Evan Silva


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2013 Offensive Line Rankings

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

11. Kansas City Chiefs (3)

2012 Run Block Rankings: 8, 19
2012 Pass Block Rankings: 20, 27

LT: Branden Albert
LG: Jeff Allen
C: Rodney Hudson*
RG: Jon Asamoah
RT: Eric Fisher*
Super Sub: G/T Geoff Schwartz

Overview: Kansas City has pieces in place to field an impressive young line consisting of franchise player Albert, second-year guard Allen, third-year center Hudson, fourth-year right guard Asamoah, and No. 1 pick Fisher. Off the bench can come power blocker Schwartz and 2012 third-round pick Donald Stephenson, an athletically gifted tackle. While this group remains in heavy transition with plenty to prove, the player-by-player assembly rivals the league’s top offensive lines. The pass blocking should -- and needs to -- take a big step forward under historically pass-first coach Andy Reid as Fisher upgrades on Eric Winston and Allen improves in year two.

12. Houston Texans (5)

2012 Run Block Rankings: 13, 9
2012 Pass Block Rankings: 11, 9

LT: Duane Brown
LG: Wade Smith
C: Chris Myers
RG: Ben Jones
RT: Derek Newton
Super Sub: OT Ryan Harris

Overview: Although Houston's 2012 front five drew strong marks across the board and returns every starter, this is not quite a question mark-free line. Brown and Myers remain top-notch starters, but both Smith and Newton are coming off knee surgery. Smith is 32 and entering his decline. Newton was the Texans' biggest up-front liability last season, getting overpowered in the run game and playing a big role in Arian Foster's career-worst 4.06 YPC average. Newton will be pushed by Harris and 2013 third-rounder Brennan Williams. Line play is still a plus for this offense, but the group has weaknesses and can no longer be considered among the NFL's elite.

13. Washington Redskins (5)

2012 Run Block Rankings: 9, 7
2012 Pass Block Rankings: 19, 23

LT: Trent Williams
LG: Kory Lichtensteiger
C: Will Montgomery
RG: Chris Chester
RT: Tyler Polumbus
Super Sub: OT Tom Compton

Overview: All five starters return from a line that cleared the way for Washington to rank No. 5 in total offense. Critical to the Skins' 2012 run-blocking potency was durability, which is especially integral for the Shanahans' zone scheme because linemen move in unison. Williams, Lichtensteiger, Montgomery, and Chester all started 16-of-16 games. Polumbus started 15-of-16. So despite the fact that Lichtensteiger and Polumbus were not particularly effective individually, Washington still thrived with continuity. Some regression must be expected in that area. Depth pieces Compton (0 career starts), G/C Josh LeRibeus (0 career starts), and G/C Adam Gettis (0 career starts) are talented if untested reserves. While this offensive line is not a team weakness on the surface, the Skins still have a ways to go in pass pro and the depth is suspect at best.

14. Philadelphia Eagles (3)

2012 Run Block Rankings: 6, 28
2012 Pass Block Rankings: 26, 25

LT: Jason Peters*
LG: Evan Mathis
C: Jason Kelce*
RG: Todd Herremans
RT: Lane Johnson*
Super Sub: OG Danny Watkins

Overview: The Eagles rank in the top half of the NFL's offensive lines because they're loaded with up-front talent. They just couldn't stay healthy last year. All-Pro Peters tore his right Achilles' twice and didn't play a down. Kelce lasted two weeks before tearing two knee ligaments. Herremans missed eight games with a dislocated foot. Watkins has chronic ankle problems and is a bust. Mathis was the only healthy starting lineman last season, and he is now recovering from ankle surgery. No. 4 pick Johnson is a fantastic fit for Chip Kelly's up-tempo offense, and this line has top-five potential, but the unit warrants a conservative ranking due to so many injury concerns.

15. New Orleans Saints (4)

2012 Run Block Rankings: 5, 17
2012 Pass Block Rankings: 12, 7

LT: Charles Brown*
LG: Ben Grubbs
C: Brian De La Puente
RG: Jahri Evans
RT: Zach Strief
Super Sub: OT Terron Armstead

Overview: The Saints believe in building their line from the inside out, stacking the interior with plus guard and center play and willing to field replacement-level talents at tackle. Grubbs, four-time All-Pro Evans, and UDFA steal De La Puente are the linchpins of New Orleans' trench unit. Strief is a former seventh-round pick out of Northwestern. Brown was a 2010 second-rounder but has been incredibly fragile in the NFL, battling back, hip, hamstring, and knee injuries over his first three seasons. He'll be pushed by raw but athletically freakish third-round rookie Armstead. While New Orleans' lack of left tackle clarity lowers its 2013 projection, this will likely be a quality O-Line. Drew Brees' lightning-quick decision making and delivery mask exterior protection flaws.

16. New York Jets (3)

2012 Run Block Rankings: 11, 5
2012 Pass Block Rankings: 10, 30

LT: D'Brickashaw Ferguson
LG: Willie Colon*
C: Nick Mangold
RG: Brian Winters*
RT: Austin Howard
Super Sub: G Stephen Peterman

Overview: Effective line play went to waste last season as Mark Sanchez butt-fumbled away football games and Shonn Greene left enormous amounts of yards on the field. Gone are guards Brandon Moore and Matt Slauson, the former of whom remains on the street while the latter is competing for a job in Chicago. Colon-for-Slauson projects as a wash. Decorated wrestler and 50-game college starter Winters offers an impressive resume, but is a rookie. Ferguson and Mangold return as the nuts and bolts of the Jets' line, with improving power run-blocker Howard entering his second full season as a starter. While this front five has question marks, it projects as a plus run-blocking group for new feature back Chris Ivory. That's going to be vital, because the Jets must find ways to hide what inevitably will be one of the NFL's weakest passing attacks.

17. Indianapolis Colts (4)

2012 Run Block Rankings: 24, 26
2012 Pass Block Rankings: 31, 18

LT: Anthony Castonzo
LG: Donald Thomas*
C: Samson Satele
RG: Hugh Thornton*
RT: Gosder Cherilus*
Super Sub: G/C Mike McGlynn

Overview: Line play was Indianapolis' single biggest 2012 weakness, so second-year GM Ryan Grigson attacked the front five in both free agency and the draft. Grigson shelled out a combined $49 million in max contracts to Thomas and Cherilus, who graded out as Pro Football Focus' No. 17 guard and No. 8 tackle, respectively. He then made 320-pound Thornton the 86th pick in the draft. Castonzo and Satele were already passable, if replacement-level starters, but this offensive line has experienced a major injection of talent. Ineffective and ousted incumbents G/T Joe Reitz (17 career starts), McGlynn (34 starts), and T/G Jeff Linkenbach (28 starts) now give the group an appearance of experienced, versatile depth. Easily a bottom-ten O-Line last season, the Colts suddenly look average at worst with a chance to creep into the top 15.

18. Green Bay Packers (4)

2012 Run Block Rankings: 29, 25
2012 Pass Block Rankings: 6, 31

LT: Bryan Bulaga
LG: Josh Sitton
C: Evan Dietrich-Smith*
RG: T.J. Lang
RT: Derek Sherrod*
Super Sub: T/G Marshall Newhouse

Overview: Coach Mike McCarthy implemented sweeping O-Line changes prior to OTAs, kicking former right-side starters Bulaga and Sitton over to the left, with Lang replacing Sitton at right guard and the right tackle job opened to a multi-player competition. Gone is 2012 free-agent bust Jeff Saturday, who was benched for Dietrich-Smith down the stretch last year. The aim of the Bulaga switch was to put Green Bay's most accomplished blocker on $130-million QB Aaron Rodgers' blindside. Incumbent starter Newhouse was a major liability, both in the run game and pass protection. The full effect of the up-front musical chairs is difficult to project, but benching Newhouse is addition by subtraction. The biggest camp battle will take place at right tackle between Newhouse, 2011 first-round pick Sherrod, Don Barclay, and rookie David Bakhtiari.

19. St. Louis Rams (3)

2012 Run Block Rankings: 25, 14
2012 Pass Block Rankings: 22, 13

LT: Jake Long*
LG: Rokevious Watkins*
C: Scott Wells
RG: Harvey Dahl
RT: Rodger Saffold
Super Sub: G/C Barrett Jones

Overview: The Rams invested the majority of their free-agent dollars and draft picks into playmakers, but signed Long to create space on the field for the new ball carriers and catchers. Assuming Long plays closer to 2008-2010 form than 2011-2012, St. Louis will have upgraded two line positions, as Saffold kicks to right tackle, replacing street free-agent Barry Richardson. The interior remains suspect with Dahl showing signs of decline at age 32 and 2012 free-agent pickup Wells having undergone two right knee surgeries since last June, in addition to suffering a fractured foot. Wells is also 32 years old. As a fifth-round rookie, Watkins lasted one game before a season-ending ankle injury. Fourth-round rookie swingman Jones is coming off a Lisfranc fracture. This should definitely be the best offensive line of Sam Bradford's career, but there's little reason to believe it's a top 12-15 group, even if the Rams get better luck in terms of health.

20. Seattle Seahawks (5)

2012 Run Block Rankings: 15, 3
2012 Pass Block Rankings: 13, 20

LT: Russell Okung
LG: James Carpenter
C: Max Unger
RG: J.R. Sweezy*
RT: Breno Giacomini
Super Sub: G John Moffitt

Overview: O-Line talent isn't a strength of the Seahawks, but they absolutely max out their players’ abilities via position coach Tom Cable's tutelage and clear holes in the run game with a zone-blocking scheme. Hard-luck injuries wrecked Seattle's 2012 up-front continuity, as Carpenter missed nine games due to a knee injury and concussion, Moffitt was limited to six starts by elbow and knee woes, and Sweezy was brought along slowly as a former college defensive tackle. This line isn't star studded, but it's good enough and doesn't have a single projected starter above age 27. Whereas the Redskins can expect injury regression, Seattle ought to get it the other way around. Cable will pull production from this unit, and it can get better simply by staying healthy.

21. Atlanta Falcons (3)

2012 Run Block Rankings: 26, 24
2012 Pass Block Rankings: 14, 8

LT: Sam Baker
LG: Justin Blalock
C: Peter Konz*
RG: Garrett Reynolds
RT: Lamar Holmes*
Super Sub: G/C/T Mike Johnson

Overview: Re-proving that passing-based teams can overcome shaky line play, the 2012 Falcons did well to rank top eight in yards and top seven in points despite a sub-average front five. While Michael Turner's eroding skills deserve lots of blame, Atlanta ranked 29th in yards per rush (3.70) as the passing attack carried the offense. Baker is just a guy at left tackle. Reynolds was a mediocre right guard before a November back injury sent him to I.R. The 55th pick in last April's draft, Konz struggled mightily as a rookie guard. Right tackle Tyson Clabo was arguably Atlanta's most effective lineman, and he got cut in April. The right-side reins will fall on 2012 third-rounder Holmes, who played all of seven snaps as a rookie. With Clabo gone and longtime center Todd McClure retiring, Atlanta is getting younger up front. Only time can tell whether they'll be better.

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