There was plenty of reason to worry about this area going into the game.
First off, Green Bay unceremoniously released their long-time stalwart at guard in Josh Sitton during the final round of cuts (apparently after trying to trade him; the fact that nobody would apparently give up anything worthwhile is still perplexing me).
We’re talking about undoubted the best player on this offensive line; by Pro Football Focus’s grades, he ended all six of the past seasons with at least an 84.4 overall rating — including at least a 87.2 grade in the past three.
With this line struggling with health and consistency last season (with Sitton being the only one of the original starters to not miss time, even filling in at LT in the season finale), it would appear he’d be the last choice to be given the boot.
In his place is Lane Taylor, who’s best-rated season so far was last year, where he started twice due to injuries and graded out at … 68.5.
Then you look on the other side and see the talents Jacksonville has added in recent years. Dante Fowler Jr. was an intriguing potential star pass rusher coming into last season before he lost the year immediately to a torn ACL — and still could be.
Malik Jackson came in on a massive contract off perhaps the best performance of anyone on Denver’s stifling defense in the Super Bowl. Sen’derrick Marks is a nice option in his own right on the line too.
The pieces are in place to at least on paper look pretty threatening, and with a line that has to replace its best player on the fly this looked like it could be a potential problem spot.
No such luck for Jacksonville.
While it wasn’t a flawless performance by any means (at least once they let pressure right up the middle, and the run blocking needs work), the protection was mostly on point by these guys.
T.J. Lang led the way (85.7 pass block grade; zero pressures in 41 pass blocking snaps), with Bryan Bulaga (84.6) David Bakhtiari (84.3) and J.C. Tretter (80.0) all reaching at least an 80.0 in PFF’s pass blocking grading.
The weakest spot was their newest member in Taylor (72.7), but outside of the one play I mentioned before he was for the most part unnoticed — something that has a tendency to bode well for offensive linemen.
As the year continues and these guys gel more as a unit, it’s easy to see these guys allowing their skill position counterparts to have the time they need to make their desired impact on a more consistent basis.
Next: Taking care of the run