By: James Johnson (@J_1010xl)
If you’ve read my articles and tweets, most of you already know I haven’t been one to shy away from pointing out the flaws of the Jaguars starting offensive line (along with the many other flaws they have). If my analysis on the offensive line wasn’t enough, this article posted on Bigcatcountry.com by Alfie Crow should certainly explain everything. In the link is a chart (credit to Profootballfocus.com) that grades each of the offensive lineman that had a significant amount of play time this past season, and no, it’s not pretty. Brad Meester has likely played his last down in a Jaguars uniform as age has caught up with him, Eben Britton’s play on the field wasn’t good to be modest, Cameron Bradfield was overhyped going into the season, and Guy Whimper, as someone put in the comments section of BCC, was our third best lineman, which says a lot about how bad this line really is. I’ll be the first to say despite the offensive line play, the quarterback play could be better as well (even with the OL problems in consideration), but this is a unit that will drastically need to improve if this team is to be successful.
With that said, offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch appears to be taking the first steps which could help this unit to improve. It was revealed in an article written by Vito Stellino on the official site of the Jacksonville Timesthat Fisch plans on using a zone blocking scheme along with the Jaguars' new offense. This should come as no surprise when looking at Fisch’s roots. While in Denver serving as a wide receivers coach under Mike Shanahan, Fisch learned the scheme from the team’s offensive coordinator, Alex Gibbs, according to Stellino. Shanahan uses the scheme currently in Washington and Gibbs installed the system in Seattle with the Seahawks in his brief time there. Fisch also got to learn the scheme firsthand while he served as the Seahawks quarterbacks coach in 2010. The team now runs the scheme under Tom Cable. Current head coach of the Houston Texans, Gary Kubiak, is also a protégé of the zone blocking system as he also was part of Shanahan’s staff in Denver alongside Gibbs and Fisch. He currently uses the system as the Texans have developed to a great offensive unit over the years. Other successful teams that use the scheme include Green Bay and Kansas City (in terms of rushing). Below is a list of the top five teams in the NFL in terms of rushing during the 2012 regular season--notice how many of the teams I just named rank here.
2012 regular season rushing (YPG)
1.) Washington Redskins 169.3
2.) Minnesota Vikings 164.6
3.) Seattle Seahawks 161.2
4.) San Francisco 49ers 155.7
5.) Kansas City Chiefs 149.7
Three of the top five rushing teams in the league are teams that use zone blocking schemes. Washington was ranked first, Seattle was third, and Kansas City was fifth. The Packers, who are one of the most recognizable offenses in the league, were ranked ninth in passing. Oakland, (yes, the Raiders) another team that uses zone blocking, was ranked eighth in passing yards, though they struggled in overall offense. Of these teams, Washington, Seattle, and Green Bay made the playoffs. Washington and Seattle did so with rookie quarterbacks, which brings me to my next point. I believe one of the pros of switching to a zone blocking scheme is that it would benefit the Jaguars young and potential 2013 starting quarterback, Blaine Gabbert. For those of you who missed the news, it appears as if the team will likely go into the 2013 season with Gabbert as their starting quarterback. Though they could look for another answer to quarterback in the future if Gabbert doesn’t prove himself, it appears now is not the time considering what the draft has to offer and the options that will be on the free agent market. By installing a zone blocking scheme, the team could better protect Gabbert. There is no denying that his first two seasons were horrible, but there is also no denying that the Jaguars offensive line is horrible as well. If Fisch’s scheme is anything like those in Seattle and Washington, the team will be more reliant on the run game which, in return, will set up the pass. As we all know, one of the areas that Gabbert has struggled with is the pass, specifically his accuracy. Under this scheme the Jaguars would put the ball in the hands of its best player in Maurice Jones-Drew (if he is still a Jag).
Now for the cons of the Jags using a zone blocking scheme. I’ve often read that zone blocking can be complex. Alongside that, the team will have to rely on cut blocking, which the league seems to be cracking down on. It seems as if they’ll have to be very detailed with their blocking to ensure they don’t get penalized which can be a problem for teams that use the system. Another thing that I’ve often heard emphasized in a zone blocking scheme is that it requires smaller, more agile offensive lineman. In the past, the Jags have used a power scheme in which they’ve always drafted and acquired “mauler” type lineman, if you will. Now the Jaguars will likely look to add lineman around 300 to 310 pounds that have good movement skills. Lucky for them, this year’s draft is deep with offensive linemen. Lastly, I'm concerned with the lack of uncertainty at running back. Maurice Jones-Drew will be coming off surgery this season as he is set to return to the field around May or June. Rashad Jennings is currently a free agent as well as Jalen Parmele. However, running back is also a strength of this year’s draft and I would love to see the team add a back from the deep and talented class. If you've all seen my latest mock, I have the team taking Mike Gillislee, but there will be many more options within this draft class in the later rounds.
Only time will tell if the switch in schemes will prove to be worth it, but I must say if done correctly, the change could be one well worth it. In recent times, most teams that have made this switch have been successful with the exception of maybe the Raiders. If this season has proven anything, it’s that rolling the dice and making a change is necessary sometimes and could end up being a deciding factor in a team’s fate. If you don’t believe me, just ask both of the Harbough brothers, who were in the Super Bowl this year. Both had to make difficult adjustments down the stretch (with Colin Kaepernick and Cam Cameron) and in the end--look where it got them.
Return to: 1010XL Jaguars Blog Blog