Brandon Linder Retires: Jaguars’ Doug Pederson explains importance of center spot to his offense

Jacksonville Jaguars center Brandon Linder retired Monday, and head coach Doug Pederson will look for a suitable replacement.

PALM BEACH, Fla. — A few minutes after Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Doug Pederson spoke with reporters on Monday at the NFL owners’ meeting in South Florida, the team’s longtime center, Brandon Linder, called it quits on social media.

Linder, 30, decided to retire as he entered the final year of his contract. His departure comes just as Pederson, a Super Bowl-winning head coach, starts his reign in Duval County.

 

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Brandon Linder retires

Linder, a 2014 third-round pick, spent his entire eight-year career with the Jaguars. A former starting offensive tackle and guard, Linder made the transition to center in 2016.

Despite being a reliable blocker on the field, Linder had a long history of injuries, and he only played 84 total games during his career. He appeared in fewer than 10 games during four of his eight seasons.

Linder’s decision to retire leaves longtime backup Tyler Shatley in the driver’s seat to start. Shatley, who re-signed with the team on a two-year deal earlier this month, has been the regular fill-in for Linder since they both arrived in 2014. Shatley has appeared in 111 games (33 starts) during his eight-year career.

Why center is so important to Doug Pederson

During Pederson’s time in Philly, he leaned heavily on All-Pro center Jason Kelce to make the protection calls on offense. Kelce, a perennial Pro Bowler, was also the driving force behind the Eagles’ screen game, as he has a unique ability at the position to get out in front and block down the field.

While Linder is athletic, his 6-foot-6, 315-pound frame is drastically different from Kelce’s 6-foot-3 and 295-pound build. Shatley actually has a comparable build to Kelce, though the talent level is considerably askew.

“Obviously, there’s not many like Jason Kelce,” Pederson said. “I love that guy. Everything he does is smart. He’s intelligent and a great athlete. Again, we take the guys that we have, we use their strengths, and then we formulate a plan. And we’re starting to put our running game together, our protection schemes together.”

Pederson values intelligence at center, and he claims Shatley has that box checked off. Pederson says Shatley’s football IQ will be an asset for QB Trevor Lawrence and the Jaguars’ offense.

“Tyler is a smart guy, and [he] can make all of the decisions and all of the calls,” Pederson said. “And that’s where it starts. It takes a lot of pressure off your second-year quarterback to be able to handle all of that communication.”

While Pederson was quick to praise Shatley, the former undrafted free agent will probably need to battle for the starting job in training camp. The Jaguars have 12 draft picks in April, and one of them is likely to be used on a center because of how important the position is to Pederson’s offense.

“It’s a key component to what we do,” Pederson said. “And [the offense] really starts from the center out.”

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