Jawaan Taylor

Jaguars Featuring Position Battles At RT, C

Although the Jaguars spent wildly in free agency, it is possible four of their primary five starters from last year’s offensive line reprise their roles in 2022. But competitions are revealing themselves ahead of training camp.

Tyler Shatley, the team’s longest-tenured player, will attempt to hold off third-round pick Luke Fortner at center, while John Reid of the Florida Times-Union notes three-year right tackle starter Jawaan Taylor is not a lock to keep his job. Walker Little, a 2021 second-round pick, looks to have a good chance to unseat the ex-Florida Gator.

Third-year blocker Ben Bartch and big-ticket free agency pickup Brandon Scherff are set to be Jacksonville’s first-string guards, with the recently extended Cam Robinson in place at left tackle. Taylor has played opposite Robinson throughout his career, being one of the NFL’s most durable players in that span. The 24-year-old right tackle has not missed a game, and the Jags have turned to the 2019 35th overall pick as a starter in every one of those contests.

Pro Football Focus viewed Taylor as a slightly better blocker in 2021 than he was in 2020, but it still graded the 6-foot-5 lineman as the Jags’ worst regular up front. Taylor’s 12 penalties led all O-linemen last season. Little played 225 offensive snaps as a rookie, working as the swingman behind Robinson and Taylor, but Reid views the Stanford product as the likely favorite to be Jacksonville’s 2022 right tackle. This would relegate Taylor to a swing role, representing bad timing for him on that front. As a 2023 free agent-to-be, Taylor has an opportunity to audition for other teams this season.

Little missed nearly two full seasons, suffering an ACL tear early in 2019 and opting out of the COVID-19-altered 2020 Pac-12 slate. PFF graded he and Robinson as middling blockers, though the latter obviously played far more snaps.

Shatley, 31, filled in for the injured (and now-retired Brandon Linder) frequently during the past two seasons, starting 18 games. The Jags made Fortner their only O-line pick this year. The Kentucky product made 36 straight starts, using his additional eligibility year to vault onto the Day 2 radar. A former UDFA, Shatley would become the Jags’ interior swingman again if beaten out for the Week 1 snapping gig.

Jaguars Looking At OL Ekwonu With Top Pick

We wrote a bit in January about NC State’s Ikem Ekwonu potentially being the best offensive lineman in the draft. Well, he certainly thinks so, as he told reporters at the NFL Scouting Combine Thursday that he’d “definitely deserve” to be drafted No. 1 overall, according to Darryl Slater of NJ.com

He’s not totally off base in his thinking. ESPN’s Mel Kiper mocked Ekwonu to Jacksonville in his latest mock draft just before the Combine. According to Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated, many at the Combine, including ESPN’s Todd McShay, expected Ekwonu to blow up in Indianapolis.

There’s already been a bit of talk connecting Ekwonu to the Jaguars. General manager Trent Baalke has a tendency to prefer explosive linemen and Ekwonu demonstrated his explosiveness in field drills including an impressive sub-5.00 second 40-yard dash. Baalke and new head coach Doug Pederson will be looking to put together a group at offensive line that can protect former No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence and create holes for running backs James Robinson and Travis Etienne.

Jawaan Taylor is expected to compete with Walker Little for the right tackle job. Captain Brandon Linder should return to form at center after MCL and ankle injuries forced him to miss a large part of the 2021 NFL season. Andrew Norwell is expected to hit the free agent market and Cam Robinson could join him if the team decides not to utilize their franchise tag on Robinson for the second straight year. Veteran sixth-man Tyler Shatley was recently re-signed and Ben Bartch could help out at guard. So the versatility of Ekwonu could line him up as the perfect choice for Jacksonville’s current situation, where lots of question marks surround the depth chart. Even so, the Jaguars could also fall in love with Evan Neal, who is largely seen as the top pure tackle in the draft.

Still, the redshirt sophomore out of Raleigh is a young, talented prospect with the ability to dominate at tackle or guard. Even if he slips past Jacksonville at No. 1 overall, don’t expect him to be available after both New York teams get a chance to draft. Ekwonu will aim to be only the third Wolfpack offensive lineman in history to be picked in the first round, the highest-drafted Wolfpack prospect since Bradley Chubb in 2018, and, above that, the first top overall pick out of NC State since Mario Williams in 2006.

Will Jags’ Tag Cam Robinson Again?

Almost five years ago, the Jaguars drafted Alabama offensive tackle Cam Robinson. Seen by many as a potential first rounder, Robinson fell to the Jaguars’ second-round pick with some red flags from a previous arrest and some injury issues that held him out of the Combine and parts of his Pro Day. 

Robinson immediately earned the starting left tackle position as a rookie and started 15 games in 2017. After suffering a torn ACL in Week 2 of the 2018 NFL season, Robinson missed the rest of his sophomore year in the league.

Once his rookie contract expired at the end of the 2020 season, it was rumored the Jaguars were going to allow Robinson to test the free agent market. Robinson was certainly not considered a top 5 offensive tackle, so tagging him and paying him the average salary of the top 5 players at his position seemed like a fairly large stretch. But with a lack of options to replace the young tackle and the price tag of what few options were available, the Jaguars bit the bullet and paid Robinson.

Now, a year later, Jacksonville is faced with a similar issue: Do they tag Robinson for a second straight year or trust the options available to them this year?

Tagging Robinson is a simple option. On the upside, it secures three sure starters for the 2022 season on the offensive line, they know exactly what it will cost them, and, while he wasn’t quite a top 5 offensive tackle, Robinson played the best football of his career this past season. The downside is that, when you tag a player two years in a row, you don’t pay the average of the top 5 players of the position in Year 2, you pay 120% of the previous year’s salary. With Robinson’s salary last year paying him $13.75MM, a 20% raise would net him $16.5MM in 2022.

If the Jaguars decide to let Robinson walk, they’re not bereft of options. Internally, they did draft Walker Little in the second round last year and saw him start three games in limited time this season. If they think Little can play up to or near the level of play of Robinson, he would be a much cheaper option. The Jaguars also hold the number one pick of the 2022 NFL Draft. Many mock drafts have seen fellow Alabama-alum Evan Neal mocked as the top draft pick, but few see Neal as a true homerun pick at the top of the draft.

There’s lots of work to be done on the Jaguars’ offensive line, and new offensive line coach Phil Rauscher will likely have a say in the game plan. Jawaan Taylor has started every game since being drafted in 2019 and is expected to start at right tackle. Veteran and captain Brandon Linder should return to form after MCL and ankle injuries forced him to miss a large part of the 2021 season. Tagging Robinson would secure another tackle position and leave the guards as the only questions. With Andrew Norwell expected to hit the free agent market, Ben Bartch could fill one of the open guard positions, but the other would be open to either an unproven back up or a rookie.

Regardless of where it comes from, Robinson’s next paycheck is expected to be a large one. If the Jaguars decide not to tag or extend him, a team hungry for offensive line help is sure to take a flier and pay out for the 26-year-old tackle.

AFC Notes: Stidham, Jags, Browns, Bolts

Although Tom Brady continuing to play at a high level into his early 40s has allowed the Patriots to table their need to identify a long-term successor for many years, their recent extension/2019 pay raise brings this issue back to the forefront. The Pats, however, are pleased with their latest quarterback draft pick. Fourth-round rookie Jarrett Stidham has “blown away expectations” this offseason, Jeff Howe of The Athletic notes (subscription required), adding that he is ahead of where Jimmy Garoppolo was at this point during his first NFL summer. Stidham has taken first-team reps in camp and moved the Patriots to move Danny Etling to wide receiver. He finished 14-for-24 for 179 yards and a touchdown in New England’s preseason opener Thursday. While the Auburn alum does not profile as a classic Brady successor type, the Patriots certainly appear encouraged by their developmental prospect.

As we wind down preseason Week 1, here is the latest from the AFC:

  • A.J. Cann has served as the Jaguars‘ starting right guard since his rookie season in 2015. He is not a lock to reprise his role in 2019. Cann is battling converted tackle Will Richardson for the spot, with Doug Marrone indicating (via Hays Carlyon of 1010 XL, on Twitter) Brandon Thomas is also in the mix here. A 2018 fourth-rounder, Richardson looks like the favorite to win this job thus far, Carlyon adds (via Twitter). Richardson has yet to play an NFL down; he hit IR in October of his rookie year. Thomas has hung around for six NFL summers, with the 2014 third-round 49ers pick having never played in a regular-season game. He’s bounced on and off the Jaguars’ roster and practice squad since 2017. Cann has three years remaining on a contract he signed in 2018.
  • With Cam Robinson potentially set to have a delayed start to the season, Marrone said the Jaguars are considering free agent additions Cedric Ogbuehi and Leonard Wester at left tackle. Longtime Jags backup Josh Wells is vying for that temp job as well. Second-round rookie Jawaan Taylor is set to start at right tackle.
  • Had Antonio Callaway not received a four-game suspension, the second-year Browns wideout might not have been able to go in Week 1 anyway. Callaway suffered a high ankle sprain in Cleveland’s preseason opener, per Freddie Kitchens (via ohio.com’s Nate Ulrich, on Twitter). The Browns will now be without two of their 2018 pass catchers, with Duke Johnson having been traded and Callaway out until at least October. Fortunately, they acquired Odell Beckham Jr. this offseason.
  • Chargers tight end Andrew Vollert suffered ACL damage in the team’s preseason opener, and Anthony Lynn said (via ESPN.com’s Eric Williams, on Twitter) the second-year UDFA will miss the season. The Bolts signed Vollert in May.

Jaguars Sign Jawaan Taylor, Four Other Draft Picks

The Jaguars have signed second-round offensive tackle Jawaan Taylor, according to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. Meanwhile, Jacksonville has also announced the following rookie signings:

Taylor was a projected first-round pick, and many observers believed he’d be a fit for the Jaguars at No. 7 overall. However, the Florida product fell because of injury concerns, although Taylor has since blasted that information as “false reports.” Jacksonville traded up to acquire Taylor on Day 2, and he’ll immediately step in as Jermey Parnell‘s replacement at right tackle.

While Minshew is an interesting developmental option after succeeding in Mike Leach‘s Washington State offense, Oliver is the non-Taylor prospect with the best chance to contribute in 2019. A solid athlete, Oliver posted 709 receiving yards during his final season at San Jose State, and only needs to beat out veteran Geoff Swaim for playing time.

Jacksonville now has only two rookies left to sign: first-round edge rusher Josh Allen and third-round linebacker Quincy Williams.

Draft Notes: Bills, Jaguars, Bengals

The Bills selected Oklahoma offensive tackle Cody Ford in the second round, but it sounds like the team was willing to take him even earlier. ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweets that Buffalo tried to trade back into the first round in order to draft Ford. Ultimately, the price proved to be “too rich.”

As we mentioned, the Bills still managed to land Ford at No. 38. The leaves the Bills with 14 offensive lineman on their current roster, so the team will surely have some intriguing competitions come training camp. The team has added five free agent linemen this offseason in Mitch MorseSpencer LongTy NsekheJon Feliciano, and LaAdrian Waddle.

Let’s check out some more notes from around the NFL…

  • Offensive tackle Jawaan Taylor was expected to be a top-10 pick, but he ended up falling to the Jaguars at No. 35. NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport tweets that Taylor fell because of medical concerns, as teams were wary of the Florida product’s meniscus issue. Fortunately, Rapoport says the issue isn’t “structural.”
  • The Jaguars shocked most pundits when they selected Murray State linebacker Quincy Williams in the third round last night. As Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com points out, Williams (who is the brother of third-overall pick Quinnen Williams) wasn’t among the 400 players scouted by NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah, nor was he on the list of 730 prospects compiled by The Athletics’ Arif Hasan. The linebacker wasn’t invited to the Combine and Murray State didn’t have a Pro Day, leading Williams to assume he was going to go undrafted. “For me coming from a small school and didn’t get a combine invite, yeah, I kind of did,” Williams said. “Then I had to go to Pro Day somewhere else, so most people thought I was a safety or a smaller linebacker, so yeah it was a thought in my mind. But then I know my abilities, and I believe in myself.”
  • The Bengals used the 11th-overall pick on Alabama offensive tackle Jonah Williams, leading some to wonder what would happen with Cordy Glenn. As Paul Dehner Jr. of The Cincinnati Enquirer points out (on Twitter), the veteran has started every snap of his career at left tackle, but he may be forced to move to right tackle or left guard. Furthermore, he gave up the most pressures and earned the worst Pro Football Focus grade of his career in 2018. Dehner ultimately wonders if a position change could rejuvenate the 29-year-old’s career.

Raiders Trade No. 35 Pick To Jaguars

The Jaguars made the first trade of Friday night, moving up into the No. 35 overall slot. The Raiders, as GM Mike Mayock said they were considering, traded out of the slot.

Oakland will receive the No. 38 overall pick and No. 109 (a fourth-rounder). Jacksonville selected tackle Jawaan Taylor. The Jags will acquire fifth- and seventh-round picks (Nos. 140 and 235) in this deal.

Taylor was mocked by some to the Jaguars in the first round, so while the Florida blocker endured a bit of a tumble, the team adding a first-round-caliber lineman — in the view of some — in Round 2 represents solid value.

The Jags cut right tackle Jermey Parnell this offseason; left tackle Cam Robinson is coming off a season-ending ACL tear. While Jacksonville added Cedric Ogbuehi and Leonard Wester, Taylor should be considered a strong candidate to be an early-season starter.

Ravens Notes: Second Round, Brown, Burns

The Ravens will have a pair of third-rounders this evening, but the team currently doesn’t own a second-round pick. It sounds like it’s going to stay that way, as general manager Eric DeCosta said it’s unlikely the team moves up.

“We look at today as an awesome opportunity for this team to get better,” DeCosta said (via the team’s Twitter). “We’ve got two picks at this time, you never know if we’re going to have more than two picks. We’ve got a bunch of picks tomorrow afternoon.

“There’s a possibility that we can trade up into the second round. Probably unlikely that we would do that based on what we’d have to give up to do it.”

The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec tweets that he wouldn’t be surprised if the Ravens end up making a trade to move up in the third round, where they’re currently armed with picks No. 85 and No. 102. The front office has already pulled off one deal during the draft, as the Ravens acquired No. 25, No. 127, and No. 197 from the Eagles in exchange for No. 22.

Let’s check out some more notes out of Baltimore…

  • Even though the team doesn’t have a second, that doesn’t seem to be concerning DeCosta. The general manager told ESPN’s Jamison Hensley that he’s excited about the depth in the third and fourth rounds (Twitter link). “I think this is a really, really good draft in the third and fourth round,” GM Eric DeCosta said. “We see great opportunity for us over the next couple of days.” Baltimore has three fourth-rounders at their disposal.
  • Zrebiec writes that the Ravens would have loved to add a pass rusher last night. However, once Brian Burns was taken by the Panthers at No. 16, the front office felt like none of the remaining outside linebackers had first-round grades. That led them to wideout Marquise Brown, although DeCosta took a risk of missing out on his target by moving down a few slots. “We were nervous to be honest. I was a little bit nervous that Philly might take (Brown), but it’s a calculated risk,” DeCosta said. “We had some other players that were there that we liked. You know we like to make trades. It made sense to gamble, to roll the dice a little bit, so we did.”
  • The Ravens final decision ultimately came down to Brown or Florida right tackle Jawaan Taylor, according to Zrebiec. If the team had opted for the offensive lineman, they would have moved him to offensive guard. Taylor wasn’t taken during the first-round of the draft.
  • As Zrebiec writes, the Ravens front office doesn’t have a great track record when it comes to first-round receivers, as Travis Taylor (2000), Mark Clayton (2005) and Breshad Perriman (2015) all disappointed. Predictably, DeCosta said the team’s history didn’t deter him from selecting a wideout with his first draft pick as general manager. “In my mind, this is one of the more electric players in college football this year, so we spent a lot of time looking at him and watching him,” DeCosta said.

NFL Draft Rumors: Taylor, Ford, Sweat

Florida offensive tackle Jawaan Taylor met with the Bengals on Tuesday, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Taylor, who stands 6’5″ and 328 pounds, certainly has the size requirements favored by new Cincinnati offensive line coach Jim Turner, but it’s unclear if the ex-Gator will be available when the Bengals make their first-round selection at No. 11. Along with Jonah Williams (Alabama), Andre Dillard (Washington State), and Cody Ford (Oklahoma), Taylor is considered one of the best tackle prospects available in the 2019 draft. If selected by the Bengals, Taylor could immediately take over at right tackle, displacing the recently re-signed Bobby Hart, and would be a long-term option to replace Cordy Glenn on the blindside.

Here’s more on the 2019 NFL draft:

  • Speaking of Ford, the Oklahoma offensive lineman has been extremely busy during the pre-draft season. Per Aaron Wilson the Houston Chronicle, Ford has met with and/or worked out for the Patriots, Eagles, Buccaneers, Vikings, Texans, Cardinals, and Falcons. That’s in addition to his previously-reported stops with the Bengals and Panthers. Ford was a first-team All-Big 12 selection in 2018 and helped Oklahoma win the Joe Moore Award, given to the country’s best offensive line. A left guard in both 2016 and 2017, Ford shifted to right tackle for the 2018 campaign.
  • The Texans are meeting with Mississippi State edge rusher Montez Sweat on Wednesday, reports Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). Sweat is considered of the best defensive ends in the draft (especially after blowing up the combine), so Houston would likely need to trade up from No. 23 overall in order to land him. After starting his collegiate career at Michigan State, Sweat spent two years with the Bulldogs, racking up 22.5 sacks and 30 tackles for loss during that time.
  • Washington cornerback Byron Murphy has met with the Panthers, Chiefs, and Cardinals in addition to his visit with the Steelers, tweets Wilson. In 2018, Murphy earned a spot on the first-team All-Pac-12 list after putting up 37 tackles, four interceptions, and 13 interceptions. Regarded as a first-round pick by most observers, Murphy is the No. 6 overall player on Pro Football Focus’ draft board after allowing only a 47.7% completion percentage against and forcing 17 incompletions.
  • The Rams hosted Mississippi State safety Johnathan Abram on Tuesday, per Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (Twitter link). Abram, who has also met with the Cowboys and Cardinals, is part of a closely-clustered safety class that could start coming off the board at the end of the first round. Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com, notably, ranks Abram as the No. 1 safety prospect of 2019. Arbam posted two interceptions, three sacks, and nine tackles for loss last year.

Draft Notes: Packers, Dillard, White, Fins

Midway through a rather notable offseason, given the recent behind-the-curtain look at their previous power structure, the Packers are investigating some high-end quarterback prospects. They are obviously set at sports’ marquee position, but with Aaron Rodgers set to turn 36 by season’s end, Green Bay is at a similar point compared to when it last made a major quarterback investment. The Packers will host Drew Lock on a visit Tuesday, Terez Paylor of Yahoo.com reports (on Twitter). They also tried to set up a summit with Daniel Jones, but the parties’ schedules did not line up, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com adds (via Twitter). The Packers took Rodgers when Brett Favre was 36 and sat him for three years. While Green Bay pulling the trigger on a passer would be rather surprising, especially given Rodgers’ contract status, the team does have two first-round picks this year.

Here is the latest from the draft world, staying on the subject of quarterbacks:

  • Lock will also meet with the Chargers, per Charles Robinson of Yahoo.com (on Twitter). Teams have ramped up their signal-caller-related preparation, in the event Kyler Murray does not go No. 1, according to Robinson, who notes some teams believe this year’s passers could slide a bit should Murray not be the Cardinals’ choice atop the draft. Some modest steam picked up on this notion earlier Monday.
  • The Dolphins, who already met with Jones, will head to the Duke campus to work out the former Blue Devil starter, Rapoport reports (on Twitter). Teams only have a few more days to host prospects on “30” visits but can still work them out after that deadline passes. Miami will also host Michigan linebacker Devin Bush and Florida tackle Jawaan Taylor, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets.
  • Devin White‘s stock has risen during the pre-draft process, to the point he may be the rare off-ball linebacker to be picked in the top five. One of the teams holding such a selection, the Raiders, brought in White for a visit, Rapoport tweets. The Buccaneers, who hold pick No. 5, have been closely connected to the LSU ‘backer. The Raiders have the No. 4 overall pick. Oakland, which also holds the Nos. 24 and 27 selections, will meet with tight end Noah Fant, on Monday as well, Rapoport tweets. The Raiders lost their starting tight end of the past two seasons, Jared Cook, in free agency.
  • For weeks, the Jets have been viewed as a team that would love to trade down. They are meeting with a prospect Tuesday that would support the fact this is a consideration. Ed Oliver will visit the Jets, per Schefter (on Twitter). While the defensive tackle is a surefire first-round talent, he has not been mocked as a player who would be a consideration at No. 3 overall.
  • The Titans are visiting with defensive tackle Jerry Tillery, per Rapoport (on Twitter). This is the Notre Dame-developed defender’s second known visit, the first having come with the Saints recently. Tillery remains in rehab after surgery to repair a torn shoulder labrum.
  • Not much has surfaced about which teams are researching an Andre Dillard pick. That has changed. The Washington State tackle prospect is visiting the Falcons on Monday and will meet with the Chargers later this week, Schefter tweets. Additionally, Schefter adds the first-round offensive line hopeful has already visited or worked out for a host of teams — the Giants, Jets, Dolphins, Ravens, Titans, Panthers, Vikings, Jaguars, Bills, Texans, Bengals, Packers, Redskins.