Offensive Lines: Mid-Season Report

| December 8, 2011

With the season fast approaching it’s end, it seems about time to influence some Pro Bowl voters at a spot where talent is too often overlooked, the offensive line.

As we did back for the 2010 season, we’ve looked at our individual ratings for every single offensive lineman on each NFL team, added them up and come up three different categories to rank them: Pass blocking, run blocking (including screens), and penalties.

From there we’ve added them up and what you’ve got are our (as of Week 13) offensive line rankings.

It’s not a perfect science since we rate players and not units, nor does it take into account strength of opponent, but it’s as good as anything out there, so enjoy No.’s 1-32 all in one article.

 

1. Philadelphia Eagles

Rank: Pass Blocking = 12th , Run Blocking = 1st, Penalties = 23rd

After all the money the Eagles spent, it’s quite humorous that their best signing came at the veteran minimum in the form of Evan Mathis. Mathis has combined with our top ranked LT on the year to form the best left side of a line in the league, while after some early season shuffles, the rest of the line has come together (with the occasional dips).

 

2. New Orleans Saints 

Rank: Pass Blocking = 5th, Run Blocking = 5th, Penalties = 3rd

The Saints’ line has been extremely consistent, and worryingly for opponents, is really hitting its stride. Replacing Jon Stinchcomb with Zach Strief has helped, as has the emergence of Brian De La Puente. They may have lucked into it with Olin Kreutz walking away, but it led to them being able to match ‘DLP’ (let’s see if that will catch on) up with the ever excellent Carl Nicks and Jahri Evans to form the best interior in the league. Props as well to Jermon Bushrod for his improved play.

 

3. Houston Texans 

Rank: Pass Blocking = 6th, Run Blocking = 3rd, Penalties = 16th

They may lack stars but they don’t lack talent, with the Texans doing an excellent job in pass protection, and an even better job opening holes up for their running backs. The star of the show has been Chris Myers, our top ranked center, but it should be noted all bar Wade Smith are graded positively (and he showed signs of being back to his best against Atlanta). A big part of the reason why they may be able to overcome quarterback issues.

 

4. Buffalo Bills

Rank: Pass Blocking = 2nd, Run Blocking = 10th, Penalties = 4th

There wasn’t a line playing as well as the Bills at the start of the season, but injuries have really slowed them down. It’s a particular shame that Demtrius Bell, who has made incredible strides in his third year, went down and that Andy Levitre was forced to start at three different positions. Still, a remarkable turnaround compared to their 2010 performance.

 

5. Minnesota Vikings

Rank: Pass Blocking = 17th, Run Blocking = 2nd, Penalties = 10th

Another team that has taken huge strides forward this year and it all starts at the center spot, with an injury free John Sullivan showing the player he can be (and timing it quite nicely in a contract year). He’s not just made a case for the Pro Bowl, but earned a spot there in our eyes. No real stars, though the play of Joe Berger in relief has been a pleasant surprise, while they’ve done well to overcome the inevitable problems of playing Charlie Johnson at left tackle.

 

6. New England Patriots

Rank: Pass Blocking = 8th, Run Blocking = 4th, Penalties = 13th

How good a pickup was Brian Waters? Arguably the best Patriots lineman this year, he’s put Logan Mankins to shame given the deals they both got. At the tackle spots there’s been a rotation, with Sebastian Vollmer returning to his rookie form while Nate Solder deals with some ups and downs.

 

7. Tennessee Titans

Rank: Pass Blocking = 1st, Run Blocking = 20th, Penalties = 1st

Very good on their heels but not so good going forward. As much as it’s fun to blame Chris Johnson for the Titans’ woes running the balls, it’s not all been on him. The line has done an exceptional job keeping Matt Hasselbeck clean, but has only recently started to find it’s grove in the run game. Fair to say Leroy Harris is one of the most improved players in the NFL this year.

 

8. Baltimore Ravens

Rank: Pass Blocking = 3rd, Run Blocking = 11th, Penalties = 14th

The signing of Bryant McKinnie has worked to a large degree with the big man at least doing a decent job in pass protection and allowing Michael Oher to move to his more natural right side. He hasn’t been All Pro by any stretch but he’s not the liability he was at left tackle. The strength of this line is the interior, with Marshal Yanda playing as well as any offensive lineman in the league.

 

9. Green Bay Packers

Rank: Pass Blocking = 4th, Run Blocking = 9th, Penalties = 26th

Would be higher up these rankings if not for the horrible performance Marshall Newhouse put in against the Giants – continuing a recent bout of poor form after a decent start to the year. His -26.0 grade makes you wonder when Chad Clifton (owner of a -7.4 grade) will return. Outside of the problematic left tackle spot, the interior has excelled, while Bryan Bulaga has taken a giant leap from the lumps he took in Year 1. That’s why he’s our top-ranked right tackle.

 

10. New York Jets

Rank: Pass Blocking = 9th, Run Blocking = 13th, Penalties = 6th

Still Top 10, but when you’re use to being Top 3, it’s something of a fall from grace. The main reason is the drop-off from Damien Woody to Wayne Hunter, though the 2011 RT has stepped up his game recently. They have the potential to move up though, especially if Nick Mangold is back at 100%.

 

11. Miami Dolphins

Rank: Pass Blocking = 20th, Run Blocking = 7th, Penalties = 2nd

Through the first five weeks of the season it was hard to imagine the Dolphins getting this high up, but the turnaround in the play of the line has been a big reason they’ve started picking up some wins. No player symbolizes it more than Marc Colombo who has gone from complete liability to serviceable. It’s real shame is probably that Jake Long hasn’t looked 100%, he’s got better as season has gone on, but we’ve seen better from him.

 

12. Dallas Cowboys

Rank: Pass Blocking = 10th, Run Blocking = 16th, Penalties = 20th

You tell me, has cutting Andre Gurode and replacing him with Phil Costa worked out? The star of this unit in 2011 (and likely for years to come) is rookie Tyron Smith. He’s stood up to most challenges that have come his way and looked nothing like you’d expect a rookie to look. Nice pair of tackles the Cowboys could have for a long time (even if they’ll need to flip sides).

 

13. Detroit Lions

Rank: Pass Blocking = 7th, Run Blocking = 22nd, Penalties = 19th

No one has really stood out for the Lions, though it should be noted that as a unit they don’t give up all that much pressure. It’s the run blocking that lets them down as they really don’t do a great job opening holes for their backs on a consistent basis.

 

14. Cincinnati Bengals

Rank: Pass Blocking = 11th, Run Blocking = 15th, Penalties = 29th

Outside of Nate Livings there’s nothing to be down on about this group, though the attempt to get Clint Boling some experience when Bobbie Williams was suspended provided some disastrous on-field results. Would have been nice to see Andrew Whitworth maintain his early season form, with his run blocking a letdown from what we saw in 2010. At a cross roads at a number of positions, there could be some re-tooling in the offseason.

 

15. Cleveland Browns

Rank: Pass Blocking = 13th, Run Blocking = 17th, Penalties = 24th

Joe Thomas hasn’t let much get past him, but neither has he truly dominated when he gets his hands on defender. For a guy we champion as the best natural left tackle in football that’s somewhat underwhelming. I’ll admit to personally being a little miffed Alex Mack gets so much praise. He’s a good center, but does he play like a great one?

 

16. Carolina Panthers

Rank: Pass Blocking = 23rd, Run Blocking = 6th, Penalties = 18th

How much higher would the Panthers be if it were not for Byron Bell? Well they’d be in the Top 10, such are the struggles of the undrafted free agent. That’s the biggest problem with this team with Jordan Gross as solid as ever and Ryan Kalil never disappointing. They just need to figure out if they can get Jeff Otah on the field, and if not find someone more prepared for the NFL than Bell.

 

17. Jacksonville Jaguars

Rank: Pass Blocking = 21st, Run Blocking = 12th, Penalties = 5th

With Eugene Monroe finally living up to his draft potential (+9.0 pass blocking) this line is heading in the right direction except at one spot; left guard. There isn’t a worse lineman in all of football than Will Rackley who, like his quarterback Blaine Gabbert, has had a real tough rookie year. Good to see Uche Nwaneri finally starting to play up to his contract.

 

18. Atlanta Falcons

Rank: Pass Blocking = 15th, Run Blocking = 24th, Penalties = 15th

How much worse would this line have been without resigning Tyson Clabo and Justin Blalock? They got better when Todd McClure came in, and when Sam Baker went out, but they haven’t coped with losing Harvey Dahl all that well. A line built on continuity was always going to struggle when it was forced to make changes.

 

19. Indianapolis Colts

Rank: Pass Blocking = 16th, Run Blocking = 28th, Penalties = 8th

Led by Jeff Saturday this line hasn’t performed as badly as we’ve come to expect. Granted the majority of players are still graded negatively, with their run blocking quite atrocious at times, but they’ve not given up as much pressure as you probably expected them to once you realized Peyton Manning was injured.

 

20. Kansas City Chiefs

Rank: Pass Blocking = 14th, Run Blocking = 30th, Penalties = 9th

When you look at the Chiefs’ line, nothing stands out. A decent enough left tackle, and an interior that doesn’t allow much pressure up the middle or get much push in the run game. Nothing that is until you look at the right tackle spot, where Barry Richardson is our lowest ranked tackle on the year. Until Jared Gaither messes up (on the field or off) we’ll never understand how the Chiefs saw fit to keep him off the field and Richardson on it.

 

21. Pittsburgh Steelers

Rank: Pass Blocking = 22nd, Run Blocking = 18th, Penalties = 21st

If the Steelers had started the season with Marcus Gilbert and Max Starks at tackle, and not needed over half a season to realize Chris Kemoeatu required replacing they’d be much higher on this list. After the sieve-like state last year, they’ve got to be happy with their progress.

 

22. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Rank: Pass Blocking = 18th, Run Blocking = 21st, Penalties = 28th

I haven’t always been a fan of Donald Penn, he hasn’t always played up to his talent level, but he’s played up to his contract this year and seems to be getting better as the season goes on. The same can’t be said about Jeremy Trueblood; how he got a contract extension I really don’t know. This line is playing better but still has too many weak spots.

 

23. San Francisco 49ers

Rank: Pass Blocking = 28th, Run Blocking = 14th, Penalties = 22nd

This ranking is nearly entirely the fault of the right side of the line. Anthony Davis has been horrible since entering the league, and putting Adam Synder next to him is like an invitation for pass rushers to get to Alex Smith. This may have been necessitated by Chilo Rachal going from a stud in 2010 to a dud in 2011, but given the history of Snyder it was never going to end well. Much better team when it comes to run blocking.

 

24. Arizona Cardinals

Rank: Pass Blocking = 32nd, Run Blocking = 8th, Penalties = 7th

No surprises that a team sporting Levi Brown at left tackle has the lowest-graded offensive line in pass protection. Brown’s gargantuan -27.7 pass blocking grade puts all others to shame. The biggest disappointment hasn’t been Brown; that was expected. No, it’s Daryn Colledge who has failed to justify the money given to him outside of a dominant display against the Rams.

 

25. Oakland Raiders

Rank: Pass Blocking = 25th, Run Blocking = 19th, Penalties = 31st

Better from the Raiders this year, but with Khalif Barnes at right tackle you’re always handicapped somewhat. The right side of the line (Barnes and Cooper Carlisle) has been the weak link, but they’ll be encouraged by how their young left side of the line has gotten on, even if Jared Veldheer has struggled a bit in recent weeks.

 

26. San Diego Chargers

Rank: Pass Blocking = 24th, Run Blocking = 29th, Penalties = 17th

As soon as Brandyn Dombrowski made an appearance, things were never going to go well for the Chargers on this list. The beating he took courtesy of Kamerion Wimbley will go down as one of the worst of the year. He hasn’t been the only one to struggle, with Jeromey Clary our second-lowest ranked right tackle. With retirement being a possibility for both Marcus McNeil and Kris Dielman you have to wonder if things are going to get worse before they get better.

 

27. Washington Redskins

Rank: Pass Blocking = 26th, Run Blocking = 31st, Penalties = 12th

There won’t have been many bigger wastes of money this season than Chris Chester. The weak link on a Ravens line has resumed his normal role in Washington. It hasn’t all been bad, with Trent Williams making strides in year number two (until he got himself suspended). Very much a work in progress.

 

28. St Louis Rams

Rank: Pass Blocking = 27th, Run Blocking = 25th, Penalties = 30th

It says something about how bad Rodger Saffold was that despite missing half the season he still leads the league in sacks allowed. Elsewhere Jason Brown has been benched for bad play (though injury forced him back into the lineup at RG) and they’ve had to retool at various positions for a variety of reasons. The Rams haven’t been scared to spend on their line or use high draft picks on them, they just haven’t had any luck with the talent playing well or staying healthy.

 

29. New York Giants

Rank: Pass Blocking = 31st, Run Blocking = 23rd, Penalties = 11th

No line has suffered a bigger drop off than the Giants, going from one of the best lines in the league to one of the worst. You can place a large part of blame on David Diehl managing to be even worse at guard than he was at tackle, while the regression of Kareem McKenzie hasn’t helped. A definite need for some retooling here.

 

30. Denver Broncos

Rank: Pass Blocking = 19th, Run Blocking = 32nd, Penalties = 25th

Our lowest-ranked run blocking team, the Broncos have earned a lot of their yardage through simple misdirection as teams fail to get to grips with the option offense they’re running. It’s taken the burden off a line that was struggling to do anything early in the season. Lots of youth here, so let’s see how it develops.

 

31. Chicago Bears

Rank: Pass Blocking = 30th, Run Blocking = 26th, Penalties = 27th

No real surprises with the Bears getting poor performances from practically everyone setting foot on the line. Lance Louis was the latest to ‘shine’ in this regard after giving up five sacks, but he’s not the worst culprit. No, you’d be better off looking at the 10 penalties J’Marcus Webb has given up, or the consistently poor run blocking of Roberto Garza. It says something when the highest-graded player is Chris Spencer (-2.8).

 

32. Seattle Seahawks

Rank: Pass Blocking = 29th, Run Blocking = 27th, Penalties = 32nd

The Seahawks opted to get some rookies some experience when it was clear the veterans in their way offered no long term prospects. It resulted in a combined grade of -47.3 on the right side of their line as neither James Carpenter nor John Moffit were ready to start in the NFL. Perhaps more worrying is the play of Russell Okung, who while not terrible, didn’t have quite the year we expected after a good rookie year.

 

Follow Khaled on Twitter @PFF_Khaled and be sure to follow our main Twitter feed @ProFootbalFocus

 

  • motorcycle

    I don’t understand how the positions have been worked out. Surely New Orleans with 5th in pass blocking, 5th in run block and 3rd in penalities is better than Philadelphia’s 12th in pass block, 1st in run block and 23rd in penalities?