Each year we present our list of the top offensive lines in football. It’s not built on which teams gave up the most sacks, or who had the most rushing yards.
It goes far beyond that.
No, we understand that the success a team has in running the ball or protecting the quarterback is more than just a reflection of the offensive line. It involves the skill players making plays, whether that’s getting rid of the ball before pressure can develop, breaking a tackle to turn a 2-yard run into a 20-yard one, or making sure that blitzing defensive back is halted in his progress.
Our 2012 Offensive Line Rankings look solely at those guys who are offensive linemen, and how they’ve performed. It’s broken down into three categories (Pass Protection, Run and Screen Blocking, and Penalties) and between them they give us an overall score which leads to the rankings.
Now, let’s countdown to No. 1 (2011 rank in brackets – green Improving, red dropping).
32. Arizona Cardinals (21)
PB – 32nd, RB – 32nd, PEN – 16th
Stud: It’s not so much that Daryn Colledge (-0.8) was a stud, as much as he was the best of a very bad bunch. The former Packer was on big money, but his run blocking left a lot to be desired and it was only his work in pass protection that saw him land in this section.
Dud: Look no further than D’Anthony Batiste (-38.7). He was never meant to start, but he was so bad he gave backup left tackles a bad name. In his 10 games he amassed the second-lowest rating of all tackles (the lowest average rating per game), with his pass protection a particular lowlight. You won’t find many players who give up 54 quarterback disruptions on 404 pass blocking snaps.
Summary: Just a truly horrible offensive line. The Cardinals had made progress in recent years, but losing Levi Brown and then deciding Adam Snyder would prove an upgrade at right guard came back to hurt them in a big way. The small consolation was Bobby Massie, who turned his performance around in the second half of the season, raising expectations going forward.
31. Indianapolis Colts (20)
PB – 31st, RB – 31st, PEN – 5th
Stud: You won’t be getting Anthony Castonzo (+7.2) confused with the top left tackles any time soon if he keeps playing like this, but unlike most of his peers he didn’t look out of place on an NFL field. The run blocking was impressive, but as the 55 quarterback disruptions allowed show, he needs to get better in the passing game.
Dud: You don’t often notice guard play unless it’s really bad. Well, you’d have to have missed a large percentage of the Colts’ offensive snaps not to see Mike McGlynn (-25.1). Manhandled in the run game and treated like a turnstile in the passing game, he made life harder than it needed to be for his quarterback.
Summary: There were some bright spots. Both centers they used got some push in the run game, while former first-round pick Castonzo took a step forward this year. However, there’s a lot of room for improvement and they chiefly need to stop allowing so much pressure. The 245 combined sacks, hits and hurries they gave up were 32 more than any other team.
30. Chicago Bears (32)
PB – 28th, RB – 27th, PEN – 30th
Stud: I never thought I’d see the day where not only would J’Marcus Webb (-0.8) not be the weak link on this line, but also be the most consistent performer. He took a huge step forward this year in becoming an adequate left tackle. You can win football games with them.
Dud: Take your pick. Ultimately it has to be the man who is on the path to ‘Bustville’, Gabe Carimi (-10.1). The former first-round pick does get push in the run game, but he’s horribly overmatched when he gets on his heels. That’s a horrible habit for an offensive tackle who earned his late benching.
Summary: They don’t make life easy for Jay Cutler and they make their running backs earn every yard. However you measure them this line just isn’t good enough, to the point where the best performers are the guys who just don’t get beat with regularity.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars (18)
PB – 30th, RB – 25th, PEN – 13th
Stud: It really isn’t even close in Jacksonville. Eugene Monroe (+22.9) isn’t just the best player they have on their offensive line, he’s their best player on offense. A top-quality franchise left tackle who gets push in the run game, he’d get more press if he played for a more successful team.
Dud: It’s always hard to pick on an undrafted free agent rookie guard like Mike Brewster (-20.7) but what else can you do when he plays as badly as he did? He may develop into something, but this year the Jags asked way too much out of him.
Summary: There are two players on this line that look like they belong. The aforementioned Monroe and Uche Nwaneri. Everybody else has a replaceable feel about them even if you’d hope young guys like Brewster and Cameron Bradfield learn from the lumps they’ve taken this year.
28. San Diego Chargers (26)
PB – 29th, RB – 24th, PEN – 7th
Stud: He wasn’t perfect, but next to the rest of the guys on the line Louis Vasquez (+12.7) looked like a million bucks. That said, you’d still like to see him doing a better job in the run game.
Dud: When you start a UDFA at tackle what do you expect? Michael Harris (-43.4) earned the lowest grade of all tackles this year. Shame on the Chargers for putting him in that situation.
Summary: No quarterback had as little faith in his offensive line as ‘Throw Away Phil’. So rare was it that they weren’t allowing pressure that he assumed it was coming and just couldn’t (or wouldn’t) go through his reads and progressions. Injuries hurt them for sure, but they find themselves in a horrible position right now.
27. Carolina Panthers (9)
PB – 27th, RB – 23rd, PEN – 14th
Stud: As is often the case, it’s the ever reliable Jordan Gross (+16.4) who continues to get the job done, even if his performance in Week 17 was the worst we’ve ever seen from him. He may never be an elite tackle, but at least he’s more than a one-tricky pony.
Dud: There was a close competition but ultimately the inability of Geoff Hangartner (-14.5) to get any push in the run game meant he was the way to go.
Summary: The Panthers haven’t been shy about investing draft picks on the line, but with the injury to Ryan Kalil this year it fell apart. Amini Silatolu looked every bit the rookie, while Byron Bell isn’t good enough, often enough, to be a starter in this league yet.
26. St Louis Rams (28)
PB – 21st, RB – 26th, PEN – 29th
Stud: After a rookie year where he got too much praise, and a sophomore season where he earned his criticism, I for one wasn’t expecting much from Rodger Saffold (+8.6). Color me wrong, as he excelled in pass protection, looking like the player he was drafted to be.
Dud: The Rams got a lot of sub-standard play from a lot of sub-standard players. None stood out more than Quinn Ojinnaka (-9.5) before he was replaced in the lineup and then cut.
Summary: Every time I write about the Rams’ line I wax lyrical about how it’s a miracle they finished as high as they did. They coped with injuries and filled in with guys who were flops elsewhere and managed to get a line on the field that wasn’t an embarrassment. There’s a long way to go, but kudos for that if nothing else.
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