Offensive injuries have certainly proven to be a challenge for this year’s Jaguars team. It’s currently down arguably its best receiver in D.J. Chark Jr., as well as two starters on the offensive line in A.J. Cann and Brandon Linder.
However, Cann was struggling significantly and was one of the worst graded offensive linemen in the league through the first few weeks, according to Pro Football Focus. Since his injury, Ben Bartch has stepped up to fill the right guard spot, and his play has been one of the team’s biggest bright spots.
Bartch, a second-year player out of Division III Saint John’s, was Jacksonville’s fourth-round pick in 2020. He appeared in 13 games as a rookie, starting one of them and totaling 220 offensive snaps.
However, with Cann’s injury this year, he has seen his role increase tremendously. He has started the last five games, and over the last three weeks, he hasn’t had lower than a 77.7 grade from PFF. His best performance came against Buffalo last week when he registered a 78.9 grade, and he followed that up with a 78.6 grade in the loss to Indianapolis on Sunday.
Also, Bartch registered his third consecutive grade that's higher than 77.7. Had a 78.6 this week.
I said this in the pod, I noticed the Jags are fairly successful often when running behind him.
— James Johnson (@SportsGrind_Don) November 15, 2021
While his pass blocking has been solid, grading in the low 70s the last three weeks, his real strength has been run blocking. He graded at 78.0 in that regard in the Week 8 loss to Seattle and registered 76.0 run-blocking grades in each of the last two games.
After a slow start to the season, running back James Robinson is now on track for an even better season than he had as a rookie when he totaled 1,070 yards. He currently has 539 rushing yards, and he’s one touchdown shy of tying his mark of seven from last season. His average is also up to 5.4 yards per attempt from 4.5 in 2020.
A lot of that success can be attributed to the play of the offensive line and specifically Bartch’s play creating holes in the interior.
Considering Cann is in a contract year and hasn’t played very well when on the field, the Jaguars are likely to let him walk in free agency after the season. If Bartch is capable of being a long-term answer at guard, that’s one less problem this team has to solve in the coming offseason.
Bartch has a great opportunity to take this job permanently, and closing out the season on a strong note would go a long way toward making his case.