Week 3 of the NFL's regular season saw several starters succumb to injury and at least two teams downgraded purely on performance. There's a ton of ground to cover, so let's get after it!
Buffalo plus 4.
After an upgrade in these rankings last week, the Bills' line responded by opening up huge holes in the Arizona defensive front seven during their home win. Although both Cordy Glenn and Cyrus Kouandijo are slowed by ankle injuries, the coaching staff expects Glenn to be full go this weekend against New England. Michael Ola signed off the Giants' practice squad as insurance for Kouandijo. The Patriots' defensive front seven are stouter than the Cardinals' front, but in general, this is a unit on the rise in the rankings. They currently grade out as top-tier, after starting the season in the mid-tier.
Jacksonville plus 15.
The Jaguars' offensive line received several pieces of good news prior to their game in London against Indianapolis this weekend. Left tackle Kelvin Beachum has returned to practice after being in the concussion protocol. The line had been shuffled badly in his absence. In related news, center Brandon Linder did miss last week's contest with a knee injury, but he is expected to return this weekend. With two starters returning, the Jacksonville line grades out as a mid-tier unit after a brief stay in the low-tier.
Washington minus 4.
Starting center Kory Lichtensteiger was placed on the injured reserve list with a calf injury. The team signed former Vikings' Pro Bowl center John Sullivan, and all indications are that either Sullivan or Spencer Long will start this week. They are alternating reps in practice. It should be noted that the center the team developed over the past two season in Austin Reiter, was swiped from the practice squad and he is actually in line to start for the other side (see Cleveland notes below). In related news, left guard Shaun Lavuao left last weekend's game against New York in a walking boot and Arie Kouandijo will get the start at guard if Long starts at center. There is an alternative lineup where Trent Williams slides to guard and Ty Nsekhe starts at left tackle. But that lineup would be a serious downgrade in the rankings. Lichtensteiger was under serious criticism this year and this swap actually could be an upgrade, especially if Sullivan recaptures his past form. However, for now, we will take a wait-and-see approach and keep Sullivan's grade conservative.
Cleveland minus 7.
To quote the FBG game recap: "The Browns' offensive line, and especially Austin Pasztor, really struggled in this game. Pasztor made multiple mistakes including several penalties for holding and false starts." We couldn't have said it better and it is Pasztor's performance that leads this downgrade. However, besides the right tackle issue, starting right guard Alvin Bailey was arrested for DUI after the game, and he is not practicing this week. Should Bailey not play, John Greco, which had been starting at center for Cameron Erving (bruised chest), would go back to guard. At center, Austin Reiter could get his first career start, against his former team in Washington. It's a great deal of upheaval and it all adds up to a top-tier line playing more like a mid-tier unit.
Oakland minus 6.
Injuries are starting to pile up at the right tackle position for the Raiders. Nominal starter Menelik Watson was forced from the game against Tennessee. With Austin Howard and Matt McCants all dealing with their own injuries, rookie Vadal Alexander replaced Watson last week, and he is on track to do it against this week against Baltimore. Alexander played well in relief, but this week the other team will gameplan for him. Overall there's just a ton of change at that position and the model rewards cohesion. The Raiders were a top-tier unit but they fall to the mid-tier until their either Alexander strings several good performances in a row or the right tackle position gets healthier.
Pittsburgh minus 9.
The right side of the Steelers' offensive line was worked over in the loss at Philadelphia. Ben Roethlisberger was sacked four times and hurried seven others. Part of this performance is the stellar job done by the Philadelphia defensive front seven (see rankings below). But in general, veterans like David Decastro and Marcus Gilbert were beaten cleanly and on multiple occasions. Left tackle Alejandro Villanueva was nabbed for two holding penalties against his former team. In related news, starting left guard Ramon Foster left the contest with a chest injury and was replaced by B.J. Finney, whom his teammates call "Spongebob." Finney is an interesting prospect but Foster is a glue guy for that line and they will try to get him ready to play sooner rather than later. The injuries coupled with the recent performance of the line leaves the Steelers' line graded out as a mid-tier unit.
Indianapolis minus 7.
One week after an upgrade, the injuries are piling up for the Colts' offensive line. Starting right tackle Joe Reitz exited the game last week with a back injury and has been limited in practice this week. Right guard Denzelle Good is also limited and both players are reportedly in the "rehab stage" of their recovery. Rookie Joe Haeg stepped up to take Reitz' place but Haeg also left the game with a back injury. Backup Jonotthan Harrison is also likely to miss the next two to three contests after undergoing an appendectomy. All of this uncertainty could leave players like LeRaven Clark and Austin Blythe as possible replacement starters this week in London. It's highly questionable exactly who the starters will be this weekend, and that's rarely a good situation. Andrew Luck is reportedly the most pressured quarterback in the league through three games.
San Diego minus 8.
Left tackle King Dunlap was a surprise late scratch last week with headaches. He is not practicing this week either and his status for this weekend's contest against New Orleans is very much in doubt. Dunlap has a history of migraines dating back to his days with the Eagles and as balance can be affected, this is often a tough injury for players to gut out and play in pain. Look for Kenny Wiggins or Chris Hairston to get the start at left tackle. Hairston is a decent vet and Wiggins has experience but either is a drop off from Dunlap, particularly in pass protection.
DAL - La'el Collins out, Ron Leary to replace.
Left guard La'el Collins reportedly requires surgery on a injured toe. Collins is a good player but Leary is a veteran and there is no change to the rankings at this time.
HOU - Duane Brown practicing, not back yet
Left tackle Duane Brown has returned to practice but the coaching staff has told reporters that he is still at least one week away from re-joining the lineup. Look for Chris Clark to get one more start before Brown returns in week 5.
MIN - Alex Boone could miss week 4
Left guard Alex Boone left the game against Green Bay last week and was replaced by Jeremiah Sirles.It is not clear if Boone will be out again, for now we are leaving the Vikings' grade the same and assuming that Boone will gut it out.
NO - Terron Armstead missed week 3 but could play week 4.
Another tough one to predict as comments from the head coach indicated that Armstead could be working his way back to health prior to week four's contest against San Diego. Andrus Peat played left tackle last week and would get the start if Armstead can't go. The team signed Khalif Barnes to the roster, as insurance for Senio Kelemete, who is banged up with an ankle injury.
BAL - Ronnie Stanley not practicing, Alex Lewis in the concussion protocol.
Starting left tackle Ronnie Stanley was held out of practice on Wednesday. If he can't go the line would be in panic mode. Starting left guard Alex Lewis is still in the league's concussion protocol and Ryan Jensen could get the start in his place. While Lewis is an interesting prospect, in the near term his grade isn't that different from Jensen's. This is a situation to watch (especially Stanley) but the Ravens' grade stays the same, for now.
MIA - Center woes continue.
Mike Pouncey is still out with a hairline hip fracture. His replacement Anthony Steen was hurt last week against Cleveland, leaving Kraig Urbik to start at center. Urbik and Steen grade out similarly so there's no change to the rankings at this time. But it's worth noting that things are getting thin in Miami.
SEA - Germain Ifedi likely to play week 4 at New York (A)
Even though only a rookie, Ifedi is likely the Seahawks' best lineman. Getting him back is a big deal. Why is this not listed as an upgrade? Because even with Ifedi, the line as a whole still grades as last in the league.
SF - Anthony Davis re-retired.
Following a concussion suffered in practice, Davis has once again decided to hang up the cleats. This player had been a backup so the immediate grade doesn't change. Still, this is disappointing news for the 49ers' line, as Davis was a talented player.
Week 4 Matchups of Note
- 1st DAL O-Line @ 29th SF defensive front seven (+28).
- 6th NO O-Line @ 31st SD defensive front seven (+25).
- 3rd CAR O-Line @ 27th ATL defensive front seven (+24).
- 8th WAS O-Line vs. 32nd CLE defensive front seven (+24).
- 16th JAX O-Line vs. 30th IND defensive front seven (+14).
- 28th MIA O-Line @ 3rd CIN defensive front seven (-25).
- 31st DEN O-Line @ 8th TB defensive front seven (-23).
- 32nd SEA O-Line @ 15th NYJ defensive front seven (-17).
- 27th HOU O-Line vs. 11th TEN defensive front seven (-16).
- 17th NYG O-Line @ 5th MIN defensive front seven (-12).
Week 4 Offensive Line Rankings
|TOP TIER||1||DAL||1||0||35.65||A+||A+||A+||Collins toe injury.|
|7||BUF||11||4||30.35||B+||A-||B||Great running vs AZ.|
|8||WAS||4||-4||30.28||B+||A-||B||K. Lichtensteiger to IR.|
|MID TIER||12||BAL||15||3||29.65||B||A-||B-||A. Lewis in concussion prot.|
|14t||CLE||7||-7||29.6||B-||B||B-||A. Bailey arrested.|
|15||OAK||9||-6||29.53||B-||B||B-||V. Alexander to start at RT.|
|16||JAX||31||15||29.28||B-||B-||B-||Beachum and Linder return.|
|19t||PIT||10||-9||28.9||C+||C+||C+||Bad right side pass pro.|
|23||IND||17||-6||28.58||C||C+||C-||Reitz, Haeg & Harrison hurt|
|27||HOU||27||0||28.1||C-||C||C-||D. Brown out one more week.|
|28||MIA||28||0||28.05||C-||C||C-||M. Pouncey hip fracture.|
|29||SD||20||-9||27.9||C-||C||D+||K. Dunlap out with migraines.|
Week 4 Defensive Front Seven Rankings
|10||Kansas City||Houston on PUP.|
|15||New York (A)|
|17||New York (N)|
|24||Dallas||McClain sus. 7 games.|
|26||Buffalo||Dareus sus. 1 game.|
|29||San Francisco||Lynch sus. 1 game.|
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