Finally, all the preseason rehearsals are over and it's time for the real thing. There's a ton of offensive line news prior to the regular season, so let's get after it!
Philadelphia plus 17
The intricacies of the league's disciplinary process appear to be working in favor of the Eagles, at least for this week. This has been a confusing issue, but here is my best attempt at an explanation: Starting right tackle Lane Johnson's A-sample tested positive for a banned amino acid, but his B-sample has still not come back from the lab. Both samples must fail, therefore, he is not officially suspended. When the league informs a player of his suspension, he has five days to appeal before serving the suspension. Because Sunday is less than five days away, Johnson should be able to play Week one against a vulnerable Cleveland Browns front seven (see full defensive front seven ranks, below). With Johnson, the Eagles rocket back up to second overall in the offensive line rankings. How long they will stay there, is up in the air. It should be noted that B-samples don't usually take this long to test. Could there be a behind the scenes development that could nullify Johnson's entire suspension, which was due to last ten weeks? For instance, could the lab have lost the sample? Something is fishy with this whole situation. Bottom line, Johnson plays this week, which is huge news for the Eagles line, which had not found an adequate left guard to replace Allen Barbre when he kicks over to right tackle. With Johnson in the lineup, the line is basically last year's unit plus Brandon Brooks.
New Orleans plus 6
The Saints re-signed last year's right guard Jahri Evans, and he is listed on the most recent depth chart as the current starter. This offseason, the Saints had tried to move along from Evans and find a younger, cheaper solution, but neither Tim Lelito nor Senio Kelemete were up to the task. Evans had trouble performing the Seahawks' zone concepts and should be more comfortable in the Saints' mostly man scheme. Evans is certainly slowing down, but he knows the system and has tremendous cohesion with right tackle Zach Streif, whom he has played next to for several years. The model rewards players that play together and getting Evans back into the loop can only be considered good news for the Saints' line, which was struggling without him.
CHIcago plus 7
The Bears' may have struck gold when their divisional rivals the Green Bay Packers surprisingly released All-Pro guard Josh Sitton. Sitton is known as a mauler in the run game and is an instant upgrade at left guard over Cody Whitehair, who probably was a little too raw to start as a rookie. Sitton should be plenty motivated to face off against the Packers twice the season and the Bears' line should be much better with him in the lineup. In fact, together with Kyle Long at right guard, the Bears might actually have the best guard duo in the game (Oakland's duo of Kelechi Osemele and Gabe Jackson also are excellent). All of this assumes that Sitton is healthy, but considering he was waived and not waived-injured, he technically had to be healthy enough to be cut. Perhaps Sitton's play really has deteriorated and if that is the case, the rankings will adjust. For now, the model assumes he is the same player who goes to the Pro Bowl every offseason.
Tennessee plus 4
There are no real personnel changes for these next few upgrades. Instead, the grading was altered based on preseason performances. For the Titans, the run blocking has been superior all preseason. The line is really benefitting from the additions of first round rookie Jack Conklin at right tackle and Ben Jones at center. Jones has been a stabilizing addition while Conklin and Taylor Lewan are crushing defenders in the run game. The Titans are shaping up to be the type of line that everyone knows is going to run, but still can't be stopped. The match-up this week against Minnesota should be a stern test, but against easier fronts, this line should be able to rack up rushing yardage.
Kansas City plus 3
Another small adjustment, the Chiefs' line has been the beneficiary of strong play from center Mitch Morse and new right tackle Mitchell Schwartz. Morse has taken a step forward in his professional development and has been excellent calling blocking. Schwartz especially has been a great addition at right tackle and tends to lock down pass rushers. Both these players should allow the quarterback a little more time in the pocket when scanning the field for open targets.
Tampa Bay plus 5
With J.R. Sweezy signing a big money contract but remaining on the PUP list, one would imagine the Bucs' line to be downgraded. But Kevin Pamphile has been excellent at left guard in place of Sweezy and the pass protection has been far better than expected. Right tackle Demar Dotson being fully healthy has also been a part of the improvement. Although the model had graded them the same, it turns out Dotson is actually a significant upgrade from Gosder Cherilus.
Green Bay minus 14
This downgrade is primarily due to the release of left guard Josh Sitton. Sitton had been dealing with back issues and had been caught holding last year more than in years' past. But still this release was a surprise as Sitton was graded out as not only the Packers' best lineman but among the best interior linemen in the league. While the model is pessimistic about this loss, it should be noted that the Packers' line has excellent depth, and Lane Taylor hopefully will be able to step in and perform at a starter level. Don Barklay could also get reps at the spot, as could second round rookie Jason Spriggs. Still, Taylor, or whoever else, probably won't play at an All-Pro level. That is the why the Packers' line, which was a top-tier unit, now grade out as a mid-tier unit. This situation bears further observation, as there is a real chance the Packers were right about Sitton and he really did deserve his release based on performance, not contract. Still, cutting a player is not the same as upgrading the line.
Indianapolis minus 5
Left guard Jack Mewhort suffered a knee sprain late in the preseason and is expected to miss two-to-four weeks. The news could be worse for the Colts', as Mewhort's injury was initially reported as season-ending. Mewhort is the Colts' most consistent lineman and with rookie Joe Haeg also dealing with a knee injury and Hugh Thornton already on injured reserve, the starting gig is likely to fall to Jonotthan Harrison. Harrison has experience at center but is undersized for the guard spot.
New York (A) minus 2
Starting right tackle Breno Giacomini has been on the PUP list all preseason and the situation has not changed before Week one against the Bengals. This preseason, Ben Ijalana and Brent Qvale have been splitting reps at the right tackle spot. Both were decent and there was even talk that the team could cut Giacomini to save cap space. The team has not officially announced a starter but look for the team to start Ijalana but rotate Qvale in at times. Whoever the starter will likely get help from the running back or tight end on passing downs.
NYG sign Will Beatty
The Giants re-signed tackle Will Beatty, who was with the team for several years prior to this offseason. Beatty will be given the chance to unseat Marshall Newhouse at right tackle, but it doesn't appear that change will occur prior to week one of the regular season.
NE release Josh Kline
The Patriots' attempted to trade Josh Kline to the Eagles for defensive back Eric Rowe. Kline was pulled out of the deal at the last minute (failed physical for his bad shoulder?) and later was released. If healthy, Kline can be a marginal starter at guard or center.
SEA right guard Germain Ifedi sprained his ankle
Starting right guard Germain Ifedi suffered a high ankle sprain prior to the week one contest with Miami. J'Marcus Webb will get the nod while he is healing. Ifedi had been one of the few bright spots for the Seahawks' line this season. However there is no change to the rankings as the Seahawks' line is ranked last already.
BUF right tackle Seantrel Henderson was suspended four games.
Seantrel Henderson was suspended for a violation of the league's substance abuse policy. Henderson has been battling Chron's disease this offseason, and cannabis is reportedly a treatment for this disease. The league will not likely show any mercy, however. Henderson was not starting, instead, he was backing up Jordan Mills at right tackle.
Matchups of Note, Explained.
This article spends a lot of time ranking the offensive line. In addition, I have graded the league's defensive front sevens (defined as starters at defensive line and linebacker). These front seven rankings take into account suspensions and major injuries. By contrasting the offensive line rankings to the defensive front seven rankings, we can isolate matchups of note for a given week. These matchups are primarily useful for finding running backs. Keep in mind that franchise caliber quarterbacks can overcome bad offensive line play simply by getting the ball out quicker. Also keep in mind that teams with inexperienced quarterbacks (Dallas with Dak Prescott is a good example) could squander a choice matchup by not making the other team respect the pass.
WEEK 1'S MATCHUPS OF NOTE
- 1st DAL O-Line vs. 16th NYG defensive front seven (+16).
- 12th PIT O-Line @ 28th WAS defensive front seven (+16).
- 10th CIN O-Line @ 23rd NYJ defensive front seven (+13).
- 9th NO O-Line vs. 21st OAK defensive front seven (+12).
- 30th DEN O-Line vs. 1st CAR defensive front seven (-29).
- 19th TEN O-Line vs. 4th MIN defensive front seven (-16).
- 18th SF O-Line vs. 5th LA defensive front seven (-13).
- 23rd SD O-Line @ 10th KC defensive front seven (-13).
- 22nd IND O-Line vs. 12th DET defensive front seven (-10).
Week 1 Offensive Line Rankings
|2||PHI||19||17||31.98||A||A-||A||L. Johnson playing week 1.|
|8||NO||14||6||30.65||B+||B+||B+||Signed J. Evans.|
|14||CHI||21||7||30.15||B||B||B-||Signed J. Sitton.|
|16||GB||2||-14||29.98||B||B||B||Cut J. Sitton.|
|19||TEN||23||4||29.38||B-||B+||C+||Strong run blocking.|
|20||NYJ||18||-2||29.35||B-||B||C||B. Giacomini still out.|
|LOW TIER||22||IND||17||-5||28.95||B-||B-||C+||J. Mewhort knee sprain.|
|24||KC||27||3||28.9||C+||C||B-||Improvement at C and RT.|
|25||TB||30||5||28.65||C+||C||B-||Strong pass pro.|
Week 1 Defensive Front Seven Rankings
|7||Cincinnati||Burfict sus. 3 games.|
|10||Kansas City||Houston on PUP.|
|16||New York (N)|
|23||New York (A)||Richardson sus. 1 game.|
|24||Dallas||McClain sus. 10 games.|
|26||Buffalo||Dareus sus. 4 games.|
|29||San Francisco||Lynch sus. 4 games.|
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.
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