Every week is a big week in the league, and the seventh installment is no exception. Let’s take a closer look at the trenches. Focusing on the offensive line could be the key to winning big time this weekend.
San Diego plus 13
The Chargers’ got healthier in a big way this week, as left tackle King Dunlap, left guard Orlando Franklin and center Chris Watt returned to practice on Wednesday. The line had been missing all of those players for several weeks, and then had a serious shuffle in the game at Green Bay, when Chris Hairston left with an ankle injury. Hairston remains out but regaining three starters is great news for this unit. The Chargers’ line soars thirteen spots in the rankings, and sits at 18th overall, a solid mid-tier grade.
The Jets’ offensive line has been crushing the opposition this season, and they get a bit healthier with veteran Willie Colon returning to the lineup. Colon split reps 2:1 with Brian Winters in the win against Washington, and it appears Colon will have his full time job back this weekend against the Patriots. It’s not a great matchup at Foxboro but in general this is a strong line, with five veterans, who are in sync opening up huge holes for Chris Ivory. The Jets’ line rises seven spots, to 5th overall in the latest rankings. They are a top-tier unit.
Detroit plus 3
The Lions got their best lineman back from injury, when Larry Warford returned to play right guard against the Bears. Perhaps it is just a coincidence that the team also recorded their first win. I choose to believe the offensive line is a key to victory, and getting back a player of that caliber really made a difference. The coaching staff likes what they see out of rookie first round pick Laken Tomlinson, and therefore free agent acquisition Manny Ramirez will likely be sent to the bench. In unrelated news, the team signed Michael Ola off of waivers, to provide extra tackle depth. The Lions currently check in at 19th overall in the latest offensive line rankings.
Tampa Bay plus 3
The Bucs got somewhat healthier during the bye week, as their starting center Evan Smith (formerly Dietrich-Smith) has returned to practice and will be starting this week at Washington. Their leader left guard Logan Mankins remains out however, and teammates believe his injury to be “serious.” Still, getting Smith back is mildly good news, and the line rises four spots to 24th overall in the latest offensive line rankings.
Pittsburgh minus 13
The Steelers’ line got terrible news as their left tackle Kelvin Beachum was carted off against Arizona. After the game, Beachum was put on the injured reserve with a torn ACL and he is out for the season. With Mike Adams still on the PUP list, the team turns to Alejandro Villanueva, a second year player out of Army. A former Army Ranger, Villanueva is 27, huge (6’9”) and a flat-out hero for his service to our country. He also has a knack for making plays, having experience at both tight end and defensive end. Still, he will draw a very tough assignment in his first start, on the road against the desperate Chiefs. Villanueva can be beat with leverage underneath his pads, which is not surprising for a player of that size. Without their starting left tackle, the Steelers’ line falls thirteen spots, to 31st overall.
Washington minus 2
The line in Washington takes a small hit as their starting center Kory Lichtensteiger is fighting an ankle injury. Josh LeRibeus got the start last week against the Jets, and the team could not find any holes in the rushing game. This article goes to press on Wednesdays, and that time it was not clear that the team would also be without star left tackle Trent Williams, who was a scratch with a concussion. Williams is back at practice this week and the rankings don’t change from that perspective. With a new center, the line drops two spots, to 13th overall in the rankings.
Buffalo minus 5
Right tackle Seantrel Henderson is in the concussion protocol and did not accompany the team to London this week for the game against Jacksonville. For this player to be determined out so early in the week, this might be a multi-week injury. Cyrus Kouandijo is likely to start in his place. The Bills signed Jordan Mills from the Lions’ practice squad, and he could also be in the mix, should Kouandijo not step up. Without their starting right tackle, the Bills fall five spots to 24th overall in the latest offensive line rankings.
Tennessee minus 5
Center Brian Schwenke suffered a gruesome dislocated ankle injury and is out for the season. In his place stepped rookie sixth round pick Andy Gallik. Gallik is a try hard player with physical limitations. He will try to play as a starter, but the team isn’t taking chances, signing Joe Looney from the street. I root for players like Gallik but the smart money says Looney will claim this job eventually. In the meantime it’s a knock to cohesion and the Titans’ line checks in at 29th overall in the latest offensive line rankings.
Week 7 Matchups of Note
POSITIVE MATCHUPS TO TRUST
- 1st DAL O-Line @ 26th NYG defensive front seven (+25).
- 4th NO O-Line @ 29th IND defensive front seven (+25).
- 6th OAK O-Line @ 31st SD defensive front seven (+25).
- 8th BAL O-Line @ 28th AZ defensive front seven (+20).
NEGATIVE MATCHUPS TO FADE
- 31st PIT O-Line @ 3rd KC defensive front seven (-28).
- 30th NE O-Line vs. 5th NYJ defensive front seven (-25).
- 20th SF O-Line vs. 1st SEA defensive front seven (-19).
- 17th JAX O-Line vs. 4th BUF defensive front seven (-13).
A look back at Week 6’s Match-ups of Note
NYG – Beatty (PUP) returns to practice.
Left tackle Will Beatty practiced this week, for the first time this season. Beatty is still technically on the PUP list, and is only working individual drills. It is not likely that he will return in time for the game against Dallas this weekend. Rookie Ereck Flowers had been holding his own at left tackle, it is not clear if Beatty will get that job back (or if one of the two will move to the right side). Getting Beatty back would move Marshall Newhouse to the swing role. Moving Newhouse to the bench would be an upgrade for this unit. Stay tuned, as this should occur in the next two to three weeks.
SEA - Resigned Lemuel Jeanpierre
Last year’s starting center returns to the Seahawks, who likely are concerned about the injury to Patrick Lewis. It is not clear if Jeanpierre will get his starting job at this time. Fantasy owners should be aware of this situation, but it bears further observation before an upgrade is warranted.
NE - Marcus Cannon left game with toe injury.
Cameron Fleming replaced Cannon in the game against the Colts. However the injury is considered minor, and Cannon should be in the lineup this week when the Patriots host the Jets.
NO - Andrus Peat out for a month, Hills replaced.
During last week’s Thursday night contest, the Saints lost Andrus Peat with what was later revealed to be a multi-week knee injury. In his place, recent street free agent Tony Hills replaced Peat. I would like to take a minute to praise Hills, who is often viewed negatively. This player is a journeyman, to be sure, but he’s uncannily reliable in spot starting situations. He should have a starting job somewhere. The team should have Terron Armstead back after the bye week, so there are no changes to the Saints’ ranking at this time.
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.
Week 7 Offensive Line Rankings
|18||SD||31||13||29.03||B-||B||C+||Dunlap, Franklin to return.|
|LOW TIER||22||NYG||23||1||28.1||C+||C+||C+||Beatty practicing.|
|25||TB||28||3||27.9||C||C+||C||Smith to return.|
|29||TEN||24||-5||27.1||D+||D+||D+||Schwenke to IR.|
|31||PIT||18||-13||26.65||D||D||D||Beachum to IR.|
Week 7 Defensive Front Seven Rankings
|5||New York (A)|
|26||New York (N)|