With 28 teams in action last week, 4 teams were on a bye, and that means some offensive line were getting healthier while others were getting more injured. Let's get after it!
San Diego plus 21.
With left tackle King Dunlap returning to the lineup before their close loss last week at Oakland, the Chargers' offensive line has looked much improved recently. All five starters are finally in the positions they were projected to play this preseason, and that's good news from a cohesion standpoint. Dunlap (who had been sidelined with migraines) in particular played with fire last week, and he was visably upset when his team decided to kick a tying field goal instead of going for it on fourth and short. This is a run-first unit. And as they are now totally healthy, the Chargers' line has climbed their way to the top-tier of the rankings.
Miami plus 2.
While still a low-tier unit, the Dolphins' offensive line appears to be on track to get their starting left tackle Branden Albert back from a virus. Albert reportedly lost about 15 pounds while out of action, and while that might be bad news for most players, Albert is calling it a blessing, as he had been playing over 330 and needed to deflate (to use the parlance of our times). It's not all great news, as left guard Laremy Tunsil was a late scratch (he reportedly fell in the shower and twisted his ankle) and Kraig Urbik got the nod in his place. Tunsil's injury sounds like a multi-week affair. There is a ton of upheaval in this unit as both Billy Turner and Dallas Thomas were cut after a disasterous performance last week against the Titans. Sam Young was re-signed, in a related move. Still getting one's left tackle back is always good news. The Dolphins remain a low-tier unit but they are improving slightly.
Pittsburgh plus 5.
Despite losing their starting right tackle (Marcus Gilbert) and the backup (Ryan Harris), the Steelers' line continues to do a decent job. Chris Hubbard got the start last week versus the Jets' and while there was a ton of help thrown his direction in the form of tight end chip blocks, the line held up extremely well. Maybe Hubbard is another rare gem like Alejandro Villanueva. Maybe the Steelers don't actually need high draft picks at their starting tackle positions. In related news, Matt Feiler was promoted from the practice squad, a sign that Gilbert and Harris are not close to returning. This line has been upgraded from a low-tier option to a mid-tier option, based on their recent performance. A great deal of credit goes to offensive line Mike Munchak, who is keeping this unit performing no matter who starts.
Philadelphia minus 8.
After B-samples and appeals, starting right tackle Lane Johnson has finally been officially suspended by the league for ten games. Johnson will likely miss the entire remainder of ther regular season. Rather than shuffle Allen Barbre from left guard to right tackle, the team will be elevating rookie Halapoulivaati Vaitai to Johnson's starting position. Vaitai has good measurables but is extremely raw and it is not certain to keep this job for very long. The Eagles' offensive line had been among the best in football but without Johnson, they are barely hanging on to top-tier status. This situation bears further observation as it is unclear what the lineup will be exactly.
New Orleans minus 5.
Left tackle Terron Armstead remains sidelined with a knee injury and did not practice Wednesday. With the bye week to recover, Armstead's not even participating in a limited fashion does not bode well for his availability in this weekend's game against the top rated Carolina Panthers' defensive front seven (see full defensive front seven rankings below). In Armstead's place, Andrus Peat has been mixed (on his way to bustsville, according to most fans). The team would really prefer to get him back to guard. In related news, right guard Jahri Evans has been rotated out at times but has mostly assumed his starting position without incident. Despite lacking his starting left tackle, Drew Brees is one of the league's least pressured quarterbacks through five weeks.
Cleveland minus 3.
There's a ton of news in Cleveland and it all works out to a slight downgrade. To summarize: Starting left guard Joel Bitonio suffered a foot sprain and is out indefinately. The timeline on recovery seems long and it could actually be a season ending injury. John Greco and Alvin Bailey will likely be the guards. Center Cameron Erving has returned to practice and is likely to start after recovering from his bruised lung. Meanwhile, former Patriots lineman Jonathan Cooper was claimed off waivers. All in all the Browns' line remains a solid option, right on the cusp of top-tier and mid-tier.
Arizona minus 11.
The Cardinals' line lost both starting guards last week in the win over San Francisco. Right guard Evan Mathis has been placed on injured reserve with an ankle injury. Starting left guard Mike Iupati also left the game and is expected to miss 2-4 weeks with a ligament tear in his ankle. Earl Watford and John Wetzel filled in for the starters and will likely keep their jobs going forward. In related news Ulrick John was signed to be a depth option. Whenever a team loses both starting guards in one game, it's a significant blow to the rankings, and the Cardinals have dropped from a borderline top-tier unit to a borderline mid-tier unit.
Minnesota minus 4.
Starting guard Brandon Fusco was forced out of last weeks' contest with a concussion. Fusco remains in the league's protocol and it's not clear that he would be ready for this weekend. Zac Kerin took over at right guard. It's a good thing the team is on bye as Fusco could be ready in two weeks. No such luck for right tackle Andre Smith, who missed last game with a triceps injury and he was placed on injured reserve after the game. Jeremiah Sirles has taken Smith's starting job and the second year player appears to be solid so far. With Matt Kalil already on the injured reserve, the team has been saved by depth options such as T.J. Clemmings. But the Vikings are running out of bench bodies and this week they signed Jake Long to be the swing tackle. Overall, these young names have been good early but this line should be watched closely, especially as teams start to game-plan against the weaker links.
DET - Laken Tomlinson benched but remains the starter (barely).
Tomlinson has had an awful start to the season and the team actually benched him for Graham Glasgow during the win over Philadelphia. Tomlinson remains the starter (therefore no change to the rankings) but his leash is getting awfully short in Detroit.
NYJ - Nick Mangold left game but MRI showed "nothing negative."
Center Nick Mangold was forced from the Pittsburgh game and Wesley Johnson took his place. The MRI showed "nothing negative" and with the team not playing until Monday night in Arizona, Mangold is a decent bet to gut out the injury. Without this player the Jets' line goes from decent to awful.
HOU- LG Jeff Allen left game with a concussion.
Allen remains in the league's protocol. Fourth year lineman Oday Aboushi would likely start if Allen is unavailable.
IND - Haeg supplants Reitz in the starting lineup.
Despite Joe Reitz returning to health, the team has gone with the younger player in Joe Haeg to start at right tackle. Reitz has been a swing tackle before and while he can start, that's probably his best role at this point in his career.
SF - Rookie Joshua Garnett elevated to starting lineup.
First round pick Joshua Garnett will likely get his first start this week at Buffalo. Andrew Tiller had been doing a decent job, but the franchise has invested much in Garnett. With the change at quarterback the team is also looking for a spark by starting their first round rookie.
TB - Joe Hawley left game briefly, but returned.
Center Joe Hawley was called out of the game by the league's concussion spotters but he was able to return. Hawley also suffered a knee injury but returned from that as well. Evan Smith (formerly Dietrich-Smith) is one of the league's best backup centers and while Hawley has the edge in size, these players grade out almost identically.
BUF - Seantrel Henderson activated from suspended list.
Backup right tackle Seantrel Henderson has served his four game suspension and will look to compete with Jordan Mills for the starting job. Henderson had this job before, so Mills should be looking over his shoulder.
Week 6 Matchups of Note
- 1st DAL offensive line @ 21st GB defensive front seven (+20)
- 5th BUF offensive line vs. 25th SF defensive front seven (+19)
- 10th PHI offensive line @ 29th WAS defensive front seven (+19)
- 14th HOU vs. 30th IND defensive front seven (+16)
- 29th LA offensive line @ 11th DET defensive front seven (-18)
- 22nd PIT offensive line @ 7th MIA defensive front seven (-15)
Week 6 Offensive Line Rankings
|9||SD||30||21||29.9||B+||A||B||K. Dunlap returns.|
|10||PHI||2||-8||29.73||B+||B+||B+||L. Johnson suspended.|
|11||NO||6||-5||29.65||B+||B||A-||T. Armstead still out.|
|MID TIER||12||CLE||9||-3||29.6||B||B||B||J. Bitonio hurt.|
|21||PIT||26||5||28.9||C+||C||C+||C. Hubbard decent depth.|
|LOW TIER||22||AZ||11||-11||28.83||C||C-||C+||E. Mathis & M. Iupati out.|
|25||MIA||28||3||28.55||C||C||C||B. Albert returns.|
|31||MIN||27||-4||26.85||D+||C-||D+||A. Smith to IR.|
Week 6 Defensive Front Seven Rankings
|9||Kansas City||Houston on PUP.|
|14||New York (A)|
|16||New York (N)|
|26||Dallas||McClain sus. 5 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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