Offensive Line Report
Ted Schuster breaks down each team's offensive line and how they affect the fantasy game.
Overview: The Cardinals really struggled last year in the first half protecting Carson Palmer before finally finding some improved play in the second half. Jared Veldheer was able to establish himself as a solid left tackle, which was unexpected. The rest of the unit still has some issues with the biggest being on the right side. There was not much improvement in the form of additions made in the off-season, but maybe the coaches are hoping the improved play in the second half will only get better. Arizona was the worst pass blocking team in the league according to Pro Football Focus and without any acquisitions to improve this line, it will still be a bottom 10 unit once again.
Overview: The Falcons offensive line was really exposed when they lost Julio Jones to injury. The skill players on this team helped cover up inefficiencies on what is a below average offensive line. Atlanta did draft Jake Mathews in the 1st round, which should help this unit get better. But even if he plays well as a rookie, this is still just an average unit. There are also no real capable back-ups so any injury issues could spell trouble once again. Defenses are starting to attack the Falcons as pressure can ruin any offense.
Overview: The Ravens were a train wreck on the offensive line last year. Baltimore was below average in pass blocking and 6th from the bottom in the running game according to Pro Football Focus. Eugene Monroe was picked up mid-season from the Jaguars, so a full season learning the system should help. Ray Rice showed no explosiveness last year so the run blocking will have to improve or it will be another struggle on offense for the Ravens.
Overview: The Bills were a below average offensive line, so some improvement is needed, especially with a rookie QB in E.J. Manuel who struggled last year and could not stay healthy. Cyrus Kouandjio was drafted in the 2nd round out of Alabama to play tackle opposite Cordy Glenn. Kouandjio was a 1st round talent but fell a bit in the draft due to questions about a possible knee issue. Buffalo did sign Chris Williams in the off-season, which they hope will fix the issues at left guard they had last year. The problem is that Williams is just not a good football player so this will not help make this line better. There could be some better play this year, but I don’t much growth right now.
Overview: The Panthers could be in real trouble this year with 3 of their 5 starters gone with no real quality options to step in. The offensive line was a very solid unit last year but with two below average tackles taking over, things could get real ugly for Cam Newton & company. Carolina drafted Trai Turner out of LSU who has talent, but most draft experts thought he would have been better served staying in school one more year. It is going to be a long season in Carolina unless these guys find another level.
Overview: The Bears showed how important it is to address offensive line issues before last year. The additions last off-season took this team from one of the worst lines in the league to a slightly above average one. Chicago had ignored for years their offensive line problems but things changed last season with new management. This unit is far from the top, but with the skill players and offensive scheme that was discovered last year it will do a serviceable job. An upgrade on Jordan Mills would be nice but the line will do enough for this offense to remain highly productive.
Overview: The Bengals were the best pass blocking unit in the NFL last season but ranked 12th in run blocking, so there is some room for improvement possible despite a successful season. One of the biggest keys is keeping a unit together year in and year out along with staying healthy, which is something the Bengals have done. Trevor Robinson is probably the weakest link so the team drafted Russell Bodine in the 4th round as competition to push him. Cincinnati will once again be one of the best in the league this coming season.
Overview: The Browns have some very good centerpieces in this line with a great left tackle in Joe Thomas and strong leader at the center position in Alex Mack. Rookie Joel Bitonio will likely start right away between studs on this line. Bitonio has a nasty streak and will move inside to guard after playing tackle in college. Bitonio will be better offer inside and should help improve the running game if he can learn from Thomas and Mack. Cleveland should once again have a solid but not a spectacular offensive line.
Overview: The Cowboys offensive line was actually quite improved last year with the improvement of Tyron Smith at left tackle. Zack Martin was drafted in the 1st round to improve the issues at guard last year, which was a problem. Martin was a 4-year starter at Norte Dame and it was nice to see Dallas actually address a need instead of going after a flashier pick. Ronald Leary will need to show some improvement to help keep this offensive line in the Top 10 after a surprising improvement last year.
Overview: The Broncos suffered though a bunch of injuries to their offensive line and yet still had a record setting offense. Peyton Manning does wonders to make his line even better. The only questionable starter is Chris Clark, but there are some capable back-ups behind him. This will once again be a top offensive line with some of their healthy players back and Manning leading the offense.
Overview: The Lions were a bit surprising last year having a better than expected season. Riley Reiff was nothing special at left tackle but was much improved over his rookie season. Reiff would be better suited at right tackle or inside at guard but is still being counted on to play left tackle this coming season. Swanson was a 3rd round pick out of Arkansas who will eventually take over for Raiola when he retires. This unit is still a mediocre group, but with the talent they possess at the skill positions, that should be just fine.
Green Bay Packers
Overview: The Packers were up and down last season on the offensive line. They did a nice job in pass blocking, ranking as the 3rd best pass blocking team according to Pro Football Focus, but ranked 19th in run blocking. Their biggest hole remains left tackle where, David Bakthiari who took over for Bryan Bulaga after he showed he could not handle the responsibility last year. Bulaga is much better suited on the right side. The Packers drafted Corey Linsley from Ohio St, but really have no proven depth behind the starting five. Green Bay should be solid if they can stay healthy, but major issues could arise with injuries.
Overview: The Texans are moving into a new offensive system, so the once dominant running game will likely cease to exist. Duane Brown, Chris Myers and Brandon Brooks all performed well last year in the running game and Xaver Su’a-Filo will step in at guard. The pass blocking really needs to improve, as the Texans were the 5th worst pass blocking team according to Pro Football Focus. New Coach Bill O’Brien will want to throw quite a bit more this year so that must improve. There is enough to talent to be decent this year on the line but some early struggles are likely with a new system and a rookie starter.
Overview: Jacksonville was the worst run blocking team in the league last year according to Pro Football Focus, so that has to improve for this offense to get any better. Zane Beadles was signed in the off-season, which should help improve the interior of the line, along with the drafting of Brandon Linder who will start at the other guard position. The Jaguars really need Luke Joeckel to show improvement after a very rough rookie season if this line is going to get any better. There is some talent here, but this unit really needs to be coached up.
Kansas City Chiefs
Overview: The Chiefs did a really nice job in 2013 with the new offense. Jamaal Charles had a monster season and Alex Smith did a very nice job running the offense as well. There are some questions as Kansas City lost three starting caliber offensive lineman in the offseason, including Branden Albert. It will be hard for this unit to match last season’s play but they should still be a decent group. I expect some regression in this offense but enough will be done up front for the skill players to enjoy solid seasons. Eric Fisher will need to show that he can handle playing the premier line position in football.
Overview: The Dolphins could be the most improved offensive line this off-season. They were a complete disaster last year with the hazing incident and just awful play. Branden Albert was brought in to play left tackle, which will be a huge upgrade. Bill Turner was drafted in the 3rd round and Ju’Wuan James in the 1st, which should upgrade spots that had street free agents playing at them last year. Turner and James may have some struggles early, but as the season goes on, this unit could be one of the better lines in the league.
Overview:The Colts did have some improvements in play last year but still have plenty of work to do. A quality QB in Andrew Luck will always make an offensive line look better than they are. There were not many changes in the off-season to this line other than drafting a couple of rookies. The running game was non-existent last year and with Trent Richardson expecting to be the primary ball carrier, I don’t expect much improvement on that end. The coaches want to pound the ball, but lack the talent in the backfield or up front to do so. Luck will make up for some of the line issues, but this unit must improve for the Colts to get much better on offense, which I question will be able to happen.
Overview: The Vikings offense line was not the reason for the QB and offensive struggles last year. Minnesota returns all 5 starters and even some key reserves. This group made some big improvements last season and will be a Top 10 unit this coming season. Adrian Peterson is poised for another monster season and the addition of Matt Cassel & Teddy Bridgewater should hopefully take this team to the next level. This is a very solid group that will give the skill players chances to succeed.
New England Patriots
Overview: The Patriots showed some weakness up front last year in particular when Sebastian Vollmer went down with a broken leg. This unit should have been able to hold its own last year even without Vollmer, but finished in the middle of the pack in both pass and run blocking. Tom Brady becomes very pedestrian when he is getting hit on a regular basis like most QBs do. Vollmer should hopefully be ready from the start but you have to wonder whether the game is passing some of the other veteran lineman bye. This is still a solid unit, but no longer a top 5 one in the league based on the issues we saw last season.
New Orleans Saints
Overview: The Saints did a serviceable job upfront last year and made it a priority to re-sign some of their in-house guys. This is no longer the dominant unit upfront that Drew Brees had in the past. which could be the reason New Orleans really struggled offensively in their road games. I would have liked to see this group upgraded a bit but the team feels Terron Armstead will get better. I don’t expect to see much improvement from this group, but should be good enough to keep Brees dangerous.
New York Giants
Overview: The Giants’ offensive line was one of the worst in the league last year. Eli Manning was horrific last year when he was constantly under pressure. New York signed a few free agents in the off-season which has to be upgrade over the garbage they used last year. Geoff Schwartz and JD Walton are middle of the road starters at this point. The Giants should have used their 1st round pick on another lineman but wasted it on a wide receiver. This group will be better this year by default but still has plenty of room to be improved.
New York Jets
Overview: The Jets did not make any off-season moves to help improve a very mediocre-at-best offensive line. The starting group is decent (minus Brian Winters) but have no real depth behind the starters. New York did draft Dakota Dozier in the 4th, but he is a small school project who is not ready to play right now. All of the back-ups have no real starting experience, so any injury issues will be a big problem. The added skill position additions should help this offense, but the guys upfront will need some improved play.
Overview: The Raiders are trying to figure out what to do with one of the worst offensive lines in the league. Oakland has a bunch of guys who probably should be playing guard and not tackle. This is a mish mash of mediocre talent. Tony Sparano has a bunch of work to do and the Raiders must have really paid up to keep Sparano around. It will be a challenge to get this group much better, especially with an old group of running backs in Darren McFadden & Maurice Jones-Drew along with a QB on his last legs in Matt Schaub lining up behind them. Things look bleak in Oakland once again this coming season.
Overview: The Eagles had far and away the best run blocking line in the entire league last season. They return all of their starters who also did a remarkable job of staying healthy. Jason Peters staying healthy was a huge key for this group and he once again showed why he is one of the best in the league. Philadelphia does not have much depth, however, so if the injury bug hits them this season, then we could see a big drop off in play.
Overview: The Steelers did show some improvement last season but still have some things to work on. This is no longer a bottom 10 offensive line as some of talent has finally started to improve. Mike Munchak was brought in to help take this unit to the next level. Munchak was not much of a head coach but has always done a nice job with his offensive lines. Pittsburgh will likely use a zone blocking scheme which should do well for the type of players they have upfront and the running style of Leveon Bell.
San Diego Chargers
Overview: The Chargers offensive line was a pleasant surprise last year. The unit was not great at all, but considering they looked to be one of the worst of the league before the season, the middle of the road play was a great improvement. D.J. Fluker did a nice job in his rookie season and King Dunlap made some major improvements over the previous year. Nick Hardwick leads this team, but he has seen his skills diminish significantly over the last few years. Assuming the tackles hold up, this group should be around the middle of the rankings once again this year.
San Francisco 49ers
Overview: The 49ers have one of the best offensive lines in football - especially the left side, which features Joe Staley and Mike Lupati leading the way. Jonathan Martin was acquired in a trade from Miami and while he has personal issues, he did show some signs of being a capable NFL lineman. San Francisco ranked as the 10th best pass blocking team and the 5th best run blocking team last season according to Pro Football Focus. With all of the guys intact and some added weapons at the skill positions, this offense should have no problem moving the ball.
St. Louis Rams
Overview: The Rams were much improved last year on the offensive line. Jake Long showed he still had some game left and the move of Rodger Saffold inside showed that he can still play a little bit. Saffold was a turnstile at tackle and is only back because he failed a physical with the Raiders. This is not a top-notch offensive line but the coaches felt they showed enough last season to stand pat. This team won’t blow open huge holes but will do a serviceable job.
Overview: The Seahawks were Super Bowl Champs last year, but that does not mean this is one of the strong suits of the team. They are an average group that wears down opponents because the defense shuts other teams down. Russell Okung needs to stay healthy to help this group improve, but he always seems to be dealing with some nagging injuries every year. The biggest key to this line looks to be just staying healthy and they will get the job done. With all the injuries, there were times that this looked like one of the worst lines in the league.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Overview: The Buccaneers offensive line was one of the most disappointing units last year. They ranked in the bottom five in run blocking as Davin Joseph and Carl Nicks were not able to provide what Tampa Bay had hoped when signed. Nicks is still struggling with injury issues and a new batch of linemen has joined the team. Tampa Bay is looking for a newer athletic group this season with the new Jeff Tedford offense. Evan Dietrich-Smith will be a huge addition to this team. There are likely to be some issues once again, but with a new head coach in Lovie Smith, the running game hopes to be improved as the team learns the offense.
Overview: The Titans had some early season struggles but really picked things up in the second half. Taylor Lewan was drafted in the 1st round out of Michigan and Michael Oher was brought in from Baltimore, which should help this group improve even more this year. The run blocking finished in the Top 5 according to Pro Football Focus and should be solid once again. It will be interesting how the different running style of the running backs will affect this group with Chris Johnson no longer around. This is a solid group that should do a very good job once again in 2014.
Overview: The Redskins offensive line actually did a decent job last year despite the offensive struggles. The new coach Jay Gruden is changing the offense a bit this year and wants to increase the average size of each player, so bigger guys were brought in upfront. Shawn Lauvao and Mike McGlynn specifically were signed due to their size. Trent Williams is one of the best tackles in the league and is the anchor of this team. Alfred Morris was perfect for this zone blocking scheme, so it remains to be see if he can adjust and if the coaches have the same belief in him. Washington should be solid once again on the line if they can handle the transition to the new offensive philosophy.