Offensive Line Training Camp Updates
By Matt Bitonti
August 10th, 2012

As camps are in full swing, there has been a bevy of recent offensive line news around the league.

Upgrades

New York Giants: With the move of David Diehl to right tackle and veteran Kevin Boothe at left guard, the starting five for the Giants is trending upward. The unit is improved from last season and currently grade out as a middle tier offensive line, similar to Cincinnati or Philadelphia.

Dallas Cowboys: Free agent addition Mackenzy Bernadeau is finally cleared to practice and can help settle a particularly unstable interior situation. Bernadeau can work at both right guard and center, as both positions have been thinned by injury. Overall this is a slight upgrade from the worst line the league to the second worst line, but it's a positive trend.

Downgrades

Tennessee Titans: Starting center Eugene Amano was lost for the season with a torn triceps. Replacement Fernando Velasco is well regarded and should step in without too much of a disruption. Still this is a small downgrade to cohesion. The Titans' line is still graded out as the best line in football, but their lead over the field has shrunk with this development.

New England Patriots: Currently the Patriots' line is missing several starters. Veteran Brian Waters did not report to training camp, and Bill Belichick "wasn't surprised" by this development. There have been rumors of Waters' retirement and the Patriots are going to let Waters miss camp, hoping that he will give it one more go. Should Waters decide to hang up his cleats, the battle of the Dan's (Koppen versus Connolly) becomes a truce as one player could start at guard, the other at center.

In other news, Logan Mankins and Sebastian Vollmer are still recovering from offseason surgery and their return dates are uncertain. Donald Thomas is seeing reps with the first team for Mankins while Marcus Cannon substitutes for Vollmer.

Overall the only player who is currently lined up in the position he played last year is Nate Solder. Even if all players return for week one, cohesion has to be concern. Depth took a hit when Robert Gallery retired and James Richards was reserved with a severe concussion. This line should be among the league's best but there's uncertainty right now and they are slightly downgraded from a top three ranking to a top seven ranking.

Green Bay Packers: Former first round pick Derek Sherrod suffered a bad leg injury last season and his recovery has not been smooth. Sherrod is on the PUP list with no return date set. This downgrades the Packers' depth, specifically at swing tackle. Andrew Datko, late round selection out of Florida State, has been impressive in his place, so it's not all bad news. This is a small downgrade for the Packers' line. The Pack still round out the top ten in the rankings.

Washington Redskins: Jammal Brown is out with a bad hip, which he injured last year. Brown has been placed on the active PUP list, with no return date set. It sounds like he will be out for a while. Brown didn't contribute much last season, but the ideal lineup for the Redskins likely includes the former Pro Bowler. Should he miss considerable time, it would be a setback for the unit. Tyler Polumbus should be serviceable in his place. In other news, Kory Lichtensteiger had another surgery on his knee and Maurice Hurt will start in his place. These backups aren't bad, but the two moves together hurt the depth of the Redskins offensive line. Should further injuries occur, the Redskins will be forced to rely on rookies.

Indianapolis Colts: Ben Ijalana was waived after another major injury, his fourth surgery in two seasons. Ijalana has talent but it's possible that his career is over. Jeff Linkenbach should do a decent job in his place, but as he was the swing tackle, this hurts the depth of the unit. George Foster becomes the next man up for swing tackle. With this downgrade, the Colts are ranked as the worst line in football. The good news is that there's nowhere to go but up.

Situations to Watch

San Francisco 49ers sign free agent guard Leonard Davis

  • Prior to this signing, no one on the 49ers had any game experience at right guard. The candidates to win the position, Alex Boone, Daniel Kilgore and Joe Looney (rookie) should be concerned about Davis' arrival. Although Davis has had recent struggles with a foot injury, he has three pro bowl appearances on his resume and should make a serious push for the starting right guard position. Davis recently passed his conditioning test, which normally would be a challenge for this player. Davis appears to be ready to compete and win the job outright. If not, the signing creates a possible mentor relationship and will allow Boone to use Davis' experience to elevate his game.

  • Verdict: Possible upgrade for the 49ers' offensive line, stay tuned.
  • Baltimore Ravens: Bryant McKinnie reports late (Michael Oher at left tackle).

  • McKinnie is not known as an especially reliable professional. After sitting out minicamp due to being overweight (358 pounds), McKinnie was absent from the start of training camp. Michael Oher has been given the first team left tackle reps. Oher is an extremely hard worker but was often overmatched at left tackle two years ago. Kelechi Osemele is working Oher's former spot on the right side.

  • Verdict: If McKinnie loses his job, downgrade the Ravens' offensive line.
  • Miami Dolphins signed Eric Steinbach from free agency.

  • Steinbach is a tough guy, and possible starter at right guard. If his back is fully healed, he's an easy upgrade over existing talent. Unlike other situations, we should be able to see this play out on HBO's Hard Knocks.

  • Verdict: If Steinbach wins this job, upgrade the Dolphins' offensive line.
  • Pittsburgh Steelers sign free agent Max Starks, cut Jonathan Scott.

  • Starks is currently on active PUP by not passing his conditioning test. When that's resolved, look for Starks to be the swing tackle. In related news, Mike Adams appears to be settled in at left tackle and Willie Colon has been a beast at left guard. David Decastro is reportedly struggling at right guard but will likely start. Overall things are looking up for the Steelers' offensive line.

  • Verdict: Possible upgrade to the Steelers' offensive line, if the line continues to gel.
  • St. Louis Rams still waiting for Scott Wells.

  • Pro Bowl center Scott Wells is recovering from a knee procedure and has not practiced with the Rams' offensive line this season. Wells appears to be behind schedule in his recovery and is expected back in preseason "at some point." Wells was a high priced addition in free agency and is the best Rams' lineman by far. When he arrives, Wells should be the cornerstone for this unit.

  • Verdict: Possible downgrade to the Rams' offensive line if Wells is not ready for Week 1.
  • Buffalo Bills getting healthy.

  • Center Eric Wood and Right tackle Erik Pears are recovering from offseason injuries and have yet to practice with their squad. Wood is expected to return for third preseason game while Pears is returning to practice next week. In other news, Chris Hairston still holds down first team left tackle, but is still expected to lose the job to draft pick Cordy Glenn.

  • Verdict: Possible downgrade if Wood or Pears suffer setbacks in their recoveries.
  • 2012 Preseason Offensive Line Ranks

    Rnk
    Team
    Grade
    Run Block
    Pass Block
    Cohesion
    Coaching
    1
    Tennessee
    A++
    1
    3
    C+
    A+
    2
    NY Jets
    A+
    4
    5
    A+
    B
    3
    Cleveland
    A+
    5
    9
    B+
    B
    4
    New England
    A
    10
    2
    D+
    A+
    5
    San Francisco
    A
    3
    10
    B+
    B
    6
    Tampa Bay
    A
    2
    8
    B+
    B
    7
    Carolina
    A-
    8
    13
    B
    B+
    8
    New Orleans
    A-
    7
    1
    C+
    B+
    9
    Baltimore
    A-
    6
    4
    B+
    B
    10
    Green Bay
    B+
    19
    12
    B+
    B+
    11
    Denver
    B+
    11
    15
    A+
    B+
    12
    Cincinnati
    B
    14
    6
    C+
    A
    13
    NY Giants
    B
    17
    16
    B+
    B+
    14
    Philadelphia
    B
    18
    7
    B+
    A+
    15
    Seattle
    B
    9
    14
    A+
    A
    16
    Miami
    B
    12
    19
    C+
    B
    17
    Houston
    B
    15
    11
    C+
    B
    18
    Jacksonville
    B-
    13
    17
    A+
    B+
    19
    Pittsburgh
    B-
    16
    21
    C
    B
    20
    Detroit
    B-
    28
    18
    A+
    B+
    21
    Atlanta
    B-
    24
    24
    B+
    B+
    22
    Oakland
    C+
    23
    22
    B
    B
    23
    Minnesota
    C+
    20
    23
    C+
    B+
    24
    Kansas City
    C+
    21
    25
    B+
    B
    25
    San Diego
    C
    29
    28
    A
    B+
    26
    Arizona
    C-
    27
    31
    C+
    A+
    27
    St. Louis
    C-
    26
    26
    C
    B+
    28
    Buffalo
    C-
    31
    30
    B
    B
    29
    Chicago
    C-
    25
    32
    B
    B
    30
    Washington
    D+
    22
    20
    B+
    B
    31
    Dallas
    D+
    32
    29
    D+
    A
    32
    Indianapolis
    D+
    30
    27
    D+
    B+

    As always, feel free to provide comments or suggestions to bitonti@footballguys.com or find me in the Shark Pool message board.

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