Offensive Line Rankings
Five weeks into the NFL season and things are starting to take shape. And one area where increased time leads to evaluations less prone to weekly fluctuations is on the offensive line. So right now seems like a good time to unload some offensive line rankings, right?
As ever, we’ve looked at the combined scores for the offensive lines, while also given you an idea where they rank as pass blockers, run blockers and in terms of penalties (of the discipline variety). And, as ever, we look forward to your comments via our @PFF twitter handle.
*Last years rankings in parenthesis
32. Buffalo Bills (22nd)
PB: 31st, RB: 31st, PEN: 6th
Stud: Look no further than Cordy Glenn. The most reliable piece of this line, Glenn hasn’t reached the heights of last year but remains a solid pass protector as evidenced by just 10 QB disruptions allowed all year.
Dud: The switch to right guard has not been kind to Erik Pears. Our lowest-ranked guard on the year, he’s been an abomination in the run game while allowing far too much pressure up the gut. There have been signs of progress but not enough to convince.
Summary: Starting an undrafted free agent at right tackle might create a warm fuzzy feeling, but has also created a quick route to quarterbacks with only two tackles allowing more pressure than Seantrel Henderson. Throw in a fifth-rounder at left guard and there’s nothing reliable vets Glenn and Eric Wood can do to salvage this ranking.
31. San Diego Chargers
PB: 30th, RB: 30th, PEN: 6th
Stud: And the winner, as a result of default… King Dunlap. In fairness to Dunlap he’s good enough in pass protection and when he latches onto you in the run game it’s pretty much all over with his size and power.
Dud: It’s not been pretty watching Johnnie Troutman this year. He’s been poor in all phases of the game and but for injuries would surely be a candidate for benching.
Summary: Losing Nick Hardwick has hurt, with the centers replacing him combining for a -13.2 grade. Perhaps the bigger disappointment, though, comes from the guys either side of him and, with the interior not doing a good job of creating space for their quarterback to step up into. It makes the play of Rivers all the more remarkable.
30. Kansas City Chiefs (20th)
PB: 24th, RB: 32nd, PEN: 1st
Stud: The only man earning a positive grade this year is center Rodney Hudson. He’s the veteran of this group and it’s most reliable player.
Dud: Perhaps it’s time to start worrying about Eric Fisher? Switched to the left side he’s still allowing too much pressure and has yet to step up in the run game. To justify that first overall pick he needs to really step it up.
Summary: It was always likely to be a bumpy road after losing Branden Albert, Jon Asomoah and Geoff Schwartz and so it has proved. Will have to suck up the fact they’ve got youngsters gaining experience, while knowing journeymen Mike McGlynn and Ryan Harris are not long-term answers.
29. Carolina Panthers (7th)
PB: 29th, RB: 26th, PEN: 10th
Stud: He’s given up more pressure than a center should, but Ryan Kalil is the team’s best run blocker and is keeping this unit together.
Dud: It’s hard playing left tackle in the NFL. After a strong effort in Week 1 Byron Bell is proving that, with his showing against Baltimore particularly hard to watch. The plus side? Outside of that game the pressure levels have been acceptable from his side.
Summary: You don’t just lose Jordan Gross and Travelle Wharton and get over it. No, retirement has crippled this unit. Perhaps its only viewing this people will appreciate just how good those two (especially Gross) was.
28. Atlanta Falcons (30th)
PB: 20th, RB: 29th, PEN: 26th
Stud: You can pick your poison from Jon Asamoah or Justin Blalock. Blalock looked particularly good before trying to gut some plays out with a bad back against Minnesota.
Dud: The team placed Lamar Holmes on Injured Reserve and he may find it tough to work a way back into a starting spot when he returns.
Summary: That second-half domination by the Giants certainly pushed this unit down more than a few spots. Before that, Jake Matthews was looking an upgrade and the retooled interior was making some room for runners. But injuries have decimated the team and the backups have opponents licking their lips.
27. New England Patriots (14th)
PB: 32nd, RB: 13th, PEN: 20th
Stud: The only starter with a positive grade in pass protection is Sebastian Vollmer. That’s not what this line is used to, but it’s all they have right now.
Dud: It proved a bad idea to start Jordan Devey and the 2013 undrafted free agent who struggled in preseason was benched, but not before the damage was done.
Summary: For years New England has had one of the best lines in the league. They dropped off a little last year and have really hit hard times in 2014. They’ve struggled to find the right combination as they try to blend in new players and you get the feeling this is going to be a rollercoaster season for the unit.
26. Arizona Cardinals (32nd)
PB: 19th, RB: 27th, PEN: 27th
Stud: Given what the Cardinals got at left tackle last year Jared Veldheer must seem like the best bits of Joanthan Ogden, Walter Jones and Orlando Pace all rolled up into one. He’s not, but he’s been a huge improvement, particularly in pass pro.
Dud: Normally the rock on the line, Lyle Sendlein has mixed the average with some backside kickings. His efforts in his past two outings have not been him at his best.
Summary: It’s an improvement which owes a lot to their marquee free agent signing, but they’ve cobbled together a unit that hasn’t shamed them. The only real disappointment is that 2013 first round pick Jonathan Cooper has managed just three snaps as he tries to work himself back to playing shape.
25. Minnesota Vikings (6th)
PB: 23rd, RB: 25th, PEN: 25th
Stud: The only player with a positive run block grade so far is John Sullivan, and even he hasn’t hit the kind of form that has seen him be the league’s most consistent center these past two years.
Dud: As a rookie Matt Kalil looked like he was destined to be one of the top tackles in the league. A so-so sophomore season has turned into a full-on terrible third year. His efforts against both New England and New Orleans were not good enough, though there has been signs of improvement the past two weeks.
Summary: A slow start or a big backwards step? They have missed Brandon Fusco when he hasn’t been in the lineup, but there are too many talented players just not playing to their potential right now.
24. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (24th)
PB: 21st, RB: 22nd, PEN: 29th
Stud: He’s not playing as well as he did last year but Demar Dotson is doing his usual no-frills job.
Dud: In Cincinnati, Anthony Collins was asked to do a little less with how quickly the team got the ball out. In Tampa Bay he’s asked to do a little more and the result is 11 quarterback disruptions allowed this year, compared to 13 in 2013 in twice as many snaps.
Summary: They invested big and it’s not paid off. Logan Mankins has been under par battling injuries, Evan Dietrich-Smith up and down, and Anthony Collins a drop off on Donald Penn. No team has spent money on the offensive line as frequently as the Bucs in recent years and seen so little in return for it.
23. Jacksonville Jaguars (31st)
PB: 13th, RB: 28th, PEN: 20th
Stud: Rookie guard Brandon Linder has fit in nicely and provides an immediate win for the front office. He’s been a stabilizing force in pass protection up the middle and held his own with his run blocking. The team will be hoping for more, but happy that if this is his ceiling he represents an upgrade on what they had.
Dud: Credit to the team because both Jacques McClendon and Cameron Bradfield were ditched from the starting lineup before they could drag this rank even lower.
Summary: Rome wasn’t built in a day, but even then it’s encouraging as to the improvements the team made especially after cutting Bradfield and replacing McClendon. They’ll probably be a little disappointed that Luke Joeckel hasn’t imposed himself more given what he cost, and that Zane Beadles hasn’t made a bigger splash in the run game, but this is progress.
22. Tennessee Titans (17th)
PB: 18th, RB: 17th, PEN: 31st
Stud: The reports of the demise of Michael Roos have been greatly exaggerated. The team has planned for life after him, understandably, but he’s the only Titan with plus marks in the run game and in pass pro.
Dud: At the time, the money seemed high for Michael Oher and nothing has happened to change that. On the plus side, he’s holding up in pass pro, but he’s added little to the running game.
Summary: This line really should be a lot better for all the investment in it. Chance Warmack was viewed as a can’t-miss NFL prospect who would dominate but has not been that guy and Andy Levitre has failed to justify his big 2013 free agent deal.
21. New York Jets (26th)
PB: 13th, RB: 20th, PEN: 32nd
Stud: It’s good to see Nick Mangold reaching the heights of yesteryear after a 2013 below his usual high standards. He’s back to being the top-ranked center in the league.
Dud: The more he plays the more you think maybe the Jets should look at another option. Brian Winters had a fantastic opening to the season but it’s all gone downhill since then, especially in pass protection.
Summary: Not the kind of line that makes life easier on a quarterback. The guards are the big problem area with it precisely zero surprise that a team with Willie Colon would have the worst penalty ranking of any team. But they could, Mangold exempt, do with playing better if they want to take advantage of what is still a very imposing defense.
20. Houston Texans (16th)
PB: 25th, RB: 12th, PEN: 24th
Stud: Last year I wrote that one of the first things Bill O’Brien should do is find a new right tackle. He didn’t and now I am eating my words because Derek Newton has really turned it around. It remains to be seen whether he can keep it up but his run blocking is eye-catching.
Dud: It feels odd saying it given his development into a top tackle in this league, but Duane Brown has been underwhelming this year. No sacks but too much pressure (14 quarterback disruptions) and five penalties highlight him not hitting his top form.
Summary: They’ve done a decent job with their run blocking but are allowing too much pressure from spots you really wouldn’t expect it. Stars Chris Myers and Brown are notch below what we saw from them last year, and if this ranking is to improve, they must.
19. Philadelphia Eagles (1st)
PB: 27th, RB: 8th, PEN: 23rd
Stud: He’s kind of the last man left standing, but Jason Peters is still playing well even if all the new pairings he’s had to be part of mean he isn’t close to how well he was playing at the end of last year.
Dud: Both David Molk and Andrew Gardner have been thrust into starting roles and neither has proved up to the task. Yet.
Summary: They’ve lost two All-Pro linemen and a right tackle who was playing as well as any at the backend of last year. All things considered, 17th is probably a best-case scenario and an indication of what injuries can do to a team. Will be hoping that the return of key players acts as a spark plug for the offense as a whole.
18. Detroit Lions (8th)
PB: 15th, RB: 21st, PEN: 14th
Stud: He hasn’t played as well in his rookie year but with an ‘all positions created equal’ mantra it’s clear (to us at least) that Larry Warford is the best linemen in Detroit.
Dud: It’s hard to know what has happened to Rob Sims this year. He’s been getting killed in pass protection with 16 quarterback disruptions allowed already this season. In 2013 at this stage, that number was at six.
Summary: They’ve struggled to get yards on the ground and not been as good as they would have liked in pass protection, hence the drop off. A right tackle rotation hasn’t helped but they’ve lacked standouts.
17. Washington Redskins (5th)
PB: 17th, RB: 19th, PEN: 18th
Stud: It’s still Trent Williams but injury is impacting his ability to be the kind of top-three left tackle that he was in the league last year.
Dud: After an underrated 2013, Tyler Polumbus is having some problems this season. Six sacks allowed already is harsh on him relative to his pressure totals, but it still shows that he’s getting beat too often. Work in the run game is not much better.
Summary: A new coaching regime, some new players and some new roles. Let’s just say the Redskins are going through some teething issues right now.
16. Miami Dolphins (21st)
PB: 16th, RB: 15th, PEN: 9th
Stud: A year later than most had planned, but Branden Albert has been a big get for this team. He brings a nastiness from tackle that few have and looks extremely motivated to take the next step in terms of external recognition.
Dud: Perhaps Daryn Colledge is coming to the end of the line. Passable in pass protection, he’s been the weakest link (unless Dallas Thomas has been on the field) in the run game.
Summary: Considering they lost their star center, were starting a rookie right tackle and had issues at both guard spots, this can be considered a win. The play of James, viewed by some as a project, can be particularly pleasing as with that of Samson Satele who hasn’t been the liability he had become in Indianapolis.
15. Oakland Raiders (29th)
PB: 10th, RB: 17th, PEN: 19th
Stud: Just eight quarterback disruptions this year have been allowed by Donald Penn. He’s been a nice replacement for Jared Veldheer, proving he has something left in the tank.
Dud: He’s only played 63 snaps but there are severe question marks over Menelik Watson who looks something of a liability in pass protection when he gets on the field.
Summary: They lack star power, but they’ve proved a pretty functional unit. Certainly giving their quarterbacks enough time and proving a rare win for Reggie McKenzie who has got much better play from the group without going crazy on the price.
14. Denver Broncos (2nd)
PB: 5th, RB: 24th, PEN: 16th
Stud: The switch to left guard hasn’t done Orlando Franklin much harm. He’s fitting in very nicely and looks more comfortable in pass protection on the rare occasions the team asks him to block longer than a hiccup.
Dud: He’s not been a liability but it’s clear that Ryan Clady isn’t completely back to his best. He’s allowed more pressure than anyone else on the team and really struggled in the run game.
Summary: It’s taken a backwards step. The re-jigging of pieces doesn’t look worse for the loss of Zane Beadles, but the team just hasn’t delivered the same kind of impact in the run game. Whether that be a chemistry issue with players in new positions or a drop-off in performance remains to be seen.
13. Cincinnati Bengals (2nd)
PB: 8th, RB: 23rd, PEN: 8th
Stud: Yawn. Andrew Whitworth is once again the top dog. His pass blocking has been stellar (one hit, two hurries) but there is something about him not pulling from the guard spot we miss.
Dud: You know there are going to be lumps starting a rookie and that’s what the team has got with Russell Bodine. Struggling against those bigger bodies.
Summary: A bit of a drop-off but they remain in striking distance, and continue to be a line that tends to make life easy for their quarterback. Their running backs? Well the onus is on them to earn their yards a little more.
12. New Orleans Saints (11th)
PB: 26th, RB: 5th, PEN: 6th
Stud: The team has struggled up the gut with pressure, but has done a much better job on the edges. It’s gone unnoticed but second year tackle Terron Armstead is getting better.
Dud: For a long time Jahri Evans has been very good. But he’s had a couple of issues this year in pass protection, chiefly against Gerald McCoy who was really too good for him. Is this aspect of his game on the wane?
Summary: Much better going forward than going back, they’re betting at teeing off on defenders than trying to hold them in check. The problem has been that most of the pressure has come up the middle and that is making life harder than it needs to be for Drew Brees.
11. St Louis Rams (13th)
PB: 22nd, RB: 7th, PEN: 14th
Stud: A Raiders reject come Rams right tackle, Joe Barksdale fell into the job and hasn’t looked back since. He’s our top-ranked right tackle and is punishing defenders in the run game. Possibly the least known of the Rams’ line, but playing the best right now.
Dud: You could blame Greg Robinson for only earning 10 snaps of action, but it’s the play of Davin Joseph that stands out when you look at where plays tend to breakdown on the line. Guards shouldn’t allow that much pressure.
Summary: The team probably expects more from the left side of their line, who while fine, haven’t played to the stellar levels their price tags would suggest. Other than that, the bonus of Barksdale offsets the disappointment in Robinson nicely.
10. San Francisco 49ers (9th)
PB: 28th, RB: 2nd, PEN: 11th
Stud: It was close between Joe Staley and Mike Iupati, but in the end the pass blocking of Iupati is too bad to call him a stud. Staley has held up in pass protection throughout the year and looks like he’s getting back to his best run blocking.
Dud: It appears missing most of training camp hasn’t been a good way to start the year for Alex Boone who has looked a little rusty. Never the best in pass protection, he’s taken a noticeable step back.
Summary: The rankings say it all. As good at run blocking as they are bad in pass protection. Iupati is the poster child for the team in the sense, top of all guards with his run blocking and Bottom 10 in pass protection.
9. Indianapolis Colts (25th)
PB: 3rd, RB: 16th, PEN: 27th
Stud: When you’ve been asked to pass protect as much as Anthony Castonzo and responded with just eight quarterback disruptions allowed, that’s impressive. Stepped up his game this year.
Dud: There are worse right tackles in the league than Gosder Cherilus and his performance is perfectly acceptable in the grand scheme of things, but has he justified the big contract he got? Is he good enough in the run game and solid enough in pass protection?
Summary: Big improvements here. The team is getting better play at center (even after bizarrely benching A.Q. Shipley) and reaping the benefits of Hugh Thornton learning from his rookie experience. The upshot is a more productive run game and a more protected Andrew Luck.
8. Seattle Seahawks (27th)
PB: 12th, RB: 11th, PEN: 16th
Stud: There were collect gasps when Max Unger left the MNF victory over the Redskins with a foot injury, but his return prompted sighs of relief. He’s the glue holding this unit together, and with them all healthy he’s back to his best.
Dud: On a strong offensive line there’s always one guy a little behind the others. That man? J.R. Sweezy. He’s not in the liability category but still has breakdowns in pass protection you’d rather avoid.
Summary: Two things have really changed for the Seahawks this year. They’re a lot healthier and the addition of Justin Britt. Britt has fit in seamlessly and the consistency of selection has been a benefit to all.
7. Green Bay Packers (10th)
PB: 7th, RB: 14th, PEN: 4th
Stud: He may have given up his first quarterback hit against the Vikings since a sack allowed in Week 3 of 2013, but Josh Sitton is that rarest of linemen. Noticeable for all right reasons when run blocking and so rarely is his named called in pass protection so good is the job he is doing.
Dud: 124 snaps for Derek Sherrod have been about 124 more than Pack fans will be happy seeing. His opening-day struggles were the low point, but his other two games have hardly inspired confidence. Back to a reserve role as the Packers ponder what might have been but for injury.
Summary: Would be higher if not forced into starting a right tackle not prepared for the intensity of life at the NFL level. As it all the starters bar the left tackle have positives overall, and even he has a significant positive in pass protection. Strong unit.
6. Dallas Cowboys (4th)
PB: 9th, RB: 10th, PEN: 12th
Stud: One of the better left tackles in the game, Tyron Smith is the main man on a talented line featuring three former first-round picks. Five games into the season he’s allowed just seven quarterback disruptions and had two perfect games in pass pro.
Dud: He’s not been a dud, but Ronald Leary is the weakest link in a strong group and even in saying that it owes a lot to a horrible Week 1 performance. Since then he’s found his feet, and it’s the collective strength of this unit that you feel comfortable with all the starters.
Summary: Don’t you love it when a plan comes together? The Cowboys have invested big time in their offensive line in recent years, particularly through the draft, and it’s definitely paid off the production they get out of the unit. Given the age of the key players and the return to form of Doug Free, it’s hard not to see them getting better.
5. Chicago Bears (19th)
PB: 11th, RB: 6th, PEN: 13th
Stud: He was signed as depth but injury forced Brian De La Puente into the starting lineup and he hasn’t looked back. Currently No. 2 in our center rankings, he’s proved an invaluable get.
Dud: It’s Jordan Mills but he’s playing at a level where if he’s the worst player on your line, odds are you’re in good shape. Still surrenders too much pressure but there’s been progress this year.
Summary: The interior has been excellent (weirdly looking better when Michael Ola was in the lineup) and Jermon Bushrod has been steady. If you told the Bears’ braintrust they’d turn their line around this quickly they’d have taken it. Quite the transformation from the 2012 dark days.
4. Pittsburgh Steelers (15th)
PB:4th , RB: 9th, PEN: 30th
Stud: After a slow start Marcus Gilbert has really started to justify that new contract. He’s playing as well as any right tackle in the league these past three weeks, with just three hurries allowed and some impressive run blocking.
Dud: Filling in for Ramon Foster proved hard work for Cody Wallace who had his issues. Still when your backup guard fills in and is below average, you can handle that.
Summary: It’s taken a while for this group to come together, but they’ve really started to this year. Devoid of significant injuries, David DeCastro and Maurkice Pouncey are playing as well as ever, while Kelvin Beachum has developed into a more than serviceable talent.
3. New York Giants (28th)
PB: 2nd, RB: 4th, PEN: 3rd
Stud: There was a feeling that Will Beatty may have phoned it in after getting his big pay deal. Yeah well that feeling has been vanquished with him our top-ranked left tackle this year. A combination of efficiency in pass protection and ultra activity in the run game.
Dud: There isn’t one. The only person you look at feeling sorry for is Geoff Schwartz who may struggle to get into the team given how it’s performed.
Summary: They looked something of a mess in preseason, but was this just the Giants rope-a-doping us? They’ve been superb and are getting better week on week. The tackles are the strength, but the team must be extremely pleased with the development of Weston Richburg these past three games.
2. Baltimore Ravens (23rd)
PB: 6th, RB: 1st, PEN: 2nd
Stud: You could pick either guard who look like they’re loving life under Gary Kubiak, but for the purposes of this we’re going with Marshal Yanda. Not as sturdy in pass pro as Kelechi Osemele, but boy does he make run blocking look good.
Dud: The team wouldn’t have expected to put James Hurst into start and he’s been the weak link when he’s set on the field. That’s to be expected.
Summary: Quite the turnaround. They underperformed last year but have hit the ground running in 2014, making life easy for their running backs. The interior is as good as any right now, with the trade for Jeremy Zuttah proving especially shrewd business.
1. Cleveland Browns (12th)
PB: 1st, RB: 3rd, PEN: 4th
Stud: How about going for a rookie? Joel Bitonio has been everything advertised and a little bit more. It’s not just that he doesn’t look lost on the field, he’s added some punch to the team’s running game. A great start to life in the NFL.
Dud: All of the starters are grading in the green. There is no dud. Not yet.
Summary: It’s rare the stars align like this. You’ve got five players who have played every snap and look like a line in sync. They’re opening up holes for their backs and giving their quarterback time to make plays. A real testament that the guys you associate with making up the numbers are playing just as well as the guys on the big money.
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