Evan Silva


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2011 Offensive Line Rankings

Friday, August 12, 2011

11. Kansas City Chiefs (4)

LT: Branden Albert
LG: +Ryan Lilja
C: Casey Wiegmann
RG: *Jon Asamoah
RT: Barry Richardson

Thursday's acquisition of Jared Gaither was a high-upside, low-rent move. Still just 25 years old, Jonathan Ogden's onetime heir apparent in Baltimore could emerge as an in-season starter if healthy. Richardson is the group's weak link and would-be odd man out. New starter Asamoah replaces Brian Waters and projects as an instant impact run blocker. Though Albert has struggled with consistency, he dominates on the ground and is only 26. The primary backups are Gaither, second-round G/C Rodney Hudson, and right tackle-only Ryan O'Callaghan (20 career starts).

Biggest beneficiary: Jamaal Charles. This line will open holes.

12. Baltimore Ravens (4)

LT: Michael Oher
LG: Ben Grubbs
C: Matt Birk
RG: +Marshal Yanda
RT: *Jah Reid

Talent is not an issue along Baltimore's front five, but the team is rolling the dice that Oher makes major strides in his second year at left tackle. GM Ozzie Newsome never pursued an upgrade at the position. Instead, right tackle was opened to competition with Yanda kicking back inside to his natural guard position. Early returns in Thursday night's preseason opener were unfavorable for Mike Mayock favorite Reid. If Oher steps up, this can still be an effective all-around offensive line, but keep an eye on right tackle, as well as Birk's health. The 35-year-old pivot is questionable for Week 1 with knee trouble. Depth is suspect with Cousins and ex-defensive lineman Bryan Mattison as top reserves.

Biggest beneficiary: Ray Rice. Vonta Leach also counts for him.

13. Dallas Cowboys (3)

LT: Doug Free
LG: *+David Arkin
C: Andre Gurode
RG: +Kyle Kosier
RT: *Tyron Smith

We love this line from a protection standpoint. The No. 10 pick in the draft, Smith projects as an immediate and significant upgrade on Marc Colombo. The decision to kick Kosier from left to right guard makes sense, as the 10-year vet will assist the rookie's transition. Free is as reliable as they come on Tony Romo's blind side, and playing between Free and Gurode bodes well for the rookie Arkin, as well. Dallas is geared up for a pass-first offense this year. They'd just better avoid injuries. Top sub Montrae Holland reported to camp fat, and swing tackle Sam Young has no career starts.

Biggest beneficiary: Dez Bryant. Cowboys will go deep much more.

14. Jacksonville Jaguars (4)

LT: Eugene Monroe
LG: *+Jason Spitz
C: Brad Meester
RG: Uche Nwaneri
RT: Eben Britton

Jacksonville lost arguably its best run blocker when it was forced to release overweight LG Vince Manuwai, and Spitz is hardly an adequate replacement. The Jags need big leaps from third-year tackles Monroe and Britton, both of whom have struggled with consistency but offer plenty of talent. At age 34, Meester is still going strong and should have another solid year left in him. Nwaneri is a liability, but will be pushed quickly by third-round rookie Will Rackley. Overall, this is an O-Line with nastiness and a promising amount of ability. The Jaguars will continue to go run-heavy this season.

Biggest beneficiary: Maurice Jones-Drew. (And Rashad Jennings.)

15. Miami Dolphins (3)

LT: Jake Long
LG: Richie Incognito
C: *Mike Pouncey
RG: +Vernon Carey
RT: *Marc Colombo

Long is arguably the game's premier tackle, but he can't carry an O-Line by himself. Incognito is historically unreliable, and the Fins can expect a dramatic drop-off in pass protection going from Carey to Colombo on the right side. Pouncey projects as solid, but was a reach with the 16th pick in the draft. While Long keeps the unit afloat, there are major question marks throughout the rest of the front five. The Dolphins could eventually get help from unheralded swingman Nate Garner, who can play guard and right tackle. According to Pro Football Focus, Garner was highly effective in protection and held his own on the ground in eight 2009 starts. He missed 2010 with a foot injury.

Biggest beneficiary: Reggie Bush. Check-downs will be aplenty.

16. St. Louis Rams (4)

LT: Rodger Saffold
LG: Jacob Bell
C: Jason Brown
RG: *Harvey Dahl
RT: Jason Smith

A young unit on the rise. No member of St. Louis' first-team line is over 30, and their average age is 27.2 with most of the experience on the interior. Saffold is still just 23. Dahl was a huge addition, upgrading on journeyman Adam Goldberg and bringing physicality to a group that is relatively soft otherwise. Bringing back Bell, an excellent pass-protecting guard, at a reduced rate was another plus for quarterback Sam Bradford. Smith hasn't met expectations, but the Rams aren't giving up on the former No. 2 overall pick. Versatile G/T Goldberg (58 career starts) returns as the top backup.

Biggest beneficiary: Sam Bradford. The unit was built with him in mind.

17. Tennessee Titans (5)

LT: Michael Roos
LG: Leroy Harris
C: Eugene Amano
RG: Jake Scott
RT: David Stewart

The Titans return the same front five that collapsed last year, nearly every member having a career-worst season. Mike Munchak, promoted from offensive line to head coach, has faith that continuity will do the trick. Harris was particularly bad in 2010, but was brought back on a two-year deal. It's really a roll of the dice in Tennessee. If the unit performs at last year's levels, running back Chris Johnson will continue to struggle for lanes. If it recaptures its 2009 dominance, "C.J." will explode.

Biggest beneficiary: To be determined.

18. San Diego Chargers (5)

LT: Marcus McNeill
LG: Kris Dielman
C: Nick Hardwick
RG: Louis Vasquez
RT: Jeromey Clary

We'd feel better about this offensive line if McNeill wasn't coming off his second knee surgery in the last six months; top backup Brandyn Dombrowski presents a major drop-off. The Chargers have opened Vasquez's job to competition, and they've long been much too high on underachieving Clary. Quarterback Philip Rivers' quick release and aggressiveness cover up flaws, but there isn't an elite member without McNeill at 100 percent. While Dielman's pass protection has declined, he remains an impact run blocker. In San Diego, power runs will remain an offensive staple this year.

Biggest beneficiary: Mike Tolbert. Don't be surprised if he leads the team in touches.

19. San Francisco 49ers (4)

LT: Joe Staley
LG: Mike Iupati
C: *Jonathan Goodwin
RG: Chilo Rachal
RT: Anthony Davis

Talent is not a problem for this group. The 49ers start four former top-40 draft picks in the front five and have added a 2009 Pro Bowler in Goodwin. Iupati looks like a future All-Pro, but fellow 2010 first-rounder Davis labored through a miserable first season. Along with Iupati, Rachal gives the Niners a Saints-like guard duo if they can maximize their ability and play with more consistency. The 49ers' offensive line has potential to move quickly up the rankings, but their "floor" is also low.

Biggest beneficiary: Frank Gore. Iupati and Rachal can open massive holes.

20. Washington Redskins (3)

LT: Trent Williams
LG: Kory Lichtensteiger
C: *+Will Montgomery
RG: *Chris Chester
RT: Jammal Brown

After re-signing Brown to a five-year, $27.5 million contract, the Redskins wasted no time settling on a first-team line. Cohesion is crucial for the Shanahans' zone-blocking system, and they added a key piece in Chester, who was miscast as a power blocker in Baltimore. An athletic former college tight end, Chester can get up field efficiently and should flourish under old Ravens position coach Chris Foerster. Washington's lines have been dreadful for several seasons, but the arrow is pointing up on this one. Especially promising was the fact that Williams reported to camp in tip-top shape.

Biggest beneficiary: Tim Hightower. The zone-blocking scheme is in full effect.

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

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