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The 2007 Ultimate Extreme Offensive Line Preview Spectacular - AFC East
Michael Courter
July 30, 2007
AFC East AFC North AFC South AFC West NFC East NFC North NFC South NFC West Summary

Be it on the gridiron or in the world of fantasy football, the offensive line remains, the facilitator, the enabler, the critical piece, that allows their respective teams’ skill position glory hounds the opportunity to thrill crowds, make game-breaking plays, and win championships, both real and fantasy.  The O-line is the is the collective keys to the end zone kingdom, without it’s engine running properly, an offensive unit cannot reach destination end zone on time, or at all, making the thankless five man unit, even in the points-driven world of fantasy football, arguably the most critical piece of the equation.

The 2007 Ultimate Extreme Offensive line Spectacular will provide a breakdown of each team’s offensive line and let you know who’s improved, stayed the same, or possibly gotten worse from last season, and the reasons why, so that you can be armed with this knowledge heading into your draft, and rate your QB, RB and WR positions accordingly.  A numerical grade provided at the end of each team analysis will rate each line on a scale of one to ten, with one being the lowest (Texans O-line in David Carr’s rookie year) and 10 the high mark (KC Chiefs during Priest Holmes’ prime).

Buffalo Bills

Year Sacks Allowed Sacked Rank Rush Yards Rush Yards Per Game Per Game Rush Rank Per Carry Average Per Carry Rank
2004 38 18 1874 117.1 13 3.9 23
2005 43 23 1607 100.4 20 3.8 20
2006 47 25 1552 97 27 3.7 27

Year Left Tackle Left Guard Center Right Guard Right Tackle Pro Bowlers
2004 J.Jennings L.Smith T.Teague C.Villarrial M.Williams      
2005 M.Gandy B.Anderson T.Teague C.Villarrial M.Williams      
2006 M.Gandy T. Reyes M.Fowler C. Villarial J. Peters      
2007 J. Peters  D. Dockery M. Fowler D. Preston L. Walker      

Any fantasy owners of Willis McGahee over the last two seasons, who would have to endure game after game of the talented running back being shackled by substandard offensive line play, can relate to the departed ball carrier’s glee now that he has arrived in seemingly greener pastures in Baltimore.  The irony of the situation is that the Bills are finally making the necessary moves to upgrade a unit that has cried out for help since McGahee’s arrival in 2003 as a first round pick out of the University of Miami.

Dick Jauron and the Bills brass took a twofold approach to rectifying their 27th ranked rushing offense, starting with free agent signings of 6-6, 330 pound Derrick Dockery to complete the power side of their line, pairing him on the left wing with emerging star tackle Jason Peters (6-4, 340), and RT Langston Walker (6-8, 366) from Oakland.  Buffalo then used the 2007 Draft to address the backfield vacancy left by McGahee by using their first pick, the 12th overall selection, on running back Marshawn Lynch, a dynamic talent out of the University of California and a fourth round pick (111th overall) on Fresno State RB Dwayne Wright, a highly productive, powerfully-built (5-11, 228) ball carrier.

With RG Duke Preston (6-5, 326) and C Melvin Fowler (6-3, 310) rounding out the starting five, this is one of the league’s more physically imposing offensive lines.  The improvements along the offensive front will have a positive ripple effect on the offense, as steadily-improving QB J.P. Losman appears on the verge of breaking out, now that he’s armed with a credible running game threat to keep defenses honest.  Another plus is the Buffalo blocking scheme will remain unchanged as veteran OL coach Jim McNally begins his third season with the Bills, which will help the existing veteran’s ramp up the new free agent imports faster.

GRADE: 6.5 - Got to like the direction this unit is heading in. Kudos to Buffalo Personnel suits for finally getting it right. Now it’s a matter of what’s on paper translating to performance on the field.  This grade has a chance to climb during the season should this unit perform as expected and the fresh backfield legs of Lynch and Wright acclimate to pro style defenses relatively quickly.

Miami Dolphins

Year Sacks Allowed Sacked Rank Rush Yards Rush Yards Per Game Per Game Rush Rank Per Carry Average Per Carry Rank
2004 52 30 1339 83.7 31 3.5 32
2005 26 4 1898 118.6 12 4.3 8
2006 41 21 1673 104.6 22 4.2 13

Year Left Tackle Left Guard Center Right Guard Right Tackle Pro Bowlers
2004 W.Smith J.James S.McKinney T.Whitley J.St. Clair      
2005 D.McIntosh J.James S.McKinney R.Hadnot V.Carey      
2006 L.Shelton J.James R.Hadnot B.Anderson V.Carey      
2007 V.Carey  C.Liwienski  S.Satele  R.Hadnot L.J.Shelton      

The 2007 season will be one of profound transition for the Dolphins offensive line, with a re-shuffling done with an eye toward future, long-term stability.  Two former starters, Damion McIntosh and Jeno James, have been moved out and three other starters, Rex Hadnot, L.J. Shelton and Vernon Carey, will be heading to new positions in 2007.  Carey, considered Miami’s best offensive lineman will switch to left tackle this season, a position that he has yet to prove he can master, which will send veteran L.J. Shelton back to his natural spot at right tackle.  With 2007 second-round pick Samson Satele (6-2, 311) from Hawaii expected to takeover the starting center spot, fourth year man Rex Hadnot will shift one spot over to right guard, and promising 2007 sixth round pick Drew Mormino (Central Michigan) will challenge free agent signee Chris Liwienski (Arizona) for the top slot at left guard.

The feeling out of Dolphins camp is that Cam Cameron is creating a youthful foundation for his offensive line that will be built to last for several seasons, eschewing the failed approach of seasons past when Miami would look for a quick fix of patchwork pieces each season.  The change at quarterback from the mistake-prone Daunte Culpepper to reliable veteran Trent Green (Kansas City) should help significantly reduce the number of sacks allowed from 2006, as 21 of the 41 sacks allowed last year occurred during the four games started by Culpepper.  Green’s keen ability of reading defenses and getting rid of the ball quickly will help make this new OL unit look better on the stat sheet.

GRADE: 5.0 - This group, with its mixture of rookies and run-of-the-mill veterans playing new positions will lack chemistry and struggle early, but there is long-term upside along the offensive line for the first time in quite awhile in South Beach.  However, Trent Green’s well-chronicled concussion issues place this unit and the Dolphins offense in a precarious position right out of the 2007 gate, and Green will need to utilize every ounce of his veteran savvy to keep his fragile noggin from taking another season-ending shot.  I foresee a lot of escape-outlet, swing passes to Ronnie Brown, especially in the early going of the season, to help this line overcome its initial learning curve.

New England Patriots

Year Sacks Allowed Sacked Rank Rush Yards Rush Yards Per Game Per Game Rush Rank Per Carry Average Per Carry Rank
2004 26 5 2134 133.4 7 4.1 17
2005 28 7 1512 94.5 24 3.4 30
2006 29 10 1969 123.1 12 3.9 18

Year Left Tackle Left Guard Center Right Guard Right Tackle Pro Bowlers
2004 M.Light R.Hochstein D.Koppen J.Andruzzi T.Ashworth      
2005 M.Light L.Mankins D.Koppen S.Neal T.Ashworth      
2006 M.Light L.Mankins D.Koppen S.Neal R.O'Callaghan M.Light     
2007 M.Light  L.Mankins D.Koppen S.Neal N.Kaczur      

This finely-tuned, veteran unit looks to continue to hum in 2007 under long-time offensive line coach Dante Scarneccia, now entering his eighth season in New England in that capacity, having been hired by Bill Belichick in February of 2000 as an assistant head coach/ offensive line coach.  A 2007 Pro Bowl reserve, LT Matt Light is considered the anchor of this line, exhibiting great technique and superior scheme execution consistently.  At the other tackle spot, veteran Nick Kaczur will be looking to retain his starting job, battling second-year tackle Ryan O’Callaghan, who stood out in a positive way last year when filling in for the injured Kaczur during the regular season.  The center-guard interior remains intact and performing at a high level with the consistent trio of Logan Mankins, Dan Koppen and Stephen Neal, and Russ Hochstein providing reliable depth at each of the interior positions.  The Patriots moved to increase their offensive tackle depth behind second-year man Wesley Britt in the 2007 Draft with fifth round pick OT Clint Oldenburg (6-6, 300) and sixth round selection OT Corey Hilliard (6-5, 318) from Oklahoma State.

GRADE: 7.5 - This unit should see a marked improvement in their 2007 performance optics by virtue of the off-season upgrade that took place in the Patriots skill positions.  With Randy Moss and Dante Stallworth in the fold, and the young legs of Laurence Maroney to exploit the holes provided to him on a full-time basis, sans the recently-departed Corey Dillon, Tom Brady will be able to operate the New England offense at a much higher level.  Better third down conversion rate due to his 2007 receiving corps holding onto perfectly-thrown passes in critical situations, and less sacks allowed thanks to Brady being able to get rid of the ball sooner due to better route running.

New York Jets

Year Sacks Allowed Sacked Rank Rush Yards Rush Yards Per Game Per Game Rush Rank Per Carry Average Per Carry Rank
2004 31 8 2388 149.2 3 4.5 4
2005 53 30 1328 83 31 3.5 28
2006 34 16 1738 108.6 20 3.5 30

Year Left Tackle Left Guard Center Right Guard Right Tackle Pro Bowlers
2004 J.Fabini P.Kendall K.Mawae B.Moore K.McKenzie K. Mawae    
2005 J.Fabini P.Kendall K.Mawae B.Moore A.Jones      
2006 D.Ferguson P.Kendall N.Mangold B.Moore A.Clement      
2007  D.Ferguson Kendall/Clarke  N.Mangold B.Moore A.Clement      

With their 2006 first round cornerstones, C Nick Mangold and LT D’Brickashaw Ferguson, the Jets have a young and talented foundation for which to build upon.  Though Ferguson struggled at times in his rookie season, playing the most demanding spot on the line, he made the 2006 All Rookie team (along with Mangold) and appears to have the goods to continue to blossom as he gains more experience.  Mangold, an Ohio State product, hit the ground running in his rookie season, helping Jets fans quickly forget departed Pro Bowl center Kevin Mawae (Titans), playing so consistently well in his first year that he was named to the NFL’s All-Underrated team and is widely considered in league circles as a future Pro Bowler.  Veteran Pete Kendall worked well at left guard sandwiched between the two rookies last season, but a contentious contract squabble with Jets management this off-season appears to have his ticket out of town punched, opening the door for Adrien Clarke (6-5, 330), a three year man out of Ohio State, who has been splitting first team reps with Kendall during the Jets mini-camp.  Unassuming veteran Brandon Moore quietly holds down the right guard spot for another consecutive year, while journeyman Anthony Clement (6-8, 320) will enter his second season in New York as a safe play in the right tackle spot.

GRADE: 6.5 - This unit’s performance will be strengthened by the addition of proven RB Thomas Jones (trade-Chicago) after blocking for a mish-mash of journeymen and rookies last year.  The expected loss of Pete Kendall will hurt the line in both area’s of leadership and chemistry.  Ultimately, the addition of a Thomas Jones will provide an anchor to their running attack, and this group will continue to get better as Mangold and Ferguson gain the experience to blend with their first round talent.

AFC East AFC North AFC South AFC West NFC East NFC North NFC South NFC West Summary

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