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Offensive Line Notes: Training Camp Battles

An in-depth look at the positions up for grabs this preseason, and the players to watch in training camp

Around the league there are several unsettled positions. Before training camp starts, let’s handicap these races. These odds attempt to predict the opening day starter.  

For those unfamiliar with the notation of these odds, here is a calculator to convert Vegas style fractional odds to probability percentages. Here are the full rankings

Baltimore's Left Guard

Odds of being the opening day starter:

  • John Urschel: 3/5 (favorite)
  • Ryan Jensen: 4/1
  • Vlad Ducasse 9/1
  • Alex Lewis [R]: 12/1

The Ravens let Pro Bowl left guard Kelechi Osemele hit free agency and in his absence there is a free-for-all to replace him.

Off the field, John Urschel is known for acing his PhD math classes at MIT. On the field, he’s entering his third season, and has started ten games for the Ravens, including seven last season at center in place of Jeremy Zuttah. Urschel proved himself capable and he can probably start in this league. It appears the Ravens will give him the first opportunity, and that is why he is the favorite. If Urschel is not up to the challenge, other names become more relevant.

Ryan Jensen started six games last season at left guard and the coaches like his mean streak. He is entering his fourth season and should be Urschel’s closest competition in camp. Vlad Ducasse was signed in free agency but is not certain to make the roster. Ducasse has started twenty-two games in his career and the team might want a more seasoned veteran next to rookie left tackle Ronnie Stanley. Alex Lewis is a promising fourth round rookie left guard from Nebraska. While he likely makes the roster, day three draft picks don’t often crack the week one starting lineup as rookies. The Ravens actually have interesting names at the left guard position, and it will be interesting to see who emerges from the pack.

Carolina's Right Tackle

Odds of being the opening day starter:

  • Mike Remmers: 1/2 (favorite)
  • Daryl Williams: 2/1

Last year’s starting right tackle Mike Remmers has been running with the first team in offseason activities. This might seem to be obvious, that last year’s starter on the NFC champion Panthers would retain his starting spot. However, Remmers had a dreadful Super Bowl against the Denver pass rushers and the team drafted Daryl Williams in the fourth round before last season to ultimately win this job. Williams is a more physical player but he has well known injury and conditioning issues and will have to be excellent to wrest this job away from Remmers.

Cleveland's Right Tackle

Odds of being the opening day starter:

  • Alvin Bailey: 2/3 (favorite)
  • Austin Pasztor: 6/1
  • Michael Bowie: 7/1
  • Shon Coleman [R]: 9/1
  • Spencer Drango [R]: 39/1

The Browns let Mitchell Schwartz hit free agency and have several decent options to replace him. The current front runner is Alvin Bailey, a free agent addition from Seattle. Bailey is relatively young and does have forty-two game appearances when he was with Seattle, including eight starts. Bailey’s contract is not huge but he is the fifth highest paid lineman on the team, which would seem to point to a starting job.

Another veteran player, Austin Pasztor, was a starting tackle for Jacksonville last season. He also has game experience and will likely be used as a swing player, if he can’t beat out Bailey. Michael Bowie was snagged from the Seahawks’ practice squad and the team will give him a shot to prove his worth this preseason. The team drafted Auburn tackle Shon Coleman in the third round, but he is recovering from a knee injury and might not be healthy enough to win the spot before week one. Finally, Spencer Drango is a rugged draft pick, but may be too raw technically to start as a rookie.  There are many possibilities for this Cleveland right tackle job, but it appears to be Bailey’s to lose at this point. 

Denver's Right Guard

Odds of being the opening day starter:

  • Ty Sambrailo: 2/3 (favorite)
  • Connor McGovern [R]: 3/1
  • Michael Schofield: 6/1

The Broncos lost both starting guards Evan Mathis and Louis Vasquez. Max Garcia is expected to fill one of those spots (probably the left guard position) while the other guard spot is completely up for grabs. Ty Sambrailo was a second round pick last season and got playing time at left tackle after Ryan Clady was injured. Sambrailo ended the season on injured reserve after suffering a torn labrum, but he has been cleared and is currently running with the first team. Besides being the highest draft pick of these candidates, Sambrailo is probably the best pass protector. Fifth round rookie Conner McGovern out of Missouri is a powerful player, known for his run blocking toughness and weight room strength. However, despite his experience at left tackle in college, McGovern is rumored to be raw as a pass protector and the team might want to sit him until he brushes up on technique. Michael Schofield started several games last season at right tackle and he is a capable run blocker in the zone scheme. Schofield could be in the mix to move inside to guard.  This could be an exciting competition. Look for Sambrailo to hold off McGovern, but just barely. 

Houston's Center and Left Guard

Odds of being an opening day starter (note multi-position competitions may not add up to 100%):

  • Nick Martin [R]: 1/3 (favorite for center)
  • Xavier Su’a-Filo: 9/11 (favorite for left guard) 
  • Tony Bergstrom: 4/1 
  • Jeff Adams: 9/1

Here is our first multi-way competition. 

In this situation  there is overlap and setting straight odds becomes tough. Overlap means that the loser of the center battle for example, could factor into the starting guard conversation. In these multi-way situations the odds reflect the chances of the player securing one of the multiple positions available and do not add up to 100%.   

The Texans lost last year’s starting center Ben Jones as well as their starting right guard Brandon Brooks. Jeff Allen was signed from Kansas City to replace Brooks but the left guard and center positions are somewhat in disarray. Nick Martin (brother of Dallas guard Zack) was drafted in the second round and was known as a pro-ready prospect out of Notre Dame. Martin should win the center position this preseason. Tony Bergstrom was signed in free agency from Oakland and is Martin’s main competition for the spot. Bergstrom is a veteran but the team clearly favors the draft pick. Xavier Su’a-Filo is another former second round pick and the team will give him every chance chance to win that left guard spot. Su’a-Filo claims to be improved, but it’s hard to tell until players put on the pads. Should he falter, Bergstrom could crack the lineup at left guard. Finally, Jeff Adams actually won the left guard spot in preseason last year but suffered a nasty injury and is still rehabbing. The team might look at Adams as more a depth option going forward.

Indianapolis' Right Guard

Odds of being the opening day starter:

  • Hugh Thornton: 3/2 (favorite)
  • Denzelle Good: 2/1
  • Jonotthan Harrison: 7/1
  • Joe Haeg [R]: 14/1
  • LeRaven Clark [R]: 25/1

The right guard situation in Indianapolis is primarily a battle between last year’s starter before he was injured, Hugh Thornton, and Denzelle Good, a seventh round pick from two seasons ago out of tiny Mars Hill. Thornton has been given multiple chances to win a job with mixed results, but he has the most game-day experience. Thornton will likely get another chance preseason, once he is healthy enough to join his teammates. The coaches really like Good, who was forced into starting right tackle duties last season after Anthony Castonzo was hurt. Good started four games and held his own. He is the underdog in this battle to Thornton, but could be one of the few dogs in this article that actually win. Other players in the mix include Jonotthan Harrison, who is probably more of a center, and rookies Joe Haeg and LeRaven Clark. Haeg is more pro-ready than Clark but neither are great bets to start at guard week one. Overall, this is a battle where Thornton is favored but Good probably has more people rooting for him among both coaches and fans. 

Jacksonville's Left Tackle

Odds of being the opening day starter:

  • Kelvin Beachum: 2/3 (favorite)
  • Luke Joeckel: 3/2

The Jaguars signed Kelvin Beachum away from Pittsburgh this offseason, and gave him starter level money. Around the same time, the team declined former second overall pick Luke Joeckel’s option for a fifth year. This would appear to be a slam dunk in favor of Beachum. The only snag is that this player is still recovering from an ACL injury and isn’t expected to be ready to practice until August. That timeline is cutting it close and any setbacks will hamper Beachum's chances to win this job early in the season. Joeckel will be taking all the left tackle reps until that point, at which point they will likely swap reps. The expectation is that Beachum will beat Joeckel out but the timing of the rehab makes this battle a close call. It's also possible if Beachum isn't ready right away they could play Joeckel at left tackle in an attempt to trade him before the deadline. Joeckel has been getting reps at left guard as well and the team could be preparing this player for a move inside, to compete with Mackensey Bernadeau. While Beachum is favored to win the job, this situation in Jacksonville could even end up with both Joeckel and Beachum on the field as starters.

Kansas City's Left Guard

Odds of being the opening day starter:

  • Parker Ehinger [R]: 3/2 (favorite)
  • Jarrod Pughsley: 3/1
  • Jah Reid: 4/1
  • Zach Fulton: 6/1

The Chiefs drafted Parker Ehinger in the fourth round out of Cincinnati and despite being projected as a possible sixth or seventh round pick pre-draft, all indications from beat writers is that the team really likes this pick. Ehinger actually received the bulk of the left guard snaps in offseason team activities, and looks to be the prohibitive favorite going into training camp. The team might have their guard of the future in Ehinger and they will give him an opportunity to prove belief right or wrong. Jarrod Pughsley was a practice squad player in 2015 but was called up to the 53 man roster due to injuries. The coaches like Pughsley but he isn’t getting first team reps at this time. Jah Reid is a versatile swing tackle and could play guard but the team would rather have him as a super sub off the bench. Zach Fulton is a veteran who has experience and he was penciled in as the starter all offseason. It was notable however that Fulton started with the first team for three practices, but afterward lost his first team reps to Ehinger for the duration. Fulton could be on his way out with the powers that be. One final note about the Kansas City line, the right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif has struggled at times and his job could be threatened by the players who don’t win the left guard spot.

Miami Right Guard

Odds of being the opening day starter:

  • Jermon Bushrod: 2/1 (favorite) 
  • Kraig Urbik: 7/3
  • Billy Turner: 6/1
  • Jamil Douglas: 7/1
  • Dallas Thomas: 12/1

This Miami guard competition is one of the hardest to handicap of all the upcoming training camp battles. The draft pick of Laremy Tunsil in the first round adds complexity; if this player cannot win the left guard battle, there will actually be two starters needed from the above group of candidates. But let’s assume that Tunsil can fit in at guard. That leaves five players competing for the one spot at right guard next to right tackle Ju’Wuan James. The veteran players in this group, Jermon Bushrod and Kraig Urbik probably have the lead. Bushrod is a two time Pro Bowler and former starting left tackle for Chicago, but he is also 31 years of age, never lined up at guard in the league, and reportedly considered retirement this offseason. Another free agent acquisition, Urbik has been a guard starter in the AFC East (with the Bills) and has been the highest graded guard in this group. The team invested a third round pick in Billy Turner and while he has physical gifts, his technique is still raw and this is a make-or-break season for the player entering his third year. Jamil Douglas started at this spot last season but washed out fairly quickly. Dallas Thomas hasn’t been playing well and is the longest shot to start. However he has chemistry with former Volunteer teammate James and the coaches could look to build on that if the other options don’t work out.

Minnesota's Right Tackle

Odds of being the opening day starter:

  • Andre Smith: 1/2 (favorite)
  • Phil Loadholt: 3/1
  • T.J. Clemmings: 12/1

The Vikings were content with Phil Loadholt’s road grading but he suffered a nasty Achilles injury last season. Loadholt just turned 30 years old and the team fears this incident (his second season ending injury in as many seasons) could help him lose a step. To compete, the Vikings signed former first round pick Andre Smith from the Bengals. Smith is an incredibly talented athlete but has never really delivered on that promise of a top ten draft selection. Still, Smith is younger and healthier than Loadholt but he has to learn a completely new system. A darkhorse in this competition could be T.J. Clemmings, who got some right tackle reps after Loadholt went down last season. The team likes this player, but if they were so confident in his abilities, why sign Andre Smith? All signs point to Smith taking this job, barring some sort of miracle return to form from Loadholt.
The stakes of this contest are among the highest of all the contests in the league, as whoever loses the right tackle competition will likely be cut for salary reasons. We could be dramatic and call it “thunder-dome” rules, but other teams are already rumored to be salivating over signing the loser.

New England's Left GUard, Center and Right GUard

Odds of being an opening day starter (note multi-position competitions may not add up to 100%):

  • Bryan Stork: 2/1 (favorite for center)
  • Joe Thuney [R]: 3/1 (favorite for left guard)
  • Jonathan Cooper: 3/1 (favorite for right guard)
  • Shaq Mason: 5/1
  • David Andrews: 6/1
  • Josh Kline: 7/1
  • Tre Jackson: 7/1

Here is our second multi-way competition. 

In this situation  there is overlap and setting straight odds becomes tough. Overlap means that the loser of the center battle for example, could factor into the starting guard conversation. In these multi-way situations the odds reflect the chances of the player securing one of the multiple positions available and do not add up to 100%.  

On the Patriots, there are seven guys who realistically could be starting for three interior positions. Several of these seven are very talented, including Jonathan Cooper who recently arrived via trade with Arizona. Cooper was once a top ten draft selection and was running with the Patriots’ first team at right guard this spring. At center, David Andrews might be a better player than Bryan Stork but he played at 290 pounds last year. Stork is a rarer athlete. When healthy, Stork can swing to right tackle, and likely factor into the guard conversation, should he lose out to Andrews at center. Andrews started last season due to Stork’s multi-month concussion recovery and most observers believe he comported himself decently. This is a tight matchup as Andrews might just be tougher and a better fit at center, despite being undersized. At left guard, Josh Kline always finds himself on the field. But the team drafted Joe Thuney in the third round and have been giving him the first team left guard reps this spring. The team also worked Thuney out as a center pre-draft and he could factor into that complicated situation as well.

Once the dust settles, the cohesion scores should normalize and the Patriots’ low tier ranking can rise to respectability. This could be a good lineup, especially if Jon Cooper wins a job and finally lives up to his billing. But the most important choice for the coaches is to settle on a lineup and let the players gel. Right now there are a ton of questions, and they won’t be answered until pads are issued and the players start hitting for real.

Pittsburgh's Left Tackle

Odds of being the opening day starter:

  • Alejandro Villaneuva: 2/3 (favorite)
  • Ryan Harris: 2/1
  • Jerald Hawkins [R]: 25/1

After Kelvin Beachum injured his knee, former Army Ranger Alejandro Villaneuva stepped into the left tackle position. Villanueva is a huge athlete but extremely raw technically and due to his height, can sometimes be out leveraged. Ryan Harris is a journeyman starter who was last seen winning a Super Bowl ring for Denver. He will provide heavy competition. Still, it’s in the team’s best interest for the younger player to win the job. Offensive line coach Mike Munchak is had a Hall of Fame career and the team hopes he can develop Villaneuva with some of that knowledge. Jerald Hawkins was drafted in the fourth round and has left tackle experience at LSU, but he is probably not expected to contribute this season.

San Francisco's Right Tackle

Odds of being the opening day starter:

  • Erik Pears 1/4 (favorite)
  • Trent Brown: 9/1
  • John Theus: 19/1
  • Fahn Cooper: 19/1

The 49ers still haven’t adequately replaced Anthony Davis, who retired abruptly before last season. Erik Pears is the veteran option and has been taking the first team reps during camp. Pears is the heavy favorite by default, as last year’s starter Trent Brown reportedly has shown poor conditioning. If any player can’t run, that player’s role in Chip Kelly’s uptempo offense could be in serious jeopardy. The two rookies in John Theus and Fahn Cooper are interesting late round prospects who fit the offense. Pears should have this job wrapped up, and if Brown doesn’t show up in better shape than he was this spring, he could get cut.

Seattle's Left Tackle, Left Guard, and Center


Left Tackle

Odds of being the opening day starter:

  • Garry Gilliam: 3/2 (favorite)
  • Bradley Sowell: 2/1
  • Not on Roster: 3/1

Offensive line coach Tom Cable raised eyebrows when he talked up last year’s right tackle Garry Gilliam as the left tackle replacement for Russell Okung. But Cable appears to be serious and Gilliam is on top of the depth chart for now. Gilliam missed all of organized team activities this spring when he had a cyst removed from his knee. The injury is reportedly not serious. Sowell took all the first team reps in his place. Sowell is a veteran player, recently arrived from Arizona, and he could be an option at the position. There are also rumors that recently cut Baltimore left tackle Eugene Monroe could be in the mix for Seattle. He only wants to play left tackle and Seattle might be one of the few teams in the league with both cap space and a true vacancy at the position. It’s extremely possible Monroe signs a one year deal for moderate money and wins this job over both Gilliam and Sowell.

Left Guard

Odds of being the opening day starter:

  • Mark Glowinski: 1/2 
  • Rees Odhiambo [R]: 2/1

This spring the first team reps at left guard have been going to Mark Glowinski. Glowinski, a second year player out of West Virginia, is powerful, has game experience and knows the system. He will face competition from Rees Odiambo, the 97 overall pick out of Boise State. Odiambo offers more physical upside than Glowinski at the position. However, he has a steep learning curve and unlike fellow rookie Germain Ifedi, Odiambo may not be ready to start week one. The “double guard” draft might be a plan to give Ifedi a year at right guard before bumping him out to right tackle, making room for Odhiambo in the lineup at right guard a year or two down the line.


Odds of being the opening day starter:

  • Justin Britt: 2/3 (favorite)
  • Patrick Lewis: 2/1
  • Joey Hunt [R]: 13/1

Two seasons ago, Justin Britt started his career as a sixteen game starter at right tackle. His second year was spent at left guard. Now, Coach Cable is giving him first team reps at center. Last year’s starter Patrick Lewis appears to have fallen out of favor with the team, as evidenced by the draft pick of Joey Hunt out of TCU. Hunt has been alternating in with Lewis on the second team and could push him off the roster entirely.

Tennessee's Left Guard

Odds of being the opening day starter:

  • Quinton Spain: 9/11 (favorite)
  • Jeremiah Poutasi: 4/1
  • Sebastian Tretola: 9/1
  • Brian Schwenke: 9/1
  • Josue Matias: 18/1

Last year's right tackle Bryon Bell was slated to start this season at left guard, but he has been lost for the year with a season ending knee injury. Quinton Spain started the final six games for the Titans last season. Spain was an undrafted free agent rookie out of West Virginia, but the coaches like his power at the point of attack. Spain remains with the first team during spring activities. He will face competition from second year tackle Jeremiah Poutasi. Once a prospect at right tackle, the team is bumping him inside to guard. Sebastian Tretola is showing a nasty streak in practices but is inexperienced. He is probably more of a name to watch for the future. Josue Matias and Brian Schwenke could factor as long shots if the younger players aren’t up for the task.

Washington's Left Guard

Odds of being the opening day starter:

  • Spencer Long: 2/3 (favorite)
  • Shawn Lauvao: 3/1
  • Arie Kouandijo: 6/1

Last year, Shawn Lauvao was lost for the season with foot and ankle injuries. Spencer Long started the bulk of the season at left guard in his place. The coaches seem to believe in Long, who started off rocky but improved as the season progressed. Long is a versatile player, and can be a back-up at center as well. With Lauvao still out of action, Long and Arie Kouandijo have been splitting the first team reps in spring activities. Kouandijo is a rare athlete but his technique was too raw last season to win him much playing time. He still might be a year away from starting, but the team will give him an opportunity. In the end, Lauvao is a good player but he is expensive and injured. Lauvao would have to completely beast out in training camp to win the starting job in 2016. It seems like a lot to ask.

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