The Jacksonville Jaguars offensive line has been in flux for the entirety of the Gus Bradley-Dave Caldwell era. That's pretty understandable, considering the 172 sacks allowed over the last three seasons.
Those sacks aren't all on the offensive line. Some are on running backs failing to pickup the blitz or quarterbacks taking too much time to get rid of the ball or scrambling into pressure. Still, the majority of the onus is on the Jaguars' offensive front.
The Jaguars are planning to shake things up yet again this season, potentially moving around blockers like former starting right guard Brandon Linder. The team brought in Mackenzy Bernadeau and Kelvin Beachum in free agency to compete at spots on the line, but Linder's positioning essentially holds the key to the entire unit.
It's hard to argue against Linder being the team's top offensive lineman. He was terrific as a rookie and showed improvement in training camp last summer. While he was held to just two and a half games last season, it was clear that his absence was felt throughout the remainder of the season.
On Saturday, Bradley admitted that the Jaguars have been using Linder at center during the offseason program. The move to center had been speculated about and hinted at since January, but the confirmation added clarity to the team's plans at the position and for the entire line.
With Linder moving to the middle, second-year guard A.J. Cann can continue his work at right guard with Bernadeau competing for the left guard spot with the likes of Tyler Shatley, Chris Reed and Josh Wells. The transition from guard to center isn't always easy but the Jaguars view the spot as one of the most important on offense, so it'd make sense to put their best foot (or offensive lineman) forward at the position.
The Jaguars signed Stefen Wisniewski to a one-year deal last season. After a few years of being considered a solid starting center with the Oakland Raiders, a shoulder injury seemingly took away most of his effectiveness. He struggled as a run blocker and with snapping and never seemed to find a rhythm after missing part of the offseason while recovering from shoulder surgery.
The deficiencies at the position lost the Jaguars field positioning and you could argue a pair of games last season. That's why it makes sense to roll with Linder at center.
While he's not the most experienced snapper, you know what Linder brings to the table as a blocker. Linder suffered at torn labrum in Week 2, so he's had plenty of time to recover and it's likely he's been aware of and been preparing for the center switch for months.
Quarterback Blake Bortles has a relationship with Linder and that shouldn't be overlooked. Timing and cohesion are important when it comes to the quarterback-center relationship. Linder's experience with Bortles may outweigh his experience at the position, given his understanding of the offense and what his quarterback and offensive coordinator Greg Olson demand from their center.
A move to center for Linder also prevents even more change. This allows Cann to stay at right guard where he played his entire rookie season with mixed results. Cann can now continue to develop at the position and not force a move to left guard. Obviously, there would be two new starters regardless of Linder's status, but allowing Cann to continue to work alongside right tackle Jeremy Parnell, who is the more proficient blocker of the two current starting tackles, makes a lot of sense.
Linder at center and Cann at right guard means the veteran, Bernadeau, or even the loser of the left tackle battle can helped solidify the starting left guard spot. Given the question marks at left tackle (Luke Joeckel's play and Beachum's recovery from a serious knee injury), having an experienced left guard to hedge bets on the blindside seems ideal.
If the Jaguars believe Linder can improve the center position dramatically, a move inside is understandable, if not ideal. A move back to guard, for Linder, would lead to two or three backup players competing for a position that the Jaguars deem essential to the team's success.
Prioritizing important positions with premium talent should be a no-brainer, don't you think?
In this case, it seems the Jaguars believe it is paramount.
Follow Mike Kaye on Twitter at @Mike_E_Kaye.