While most of the fantasy football world tracks training camp stories such as Brett Favre’s move, Steven Jackson’s holdout, and Chad Johnson’s mental state, much is happening up front that will help shape your fantasy season as well.
Here’s a look at some training camp developments in offensive lines around the league and what they could mean for the “skill” position players you’ll be drafting over the next three weeks. This is an update to my earlier in-depth review of all 32 NFL team's offensive lines going into this season. If there hasn't been anything to report regarding a team's offensive line during training camp, you won't find them listed here. Visit the Offensive Line Review and Ratings article for a complete breakdown of every team.
The worst line in football is down two centers already this preseason. It’s a long uphill climb for this unit, so unless the Falcons want Matt Ryan to spend more time on his back than Disco Inferno they’d be better off sticking with Chris Redman for now.
Much was made of the Cards’ supposedly banged-up line when Ken Whisenhunt held Kurt Warner out of the preseason opener. Truth be told, center Al Johnson is the only key player in danger of not being ready for the start of the season. Don’t downgrade any Cardinals based on O-line worries.
The absence of both projected starting tackles for the bulk of the preseason is yet another reason Willis McGahee’s stock is declining. Questionable tackle play might also keep Joe Flacco safe on the sidelines for the foreseeable future.
Jason Peters continues to hold out. With him, Marshawn Lynch is a borderline top-10 back, Lee Evans is a fringe WR2 and James Hardy is an intriguing sleeper. Without him… ugh.
First-round pick and projected left tackle Chris Williams will miss at least the entire slate of fake games following back surgery, and Terrence Metcalf—expected to play next to him at left guard—will miss a few weeks after surgery on his knee. It’s so bad they’re talking to Fred Miller, whom they waived after last season and who hasn’t been able to find work since. Downgrade Matt Forte accordingly.
With Stacy Andrews taking over at right tackle for Willie Anderson, the Bengals’ backup tackles would be an upgrade for roughly half the teams in the league. Shouldn’t be a problem for Carson Palmer to stay upright.
The right side is still unsettled; now that Montrae Holland is off the PUP list he should move in at guard, leaving Chris Kuper to battle Ryan Harris at tackle. Harris made his opening case with four penalties (two holds, one false start, one illegal formation) in the first preseason game. Ouch.
Rookie right tackle Gosder Cherilus looked good in the preseason opener… when he wasn’t committing one of his three penalties. He’s a rookie, so we’ll cut him some slack.
Some of the depth is being gobbled up due to injuries to backups Ephraim Salaam and Fred Weary, and Charles Spencer couldn’t make it back from that horrible knee injury. However, if a back can stay healthy behind an Alex Gibbs line there’s usually fantasy hay to be made.
Left tackle candidates Khalif Barnes and Richard Collier have both struggled, their guards are still in flux, and starting center Brad Meester hopes to be back by the team’s Week 6 bye. Fewer holes for MoJo and Fred Taylor, less time for David Garrard to throw… color me extremely concerned.
Kansas City Chiefs
Branden Albert won’t have the preseason to work on his position switch, and at present the Chiefs are rolling with undersized Herb Taylor at left tackle. If Albert and rookie right tackle Barry Richardson live up to their potential this will be a good line… eventually. In 2008, not so much.
There’s a fight for the right guard gig, but the rest of this line is surprisingly solid. And since Chad Pennington doesn’t (can’t) throw downfield, protection shouldn’t be an issue. I’m cautiously optimistic for Ricky Williams this year; not “RB2” optimistic, but “take a flyer as an RB4” optimistic.
New England Patriots
My initial thought was not to overreact to the way the Giants manhandled this group in the Super Bowl. But both left tackle Matt Light and backup tackle Ryan O’Callaghan have missed time with undisclosed injuries (thanks, Bill Belichick), right guard Steve Neal and reserve tackle Oliver Ross are both on the PUP, and right tackle Nick Kaczur has some off-field issues involving painkillers and the FBI. So it doesn’t seem so much like overreaction anymore.
Shawn Andrews is back in camp but has yet to return to the practice field. Once he’s reinstated into the starting lineup Max Jean-Gilles can move to the left side to compete with Todd Herremans. More importantly, then Westbrook owners can start to breath normally again.
San Diego Chargers
With center Nick Hardwick not expected back until Week 5 at the earliest, the signing of veteran Jeremy Newberry as insurance behind Cory Withrow is looking like a very smart move.
San Francisco 49ers
There were rumblings earlier in the offseason that Larry Allen might unretire, but nothing since. With Mike Martz sending everyone into the pattern this line will look worse than it really is; unfortunately, it’s just not that good to begin with.
Starting center Chris Spencer may not be ready for the season opener following offseason surgeries on his shoulder and thumb, and Seattle isn’t particularly deep along the line to begin with. Feel free to downgrade that Maurice Morris/Julius Jones tandem backfield, if that’s even possible.
St. Louis Rams
It wouldn’t be the Rams if they weren’t dealing with at least some O-line injuries, but so long as it’s backup tackle Brandon Gorin and not Orlando Pace missing time with shoulder problems it’s all good.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Left tackle Luke Petitgout has yet to return from the torn ACL he suffered last season; once that happens we’ll feel better about the Bucs’ prognosis.
Both backup tackles are nicked; the key there is “backup”. Last year the Skins’ starting line was decimated by injuries, but if the DNPs can be limited to the reserves Jim Zorn’s new WCO should function smoothly and help Clinton Portis put up numbers worthy of a top-10 back.