When last season's starting left tackle Khalif Barnes bolted for Oakland in free agency, the Jaguars were left with a major void at the position. The team patched the hole in free agency by acquiring three-time Pro Bowler Tra Thomas from Philadelphia, a move that gave the team flexibility in the draft. The Jaguars went with the best available player in the first round, and that happened to be left tackle Eugene Monroe. All of a sudden, a position that looked desperate seems to now be overloaded.
Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio now has a decision to make on whether to start the veteran in Thomas or the rookie that the team just committed nearly $20 million to. Through three preseason games, it would appear as if neither player has much of an edge.
"We have not made that determination yet," Del Rio said when asked who his starting left tackle will be.
Both players have been solid in preseason action, but Thomas has received the starting nod in each of the first three games and was named a team captain prior to Thursday's tilt against his former team, the Philadelphia Eagles.
Thomas spoke about Monroe during a sideline interview.
"He's a very talented player, and I'm going to help him as much as I can," Thomas said.
Even if Thomas is the opening day starter, it seems as if it will just be a matter of time before the rookie, Eugene Monroe is inserted in the lineup for good.
Monroe feels like he's improving each week.
"I think the biggest thing is that I see things differently by the third game," the Jaguars first-round pick told reporters. "I really am able to watch more what the defense out there and make the right changes. Every game that I play I get more experience and that is really important for me."
Monroe and the Jaguars coaching staff both are happy with the rookie's performance.
"I really am happy with the way I played over the two previous games," Monroe said. "I am really continuing to work hard and get better. I played all the first half and was able to get a lot more action out there. I got even some more time in the third quarter and that will pay off."
Monroe was a little late to sign, as he missed the first week of Jaguars camp, but he feels that it hasn't affected his conditioning much.
"I definitely feel that I have enough wind now to go the whole game out there," Monroe told reporters. "I did a really nice job this summer getting into play shape and it is paying off. I really feel good out there and have come into camp ready to go."
The real question isn't so much whether Eugene Monroe will start the season opener, but more so what is the team going to do with Tra Thomas? Many have rumored a switch to right tackle by Thomas, due in part to the lackluster play by Tony Pashos, but the team hasn't worked him out on the right side as of yet. If they decide to explore that option in next Thursday's preseason finale against Washington, it will likely mark the beginning of what the team hopes to be a long tenure for Eugene Monroe at left tackle.
Thomas or Monroe?
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