Evan Silva


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2011 Offensive Line Rankings

Friday, August 12, 2011

21. Cleveland Browns (3)

LT: Joe Thomas
LG: Eric Steinbach
C: Alex Mack
RG: *Shawn Lauvao
RT: *Tony Pashos

We know the Browns have two good linemen in Thomas and Mack. Long overrated, Steinbach is their worst starter at this point. The fact that the right side is a big mystery is unsettling for a team that will have to lean heavily on the run to get first downs. Pashos was atrocious in protection before suffering a year-ending ankle injury last October, and Lauvao is a total projection as an undersized college left tackle who hardly played last season. Expect a passing offense reliant on short throws.

Biggest beneficiary: Ben Watson. Remains Colt McCoy's go-to guy.

22. Cincinnati Bengals (4)

LT: Andrew Whitworth
LG: Nate Livings
C: Kyle Cook
RG: Bobbie Williams
RT: *Andre Smith

The Bengals' best linemen happen to be their oldest. Williams turns 35 early in the season, and they're asking a lot that he stays healthy with Eagles castoff Max Jean-Gilles as the top interior reserve. Whitworth remains steady on the blind side, but Smith has recurring foot problems and a history of untimely weight gains. The former No. 6 pick is in a make-or-break year. This line is good enough to get by, but not the strength it once was. A rookie quarterback is sure to expose all leaks.

Biggest beneficiary: Jermaine Gresham. All signs point to lots of short passing.

23. Denver Broncos (4)

LT: Ryan Clady
LG: Zane Beadles
C: J.D. Walton
RG: Chris Kuper
RT: *+Orlando Franklin

The Broncos have youth on the line and a Pro Bowl left tackle, but we question whether the three other returning starters fit the new philosophy. Kuper was a Mike Shanahan pick; Beadles and Walton were selected by Josh McDaniels. The Broncos let right tackle Ryan Harris walk in free agency because they want to be more physical up front. Beadles, Walton, and Kuper are all undersized. Denver is in a rebuild phase, so look for one or two of them to move on in the near future. This year, the line will have to adjust to a brand-new system and run-heavy mentality it wasn't assembled for.

Biggest beneficiary: Tim Tebow. We guarantee he'll make starts for a rebuilding team.

24. Pittsburgh Steelers (4)

LT: Jonathan Scott
LG: Chris Kemoeatu
C: Maurkice Pouncey
RG: Ramon Foster
RT: *Willie Colon

The Steelers place less of an emphasis on the line than most teams because of their quarterback's escape ability. The best starters are Pouncey, a second-year player, and Colon, who missed all of last season with a torn Achilles'. It's worth noting that Pittsburgh has left the door open for free agent OT Flozell Adams to return, and he could man the right side, kicking Colon inside to guard, or perhaps replace Scott on the left. Regardless, the Steelers will stay competitive in spite of their line, not because of it. Across the league, Scott and Foster, in particular, are very low-level starters.

Biggest beneficiary: Ben Roethlisberger. Big Ben is at his best keeping plays alive.

25. Seattle Seahawks (1)

LT: Russell Okung
LG: *Robert Gallery
C: *+Max Unger
RG: *+John Moffitt
RT: *+James Carpenter

GM John Schneider had the right idea; rip the line to shreds and start over. But early returns aren't promising. Okung is already out with a high left ankle sprain, the same injury that all but ruined his rookie season. Carpenter, converting from college left tackle to NFL right tackle, has looked lost in pass protection so far. Gallery is a strong run blocker when healthy, but hasn't been since 2008. This group should be in better shape by 2012. It will be among the league's poorest this season.

Biggest beneficiary: No one. Seattle's offense will struggle all around.

26. Indianapolis Colts (3)

LT: *Anthony Castonzo
LG: *Jacques McClendon
C: Jeff Saturday
RG: Mike Pollak
RT: Ryan Diem

The Colts finally took upgrading their offensive line seriously this spring, using first- and second-round picks on Castonzo and right tackle of the future Ben Ijalana. But they'll put their faith in Peyton Manning's smarts until Ijalana cracks the lineup and Castonzo settles in. Pollak and Diem form one of the NFL's worst right sides, and McClendon has played six career snaps. Indianapolis' offensive line ineffectiveness has especially shown up in their run game struggles over the past several seasons. It's simply not a good group, and probably won't be for another year or two.

Biggest beneficiary: Joseph Addai. His blitz-pickup skills will come in handy.

27. Chicago Bears (3)

LT: +J'Marcus Webb
LG: Chris Williams
C: +Roberto Garza
RG: *Lance Louis
RT: *+Gabe Carimi

The Bears don't crack the bottom five only because OL coach Mike Tice usually has magic up his sleeve. On paper, this is a scary-looking unit. Webb will be counted on to protect Jay Cutler's blind side after struggling at the less-critical right tackle position as a rookie. A team with good linemen would've given up on first-round bust Williams awhile ago, and Louis lasted just four starts into last season before Tice benched him. The most reliable member is Garza, and the career guard is now playing out of position. It would appear this line has gotten no better since last year. At least C Chris Spencer (70 career starts) and swing tackle Frank Omiyale (29) provide alternatives.

Biggest beneficiary: Matt Forte. Pass blocking remains huge concern.

28. Detroit Lions (5)

LT: Jeff Backus
LG: Rob Sims
C: Dominic Raiola
RG: Stephen Peterman
RT: Gosder Cherilus

You see five returning starters and think continuity, but that hasn't been the case. Backus has missed all of camp with a partially torn pectoral muscle that the Lions hope won't require surgery. Cherilus has practiced sparingly coming off a scary microfracture surgery on his right knee. From Peterman at right guard to Backus at left tackle, the O-Line averages over 30 1/2 years of age. For Matthew Stafford's sake, we would like to have seen Detroit attack the line more aggressively this offseason. Especially with Mikel Leshoure out, the offense projects as exceptionally pass heavy.

Biggest beneficiary: Jahvid Best. Stafford will lean on quick hitters.

29. Oakland Raiders (2)

LT: Jared Veldheer
LG: *Daniel Loper
C: *Stefen Wisniewski
RG: Cooper Carlisle
RT: *Khalif Barnes

This may be the most in-flux line in the NFL. Veldheer and Carlisle are the only members sure to start on Opening Day, with Loper, Wisniewski, and Barnes all trying to hold off the likes of Bruce Campbell, Samson Satele, and Joseph Barksdale. Among left tackles around the league last year, only Michael Oher was penalized more than Veldheer after his odd conversion from center. We'd rank Oakland lower if not for Hue Jackson's offensive brilliance and a small talent edge on Buffalo, Arizona, and Minnesota. In terms of philosophy, the Raiders will use a power run game this year.

Biggest beneficiary: Darren McFadden. Raiders' back must make people miss.

30. Buffalo Bills (4)

LT: Demetrius Bell
LG: Andy Levitre
C: +Eric Wood
RG: *Kraig Urbik
RT: Mansfield Wrotto

You can make a strong argument that this is the least talented line in football, but Chan Gailey's creative scheming keeps it from getting his quarterback killed. The entire right side is comprised of other teams' castoffs, and undersized Levitre is a big run-blocking liability. The Bills seem to think the world of Bell, but he's one of the worst left tackles in the NFL. Expect a carousel of starters at the positions currently manned by Urbik and Wrotto, and lots of quick outs from a noodle-armed quarterback. It's no surprise that deep threat Lee Evans is on the outs; they can't get him the ball.

Biggest beneficiary: Ryan Fitzpatrick. Short throws are his bread and butter.

31. Arizona Cardinals (4)

LT: Levi Brown
LG: *Daryn Colledge
C: Lyle Sendlein
RG: Deuce Lutui
RT: Brandon Keith

It's nice to return four starters on the offensive line in theory. Except when they all stink. Lutui is weighing in around 380 pounds and may cede his job to Rex Hadnot. Brown was the worst offensive tackle in the game last season, according to Pro Football Focus. Colledge wasn't worth the money the Cardinals gave him as an odd system fit, and Keith is another player in danger of losing his spot (to journeyman Jeremy Bridges). We've heard a lot of hype about Arizona's offseason, but their O-Line has an awfully poor look to it. The offense is begging for a legitimate running game to emerge.

Biggest beneficiary: Beanie Wells and, eventually, Ryan Williams.

32. Minnesota Vikings (3)

LT: *Charlie Johnson
LG: Steve Hutchinson
C: John Sullivan
RG: *Chris DeGeare
RT: Phil Loadholt

This offensive line was a liability last season, and it's gotten much worse. Right guard Anthony Herrera (ACL, triceps surgeries) is likely headed for PUP to open the season, but he's not the Vikings' biggest loss. That honor goes to left tackle Bryant McKinnie, who gained so much unhealthy weight during the lockout that Minnesota had to release him a few days into camp. Johnson has been getting eaten alive by Jared Allen and Everson Griffen so far in August, and is better suited to guard. Hutchinson's performance has declined so rapidly that there were rumors he'd be cut in the offseason. Sullivan is replacement-level at best and DeGeare is a total projection. Adrian Peterson will be running behind the worst offensive line of his career this season.

Biggest beneficiary: Percy Harvin. Vikings must feature inside receiver.

Evan Silva is a senior football editor for Rotoworld.com. He can be found on Twitter .
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