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Five weeks away from training camp, there doesn’t appear to be anything close to a resolution on what the Jaguars’ starting offensive line might look like in Week 1 against the Washington Commanders. Consider that a good thing.
With Doug Pederson’s new coaching staff, this is an opportunity for a clean slate with a position group that, frankly, needs to get out of any comfort zone. This is a perfect time to open up starting jobs, or at least the ones not occupied by $49.5 million right guard Brandon Scherff and $54 million left tackle Cam Robinson.
If the Jaguars want to improve a unit that was average at best in 2021 — it still had too many pass-protection issues that quarterback Trevor Lawrence helped cover up — then it’s better for offensive coordinator Press Taylor and offensive line coach Phil Rauscher to force players to earn jobs.
Let’s see if 2021 second-round pick Walker Little is good enough to take the right tackle spot that Jawaan Taylor has occupied for 49 straight games. That’s the longest streak by any Jaguars O-lineman since center Brad Meester started 80 consecutive games to end his career.
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Walker showed promise in three starts last season, but it’s too small a sample size to just hand him Taylor’s job. Let those two battle it out and if there’s little or no separation, what’s wrong with the starter feeling threatened of getting relegated to backup swing tackle until a clear winner emerges?
The same logic applies to left guard and center. Ben Bartch was a serviceable starter in 11 games last year, but nothing special. Tyler Shatley filled in admirably at center for the since retired Brandon Linder and deserves a starting shot, though it’s probably a matter of time before third-round pick Luke Fortner takes over.
Pederson has said he wants the “five best offensive linemen” on the field, and the only way that can happen is to have a true competition. The Jaguars will be better off in the long run with an O-line that has to fight to get on the field.
Trevor eyes improvement
While Jaguars fans fixate on how much of a jump Lawrence will take in his second year, the 22-year-old quarterback is also hoping to use a relaxing part of the offseason to improve his golf game.
Many NFL players at his position are usually among their team’s best golfers, but Lawrence confesses he’s never broken 90 and that backup C.J. Beathard is significantly better.
Actually, there’s a good reason for Lawrence not being more proficient at golf: he didn’t take up the game until after his freshman season at Clemson.
What could have been?
Playing revisionist history with Jaguars draft picks is low-hanging fruit — like taking future Hall of Fame quarterback Russell Wilson instead of punter Bryan Anger in the 2012 third round — but the first two rounds of the 2014 draft are often overlooked for regret. Imagine how different things would have gone for the Jaguars if they took three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald over quarterback Blake Bortles in the first round.
They also could have had QB Derek Carr over receiver Marqise Lee in the second round, where WR Davante Adams was also available. Had some of that scenario happened, former head coach Gus Bradley and ex-GM Dave Caldwell might still be collecting a Jaguars paycheck.
Entertaining Curry adds to legacy
While the NBA Finals had minimal drama with the Boston Celtics being such a turnover machine, Golden State Warriors star and Finals MVP Steph Curry made it must-see TV by evolving into one of the game’s most entertaining players, right there with Michael Jordan and Lebron James for box-office appeal.
Curry, easily the greatest shooter in NBA history, elevated his place as a basketball force by leading the Warriors to their fourth title in eight years. He did something few NBA legends have ever done, taking a franchise back to the mountaintop after injury-riddled Golden State went 15-50 just two years ago.
The 6-foot-3 guard, once considered too small to be a high-impact NBA player, is pushing boundaries nobody thought possible.
At 34, Curry might have enough left in the tank to collect as many or more championship rings than Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar when his career is done. Winning it all a fourth time, plus the way he’s changed the game with his phenomenal shooting touch, Curry has at least put himself in the discussion as an all-time, top-10 player.
So much for Curry not being able to win a second title without Kevin Durant around to do the heavy lifting. By dismantling the NBA’s best defensive team in the Celtics, becoming only the third guard to average over 30 points a game in the Finals, there’s no denying Curry an exalted place in NBA history.
Is this Rory’s slump-buster?
There’s not much doubt Rory McIlroy appears close to regaining the top form he had in 2019 when he won four tournaments, including The Players Championship.
His victory last week at the Canadian Open and relatively stress-free 67 Thursday in the first round of the U.S. Open were indicators the 33-year-old from Northern Ireland might be raising major trophies again.
Still, it’s been nearly eight years since his last major victory at the 2014 PGA Championship. Among players with at least four major wins, the only ones who have had longer dry spells without a major triumph are Tiger Woods (10 years, 9 months), Lee Trevino (10 years, 8 days), Ernie Els (10 years, 1 day), John Henry Taylor (9 years, 4 days), Willie Park Sr. (8 years, 11 months, 28 days) and Harry Vardon (8 years, 19 days). McIlroy wants no part of reaching those numbers.
Tough following in Dad’s footsteps
When Florida State cut loose baseball coach Mike Martin Jr. after just three seasons with a lukewarm 77-54 record, it was a testament to how difficult it became to live up to the program standard long established by his father, Mike Martin Sr., the winningest coach in NCAA history with 2,029 victories.
Just as FSU ran out of patience after less than two years with football coach Willie Taggart — he followed national championship coaches Bobby Bowden and Jimbo Fisher before getting fired midway through his second season in 2019 — the Seminoles decided a quick hook was necessary with Martin Jr.
The days of FSU being patient and waiting for success, as it did in the first six years of the Leonard Hamilton basketball era, are over. What happened with Martin and Taggart sends a message to Mike Norvell that he better get the football program ascending sooner rather than later.
As for Martin’s successor, it’s hard to imagine former FSU shortstop and Notre Dame head coach Link Jarrett, whose team knocked off No. 1-ranked Tennessee to reach its first College World Series since 2002, won’t be a top target. He’s 84-30 in three seasons with the Irish.
Cassidy didn’t stay unemployed long
Maybe the Boston Bruins needed a new voice, but it was still a bit surprising to see them send head coach and former Jacksonville Lizard Kings coach Bruce Cassidy (1996-98) to the unemployment line. It’s highly questionable whether firing Cassidy will prove to be an upgrade.
Good luck finding a coach who went to the Stanley Cup playoffs every year for six seasons and won 67 percent of his games. The Las Vegas Knights obviously valued Cassidy’s work, hiring him just eight days after the Bruins dismissed him.
Summer break time
With the Jaguars off on summer vacation until training camp opens on July 24, here’s my five-word recommendation for the players to make that idle time more enjoyable: Stay off the police blotter.
Speaking of vacation, I’ll be taking another one next week and this column will resume on June 29.
Gfrenette@jacksonville.com: (904) 359-4540
Gene Frenette Sports columnist at Florida Times-Union, follow him on Twitter @genefrenette
This article originally appeared on Florida Times-Union: Sports menu: Jaguars' O-line, Trevor Lawrence seeks upgrade, Steph Curry magic