Evan Silva


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2012 Offensive Line Rankings

Monday, May 7, 2012

22. Miami Dolphins

LT: Jake Long*
LG: Richie Incognito*
C: Mike Pouncey*
RG: Artis Hicks
RT: Jonathan Martin

Top reserves: OT Lydon Murtha, G/T John Jerry, C/G/T Ryan Cook, T/G Nate Garner, OT Will Barker.

Overview: The Dolphins are administering a dramatic philosophical change under rookie coach Joe Philbin. Newly a zone-running team, Miami is moving away from the power-blocking identity that brought them Long and Jerry as early-round draft picks, and Incognito as a free agent investment. While Long and Pouncey are good enough football players to succeed in any system, the rest of this group will likely experience initial chemistry woes. Martin is playing right tackle for the first time in his life. Incognito has always been a man-blocker. 33-year-old journeyman Hicks looks like the early favorite to start at right guard just because he's a veteran of the scheme. Look for plenty of 2012 bumps in the road as the Dolphins' offensive line takes time to find its bearings.

23. Minnesota Vikings

LT: Matt Kalil
LG: Charlie Johnson*
C: John Sullivan*
RG: Geoff Schwartz
RT: Phil Loadholt*

Top reserves: G/C Brandon Fusco, OT Patrick Brown, G/C Joe Berger, G/T Jose Valdez, OG Chris DeGeare, OT DeMarcus Love.

Overview: While Pro Football Focus graded Minnesota's O-Line 16th in pass blocking last season, Football Outsiders had it dead last in the NFL. My eyes told me the latter was more accurate. Though losing LG Steve Hutchinson hurts, GM Rick Spielman took steps to fix his front five by signing underrated Schwartz on the cheap and drafting Kalil over Morris Claiborne. Johnson's best position is left guard, so ultimately the Vikings improved at three positions. Already one of the league's premier hole-clearing lines, this group should at least give Christian Ponder a fighter's chance in pass protection. All in all, it has potential to be far better than this ranking.

24. San Diego Chargers

LT: Jared Gaither
LG: Tyronne Green
C: Nick Hardwick*
RG: Louis Vasquez*
RT: Jeromey Clary*

Top reserves: OT Mario Henderson, T/G Brandyn Dombrowski, G/T Steve Schilling, C Colin Baxter, C David Molk.

Overview: Marcus McNeill's shot back and Kris Dielman's abrupt if understandable early retirement leave this group in heavy transition on Philip Rivers' blind side. Gaither has talent to fortify left tackle, but comes with medical concerns of his own and the track record of a chronic underachiever. Green failed to beat out the underwhelming Vasquez for a starting job last training camp, then struggled mightily when forced to start eight games down the stretch. If Wayne Hunter is the AFC's worst right tackle, then Clary is a close second. Hardwick and Gaither can make this offensive line formidable at the two most critical positions, but otherwise it's clearly not a strength.

25. Seattle Seahawks

LT: Russell Okung*
LG: Lemuel Jeanpierre
C: Max Unger*
RG: John Moffitt*
RT: Breno Giacomini

Top reserves: T/G James Carpenter*, T/G Paul McQuistan, T/G Frank Omiyale, G/T Allen Barbre, OG Deuce Lutui.

Overview: Position coach Tom Cable's zone scheme produced a dominant rushing attack during last season's second half, but Seattle has a long way to go to reach its full line potential. Okung has missed 10 games during his first two seasons, while Moffitt and Carpenter are both coming off major knee injuries. After missing virtually all of 2010 with a toe injury, Unger returned for an uneven 2011 campaign. Giacomini and Jeanpierre would be backups on a good team, but they're on track to open the season as Seahawks starters. While this group is capable of taking a big step forward in 2012, it currently grades out as subpar due primarily to health concerns.

26. Washington Redskins

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

Top reserves: OG Maurice Hurt*, T/G Tyler Polumbus, C/G Erik Cook, OG Josh LeRibeus, G/C Adam Gettis.

Overview: This is another group that could have benefited from continuity that is so vital for zone-blocking teams. Williams (6), Lichtensteiger (11), and Brown (4) combined to miss 21 games due to injury and suspension last season. Though a system fit for the Shanahans' scheme, Chester's game lacks requisite power for right guard. Lichtensteiger, considered a solid starter when healthy, is now coming back from ACL and MCL surgery. Hurt and Cook gained valuable spot-starting experience due to the injuries in front of them, but this year's priority needs simply to be staying healthy. If the Redskins somehow find durability on the line, this could shoot from a bottom-seven unit to the middle of the pack. Robert Griffin III should definitely make it look better.

27. Oakland Raiders

LT: Jared Veldheer*
LG: Cooper Carlisle*
C: Stefen Wisniewski*
RG: Mike Brisiel
RT: Khalif Barnes*

Top reserves: T/G Joseph Barksdale, G/T Tony Bergstrom, OG Zach Hurd, T/G Ed Wang, C/G Alex Parsons.

Overview: Another team in offensive renovation, the Raiders have done away with former coach Hue Jackson's power-blocking scheme in favor of new OC Greg Knapp's zone system. This unit had better be ready to run block. In nine years as a coordinator, Knapp's offenses have finished in the league's top five in rushing attempts seven times. Veldheer and Wisniewski are athletic enough for the new scheme, and Brisiel has 47 starts in it. Carlisle has history as a zone-blocking guard. Oakland's problematic position projects to be right tackle, where the Raiders lack compelling alternatives to power blocker Barnes. Barksdale possesses heavy feet, and Oakland doesn't have a single reserve with starting experience. This unit looks solid from left tackle to right guard, but the fifth spot is a potentially large trouble area and there's no fallback option in place.

28. Atlanta Falcons

LT: Sam Baker
LG: Justin Blalock*
C: Todd McClure*
RG: Peter Konz
RT: Tyson Clabo*

Top reserves: OT Will Svitek*, G/C Joe Hawley*, OG Mike Johnson, G/T Garrett Reynolds, OG Vince Manuwai, OT Lamar Holmes.

Overview: Line play was Atlanta's Achilles' heel last year, on both sides of the ball. Needs drafter GM Thomas Dimitroff devoted his first two picks to offensive linemen, his third to a lane-clearing lead blocker, and fourth to a defensive end. While Konz may shore up right guard, some of last year's problems remain. In addition to battling a chronic back injury, Baker has struggled mightily to protect Matt Ryan, and 2011 late-season replacement Svitek wasn't a whole lot better. McClure has a bad knee and turned 35 in February. Blalock and Clabo are strong starters, and the Falcons don't lack for experienced depth, but this is no better than a below-average line.

29. Chicago Bears

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

Top reserves: C/G Chris Spencer*, G/C Edwin Williams, OG Chilo Rachal, G/T Mansfield Wrotto, T/G James Brown.

Overview: Chicago has allowed more sacks than any team in football over the past two seasons, but rookie GM Phil Emery is staying the course. Emery didn't use a single 2012 draft pick on an offensive lineman, counting on internal improvement from OC Mike Tice's unit. The Bears return all five starters from a group that surrendered 49 sacks in 2011 to rank fifth in the league, while finishing 31st in Pro Football Focus' pass-block rankings and 24th per Football Outsiders. Four of the starters will be 27 or younger when the season kicks off, so there is some reason for optimism. We just can't rank the Bears' offensive line high because it's played so poorly and continually brings back the same guys. The run blocking hasn't been very good, either.

30. Arizona Cardinals

LT: Levi Brown*
LG: Daryn Colledge*
C: Lyle Sendlein*
RG: Adam Snyder
RT: Jeremy Bridges

Top reserves: OT D'Anthony Batiste, OG Senio Kelemete, OT Bobby Massie, C Ryan Bartholomew, T/G Nate Potter.

Overview: Arizona fielded one of the league's poorest pass blocking lines last year, and there's little reason to believe it will be any better this season. New right guard Snyder's strength has never been pass protection, and journeyman Bridges couldn't beat out Brandon Keith for the starting right tackle job in 2011 camp. Keith is currently on the street. Massie had a big name before the draft because Mel Kiper talked him up, but he's a raw, developmental project who wasn't nearly as highly regarded inside the league. Kelemete is converting from college left tackle to guard. While the Cardinals will trot out impressive offensive weaponry this season, OL coach Russ Grimm may have to work some serious magic to keep the club's quarterback(s) upright.

31. Indianapolis Colts

LT: Anthony Castonzo*
LG: Ben Ijalana
C: Samson Satele
RG: Mike McGlynn
RT: Winston Justice

Top reserves: T/G Jeff Linkenbach*, G/T Joe Reitz*, T/G Mike Tepper, OG Seth Olsen, OT Steven Baker.

Overview: Rebuilding the Colts will be a long process, but rookie GM Ryan Grigson used the free agency and trade markets to fortify Andrew Luck's starting line. Right tackle Justice cost Grigson only a sixth-round swap, while McGlynn and Satele were reasonably priced free agent pickups. Castonzo and Ijalana are talented, if inherited prospects drafted by the outgoing Polians in last year's first and second rounds. They're both also coming off offseason surgeries, Ijalana for a left ACL tear and Castonzo for ligament damage in his ankle. While talent is not this group's major downfall, it lacks any hint of continuity and is ultimately a patchwork unit with poor depth.

32. St. Louis Rams

LT: Rodger Saffold*
LG: Robert Turner
C: Scott Wells
RG: Harvey Dahl*
RT: Jason Smith

Top reserves: OT Quinn Ojinnaka, C/G Bryan Mattison, OT Kevin Hughes, G/T Rokevious Watkins, C Tim Barnes.

Overview: Investing two top-33 picks as well as over $53 million in contracts to Dahl and outgoing C Jason Brown over the past four offseasons hasn't come close to paying dividends in St. Louis. Brown was cut in March. Smith has been a complete bust. Saffold is playing out of position at left tackle and is better suited for the right side. Dahl was the Rams' best lineman in 2011, but his nastiness didn't rub off on teammates. The depth is among the poorest in football. The only 2012 draft pick used on an offensive lineman produced Watkins, who will convert from tackle to guard. Left guard is wide open for competition and lacks candidates that would inspire any kind of confidence. The Rams added some quality football players this offseason, but their offensive line remains the NFL's worst until proven otherwise. It's a big concern for Sam Bradford.

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