Don’t just assume Branden Albert will be Jaguars starter


When Branden Albert finally ended his boycott of offseason workouts and reported to Jaguars minicamp earlier this month, he didn’t arrive looking like a player committed to helping his new team win more football games.

Jags vice president of football ops Tom Coughlin told the veteran left tackle he looked heavier than he remembered and while Albert said he thought Coughlin was joking there was nothing funny about the way Albert looked on the field.

Clearly out of shape and unfamiliar with the playbook, Albert did little to impress the Jaguars coaches while proving that other than giving his body what he said was some much-needed break, he had done little during his down time to prepare for the season ahead.

“He looked like a player (who) wasn’t here,’’ Jaguars coach Doug Marrone said flatly when asked of his impression of Albert, who was obtained in a trade for a 2018 seventh-round draft pick on the first day of the new league year back in March.

What has to be worrisome to the Jaguars is that Albert admitted in the wake of all this that his absence from workouts was not necessarily contractually related but rather a result of what he said was a need to get himself right “mentally, spiritually and physically.’’

In one way that’s a good thing, because the Jaguars don’t appear to be interested at all at this point in giving Albert an extension on the contract that is slated to pay him $8.875 million this year and $9.575 million 2018.

But what about the real reasons for Albert’s absence? If Albert is being honest – and there’s no reason to believe he’s not – then the Jags have to wonder if he still has what it takes, at least mentally and physically, to give them what they want and need from him.

Given what they saw of him once he arrived at minicamp, there’s reason to believe he doesn’t and that the $17 million dollars he can make between now and the end of the 2018 season is no longer enough to motivate him to work hard and get better. Plus, they have Alabama tackle Cam Robinson ready to take his spot.

Now, Albert has vowed to return for the start of camp in shape and ready to go but he’s going to have to make quite a leap in a short time to get there, and that wouldn’t be easy for a player 10 years younger than him to do much less a 32-year-old who says he’s taken a beating the last three years.

The good news for the Jags, of course, is that they hedged their bet on Albert by drafting Cam Robinson to eventually be there starter at left tackle. Their plan is to hold an open competition for that spot once training camp begins but at this point it doesn’t seem as if Albert will provide Robinson with much of a challenge.

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