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2009 Offensive Line Review and Ratings - NFC East
John Tuvey
Updated: August 26, 2009
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Dallas Cowboys

Year Sacks Allowed Sacked Rank RB Rush Yards Rush Yards Per Game Per Game Rush Rank Per Carry Average Per Carry Rank
2006 37 20 1,936 121.0 13 4.1 14
2007 25 10 1,617 101.1 17 4.2 11
2008 31 15 1,626 101.6 14 4.5 8

Year Left Tackle Left Guard Center Right Guard Right Tackle
2006 F.Adams K.Kosier A.Gurode M.Rivera M.Colombo
2007 F.Adams* K.Kosier A.Gurode* L.Davis* M.Colombo
2008 F.Adams* K.Kosier A.Gurode* L.Davis* M.Colombo
2009 F.Adams K.Kosier A.Gurode L.Davis M.Colombo
* Pro Bowler; (r) Rookie

If you’re looking for proof that Pro Bowl voting may not be the most accurate measure of talent, look no further than last year’s NFC squad. The Cowboys sent three offensive linemen to Hawaii, more than any other team in either conference, yet the numbers don’t back up the assumption that this must be a dominant unit. While the ‘Boys’ 4.5 yards per carry was solid, their adjusted line yards according to the Football Outsiders was a more pedestrian 4.1. Almost a quarter of their running back yards came 10 or more yards downfield, yardage that’s usually credited more to the backs than the linemen. And Dallas’ pass protection (31 sacks, 15th overall and 13th using the Football Outsiders’ adjusted sack rate) was nothing special, either despite the luxury of a mobile quarterback.

Not that this group is chopped liver. Assuming Kyle Kosier is healthy after missing the bulk of last season with a foot injury, this unit returns intact for a third straight season. With Kosier at left guard and Flozell Adams at left tackle the Cowboys should find plenty of success running left. Right tackle Marc Colombo is better in pass protection than as a power run blocker, so planting mammoth guard Leonard Davis alongside him provides a nice balance. Three-time Pro Bowler Andre Gurode is a bit overrated in the middle, especially when you consider his strength is supposedly his strength and yet according to analysis from the Football Scientist he lost more than 20% of his one-on-one battles at the point of attack.

For this unit to live up to the hype, they’ll not only need to perform consistently but also eliminate the penalties. Last year the Cowboys line averaged better than two penalties per game, and Adams and Davis consistently rank among the most frequently flagged linemen in the game. Unfortunately if the adage “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” holds true then Dallas is in trouble, as all five of its starters are at least 30 years old. And that speaks to another problem in Big D: depth. When Kosier went down last season the tag-team of Montrae Holland and Cory Procter was a less-than-adequate solution, and unless Doug Free or rookie Robert Brewster develop quickly the Cowboys are wafer-thin at the tackles.

If the starting five can stay on the field for 16 games, the Cowboys’ offense should be just fine. And if the line tweaks its performance upward and penalties downward, they could be a dominant run-blocking unit. But the injury bug bit the ‘Boys last year, and this unit isn’t exactly young. At least with Free Reign—the heavy metal band featuring Proctor, Davis, and Colombo—they’ll have their music career to fall back on.

RUN BLOCKING: B
PASS BLOCKING: C
DEPTH: D
OVERALL GRADE: B-

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New York Giants

Year Sacks Allowed Sacked Rank RB Rush Yards Rush Yards Per Game Per Game Rush Rank Per Carry Average Per Carry Rank
2006 25 7 2,156 134.8 7 4.7 7
2007 28 12 2,076 129.8 3 4.8 2
2008 28 11 2,469 154.3 1 5.3 1

Year Left Tackle Left Guard Center Right Guard Right Tackle
2006 L.Petitgout D.Diehl S.O'Hara C.Snee K.McKenzie
2007 D.Diehl R.Seubert S.O'Hara C.Snee M.McKenzie
2008 D.Diehl R.Seubert S.O'Hara* C.Snee* K.McKenzie
2009          
* Pro Bowler; (r) Rookie

There was talk last season from multiple sources that the Giants’ offensive line deserved MVP honors. Of course that never came to fruition; it’s not a group award and offensive linemen toil in anonymity anyway. And viewing this unit individually shines the light on some flaws. Left tackle David Diehl would shine more as a guard, his original position; as a tackle, he’s good but not necessarily elite. On the other side, the Giants ranked 20th and 24th in adjusted line yards per carry running behind right tackle and around right end, and tackle Kareem McKenzie continues to battle back problems.

But why nitpick? Behind Diehl and left guard Rich Seubert, the Giants topped five yards per carry running left. Seubert, center Shaun O’Hara, and right guard Chris Snee paced the top middle-rushing attack in the NFL, producing 4.8 adjusted line yards per carry between the guards. When you’re pounding out a steady 140 running back yards per game, as the Giants have done the past three seasons, you can live with the occasional speed rusher sneaking through for a sack.

The Giants seem aware of the issue as well and nabbed UConn tackle William Beatty in the second round. In a perfect world, he’ll maintain his quick feet while adding enough strength to supplant Diehl at left tackle; Diehl could flip to the right side if/when McKenzie’s back goes out (and where his slower feet wouldn’t be as much of an issue) or move back inside to guard. Those moves are somewhere down the road, though the Giants wouldn’t be disappointed if Beatty came along quickly enough to provide some much-needed depth. As it stands, this unit ranks among the league’s best.

RUN BLOCKING: A
PASS BLOCKING: B+
DEPTH: C
OVERALL GRADE: A-

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Philadelphia Eagles

Year Sacks Allowed Sacked Rank RB Rush Yards Rush Yards Per Game Per Game Rush Rank Per Carry Average Per Carry Rank
2006 28 8 1,984 124.0 11 4.8 5
2007 49 28 1,680 105.0 13 4.7 4
2008 23 7 1,446 90.4 24 4.1 22

Year Left Tackle Left Guard Center Right Guard Right Tackle
2006 W.Thomas T.Herremans J.Jackson Sh.Andrews* J.Runyan
2007 T.Thomas T.Herremans J.Jackson Sh.Andrews* J.Runyan
2008 T.Thomas T.Herremans J.Jackson Sh.Andrews J.Runyan
2009 J.Peters T.Herremans J.Jackson St.Andrews Sh.Andrews
* Pro Bowler; (r) Rookie

Despite allowing just 23 sacks last season—seventh in the NFL and even more impressive given the 606 pass attempts—the Eagles were anything but complacent with their offensive line during the offseason. Neither veteran tackle will return, as Philly traded a first-round pick to the Bills for Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters and added free agent Stacy Andrews, who will play guard and allow his brother Shawn to slide out to right tackle. The moves weren’t designed to address shortcomings in pass protection but rather the Eagles’ slip from 124 running back rushing yards per game in 2007 to 105 in 2008 to just 90 last year—and a corresponding slide in yards per carry from 4.8 to 4.7 to 4.1.

The athletic Peters, whom Andy Reid believes can become the best left tackle in the game, joins holdovers Jamaal Jackson and Todd Herremans as dominating one-on-one blockers; according to stats compiled by the Football Scientist, all three posted 90% or better win rates in one-on-one blocks at the point of attack last season. A line that ranked 31st in success rate on converting short-yardage running plays and averaged less than four adjusted line yards per carry around both ends and off left tackle should see marked improvement behind Peters and Herremans on the left side. On the right side the Andrews brothers—only the third pair of siblings to block on the same line since 1951—swap positions but play to their strengths; Shawn slides outside, where his athleticism will come in especially handy on the screen passes Philly loves to run, while Stacy moves inside to put his bulk to good use. The Eagles are downplaying it, but you have to think having his brother nearby will also help the younger Andrews cope with the depression that sideline him for parts of last season.

The upgrades in the run blocking shouldn’t dramatically impact Donovan McNabb’s protection. Peters surrendered 11.5 sacks in 13 games last season, but his numbers should benefit from McNabb getting rid of the ball more quickly in Philly’s West Coast offense. Stacy Andrews gave up 9.5 sacks in Cincy last year, but he’ll have help on either side playing guard as well as a vastly more mobile quarterback.

The key to this unit will be how quickly they can get on the same page. If Stacy Andrews isn’t all the way back from the knee injury he suffered late last season, the group won’t have a full training camp to jell. Philly’s depth is decent with Max Jean-Gilles, the versatile Nick Cole, and a pair of 2008 draft picks (Mike McGlynn and Mike Gibson) the Eagles hope to develop. But the far more preferable option would be everyone in place for an entire preseason of adjustment so the group is ready for the Panthers on September 13.

Update (Downgrade): The Eagles’ talented projected starting line hasn’t played a snap together this preseason, and they’re not expected to until Week 1 at the earliest. The right side of the line may not even be ready by then, as Shawn Andrews is battling back spasms and Stacy Andrews is still recovering from knee surgery. Philly does have guys like Max Jean-Gilles and Winston Justice to plug in, but that doesn’t constitute the line they expected to put in front of Donovan McNabb and Brian Westbrook.

RUN BLOCKING: B
PASS BLOCKING: B-
DEPTH: C
OVERALL GRADE: B

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Washington Redskins

Year Sacks Allowed Sacked Rank RB Rush Yards Rush Yards Per Game Per Game Rush Rank Per Carry Average Per Carry Rank
2006 19 3 2,216 138.5 4 4.5 8
2007 29 13 1,675 104.7 14 3.8 29
2008 38 22 1,731 108.2 11 4.1 18

Year Left Tackle Left Guard Center Right Guard Right Tackle
2006 C.Samuels* D.Dockery C.Rabach R.Thomas J.Jansen
2007 C.Samuels* P.Kendall C.Rabach R.Thomas J.Jansen
2008 C.Samuels* P.Kendall C.Rabach R.Thomas J.Jansen
2009 C.Samuels D.Dockery C.Rabach R.Thomas S.Heyer
* Pro Bowler; (r) Rookie

The Redskins’ front line started off well last season, but their advancing age seemed to catch up with them as they faded down the stretch. The final results weren’t bad; Washington’s 4.41 adjusted line yards per carry ranked fifth in the league and backs were stopped at or behind the line of scrimmage just 14 percent of the time—good for second-best in the NFL. Their 38 sacks allowed was middle of the pack, but with Washington running the quick-pass West Coast offense it should have been better.

Washington took some steps in the offseason to address the age issue. They replaced veteran guard Pete Kendall by bringing Derrick Dockery back from a two-year hiatus in Buffalo. The last time Dockery and tackle Chris Samuels teamed up on the left side of Washington’s line, the Skins rushed for 138 yards per game at 4.5 yards per carry. Washington was most successful running behind Samuels last year (5.0 adjusted line yards per carry, according to the Football Outsiders), so the addition of Dockery should play to their strength.

On the other side, veteran right tackle Jon Jansen was released after sharing the position with Stephon Heyer last season. The Skins have tried Heyer in this role before, with mixed results, but the only other option at present is 2002 first-round bust Mike Williams. Randy Thomas is showing his age at right guard, but again the Redskins lack alternatives. Thomas played through a herniated disc in his neck last year and also had offseason knee surgery, but if he’s healthy enough he should start ahead of Chad Rinehart. Veteran Casey Rabach holds down the middle, giving the Redskins three starters on the wrong side of 30 years old.

Last season the Skins gambled on their aging line staying healthy, and it worked for a while before both tackles went down later in the year. Heyer is a downgrade on the right side from the drive-blocking Jansen, but it’s not as if Washington could count on him for 16 games anyway. This unit is solid so long as Samuels and Thomas stay healthy, as Rinehart isn’t ready for prime time and there’s little behind him to fill the holes.

RUN BLOCKING: B+
PASS BLOCKING: C
DEPTH: D
OVERALL GRADE: B-

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