Evan Silva


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2013 Offensive Line Rankings

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

22. Buffalo Bills (4)

2012 Run Block Rankings: 22, 8
2012 Pass Block Rankings: 4, 10

LT: Cordy Glenn
LG: Chris Scott*
C: Eric Wood
RG: Kraig Urbik
RT: Chris Hairston*
Super Sub: G/T Sam Young

Overview: You'd never know it because of Ryan Fitzpatrick's annually lackluster production, but Buffalo fielded one of the league's most underrated lines during Chan Gailey's tenure. In Gailey's Pistol Spread, the Bills got the ball out quickly and ran efficiently, ranking fifth in yards per carry in 2011 (4.91) and fourth in 2012 (5.02). Gailey spread the field with four and five wideouts, creating advantageous run matchups. Unfortunately, Buffalo lost top lineman Andy Levitre this offseason, and how the remaining players will transition to rookie coach Doug Marrone's scheme remains to be seen. While Fitzpatrick was error prone and lacked starting-caliber arm talent, his quick release masked up-front flaws that may be exposed with painfully-raw rookie E.J. Manuel under center.

23. Carolina Panthers (5)

2012 Run Block Rankings: 10, 30
2012 Pass Block Rankings: 27, 21

LT: Jordan Gross

LG: Amini Silatolu
C: Ryan Kalil*
RG: Geoff Hangartner
RT: Byron Bell
Super Sub: T/G Garry Williams

Overview: Although Kalil has been Carolina's stalwart center since breaking into the starting lineup in 2008, he is listed as a "new starter" here because he missed all but five games last season with a Lisfranc fracture. Hangartner slid to center and guard Jeff Byers was forced onto the first string with largely disastrous results. Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams slugged their way to a combined 4.03 YPC average while Cam Newton's sack rate rose from 6.3 to 6.9 percent of his dropbacks. Kalil's return will help the up-front cause, but Hangartner is still penciled in at right guard and Bell graded out 60th-of-80 qualifying tackles in Pro Football Focus' 2012 ratings. Cap-strapped Carolina didn't have financial means to address the line this offseason. The only notable reinforcement is fourth-round guard Edmund Kugbila, a project from Valdosta State.

24. Pittsburgh Steelers (4)

2012 Run Block Rankings: 31, 27
2012 Pass Block Rankings: 21, 15

LT: Marcus Gilbert
LG: Ramon Foster
C: Maurkice Pouncey
RG: David DeCastro*
RT: Mike Adams
Super Sub: G/T Kelvin Beachum

Overview: After selecting DeCastro in last year's first round and Adams in the second, the Steelers were commonly billed as post-draft "winners" with the sudden potential to field one of the league's top young lines. Instead, DeCastro blew out his knee in the preseason and made three starts. Adams was beaten like a drum, coughing up seven sacks in ten games. The Steelers ranked 28th in YPC average (3.73) and Ben Roethlisberger got injured again. The offensive line remained their Achilles' heel. While a healthy dose of talent returns, this is a group to be viewed with skepticism until it makes tangible on-field strides. The unit is also starving for depth, as Beachum (five career starts) and swinging-gate Guy Whimper (22 starts) are the top reserves.

25. Jacksonville Jaguars (5)

2012 Run Block Rankings: 21, 18
2012 Pass Block Rankings: 30, 22

LT: Eugene Monroe
LG: Will Rackley*
C: Brad Meester
RG: Uche Nwaneri
RT: Luke Joeckel*
Super Sub: G/C Mike Brewster

Overview: The presence of Pro Bowl-caliber left tackle Monroe, healthy return of 2011 rookie starter Rackley, and addition of Joeckel give Jacksonville's offensive line some credibility, even if it remains a probable bottom-ten unit. Longtime center Meester turned 36 in March and Nwaneri is recovering from knee surgery. Rackley missed all of last season with a severe high ankle sprain that required surgery. While this line should be better now, it's hard to forget that Jacksonville allowed the third most sacks in football (50) last season and ranked 24th in yards per rushing attempt (3.82). Still, there are reasons to believe this front five can at least be serviceable enough to give the Jags a puncher's chance of playing competitive offense, assuming they keep Maurice Jones-Drew healthy and somehow scrounge together passable quarterback play.

26. Detroit Lions (2)

2012 Run Block Rankings: 18, 15
2012 Pass Block Rankings: 3, 1

LT: Riley Reiff*
LG: Rob Sims
C: Dominic Raiola
RG: Larry Warford*
RT: Jason Fox*
Super Sub: T/G Corey Hilliard

Overview: Detroit's lofty 2012 pass-block grades from Football Outsiders and Pro Football Focus were largely attributable to tackle play. Right tackle Gosder Cherilus, who left for greener pastures in Indianapolis, was PFF's No. 5 pass-blocking tackle. Long-underappreciated left tackle Jeff Backus came in a respectable 26th. Replacing Cherilus will be the winner of a camp battle between Fox (26 NFL snaps) and journeyman Hilliard. The Lions preferred Reiff's short arms and average athleticism at guard, but will have to stick him at left tackle after Eric Fisher and Lane Johnson went before their pick at No. 5 overall. Raiola, 34, had to take a massive pay cut to stay in Detroit. Warford projects as a good player in time, but he's an unproven third-round rookie. Sims is the Lions' best lineman. This revamped front five is likely to struggle for consistency.

27. Dallas Cowboys (5)

2012 Run Block Rankings: 7, 22
2012 Pass Block Rankings: 25, 11

LT: Tyron Smith
LG: Nate Livings
C: Travis Frederick*
RG: Mackenzy Bernadeau
RT: Doug Free
Super Sub: OT Jermey Parnell

Overview: Game watchers know Tony Romo played last season under constant siege. Because Romo is such an extraordinary pocket manipulator with instinctive feel for the pass rush, Dallas managed to rank a middling 16th in the league in sacks allowed (36) despite genuinely poor line play. They were 30th in yards-per-carry average (3.56). Free is the most overpaid offensive lineman in football and could lose his job to Parnell, if he doesn't lose his roster spot altogether. Bernadeau has never been an effective blocker, forming one of the league's worst right sides. Smith is an immense talent, but was a disappointment in his first year on the blindside. Lone new face Frederick was an obvious reach in the first round. At best, this was a well below-average line in 2012 and there is little or no reason to think it made significant offseason gains.

28. Chicago Bears (3)

2012 Run Block Rankings: 19, 16
2012 Pass Block Rankings: 28, 24

LT: Jermon Bushrod*
LG: Matt Slauson*
C: Roberto Garza
RG: Kyle Long*
RT: J'Marcus Webb
Super Sub: T/G Gabe Carimi

Overview: After an abysmal year of line play, GM Phil Emery used his first-round pick (Long) and largest free-agent signing (Bushrod) to address the front five. The Bears need lots of help, because they're gearing up to play pass-first offense under rookie coach Marc Trestman. If the Bushrod addition works as planned, Chicago will upgrade two positions with the move, as 24-year-old Webb kicks to the other side. The team played 2012 musical chairs at right tackle, with Carimi and journeyman Jonathan Scott both failing. While the unit looks improved on paper, that’s not saying very much, and the Bears still lack a top-end starter at any of the five spots. This O-Line remains a work in progress.

29. Miami Dolphins (4)

2012 Run Block Rankings: 23, 21
2012 Pass Block Rankings: 24, 17

LT: Jonathan Martin
LG: Richie Incognito
C: Mike Pouncey
RG: Lance Louis*
RT: Tyson Clabo*
Super Sub: G/T John Jerry

Overview: GM Jeff Ireland poured offseason resources into linebacker, defensive end, cornerback, receiver, and tight end. Relatively speaking, he invested pennies into franchise QB Ryan Tannehill's protection after a below-average year of line play. The lone significant additions were Clabo and Louis, the former of whom hasn't played in a zone scheme like Miami's in nearly a decade. Louis is coming off a late-season ACL tear. While Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline, and Brandon Gibson account for roughly $100 million in max-contractual worth, Louis and Clabo are owed just over $5 million. After whiffing on left tackle targets Jake Long, Branden Albert, and Bryant McKinnie, the Fins will settle for 2012 turnstile Martin on Tannehill's blindside. It's a high-risk projection. Martin got lit up in pass pro as a rookie. Head scratchingly, O-Line was the one part of Miami's roster Ireland allowed to get worse amid free-agency binge spending and stockpiling of draft picks acquired by trading away two of his best players (Brandon Marshall, Vontae Davis).

30. Oakland Raiders (4)

2012 Run Block Rankings: 30, 29
2012 Pass Block Rankings: 23, 4

LT: Jared Veldheer
LG: Lucas Nix*
C: Stefen Wisniewski
RG: Khalif Barnes
RT: Menelik Watson*
Super Sub: T/G Tony Bergstrom

Overview: The Raiders will undergo their second O-Line overhaul in as many seasons, transitioning from a zone to power scheme. Oakland ranked 27th in 2012 YPC average (3.78), unable to clear holes without committing holding penalties. Were the struggles due more to scheme or the blockers themselves? Suppose we'll find out this year. The best lineman -- by far -- is Veldheer, who pass blocked well enough to help Oakland allow just 27 sacks, tying New England for the NFL's fifth lowest total. That was despite the league's least mobile quarterback (Carson Palmer). Entrenched starters are Veldheer, Wisniewski, and probably second-round rookie Watson, a questionable fit for the new scheme because he's a finesse right tackle. Barnes, Nix, Bergstrom, and 2012 free-agent bust Mike Brisiel -- another poor scheme fit -- will vie for the other two positions. In all likelihood, Oakland's line play will continue to be a negative, even if it improves slightly this year.

31. Arizona Cardinals (3)

2012 Run Block Rankings: 32, 32
2012 Pass Block Rankings: 32, 26

LT: Levi Brown*
LG: Jonathan Cooper*
C: Lyle Sendlein
RG: Daryn Colledge
RT: Bobby Massie
Super Sub: G/T Nate Potter

Overview: The Cardinals fielded the NFL's worst 2012 O-Line, and it wasn't close. They couldn't pass or run block. New GM Steve Keim and coach Bruce Arians have a long way to go to make this front five competitive, but at least they're trying. Turnstile left tackle D'Anthony Batiste was not retained, and right guard liability Adam Snyder was cut. The Cards have pursued ex-Arians understudy Max Starks in free agency. While Cooper helps, he can't do it on his own. Back from his torn triceps, Brown ranked 75th-of-76 tackles in Pro Football Focus' 2011 pass-block ratings. Massie improved as his 2012 rookie year progressed, but he was 74th-of-80 tackles. Colledge and Sendlein are below-average starters. Potter is a viable swing lineman, but stretched mightily on the first team. It'll probably take another year for this unit to reach mediocrity.

32. San Diego Chargers (2)

2012 Run Block Rankings: 28, 23
2012 Pass Block Rankings: 29, 32

LT: King Dunlap*
LG: Chad Rinehart*
C: Nick Hardwick
RG: Jeromey Clary
RT: D.J. Fluker*
Super Sub: G/T Johnnie Troutman

Overview: The Chargers are a good sleeper for the No. 1 pick in the 2014 NFL draft because they can't protect their quarterback, and can't rush other teams' quarterbacks. GM Tom Telesco's first season is going to be a long one. Both projected starting tackles are heavy-footed waist benders who will get destroyed by Von Miller, Justin Houston, and Tamba Hali in the AFC West. The Chargers openly confirmed their concern in Dunlap by flirting with Bryant McKinnie and Max Starks. Hardwick, entering his age-32 season, graded out 31st-of-36 centers in Pro Football Focus' 2012 ratings. The club has moved annual pass-protection sieve Clary from right tackle to guard and will pray he plays better there. Journeyman Rinehart is on his third NFL team in six seasons. He'll compete with Troutman at left guard. The 2012 Chargers ranked 31st in yards-per-carry average (3.55) and coughed up the fourth most sacks in the NFL (49). Philip Rivers has absorbed hits to the point that he now sees ghosts in the pocket. Expect more of the same in 2013.

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

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