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The 2007 Ultimate Extreme Offensive Line Preview Spectacular - AFC South
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).

Houston Texans

Year Sacks Allowed Sacked Rank Rush Yards Rush Yards Per Game Per Game Rush Rank Per Carry Average Per Carry Rank
2004 49 26 1882 117.6 12 3.9 22
2005 68 32 1816 113.5 15 4.2 11
2006 43 24 1687 105.4 21 3.9 19

Year Left Tackle Left Guard Center Right Guard Right Tackle Pro Bowlers
2004 S.Wand C.Pitts S.McKinney Z.Wiegert T.Wade      
2005 V.Riley C.Pitts S.McKinney Z.Wiegert T.Wade      
2006 C.Spencer C.Pitts M.Flanagan F.Weary Z.Wiegert      
2007 E.Salaam  C.Pitts  M.Flanagan F.Weary E.Winston      

Since their inception, the Texans’ Achilles heel has been there offensive line, which will carry the infamous distinction of the crucial role it played in the demise of would-be franchise cornerstone, former No.1 overall pick in the 2002 Draft, QB David Carr, who was shown the door this off season after the Texans traded for Falcons backup Matt Schaub.  Carr, now with the Carolina Panthers as the likely backup to Jake Delhomme, was sacked 249 times in his five seasons in Houston, including a single season record for most sacks allowed , 76 times, in his rookie campaign.  Entering into the sixth year of their existence (and year two of the Gary Kubiak era), the Texans still appear to have made little headway in improving their offensive front line.  Coach Kubiak has commented on the increased competition at the center spot between Mike Flanagan and utility man Steve McKinney, and at left tackle between nine year vet Ephraim Salaam and free agent import Jordan Black (Chiefs).  But Black gave up 15 sacks in Kansas City in 2006, so how much is he really helping strengthen the competition on the line’s most important position?  The unit’s best player, powerful and talented LT Chris Spencer, who spent the majority of his rookie season on the injured reserve after breaking his leg in game two, is still struggling to return to full health due to the unique leg break he suffered (tibial plateau), which caused severe damage to the cartilage near his left knee at the time of the injury.  His chances of being able to play by the time the regular season starts currently rest at 50-50.

GRADE: 2.5 - For a team in such dire need on the offensive line, the Texans were noticeably quiet in the off season, re-signing mediocre OT Ephraim Salaam and adding unimpressive OT Jordan Black (Chiefs), while waiting until the later rounds of the 2007 draft to select, developmental prospects, OT Branden Ore (Virginia Tech) in the fifth round and OG Kasey Studdard (Texas) in the sixth.  With Chris Spencer’s health remaining a huge question mark, new quarterback Matt Schaub will be dodging pass-rushing bullets all season long.

Indianapolis Colts

Year Sacks Allowed Sacked Rank Rush Yards Rush Yards Per Game Per Game Rush Rank Per Carry Average Per Carry Rank
2004 14 1 1852 115.8 15 4.3 12
2005 20 1 1703 106.4 16 3.7 24
2006 15 1 1762 110.1 18 4 17

Year Left Tackle Left Guard Center Right Guard Right Tackle Pro Bowlers
2004 T.Glenn R.DeMulling J.Saturday T.Peko R.Diem T. Glenn    
2005 T.Glenn R.Lilja J.Saturday J.Scott R.Diem T. Glenn J. Saturday  
2006 T.Glenn D.Gandy J.Saturday J.Scott R.Diem T. Glenn J. Saturday  
2007 T.Glenn  R.Lilja J.Saturday J.Scott R.Diem      

The Colts offensive line gallops into the 2007 campaign with a head of steam, returning all five starters from last season’s Super Bowl Championship team.  Offensive left guard Ryan Lilja, who missed most of 2006 with two knee injuries, returned in time for the 2006 playoffs and provided the Colts ground game with a noticeable kick in their wins over Baltimore, New England and Chicago.  Indianapolis did not rest on their laurels this off season, signing veteran free agent and former Colt OG Rick DeMulling back from Detroit, and selecting athletic OT Tony Ugoh (6-5, 301) from the University of Arkansas in the second round of the 2007 Draft with the 42nd overall selection.  The Colts plan to groom Ugoh to take over the left tackle spot once 11-year veteran Pro Bowler Tarik Glenn starts to slow down, but in the meantime, he is learning the right tackle and right guard assignments, to enrich an already functional supporting cast off the bench.

GRADE: 8.5 - A very good 2006 line was made better with the additions of veteran Rick DeMulling and rookie OL Tony Ugoh, to their depth, enabling Joseph Addai to take another step forward in the fantasy football world and allow Peyton Manning, the game’s top signal-caller, the time needed to continue to drive opposing defenses crazy. One of the best units in the business right now.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Year Sacks Allowed Sacked Rank Rush Yards Rush Yards Per Game Per Game Rush Rank Per Carry Average Per Carry Rank
2004 32 10 1850 115.6 16 4.1 18
2005 32 16 1959 122.4 10 3.9 16
2006 30 12 2541 158.8 3 5 2

Year Left Tackle Left Guard Center Right Guard Right Tackle Pro Bowlers
2004 M.Pearson V.Manuwai B.Meester C.Naeole Ma.Williams      
2005 M.Pearson V.Manuwai B.Meester C.Naeole M.Williams      
2006 K.Barnes V.Manuwai B.Meester C.Naeole Ma.Williams      
2007 K.Barnes V.Manuwai B.Meester C.Naeole T.Pashos      

One of the league’s more durable and consistent five-man group’s, Jacksonville returns all of its starters from a year ago, but added free agent OT Tony Pashos (Baltimore) to replace Maurice Williams at the starting right tackle spot.  Jack Del Rio feels that Pashos’ tenacity and high level of determination will improve an already productive line that helped Jacksonville in 2006 to set a new single season rushing record of 2,541 yards, while allowing the second fewest sacks in team history (30), falling just two short of the team record of 28 set in 2003.  The Jaguars finished third overall in rushing and 10th in total offense (24th in passing) last year and should see continued improvement offensively as outstanding multi-purpose back Maurice-Jones Drew enters his second NFL season.  The Jaguars addressed strengthening their interior depth with the selection of OG Uche Nwaneri (6-3, 325) from Purdue and tabbed promising developmental OT prospect Andrew Carnahan, who tore knee ligaments in the midst of a fine senior season at Arizona State, with an eye toward the long term.

GRADE: 8.0 - This unit will remain in the top tier of the league, and should only improve with the addition of Pashos at right tackle, which is expected to strengthen the pass protection Byron Leftwich, who faces a make-or-break year in 2007.  The chemistry is great, as the core of this line has been together for several seasons now and Khalif Barnes (6-5, 325) and Vince Manuwai (6-2, 325) have emerged as one of the better power-left sides in football.  

Tennessee Titans

Year Sacks Allowed Sacked Rank Rush Yards Rush Yards Per Game Per Game Rush Rank Per Carry Average Per Carry Rank
2004 44 23 1871 116.9 14 4.5 7
2005 31 10 1525 95.3 23 3.8 21
2006 29 11 2214 138.4 5 4.7 6

Year Left Tackle Left Guard Center Right Guard Right Tackle Pro Bowlers
2004 B.Hopkins Z.Piller J.Hartwig B.Olson F.Miller      
2005 M.Roos Z.Piller J.Hartwig B.Olson J.Bell      
2006 M.Roos Z.Piller K.Mawae B.Olson J.Bell      
2007 M.Roos  J.Bell K.Mawae B.Olson D.Stewart      

Young, three-year veteran, bookend tackles Michael Roos (6-7, 315) and David Stewart (6-7, 318) represent a promising future for this line, which is widely believed to be the strongest unit on the team.  Jacob Bell is just average and is protected by playing between the impressive Roos and former Pro Bowl center Kevin Mawae, whose still effective, despite entering his 14th NFL season.  Benji Olson, another tenured veteran (10 years) holds down the right guard spot and provides veteran insight to the up-and-coming Stewart at right tackle. A better than average line across the starting five positions.

GRADE: 6.0 - After the starting group, the second and third level to this unit leaves a lot to be desired.  Marginal journeyman Seth Wand is the top backup for both tackle spots and the Titans selected N.C. State center Leroy Harris in the fourth round of the 2007 Draft (115th overall) to help four-year utility man Eugene Amano support the three interior positions.  Losing veteran RB Travis Henry hurts this group and Titans management has done little in terms of securing a proven replacement.

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

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