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2008 Offensive Line Review and Ratings - Summary
John Tuvey
June 29, 2008
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Say you like barbeque ribs. Stay with me here, I figured a food analogy would be entirely appropriate for an article about guys who generally go three spins on the scale and strike fear into the hearts of any “all you can eat” buffet owner in their vicinity.

Okay, back to the ribs. You love yourself some ribs, but it’s a little too much work to slow cook those baby backs the way they need to be cooked. So in this great big world of ours you have some options. You can drive yourself to the nearest barbeque shack, where they’ve already done the slow cooking for you. Or you can decide you can live without the ribs and settle for a pack of ramen noodles.

Hey, if you’re not having ribs it really doesn’t matter what the alternative is, right?

Anyway, this article is a little bit like visiting Famous Dave’s or Sonny Bryan’s or Smokin’ Joe’s or insert the name of your favorite barbeque rib joint here. If you want to do the slow cooking yourself—and I am certainly doing nothing to dissuade you from doing so—you can pore over my offensive line analysis for each team. You’ll learn the names of the big fellas up front, the strengths (and weaknesses) of the line, and what it means for each squad’s fantasy players.

And if you don’t feel up to the task of plowing through the 21,000 words of info provided in these team-by-team breakdowns—like good barbeque, offensive line analysis can be a time-consuming process—pull around to the drive through window for an express helping of the good stuff. We’ll even throw in the wet wipes.

Before you dive in, a quick word on the rankings. Rather than grade on a curve—and have you scared off from drafting, say, Kevin Smith because the Lions would likely fall into the D range on the bell—you may notice a larger share of Bs and Cs. I use the grade to reflect each line’s ability to help its fantasy performers in that area. So for example, the Panthers get a B for their rush grade because they’ll help Jonathan Stewart or DeAngelo Williams find open space; they get a C- because in my opinion they’re a slightly below average pass protection unit, which may or may not be why Jake Delhomme has missed time with injuries each of the past two seasons.

My rankings are subjective, so I’m sure you’ll have quibbles. However, note that they’re based on as much research as I could put my hands on. That includes plenty of data from the Football Outsiders, one of the few entities out there that attempts to quantify the impact of line play.

Enough said; you’re getting hungry. Here’s your snack-sized portion of The Huddle’s offensive line analysis. For the entire buffet, feel free to click on the divisional links at the top of the page or the team links below.

Rank Team Rush Grade Pass Grade Overall Grade Summary
1 Indianapolis B+ A A- Lose a Hall of Fame left tackle, plug in a rookie, and keep on keepin’ on. Indy will do it again this year, plugging rookie Mike Pollak in for Jake Scott. You know how good this group is at keeping Peyton Manning’s jersey spotless, but it may surprise you that no team had better success in third-and-short and goal-to-go situations.
2 NY Giants A B+ A- Moving David Diehl outside to tackle worked out much better than I expected. If there’s no Super Bowl hangover this is a dominant unit—especially on the ground, where you can expect Ahmad Bradshaw or Derrick Ward to put up decent numbers (again) if/when Brandon Jacobs gets hurt (again).
3 San Diego B+ A- A- Center Nick Hardwick may or may not be back in the lineup by the time the season starts; if he’s not, that’s bad news for both LT and Philip Rivers (who’s bound to have mobility issues of his own). Aside from that, all is good—unless one of the Pro Bowlers on the left side goes down for an extended period; then, it would be time to panic.
4 Cleveland B- A- A- You can thank Joe Thomas and Eric Steinbach for the resurgence of Jamal Lewis and the emergence of Derek Anderson and Braylon Edwards as fantasy factors. The right side is a bit unsettled, but once everyone’s in place this unit might actually be even better than last year. The Browns? Dominant? Who woulda thunk it?
5 New England B+ A- B+ Sure, the world remembers them as the guys who cost the Pats a perfect season, but not every defense can bring the heat like the Giants. Besides, any group that made Sammy Morris look like a legitimate NFL running back must be doing something right. The right side is a bit unsettled, but in Belichick we trust… right, New England?
6 Minnesota A- B B+ The fate of this line may be decided in the league’s offices in New York; if Bryant McKinnie is suspended this group won’t be as dominant. So long as they can continue to protect right tackle Ryan Cook with tackle/tight end Jim Kleinsasser there should be no worries in the running game and enough time to find Bernard Berrian downfield.
7 New Orleans B A B+ The Saints’ line came out of nowhere in 2006 but struggled with the higher expectations last year. New center Jonathan Goodwin fared well in a brief stint there last year, so that change shouldn’t cause a ripple. If, however, the team rolls with Zach Strief at right tackle it may give their ground game a boost.
8 Dallas B+ B+ B+ This talented, veteran unit reminds me of the Bears from a couple years ago. The good news is, that team made it to a Super Bowl; the bad news is, when the end came it came extremely quickly. Dallas does appear to have some backup plans in place, but it’s something to keep in mind if you’re eyeing Felix Jones in a keeper league.
9 Green Bay B+ B+ B+ Brett Favre was sacked once every 37 attempts last season; Aaron Rodgers was sacked three times in his 31 dropbacks. Worried? Green Bay’s tackles are solid, but the sack totals will jump simply because Rodgers can’t read and release as quickly as No. 4. The line jelled in front of Ryan Grant last year, which will help all around.
10 Jacksonville B+ B- B This line isn’t bad, but it looks better than it actually is thanks to David Garrard’s mobility and the ability of Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew to turn 10-yard runs into 70-yard touchdowns. That’s a mere quibble, though; there’s nothing here that should dissuade you from adding Jaguars to your fantasy roster if you so desire.
11 Denver B B B The addition of Ryan Clady should help keep Jay Cutler’s jersey clean and continue the Broncos’ fine tradition of quick-footed linemen opening holes in the ground game. So once again you’ll need to decide if you can trust Mike Shanahan to stick with Selvin Young… and not stab you in the back with Ryan Torain or Michael Pittman.
12 Arizona B B B This season marks just the second time since this franchise moves to Phoenix in 1988 that the entire line returns intact. With Russ Grimm whipping them into shape, this group has gone from liability to asset—meaning time for both stud receivers to get open and enough running room even for aging Edgerrin James.
13 Cincinnati C+ B+ B Injuries and the subsequent carousel of linemen hurt Cincy’s ground game last season. They have the personnel on their roster; it may just be a matter of finding the right spot for everyone to play, and that could take time. One thing is for sure: protecting Carson Palmer is job one, and it’s a job they do quite nicely.
14 Tennessee B+ C+ B The Titans spent $80 million this offseason to lock up their bookend tackles; between that and Vince Young’s mobility the sack totals should dwindle. Where this line excels is opening holes at the line of scrimmage; last year LenDale White barely took advantage, but the speedy Chris Johnson could truly make something of that space.
15 Houston B B B The addition of Alex Gibbs to the coaching staff might be the single most important move of the offseason. If this group adapts to his scheme quickly, whichever Houston back can stay healthy will find all kinds of room to run. Duane Brown may have been a reach, but watch Gibbs mold him into the fixture LT Houston has been begging for.
16 Philadelphia A C- B The average Philly lineman is the size of a Ford Focus… so why do they pass 60 percent of the time again? Injuries have cost Donovan McNabb a step, so he can’t avoid the rush like he used to, but if Andy Reid figures out he can give Westy 20 carries and another 15 to the rest of the backfield the Eagles might surprise in the NFC East.
17 Tampa Bay B+ C B This line will open holes on the ground, so whether it’s Earnest Graham or Cadillac Williams on a flat tire the Bucs should get production in the running game. A healthy Luke Petitgout at left tackle and Jeff Faine’s experience in setting line calls, coupled with less McCown and more Garcia, should help lower sack numbers as well.
18 Washington B B- B- When this unit is healthy it’s as dominating a run unit as there is in the division—and you might have noticed it’s a pretty rock-solid division in that department. However, banking on a line with an average age of 32 and a track record of injury to stay healthy is playing with fire. Feeling lucky?
19 Pittsburgh C C C+ Even with Alan Faneca this line struggled last year, due mainly to the loss of center Jeff Hartings. Justin Hartwig looks to fill that void, while Faneca’s replacement Chris Kemoeatu should ensure little dropoff in the run game. The pass protection needs to improve lest Santonio Holmes not get the looks downfield his fantasy owners desire.
20 Buffalo B B C+ The Bills are definitely headed in the right direction; however, they aren’t deep enough to play hardball with left tackle Jason Peters, who wants to rework his contract. Move to Toronto and pay him in Canadian dollars if you have to; just make sure Peters is happy and all will be fine with Trent Edwards and Marshawn Lynch.
21 Baltimore B- C+ C+ It’s not just the absence of Jonathan Ogden that looks different; the Ravens have three new faces and another in a new position. Baltimore’s line is young but has the potential to be a dominant unit. Those considering Willis McGahee this year will note that Cam Cameron culled big numbers from LT with a line thought to be subpar.
22 Carolina B C- C This group has the potential to be a truly dominant run-blocking entity—which, you may have noticed, is John Fox’s preferred style and also fits nicely with rookie running back Jonathan Stewart. Their pass blocking deficiencies, however, may mean a third straight season of pain for Jake Delhomme—and Steve Smith owners.
23 NY Jets C+ C C The Jets spent $65.5 million to upgrade their offensive line; let’s hope it came with some sort of buyer protection plan because if any one of the regulars goes down this group does not have the depth to adapt. Alan Faneca should help the first-round picks on either side of him mature, but don’t expect a Steve Hutchinson-type impact.
24 Miami C+ C- C The projected starting unit has nine years of NFL experience… combined. Drafting Jake Long provides a fantastic building block, and the Dolphins should be more than adequate opening holes for Ronnie Brown or Ricky Williams; however, it’s not a unit conducive to developing a young quarterback… unless he’s into sacks and violence.
25 Seattle C C C Yes, the loss of Steve Hutchinson meant that much—but if free agent signee Mike Wahle is even close to what he used to be in Green Bay it won’t be that far off from the old days. The Seahawks are instituting a zone blocking system that better fits their personnel; if it takes quickly, Julius Jones could be a nice little sleeper pick.
26 St. Louis C C- C The Rams have given up at least 40 sacks in every season since 1999—and that was with a healthy Orlando Pace. The nice thing about so many injuries last year is that lots of guys got experience. If Pace and Richie Incognito can stay healthy this line will have some nasty to it, benefiting Steven Jackson’s numbers and Marc Bulger’s rib cage.
27 Detroit C+ D+ C- New OC Jim Colletto is an ex-line coach who won’t expose his line to embarrassment like Mike Martz did. That means tight ends helping in pass protect and less fantasy value for third receivers like Mike Furrey and Shaun McDonald. This line should also make Kevin Smith a more productive rookie than his counterpart in Chicago.
28 Oakland B- D C- Yes, the Raiders ran the ball extremely well last season… but it’s worth noting that only three teams were stopped behind the line of scrimmage with more frequency. There will be seams, but McFadden and Fargas had better hit them quickly. And in pass protect… well, it’s a good think JaMarcus Russell is the size of a lineman.
29 Chicago D+ C- D+ The selection of Chris Williams was curious, as he’s not the mauler one associates with Bears blockers. Chicago should be solid enough in pass protect to allow Greg Olsen to slip into the pattern more often than not, but it may have been this line’s subpar run blocking that drove Cedric Benson to the bottle.
30 San Francisco C- D+ D+ Any improvements this unit makes will be masked by a Mike Martz scheme that traditionally produces high sack totals—and since San Fran gave up more sacks than any last year, they may need all three quarterbacks. Also, don’t underestimate what the loss of Larry Allen means for Frank Gore’s running room (or lack thereof).
31 Kansas City D D+ D+ The league’s most inept unit from a year ago adds three new players with a combined zero NFL starts. Worse, this group is better equipped to protect Brodie Croyle than it is to blow open holes in Herm Edwards’ beloved power running game. Once again, what Larry Johnson gets he’ll get largely on his own.
32 Atlanta D+ D D+ They’re starting from scratch, but I’ll give them credit for taking a shot with Sam Baker. They may move up once they decide on things like, oh, a regular starting five and which blocking scheme they plan to use, but it’s going to be a long road. The smart move would be to let Chris Redman take the lumps this year instead of Matt Ryan.

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