going to have to play close to a perfect game. The Jaguars didn't play a perfect game, or even close to it. Jacksonville's special teams was terrible, as evidenced by Adam Podlesh's 29.0 yards per punt average, and their two failed extra point attempts. David Garrard was good, but he made a big mistake with a poor throw that turned momentum completely around. The Jaguars defense couldn't force any Pittsburgh turnovers, and there were plenty of open receivers against the Jacksonville secondary.

The Jaguars didn't play their best game on Sunday, not even close to it. They got away with making a lot of key mistakes by the sheer dominance at the line of scrimmage that was led by the guys that rarely get any credit, the offensive line. None of the Jaguars "big uglies" will likely make it to Hawaii in February to play in the Pro Bowl, mainly due to the fact that the Pro Bowl selections are basically a popularity contest. But if the Jaguars offensive line continues to perform at their current level of play, all of them may be suiting up for a different bowl played in February.


Charlie Bernstein is the Editor-in-Chief of JagNation.com, and a regular syndicated contributor to FoxSports.com, Sirius NFL Radio, MySpace Sports and Sportsillustated.com. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers Association, and is a columnist for the New Smyrna Observer. Feel free to contact him -HERE- with questions or comments.



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