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The 2007 Ultimate Extreme Offensive Line Preview Spectacular - NFC North
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).

Chicago Bears

Year Sacks Allowed Sacked Rank Rush Yards Rush Yards Per Game Per Game Rush Rank Per Carry Average Per Carry Rank
2004 66 32 1624 101.5 25 3.8 26
2005 31 14 2099 131.2 8 4.3 7
2006 25 6 1918 119.9 15 3.8 23

Year Left Tackle Left Guard Center Right Guard Right Tackle Pro Bowlers
2004 Q.Mitchell R.Brown O.Kreutz M.Gandy J.Tait O. Kreutz    
2005 J.Tait R.Brown O.Kreutz T.Metcalf F.Miller O. Kreutz    
2006 J.Tait R.Brown O.Kreutz R.Garza F.Miller O. Kreutz R.Brown  
2007 J. Tait  R.Brown O. Kreutz R. Garza F. Miller      

Though he will be challenged by five year veteran Terence Metcalf for the 2007 starting position, the recent re-signing of 13 year graybeard OG Reuben Brown to a one year, $2.2 million contract, will enable the Bears to return all five starters from last year’s unit that helped Chicago rank third overall in scoring (26.7 pts/game) while registering 15th in rushing and 14th in passing.  With starting RT Fred Miller, a 12 year veteran, also on the back nine of his playing career, the Bears used the 2007 Draft to infuse youthful depth and, the Bears hope, eventual replacements in the next couple of seasons with their fourth round pick (130th overall) Josh Beekman from Boston College, a 6-2, 321 pound OG with wolverine-like intensity, and seventh round choice (241 overall) RT Aaron Brant (6-7, 313) from Iowa State. 

The departure of RB Thomas Jones is likely to have a negative effect on the offensive line’s 2007 performance, as apparent backfield heir Cedric Benson has failed to demonstrate an ability to stay healthy, even in his limited backup role the last two seasons.  Six year veteran Adrian Peterson will also garner carries and 2007 third round pick Garrett Wolfe (Northern Illinois) will see action on third down and in the return game.  The quarterback position is still far from settled with inconsistent Rex Grossman trying to hold off veteran QB Brian Griese, who signed a five year deal with the Bears in March of 2006.  Offensive line coach Harry Hiestand enters his third season with Chicago ensuring scheme conformity to the last few years.

GRADE: 7.0 - Good, not great. Thomas Jones’ hard-running style made this unit look better than advertised at times last season and they will need Cedric Benson to step up in a big way, as well as Chicago’s elite defense to continue to shorten the field for themOverall, a solid starting five that should hold it together for at least one more season before a changing of the guard begins.

Detroit Lions

Year Sacks Allowed Sacked Rank Rush Yards Rush Yards Per Game Per Game Rush Rank Per Carry Average Per Carry Rank
2004 37 17 1777 111.1 19 4.4 9
2005 31 13 1471 91.9 26 3.6 27
2006 63 31 1129 70.6 32 3.7 28

Year Left Tackle Left Guard Center Right Guard Right Tackle Pro Bowlers
2004 J.Backus D.Loverne D.Raiola D.Woody S.McDougle      
2005 J.Backus R.DeMulling D.Raiola D.Woody K.Butler      
2006 J.Backus R.DeMulling D.Raiola D.Woody B.Stokes      
2007  J.Backus E.Mulitalo D.Raiola D.Woody  G.Foster      

After suffering through a 2006 season that saw the Lions finish with the 22nd ranked total offense, and a kitten-soft rushing attack that was a league worst 32nd overall (averaging 70.6 per game and 3.7 yards per carry), the team has taken several steps to become bigger and more physical along the offensive front this off season.  Detroit started in free agency, signing OG Edwin Mulitalo (6-3, 345) from the Ravens to a three year deal while trading for Broncos’ RT George Foster (6-5, 338), and then used the 2007 draft to add another large piece to the new-look line, selecting an Edwin Mulitalo clone, Texas Tech OG Manny Ramirez (6-3, 335) in the fourth round with the 117 overall pick.  Ramirez gained notoriety at the Indianapolis Scouting Combine by completing 40 reps of 225 lbs on the bench press.  Lions 2006 fifth round pick, versatile OT Jonathan Scott from the University of Texas, is athletic enough to play at guard and tackle and will provide crucial depth at both positions, while also pushing veteran right guard Damien Woody for the starting job.

Jim Colletto was hired as the team’s new offensive line coach after spending 2006 in the same capacity for the UCLA Bruins, where his unit helped drive a rushing attack that averaged 129.8 yards per game.  Before his stint at UCLA, the coaching veteran of 40 years coached the Oakland Raiders offensive line in 2005, and spent six seasons with the Baltimore Ravens (1999-2004), including the 2003 season where the Ravens captured the NFL Rushing title with 2,669 yards (nearly 170 per contest), while helping Jamal Lewis record the second highest single season rushing total (2,066 yards) in NFL history.

GRADE: 6.0 - The injection of size and strength into this unit from their off-season maneuvers was a welcome change and should serve the passing game as well, since pass rushers will be worn down by this much bigger group over the course of a game.  A minimum of two new starter’s, with a possibility of a third (Jonathan Scott) could create chemistry issues, but after finishing dead last in running the ball they can go nowhere but up.

Green Bay Packers

Year Sacks Allowed Sacked Rank Rush Yards Rush Yards Per Game Per Game Rush Rank Per Carry Average Per Carry Rank
2004 14 2 1908 119.2 10 4.3 11
2005 27 5 1352 84.5 30 3.4 31
2006 24 5 1663 103.9 23 3.9 20

Year Left Tackle Left Guard Center Right Guard Right Tackle Pro Bowlers
2004 C.Clifton M.Wahle M.Flanagan M.Rivera M.Tauscher M. Rivera    
2005 C.Clifton A.Klemm M.Flanagan W.Whitticker M.Tauscher      
2006 C.Clifton J.Spitz S.Wells T.Moll M.Tauscher      
2007 C.Clifton  D.Colledge S.Wells T.Moll  M.Tauscher      

The 2007 season will mark year two of the Mike McCarthy era and the zone blocking scheme he brought with him to Green Bay.  The Packers managed to finish ninth overall in total offense last season in the first year of the scheme, despite a 23rd ranked rushing attack that netted 3.9 yards per carry and only nine rushing touchdowns.  This off season, the Packers front office continued to bring in more athletic personnel to execute their blocking scheme, which requires leaner and more nimble downfield blockers, with their fourth round selection (119th overall) in the 2007 Draft of Missouri Southern State OG Allen Barbre (6-4, 300), who clocked the fastest forty time (4.84) of all the offensive linemen at the Indianapolis Scouting combine.  Barbre is seen as flush with raw talent but will need time to challenge for either starting guard spot.  Green Bay hopes that Barbre will eventually man the starting left guard spot so they can move promising second year man Daryn Colledge from left guard to his natural position of left tackle down the road.  For the short term, veterans Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher reliably man the left and right tackle spots, respectively, and four year veteran Scott Wells returns to anchor the center position once again.

GRADE: 6.5 - There will be a natural production bump that occurs in 2007 as this group enters into another year of the same blocking scheme under OL coach James Campen.  However the line’s performance grade will also be tied to how well the Packers backfield tandem of veteran Vernand Morency and2007 second round pick RB Brandon Jackson(Nebraska) play and that remains a mystery as the talented Morency has yet to demonstrate he can make it through a full 16 game schedule and Jackson is untested at the professional level.  For what they do, the line depth is good, with several versatile parts, including C-G Tyson Walter, C-G Jason Spitz and tackle Junius Coston.

Minnesota Vikings


Year
Sacks Allowed Sacked Rank Rush Yards Rush Yards Per Game Per Game Rush Rank Per Carry Average Per Carry Rank
2004 46 25 1823 113.9 18 4.7 2
2005 54 31 1467 91.7 27 3.9 18
2006 43 23 1820 113.8 16 4.1 15

Year Left Tackle Left Guard Center Right Guard Right Tackle Pro Bowlers
2004 B.McKinnie C.Liwienski M.Birk D.Dixon M.Rosenthal M. Birk    
2005 B.McKinnie C.Liwienski C.Withrow M.Johnson M.Rosenthal      
2006 B.McKinnie S.Hutchinson M.Birk A.Hicks M.Johnson M. Birk S. Hutchinson  
2007 B.McKinnie  S.Hutchinson M.Birk A.Hicks  M.Johnson      

Talent and size alone make this group a top unit for 2007, and they can be special if underachieving LT Bryant McKinnie picks it up a notch.  The aforementioned McKinnie (6-8, 343),  the best left guard in the business, Steve Hutchinson and Pro Bowl regular Matt Birk comprise the most powerful left side in professional football.  Throw in 2006 returning starters, RG Artie Hicks (6-4, 335) and RT Marcus Johnson (6-6, 321) and the Vikings have a prototypical ball control unit that consistently wears down opponents over four quarters.  The only possible change in the starting lineup in 2007 could take place at right tackle, where athletic, second-year center Ryan Cook (6-6, 328) will challenge incumbent Marcus Johnson in the only training camp battle slated for the offensive line. 

Running back Adrian Peterson’s selection in the with No. 7 overall pick of the 2007 draft assures Minnesota of a productive running attack for the upcoming season, combining the dynamic rookie with reliable veteran Chester Taylor behind the massive, purple Love Boat Line.  The two-headed ground game should provide the insurance needed to help buffer the offense from any stumbling that may occur with untested, second-year QB Tavaris Jackson, who will takeover the reins of the offense after longtime vet Brad Johnson was released in the Spring.

GRADE: 7.0 - This grade could rise during the year should second-year QB Tavaris Jackson deliver on his considerable upside.  The running game will be the focal point of the offense given the Vikings powerful front five and their talented backfield twosome of Chester Taylor and rookie Adrian Peterson.  Figure Jackson to need at least the first six weeks of the season to have the live-action slow down for him enough to enable the offense to start humming.  The depth is thin here after losing OG-C Jason Whittle to free agency (Buffalo) and releasing OT Mike Rosenthal, leaving them with only C-OT Ryan Cook as a proven commodity.

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

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