Line Shift for the Jaguars

The Jaguars' offensive line, thought to be one of the club's stronger positions entering the 2008 season, took a serious hit last week when it was revealed that center Brad Meester would be sidelined for eight to 10 weeks following surgery to repair a torn right biceps.

It marks the third time in the last four seasons that Meester will likely miss at least four games in the regular season. In 2005, he missed the final four games due to a torn left biceps tendon that ended a streak of 92 consecutive starts. Last year, the nine-year veteran was sidelined the opening four weeks of the season due to a broken bone in his ankle suffered in training camp.

The latest mishap, which occurred the second day of training camp, will likely shelve Meester the month of September and cost him four games, three of which are against AFC division members Indianapolis, Tennessee and Houston. As he did a year ago, eighth-year veteran Dennis Norman is expected to take Meester's spot in the lineup.

"The doctors felt really good about the procedure," Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio said. "We're talking about giving a shot at getting him back in Week 4 or 5."

During the offseason, Jaguars coaches decided to flip-flop starting guards Vince Manuwai and Maurice Williams. The latter had joined the lineup last season when Chris Naeole went down with a season-ending injury quadriceps injury. Williams started the final eight games at right guard and was expected to remain there, especially after the club released Naeole during the offseason.

With more of the team's running plays designed to go off the right side, the club wanted to move the stronger-blocking left guard, Manuwai, to play alongside right tackle Tony Pashos. That move has been temporarily halted, however, with Meester's injury, though Del Rio hasn't offered an explanation other than to say the club wanted to be more versatile with its players able to play more than one position.

Meanwhile, a battle continues to loom at the left tackle spot between starter Khalif Barnes and second-year veteran Richard Collier. Barnes is the more experienced of the two and has quicker feet, but at 345 pounds, Collier is more physical in protecting David Garrard's blind side.

Williams is also getting a stern test from a second-year player, Uche Nwaneri. Once again, the veteran Williams has the experience factor of 100 NFL games, including 95 starts, working in his favor, while Nwaneri has the size advantage, outweighing Williams by nearly 30 pounds despite being two inches shorter. Nwaneri will also now serve as the team's backup center.

The significance of losing Meester in the line for any period of time can't be overstated. He's the most experienced member of the group, dating back to 2000 when he started all 16 games at left guard in his rookie season, just the third first-year player who's done that in Jacksonville. When he made the transition to the center spot in 2003, returning to the position he played in college, Meester became a fixture, starting every game for the next three seasons until the first biceps injury sent him to the sideline.

Norman proved to be an adequate though not outstanding backup a year ago and should do the same during September while Meester rehabs. But should Collier beat out Barnes at the tackle spot and if Nwaneri moves ahead of Williams at the guard position, the Jaguars could be looking at three new faces in the line, an area where most NFL teams generally won't have more than one change from the previous year.


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