Offensive Lines Update - Week 16
By Matt Bitonti
December 19th, 2012

The NFL season is almost over, and it's been a real pleasure covering the o-lines for FBG this season. Here are the final upgrades and downgrades for the leagues' offensive lines.

Upgrades

Houston Texans: Right tackle Derek Newton is questionable, but expected back this week for the matchup against the Vikings. His replacement Ryan Harris has been hit or miss, and the unit needs Newton back, to be among the league's elite lines.

Cleveland Browns: Despite the loss of left guard Jason Pinkston for the season, this Browns' line has really come together in recent weeks. Replacement John Greco has been a tough mauler in the run game and the entire line has been well above average in protecting quarterback Brandon Weeden.

Minnesota Vikings: The Vikings offensive line has been playing great, especially last week against the St. Louis Rams. This unit is performing well in both phases of the game. Their run blocking prowess is made apparent by Adrian Peterson's huge production. But also Christian Ponder has been relatively untouched, due to extremely high level of play from rookie left tackle Matt Kalil. Note however that this unit will be tested by J.J. Watt and the Houston Texans in their week 16 matchup.

Atlanta Falcons: The Falcons offensive line did an excellent job neutralizing the New York Giants' pass rush last week and has been a resurgent unit as the season winds down. Tackles Sam Baker and Tyson Clabo especially have been lock down in recent weeks, all of which is good news for quarterback Matt Ryan.

Carolina Panthers: The story with the Carolina Panthers offensive line has been their improved guard play, specifically rookie Amini Silatolu opening up huge holes in short yardage. Right guard Garry Williams is also wreaking havoc and overall this unit has to be upgraded. Note that center Geoff Hangartner missed last week with a foot injury, but Jeff Byers, the second year man out of USC did a decent job stepping in at center.

New England Patriots: Getting Logan Mankins healthy and back in the lineup has been a huge boost for this team as a whole. Mankins is a leader and an elite blocker. Mankins has been hampered by injuries all season, hopefully he can stay healthy through the end of the season and the playoffs.

Oakland Raiders: There's no obvious change to report with the Raiders line, only that the unit has improved with Khalif Barnes in the lineup and is doing a very good job in the running attack. The Raiders are employing zone blocking schemes and lately these schemes have been allowing Darren McFadden to produce good numbers. The line can exploited in pass protection but they are a young group and improving every week.

Dallas Cowboys: Another situation where the line is getting healthier, having Ryan Cook back at center allowed Mackenzy Bernadeau to slide back to guard. Tyron Smith seems to have shaken off his ankle sprain and overall this line is playing better in recent weeks. Demarco Murray has found room to run and it's because the line is doing a better job lately.

Downgrades

New York Giants: Right guard Chris Snee has been fighting injuries all season, and picked up another hip ailment during week 15. Snee was replaced by Jim Cordle, who is better served in his role as backup center. Eli Manning isn't playing well lately, and part of the story is the increased pressure he felt without Snee in game.

Baltimore Ravens: The team's best lineman is Marshal Yanda, and he didn't play last week against the Broncos. Yanda has a severe ankle sprain and it is not known when he will return to the lineup. Replacing Yanda is previously benched veteran Bobbie Williams. Needless to say, this is a huge drop off and a big part of the reason why Ray Rice didn't have such a great week 15.

Tennessee Titans: Recently left guard Steve Hutchinson and right tackle David Stewart were placed on injured reserve, being replaced by Fernando Velasco and Mike Otto respectively. Only Michael Roos remains out of the preseason starting five for the Titans. This unit was once the strength of the team, but is now somewhat of a liability (other than Roos, who still is playing at an all-pro level).

Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins best lineman Jake Long was placed on injured reserve recently and this is a huge loss for the team. I've seen other pundits say that Long has been having a down year, compared to years past. I disagree respectfully. But whether this is true or not, Long was the heart of the Dolphins rushing attack. Jonathan Martin was shifted to left tackle, and how he plays will be a key piece of information in terms of whether the Dolphins try to re-sign Long. Nate Garner replaces Martin at right tackle.

Seattle Seahawks: Consider this a cautionary downgrade for the Seahawks, as starting guard John Moffitt left the blowout win last week against the Bills with a twisted ankle in the fourth quarter. J.R. Sweezy filled in for Moffitt, but the game was well out of reach by that time. If Sweezy has to start next week against the 49ers, it is a possible vulnerability for an offense that has been steamrolling for weeks.

Cincinnati Bengals: Hugely underrated left tackle Anthony Whitworth left last week's game with a concussion. Whitworth was replaced by Anthony Collins. Collins is a decent player but a huge step down from Whitworth, who is unlikely to play this week against the Steelers.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Left guard Willie Colon has injured his knee, which is a shame. Colon had been enjoying a stellar season after moving over from right tackle. In addition, Mike Adams continues to be hurt, leaving Kelvin Beachum to start at right tackle. The good news is that first round draft pick David DeCastro made his first career start last week against the Cowboys and handled himself well. Still the Steelers are losing players at a faster rate than they are getting them back and overall this unit is in trouble.

Washington Redskins: The headline is that key backup Jordan Black was suspended for performance enhancing drugs. This comes at a bad time, as right tackle Tyler Polumbus sustained a concussion last week. In addition, Will Montgomery has a sprained knee and both of these starters are unlikely to play this weekend against Philadelphia. As of this writing, it is unclear how the Redskins will shuffle their line. Kory Lichtensteiger finished the game last week at center and could step in that role again. That would allow Chris Chester, Josh LeRibeus or Adam Gettis to step in at guard. Maurice Hurt is a possible replacement at right tackle, as is rookie Tom Compton, formerly of the practice squad.

St. Louis Rams: Stalwart veteran Harvey Dahl has been placed on the injured reserve, with backups Shelley Smith or Chris Williams as possibilities to replace. Dahl is not a high profile player but has been a key member of the Rams line and losing him isn't good news.

Indianapolis Colts: The Colts line has been ravaged in recent weeks, with Joe Reitz, Samson Satele and Winston Justice all leaving the lineup due to injury. Seth Olsen, A.Q. Shipley and Jeff Linkenbach have stepped up in their place. Overall this has been bad news for Andrew Luck, who has seen an increase in pressure without the veterans in front of him. It is not clear when these players will return from their injuries.

San Diego Chargers: The Chargers offensive line has been limping to the finish line, as the injuries keep piling up. Jeromey Clary and Tyronne Green were both inactive on Sunday, while Reggie Wells left the game mid-way through. Mike Harris was pressed into duty despite being less than 100% and the results were not good. Both Wells and Harris gave up multiple pressures and Phillip Rivers will continue to be a marked man as the year concludes.

Current Rankings

Rank
Last
Team
Grade
Last
Run
Pass
Comments
1
1
San Francisco
A+
A+
A+
A-
2
5
Houston
A
A
A+
B+
Upgrade: RT Newton expected back soon. 
3
2
NY Jets
A
A
A+
B+
4
9
Cleveland
A-
B+
A
B+
Upgrade: Line cohesion good after loss of Pinkston. 
5
4
NY Giants
A-
A
B+
A-
Downgrade: RG Snee injured. 
6
3
Baltimore
B+
A
B+
B
Downgrade: RG Yanda injured. 
7
12
Minnesota
B+
B
A-
B
Upgrade: Great blocking vs STL.
8
14
Atlanta
B+
B
B
A-
Upgrade: Great blocking vs NYG.
9
8
New Orleans
B+
B+
C+
A-
10
11
Carolina
B+
B
B+
B
Upgrade: Improved guard play. 
11
16
New England
B+
B-
B
C+
Upgrade: LG Mankins back in the lineup. 
12
10
Tampa Bay
B+
B+
B+
B
13
13
Detroit
B
B
C+
B+
14
6
Tennessee
B
A-
B
B
Downgrade: LG Hutchinson and RT Stewart placed on IR. 
15
7
Miami
B
A-
B
B
Downgrade: LT Long placed on IR. 
16
18
Oakland
B
B-
C+
B
Upgrade: Great blocking vs KC. 
17
15
Denver
B-
B-
B-
B-
18
17
Seattle
C+
B-
A-
C
Downgrade: LG Moffitt injured. 
19
19
Green Bay
C+
C+
C-
B-
20
20
Kansas City
C+
C+
B-
C+
21
21
Buffalo
C
C
C-
B
22
23
Jacksonville
C
C
B+
C-
23
24
Arizona
C
C
B
C-
24
27
Dallas
C
C-
C+
C-
Upgrade: Line getting healthier. 
25
22
Cincinnati
C-
C
C-
C+
Downgrade: LT Whitworth injured. 
26
25
Pittsburgh
D+
C-
C-
D-
Downgrade: LG Colon placed on IR. 
27
26
Washington
D+
C-
C-
D
Downgrade: C Montgomery and RT Polumbus injured. 
28
28
St. Louis
D+
C-
C+
D-
Downgrade: RG Harvey Dahl likely placed on IR. 
29
29
Chicago
D+
C-
C+
D+
 
30
30
Indianapolis
D-
D
D-
D-
Downgrade: RT Justice and C Satele injured. 
31
31
San Diego
D-
D
D+
D
Downgrade: Injuries have worsened already bad tackle play. 
32
32
Philadelphia
D-
D-
D
F

As always, feel free to provide comments or suggestions to bitonti@footballguys.com, on twitter @draftdaddy and in the Shark Pool.

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