By Shaun Blundell (@Shaun_F10Y) & Tim Monk (@Tim_MonkF10Y)
Keep your quarterback upright and make huge holes upfront for your running back to waltz through, sounds easy doesn’t it? Well some teams make it look easy, whilst others seem to be more of a hindrance than a helping hand. The causal NFL fan will probably be able to name the likes of Tom Brady, OBJ and JJ Watt when they get asked to name an NFL star but the fanatics will tell you that an NFL game is won in the trenches. These guys don’t often get a lot of publicity but they have arguably the most important job of them all. Without further ado let’s have a look at where we rank the offensive lines heading into 2019. All stats taken from https://www.footballoutsiders.com/stats/ol.
The Revolving Doors
Good luck if you are playing behind any of these units in 2019. Expect plenty of photos of a quarterback eating the turf or a running back buried for a 5 yard loss if they are relying on these guys to help them out.
DeShaun Watson was sacked 63 times last season! No surprise then that the Texans added lineman in both the 1st and 2nd round of the draft. Tytus Howard the Silver medal to Andre Dillard. They were unsurprisingly 32nd ranked according to Pro Football Outsiders in Pass Protection. The only way is up for a team who had an adjusted sack rate of over 11%. Yikes. Better order that bus for Watson to Jacksonville….oh wait, make that a boat.
Laremy Tunsil is a star, the rest of the line…..not so much. This will be a rebuilding project in South Florida, be patient Dolphins fans. The Dolphins were 31st ranked in adjusted pass protection from Pro Football Outsiders and 1 of 4 teams to have an adjusted sack % of over 10%. Josh Rosen wanted to get away from crappy O Line play when he left Arizona. At least he has experience of it.
The Bengals have never replaced Andrew Whitworth or Kevin Zeitler, they tried to by spending a 1st round pick on Jonah Williams but he will miss the campaign with injury. It never rains but pours, doesn’t it?
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
43 quarterback hits and 68 knockdowns a year ago tell you this line has issues and it hasn’t been upgraded. Still, a below average defence may keep them off the field…ha, I just chuckled at that.
Might Need Reinforcements
These offensive lines have the potential to harm their teams in 2019. Plenty of question marks linger here and depth is often lacking.
Easily the teams biggest question mark (outside of kicker) it is a surprise with such investment in skill positions the Browns lack any real depth here. Actually ranked 32nd in Power run plays according the Pro Football Outsiders (PFO, i cant be bothered to keep writing that).
Quick fire passing should help but this unit needs to bounce back from an awful campaign. Veteran additions should help get it back to respectability. Getting the ball out quicker relieves the pressure on Murray, though his mobility may run him in to trouble more often than not…
Plenty of veterans on team friendly deals isn’t the usual way to build a line but that’s the way the Bills are going.Can these old pros all last the rigour of another season? There’s enough running backs, maybe they’ll employ one as a FB.
Similar story to the Browns, plenty of skill and maybe not enough brute strength and ugliness up front. Garrett Bradbury was classified by most as the drafts best center however on a positive note.
A run heavy offence has a strong looking left side of the line, although the level of pass blocking ability is questionable. The right hand side of the unit is a concern also. Darrell Bevel leaving for the Lions has to be a small concern too.
Another team where the run blocking is much better than the pass blocking. Add in the uncertainty about Russel Okung and Melvin Gordon and it’s not a good combination. Middle of the road rankings in Pass Protection, Power run play effectiveness and adjusted sack rate, which may surprise some.
This group struggled over the last half of 2018. Moving Frank Ragnow back to center would seem like a wise move but tackles Decker and Wagner need to add consistency. As noted with the Seahawks, they’ll have Darrell Bevell coming over and this guy can coach offensive lines.
New York Jets
A respectable job against the pass last year but questionable free agent additions, particularly Ryan Kalil don’t provide huge confidence of an upgrade. This team ranked dead last in total offensive line rank according to PFO, LeVeon Bell must be loving that.
By no means the worst bunches but certainly no better than middle of the road. These groups will get the job done but there are weaknesses to be exploited by the opposition.
Injuries ravaged this unit last year so better luck in 2019 plus the addition of Jawaan Taylor in the 2nd round should see Nick Foles have a decent line in front of him.
Bolles and Risner should form a nice left side tandem for years to come. Possibly overpaid Ja’Waun James but he is decent at right tackle.
This ranking should possibly lower given the Trent Williams situation. There is plenty of individual talent if the group can steer clear of injuries, but that’s why Trent Williams is not currently in the building.
An excellent interior with the signing of Matt Paradis possibly being undervalued. Look for Cam to limit his rushing and the line to deliver consistently clean pockets. With the way Cam is going, he can’t take too many more hits like he did with TJ Watt last year.
I love the tackle duo of Conklin and Lewan and Roger Saffold is a nice addition from the Rams. Look for big numbers from Derrick Henry on the ground behind this group. Bear in mind, Lewan is suspended for the first 4 games of the season though.
Kansas City Chiefs
3 of the 5 positions are filled with quality in tackles Fisher and Schwartz and guard Duvarney-Tardif, the question will be center and left guard.
New York Giants
Another team with 3 out of 5 positions filled with quality starters. This time its tackle Nate Solder and guards Will Hernandez and Kevin Zeitler, if they can get good play at center and right tackle this unit could be special.
San Francisco 49ers
Continuity is king here as all 5 starters return. That bodes well for the running game which generated just shy of 2000 yards on the ground last year. Is that the Offensive Line? Or Kyle Shanahan?
This unit has improved over the past 2 years but allowing Roger Saffold and Jon Sullivan to leave creates big holes. Tackle spots are fine but the interior is a concern. That being said, this unit last year provided the most RB yards per run at 5.0 and adjusted line yards of 5.9 according to PFO and was their top ranked Offensive Line.
Only Missing A Padlock
There is plenty of quality in this section but whether it be a piece missing from the jigsaw or a lack of depth, it wouldn’t take much to derail them. With that being said a few better than expected individual campaigns could see these units flourish.
4 above average lineman, despite whatever you think of Incognito the person, puts the Raiders on the brink of the top tier. If they can get Kolton Miller performing as a first round pick should they could be great.
Huge for Baltimore that Marshall Yanda returns after mulling retirement. Stanley and Brown are nice bookends and there is quality depth a plenty for a team that ranked 1st in achieving 1st downs when faced with short yardage situations when rushing.
Green Bay Packers
Owning the league’s best left tackle is always a nice plus in the rankings (he chuggs beer like a champ as well). Competition is likely at the guard spots but the Packers struggles are not usually associated with offensive line play.
2 first round picks to address the right side of the line and the Falcons have quality depth to protect Matty Ice and Alex Mack is still one of the games premier centers. Remains to be seen whether those 2 1st round draft picks can come in and hit the ground running straight away.
New England Patriots
The masters of roster construction appear to have done it again. Losing Trent Brown in free agency would hurt most but New England has last years 1st rounder Isiah Wynn to step in. This group always performs regardless of personnel and is sneakily good in the ground game. New England actually ranked first according to Pro Football Outsiders in terms of pass protection rank. Probably partly why Brady is still able to do what he does as Gisele doesn’t need to tend to him that often…
Another team bringing back all 5 starters from a unit that is ranked 7th in pass protection according to Pro Football Focus and a unit that gave up the least QB pressures a year ago, no wonder people are high on the Bears.
New Orleans Saints
Terron Armstead misses too many games and Max Unger retiring will hurt but both guards have been pro bowlers and Ryan Ramczyk is one of the leagues best at the right tackle spot.
These groups are a quarterback and running backs dream. Combining great pass blocking abilities and run game dominance these guys win the battle time after time at the line of scrimmage.
Trading away Marcus Gilbert opens up a competition at right tackle but the other 4 spots are occupied by an excellent group. Villanueva, Foster, Pouncey and DeCastro all return for the formidable unit that offer Big Ben great protection despite the sheer volume of pass plays that they attempt whilst also opening up holes for whomever is in the backfield.
Drafting your future left tackle in the first round, comfortable in the fact that he will not be needed shows the level of depth and talent in this group. Jason Peters returns at 37 years old to anchor the left side, Jason Kelce is as good as anyone at center and Lane Johnson is the league’s best right tackle. The depth across the line is excellent so hopefully Carson Wentz gets good protection in his comeback campaign.
If the fab 3 of Tyron Smith, Travis Fredericks and Zack Martin all see the field then this group is still as good as anyone. La’el Collins and Connor Williams round out the starters for a group that has been consistently amongst the best for the past 3-4 years. Injuries threaten to derail the group but these rankings are based on what we know and not what we don’t so fingers crossed for a clean bill of health and the Cowboys unit should be great again.
I said the Cowboys have been good for 3-4 years, that model is being replicated in Indy. Castonzo, Kelly, Smith and Nelson are all high draft choices invested in the offensive line. Quenton Nelson was exceptional as a rookie earning a pro bowl nod in his first campaign and his stellar play has seemingly galvanised the rest of the group. Mark Glowinski is the other starter claimed off waivers previously he ended up starting 9 games last year and was signed to a 3 year deal as a reward for his stellar play.