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

Denver Broncos

Year Sacks Allowed Sacked Rank Rush Yards Rush Yards Per Game Per Game Rush Rank Per Carry Average Per Carry Rank
2004 15 3 2333 145.8 4 4.4 8
2005 23 3 2539 158.7 2 4.7 2
2006 31 13 2152 134.5 8 4.4 9

Year Left Tackle Left Guard Center Right Guard Right Tackle Pro Bowlers
2004 M.Lepsis B.Hamilton T.Nalen D.Neil G.Foster      
2005 M.Lepsis B.Hamilton T.Nalen C.Carlisle G.Foster      
2006 M.Lepsis B.Hamilton T.Nalen C.Carlisle G.Foster      
2007 M.Lepsis  B.Hamilton T.Nalen C.Kuper E.Pears      

The biggest impact for the 2007 Broncos offensive line is the return of their best offensive lineman, left tackle Matt Lepsis, who suffered a season-ending left knee injury in a game against the Cleveland Browns on October 23, 2006.  He returned to football activities in late May this year, and though he is not 100 percent yet, the team expects him to be by the start of the regular season.  Lepsis’ return will enable the team to shift promising, second year OT Erik Pears (6-8, 305), who gained valuable experience being thrown into the fire as a rookie at left tackle last year in replacing Lepsis, to right tackle to replace former starter George Foster, who was traded to the Lions in the off season.  Tom Nalen, a veteran of 14 NFL seasons, continues to captain the Broncos line from the center position with reliable Ben Hamilton producing at a high level at the left guard spot.  Depth moves included signing OG Montrae Holland ($1M, one-year) from the Saints and the drafting of athletic Notre Dame OT Ryan Harris (6-5, 299) in the third round, to help provide insurance behind the returning Lepsis.

GRADE: 7.0 - This grade largely depends on a healthy return of left tackle Matt Lepsis, and being less than a year removed from a serious knee injury at the unit’s most critical position puts the Denver line in a precarious position.  The team did not appear serious about shoring up there line depth with the signing of marginal OT Jacob Rogers (most recently on IR with the Cowboys in 2005) and bringing in undrafted free agent C Mark Fenton from nearby University of Colorado, who has all the markings of a camp body, to help back up 36 year-old Tom Nalen.  Offensive Line coach Rick Dennison, entering his 12th year with the Broncos, will ensure that the highly-effective zone blocking scheme continues and can help mask any personnel issues that their paper-thin depth may create.

Kansas City Chiefs

Year Sacks Allowed Sacked Rank Rush Yards Rush Yards Per Game Per Game Rush Rank Per Carry Average Per Carry Rank
2004 32 9 2289 143.1 5 4.6 3
2005 32 15 2382 148.9 4 4.6 5
2006 41 22 2143 133.9 9 4.2 11

Year Left Tackle Left Guard Center Right Guard Right Tackle Pro Bowlers
2004 W.Roaf B.Waters C.Wiegmann W.Shields J.Welbourn W. Shields W. Roaf B. Waters
2005 W.Roaf B.Waters C.Wiegmann W.Shields J.Black W. Shields W. Roaf  
2006 K.Turley B.Waters C.Wiegmann W.Shields J.Black W. Shields   B. Waters
2007 D.McIntosh  B.Waters C.Wiegmann J.Welbourn  C.Terry       

Losing two perennial All-Pro linemen the past two seasons, OT Willie Roaf, and the recently-retired Will Shields, in addition to both starting offensive tackles from last year (Kyle Turley and Jordan Black) has thrust this once elite blocking unit into urgent rebuild mode in 2007.  Except the Chiefs’ front office moves exuded little urgency, re-signing versatile backup tackle Kevin Sampson, who will be expected to battle for the vacant starting right tackle spot, and their lone free agent signing, average offensive tackle Damion McIntosh from the Dolphins, who’s more suited for the right side, but will assume the starting left tackle role in Kansas City this season.  Eight year veteran, Chris Terry, a 6-5, 300 pound problem child with a nasty streak, could really help offset the recent talent drain from the Chiefs line if he can keep his nose clean and stay out of trouble while holding down the right tackle position.  Rugged veteran guard JohnWelbourn, who arrived in a trade with the Eagles three years ago, is versatile enough to play at either tackle spot, should he be needed there, but is most likely the starter at right guard when training camp breaks.  Offensive line coach John Matsko returns for a second season with the Chiefs after orchestrating the fifth-best rushing attack in the AFC (averaging 133.9 yards per game) in 2006, despite using five different starting combinations due to an inordinate number of injuries to the line last year.

GRADE: 5.5 - McIntosh is not the answer at left tackle, especially with either 34 year old Damon Huard or youngster Brodie Croyle dropping back in the pocket, and 12-year veteran center Casey Wiegmann almost retired last season before deciding to come back for one last hurrah.  Add Herm Edwards taking over the offense into a bad batch of ingredients and its no wonder Larry Johnson plans on sitting out of training camp until he gets his money, because it will only get worse in K.C. before it gets better.

Oakland Raiders

Year Sacks Allowed Sacked Rank Rush Yards Rush Yards Per Game Per Game Rush Rank Per Carry Average Per Carry Rank
2004 30 6 1295 80.9 32 4 21
2005 45 25 1369 85.6 29 3.8 23
2006 72 32 1519 94.9 29 3.9 22

Year Left Tackle Left Guard Center Right Guard Right Tackle Pro Bowlers
2004 B.Sims F.Middleton A.Treu R.Stone L.Walker      
2005 B.Sims L.Walker J.Grove R.Stone R.Gallery      
2006 R.Gallery B.Sims J.Grove P.McQuistan L.Walker      
2007  B.Sims R.Gallery J.Grove C.Carlisle         

One of the worst offensive lines in the league last year, and its possible things could get worse before they get better under new head coach Lane Kiffin.  Kiffin is hoping the aggressive, zone-blocking scheme brought to Oakland by new offensive line coach Tom Cable will help jumpstart a woefully underperforming unit whose production has not come close to matching its talent on paper, led by the second overall pick of the 2004 NFL Draft, OT Robert Gallery.  Cable, whose primary task will be to revive the Oakland ground game, comes to the Raiders fresh off of overseeing the Falcons offensive line fuel the NFL’s top rushing attack in 2006 and the early returns from the players participating in mini-camp, specifically a vocal Gallery, are positive and full of excitement about the new game plan for the season ahead. 

During the recent minicamp, Cable had Gallery taking most of his reps at left guard after spending most of 2006 at left tackle.  Conversely, last year’s left guard Barry Sims is now practicing at left tackle, a position that he has played prior to 2006.  Free agent OG Cooper Carlisle was brought in to start at right guard and solidify that side of the line with his veteran presence, while four-year veteran Jake Grove will continue as the starting center.  Grove is versatile enough to play guard if need be, and the Raiders also added creaky interior line veteran Jeremy Newberry to join holdover Paul McQuistan as the primary guard-center depth.  The right tackle position won’t be settled until the smoke clears from training camp, as Oakland is tasked with replacing Langston Walker, who signed a lucrative free agent deal with Buffalo in the off-season.  Perennial practice bodies Cornell Green and Fred Wakefield will take a run at the vacated starting spot, along with 2007 third round pick (91st overall) RT Mario Henderson from Florida State. 

GRADE: 3.5 - The change to a zone-blocking scheme should help mask a multitude of sins for this unit, but lest we forget, this was a line that allowed a league-worst 72 sacks last season while opening precious few holes for their running backs.  Throw in major uncertainty at the right tackle spot, a rookie quarterback being thrown to the wolves and almost every skill position being unsettled, and the ingredients are there for the Oakland offense to continue to maintain their home at the bottom of the league rankings for another consecutive season.

San Diego Chargers

Year Sacks Allowed Sacked Rank Rush Yards Rush Yards Per Game Per Game Rush Rank Per Carry Average Per Carry Rank
2004 21 4 2185 136.6 6 4.2 14
2005 31 11 2072 129.5 9 4.5 6
2006 28 9 2578 161.1 2 4.9 3

Year Left Tackle Left Guard Center Right Guard Right Tackle Pro Bowlers
2004 R.Oben T.Fonoti N.Hardwick M.Goff S.Olivea      
2005 R.Oben T.Fonoti N.Hardwick M.Goff S.Olivea      
2006 M.McNeill K.Dielman N.Hardwick M.Goff S.Olivea N. Hardwick    
2007 M.Mcneil  K.Dielman N.Hardwick M.Goff S.Olivea      

To keep continuity amongst one of the NFL’s most productive offensive front’s, the Chargers front office didn’t have to make a plethora of moves, just one important one, signing unrestricted free agent OG Kris Dielman (6-4, 312) to a six-year, $39 million contract this past off-season to cement the Chargers offensive line’s starting five for several seasons, affording franchise back LaDainian Tomlinson the opportunity to squeeze every drop of juice from his upcoming prime years in the next few seasons.  Widely considered one of the league’s most complete offensive lines, there’s not a weak spot in this blue-collar bunch, and second-year LT Marcus McNeill (6-7, 336) has all the markings of a perennial Pro Bowl beast in the making.  Hardwick, Goff and Olivea make up this unit’s blue-collar soul, getting after defensive linemen every snap in a consistent and understated way, helping Tomlinson to break long gains in the latter stages of contests against weary opposing defenses.

GRADE: 9.0 - San Diego’s high-flying offense, led by fantasy football deities, LaDainian Tomlinson and Antonio Gates, probably helps this group receive a higher grade than they would normally merit on pure ability, however, this unit collectively does not take a play off and it’s the consistent effort for four quarters that helps throw the Chargers offense into another level, allowing the Bolts to maximize their talented skill position pieces.  Underrated depth signings this past Spring include OT Cory Lekkerkerker (6-7, 323) and eight-year veteran C-G Cory Withrow.

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

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