NFL Free Agency: Was Jacksonville Jaguars' Signing of Jason Spitz a Soft Move?
"He blocks his guy," Smith explained. "It may not always look good, but he usually gets a good result. A lot of it has to do with him being an aware, intelligent guy."
Awareness and intelligence have too often been in short supply along Jacksonville's offensive line over the past few seasons. Whether because of overmatched starters like former left tackle Khalif Barnes or a lack of experienced depth to patch untimely injuries to veterans such as Vince Manuwai or Brad Meester, the Jaguars have struggled to field an effective front five since their playoff run in 2007.
The term "end result guy" could apply to Meester at his best, too. At 6'3" and around 300 less-than-chiseled pounds, Spitz and Jacksonville's veteran center have similar builds, and Meester's game in his 11 NFL seasons has never been about blowing through defenders so much as walling them off from the play.
But most speculation around the three-year, $4.5 million deal that brought Spitz to Jacksonville after five years with the Green Bay Packers has been that he could fill the Jaguars' vacancy at left guard—a power spot for Jacksonville in recent years where an "end result guy" would signal a huge change in philosophy.
Between Manuwai, a 6'2", 330-pound mauler whose recent release was not without some sympathy from head coach Jack Del Rio, mammoth right guard Uche Nwaneri (6'3", 320 pounds) and 6'5" former starter Maurice Williams, the Jaguars' best offensive efforts have been gritty ground-and-pound displays powered by the physical dominance of their guards.
It's worth mentioning that Jacksonville could have reloaded in that style this offseason. Harvey Dahl, a 6'5", 300-pound guard widely considered one of the NFL's meanest players and most effective run blockers, was also available in free agency.
The caveat with downhill road-graders like Dahl and Manuwai is that they'll inevitably swing and miss a few times in pass protection, making them a liability when the quarterback drops back into the pocket.
Flying in the face of rule changes aimed at shaping modern football into a marketable, high-scoring, pass-first spectacle, Jacksonville's calling card in eight years under Del Rio has been a hard-nosed rushing attack designed to put opponents on their heels and keep running them over. Since that 2007 season, it's earned them a three-year playoff drought and a 20-28 record.
Now, after trading up in the first round of this year's draft to nab their pocket passer of the future in Blaine Gabbert, the Jaguars seem ready to do things the league's way.
And while Spitz might not pull around Meester to lay a bone-crushing lead block on a safety or draw comparisons to Conrad Dobler, his awareness and intelligence will go a long way to plugging the paths that pass rushers used to batter Jacksonville's quarterbacks for 82 sacks over the past two seasons.
Judged against the Jaguars' smashmouth past, his signing could be called a "soft" move.
In context, it looks like another small step toward success.
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