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Offensive Line Rankings and Notes: Week 1

Updates on injuries and other offensive line related news, prior to week one of the regular season.

With all of the 53 man rosters finalized, there are some interesting developments in offensive line news, prior to the first week of real games.

Upgrades

Chicago plus 11

Although it has not been made official, all signs point to Pro Bowl right guard Kyle Long being bumped out to right tackle. With last year’s starter Jordan Mills cut (and since signed to the Dallas Cowboys), the Bears can either start an over matched Charles Leno or try Long at the more high profile position. Simply put our model emphasizes talent at the tackle spots over the guard spots, and therefore this move, (with either Vlad Ducasse or the newly acquired Patrick Omameh starting in Long’s place at right guard) puts the Bears at 13th, an 11 slot upgrade from the low-tier to the mid-tier.

Kansas City plus 3

Changes have been made to the Kansas City lineup. Donald Stephenson never looked completely comfortable at the right tackle spot, and the coaches really liked what they saw when he played left tackle, so he will start at that location. Eric Fisher, a former one overall pick, will be moved to right tackle. Some will call Fisher a bust, but with pass rushers such as J.J. Watt often lining up across from the right tackle, this is an important position for the offensive line. The line as a whole looks more balanced this way. With excellent left guard Ben Grubbs helping out Stephenson and rookie starting right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardiff being helped by Eric Fisher, there’s a real chance this line is helped by the moves. Head Coach Andy Reid has a background in the offensive line and he has been monitoring these players more closely than most head coaches.  The Chiefs remain a mid tier unit, grading out at 19th overall in the most recent rankings.

Arizona plus 4

Although A.Q. Shipley remains the starting center on paper, the return of last year’s center Lyle Sendlein appears to be an upgrade. Sendlein’s contract implies that he will be the starter when the games count, and the team benefits from having his veteran experience and improved cohesion with the other players.  Earl Watford, who had an excellent preseason, is likely to be the starter at right tackle while Bobby Massie serves his two game suspension. These moves represent a small move up the rankings for the Cardinals, who check in at 25th overall in this week’s offensive line rankings.

Atlanta plus 3

The Falcons made news last week, trading a late round pick to Tennessee for former Pro Bowl left guard Andy Levitre. While Levtire has not played at a Pro Bowl level in some time, just by showing up, he represents a instant upgrade at the spot. In other news, the team released center Joe Hawley and look like they will be starting either James Stone or recently acquired Gino Gradkowski (from the Denver Broncos). Hawley had been recovering from a leg injury and never looked quite right in the preseason.  Stone has been up and down this preseason, and Gradkowski could see actual playing time, once he learns the system. The addition of Levitre boosts this line three spots, still in the lower tier, but up to 28th in the latest rankings.

Downgrades

San Francisco minus 4

The 49ers continue to tinker with their lineup, first putting likely starter Daniel Kilgore on the PUP list. In his place the team has elevated Jordan Devey to be the starting right guard. Devey, who was picked up via trade with the Patriots in early August. Devey is a bottom level starter and even more worrisome is how players such as Brandon Thomas couldn’t step up and win this job.  Along with Erik Pears, the 49ers’ right side is concerning. The 49ers’ offensive line checks in at 23rd overall, a low-tier grade in the rankings.

Seattle minus 2

The Seahawks have finally settled on a lineup, cutting last year’s starter Lemuel Jeanpierre, and starting Drew Nowak. Nowak, once a converted college defensive lineman, lacks Jeanpierre’s experience and the change is a further loss of cohesion, for a unit which has little going into this season. The line currently has last year’s right tackle at left guard, as well as a new center and right tackle. That means only two players, left tackle Russell Okung, and right guard J.R. Sweezy, return in the same position as last season.  Of those players, only Okung would clearly be a starter on most teams in the league. Besides the talent level, it's just alot of change all at once.The Seahawks’ line looks to be shaky at first, and they currently grade out at 30th overall in the offensive line rankings.

Week 1 Matchups of note

Positive OL matchups

  • 1st DAL O-line vs 23rd NYG defensive front seven.
  • 4th PHI O-line @ 27th ATL defensive front seven.
  • 5th GB O-line @ 29th CHI defensive front seven.
  • 6th NO O-line @ 31st AZ defensive front seven.

Negative OL matchups

  • 32nd STL O-line vs 2nd SEA defensive front seven.
  • 30nd SEA O-line @ 8th STL defensive front seven.
  • 28th ATL O-line vs 5th PHI defensive front seven.
  • 24th SD O-line vs 4th DET defensive front seven.

OTHER NEWS

UPDATE 9/10: MINNESOTA CENTER JOHN SULLIVAN placed on IR-DFR, MIN DROPs to 30th.

So much for not being concerned. John Sullivan went under the knife on Wednesday in a procedure on his back. Called a "lumbar microdiscectomy" Sullivan is eligible for return Week 10 of the regular season. Without this player, the Vikings line goes from mid-tier to low-tier, 30th overall in the rankings. The chart below will be updated in next week's report.

MIAMI GUARD JAMIL DOUGLAS TO START OVER BILLY TURNER.

After an outstanding preseason, the team declared Douglas as the starter at right guard, over Billy Turner.  Some might see this as concerning but Douglas was the better player throughout training camp, and he has earned his chance. The Dolphins’ line remains graded as an high-tier unit, 11th in the current rankings.

FREE AGENT TACKLE JAKE LONG WAS MEDICALLY CLEARED TO RETURN TO FOOTBALL.

Long has a workout scheduled for Atlanta on Wednesday. Denver and New York (NFC) had been linked to this player in the offseason. Once an elite left tackle, Long could be a solid starter for several teams in the league. If he is healthy, he could also benefit from a move to the right side.

As usual, if you have a question about a team not specifically talked about in this article, please feel free to contact me via twitter or in the Shark Pool. 

OL Rankings In PDF Format

  Rank Team Old Diff Score Grade Run Pass Notes               
TOP TIER 1 DAL 1 0 32.9 A+ A+ A  
2 BAL 2 0 32.65 A A A  
3 CLE 3 0 32.6 A A A-  
4 PHI 4 0 31.73 A A A-  
5 GB 5 0 31.6 A- A- A-  
6 NO 6 0 31.4 A- B+ A-  
7 HOU 7 0 30.98 B+ A- B  
8 WAS 9 1 30.9 B+ B+ B-  
9 CIN 8 -1 30.65 B+ A B-  
10 NYJ 10 0 30.35 B+ A- B-  
11 MIA 11 0 30.3 B B+ B-  
MID TIER 12 OAK 12 0 29.78 B B+ B- RT Watson injured. 
13 CHI 24 11 29.65 B B B Kyle Long to RT. 
14 TB 13 -1 29.4 B- B B-  
15 MIN 14 -1 29.35 B- C+ B+  
16 DEN 15 -1 29.23 B- C+ B  
17 PIT 16 -1 29.15 B- B- B  
18 DET 17 -1 28.98 B- B- B-  
19 KC 22 3 28.9 B- B B- Eric Fisher to RT.
20 JAX 18 -2 28.65 B- C+ B-  
21 TEN 21 0 28.6 C+ C+ C  
LOW TIER 22 CAR 20 -2 28.35 C+ C+ C  
23 SF 19 -4 28.23 C+ B- C Devey to start at RG. 
24 SD 23 -1 28.15 C C- C+  
25 AZ 29 4 27.95 C C- C+ C Sendlein starting. 
26 BUF 25 -1 27.9 C C+ C-  
27 IND 26 -1 27.85 C- C- C  
28 ATL 31 3 27.8 C- C- C- LG Levitre acquired.
29 NE 27 -2 27.73 C- C- C+  
30 SEA 28 -2 27.53 D+ D+ D+ C Nowak starting. 
31 NYG 30 -1 27.1 D+ D+ D+  
32 STL 32 0 26.48 D D+ D-