Cowboys could have best O-line of the PFF era
I recently ranked the top 10 offensive lines in the NFL heading into the 2015 season, and unsurprisingly, the Cowboys came in at No. 1.
I got to thinking, though: Where could this Dallas O-line rank among the best of the PFF era?
I went back and identified the best offensive line of each season since we’ve been grading every player on every play of every NFL game, to provide some context of what would be required of this year’s group to be No. 1. I averaged each starter’s final positional rank to determine the best unit from each year.
The short answer: Last year’s Cowboys line was the second-best we’ve ever seen – so the introduction of rookie La’el Collins and another year of continuity for the existing group could very well propel Dallas’ unit this year to the top spot.
Here is their competition from previous years:
2014: Dallas Cowboys
Average positional rank: 5.0
This is the second-lowest average of any team we have seen. And to think the only starter on the line older than 26 is Doug Free. Zack Martin, Tyron Smith, and Travis Frederick are all 24, and all theoretically should still be developing. Factor in rookie La’el Collins, whom we deemed a top-10-caliber pick based on his talent (he dropped in the draft due to concerns surrounding him and a police investigation), and there is good reason to believe this Cowboys unit could challenge for the best we’ve seen in the era.
2013: Philadelphia Eagles
The 2013 season was head coach Chip Kelly’s NFL coming-out party. The Eagles’ line benefitted from the option-heavy scheme that had defenses off-balance and confused all season long.
2012: San Francisco 49ers
The gold standard for offensive lines in the PFF era. The Niners averaged 4.9 yards per carry on 418 designed runs that season, and wore down d-lines all the way to the Super Bowl (where they lost to the Ravens).
2011: Houston Texans
2011 was a season devoid of a dominant line, as three different teams all finished at around the same grade. The Texans were hurting for quality guard play, and their rankings could look very similar to the Eagles this upcoming season.
2010: New York Jets
How good must this offensive line and defense have been that it could carry Mark Sanchez to the conference championship? This group was downright nasty. Left guard Matt Slauson was the only real weak spot, and he still graded out positively for the season.
2009: Miami Dolphins
This was RB Ricky Williams’ last productive season, where he gained 1,121 yards at 4.7 yards per carry. The former Heisman winner actually graded out negatively as a runner this season because he wasn’t doing much with the gaping holes this line created.
2008: New York Jets
Those late 2000s Jets teams had some of the most talent in recent memory to not make it to the Super Bowl. One can’t help but wonder how their season would have been different had Brett Favre stayed healthy throughout the whole year.
2007: New England Patriots
You need more than just Tom Brady and Randy Moss to go 16-0 in the regular season, and the Patriots’ dominant offensive line that year rarely gets mentioned. They cleared the way for Kevin Faulk, Laurence Maroney, and Sammy Morris to gain 1,493 yards at 4.5 yards per carry, in addition to providing great pass protection for Brady.