Another high action week in the league has created a great deal of offensive line news. Let's get after it!
Oakland plus 1.
Right tackle Menelik Watson returned to practice this week, in a limited fashion. Watson had missed several games with a groin injury, and he had been most recently replaced by Austin Howard. While Howard is a savvy vet, Watson has the physical upside. For now, these players grade out similarly and assuming Watson rejoins the lineup, it's a small upgrade to the Raiders' already top-tier offensive line.
New Orleans plus 4.
Left tackle Terron Armstead returned to practice on Wednesday and seems likely to start this weekend at Kansas City. Armstead is the rarest specimen on the Saints' line and his return is good news. Andrus Peat would normally be sliding back to guard, however, Peat was injured during the second quarter of last week's win against Carolina and did not return to the game. With Peat likely out, Tim Lelito would likely get the start at left guard. It's a mixed bag, getting one player back while losing another, but it's a net gain for the Saints' offensive line, which is currently grading out among the league's better units.
Carolina plus 7.
Left tackle Michael Oher has been removed from the league's concussion protocol and is likely to return for the next game. Mike Remmers (who struggled at the left side) will slide back to right tackle, where he should be more comfortable. With Carolina on a bye, this news is more relevant for next week (NFL week 8).
Arizona plus 13.
The biggest upgrade this week comes in Arizona, as they welcome left guard Mike Iupati back to practice this week. Even without this player, the Cardinals' line has been firing on all cylinders in run blocking recently. This was evident after David Johnson's three touchdown performance on Monday Night Football. Earl Watford remains the starter at right guard in place of Evan Mathis while swing tackle John Wetzel returns to the bench. Watford is coming into his own and it should be noted that the team did draft him relatively early to be a starter several offseasons ago. The Cardinals grade out as a top-tier unit again.
Miami plus 10.
Laremy Tunsil rejoined the lineup last week and the line as a whole opened up huge holes, allowing Jay Ajayi to cross the 200-yard mark and average over 8 yards a carry. The line did not allow any sacks of Ryan Tannehill in the home win over Pittsburgh. This is a unit clearly on the rise and they are in the top half the rankings, as a mid-tier unit. As Tunsil develops the line's grade could easily rise higher.
Tennessee plus 8.
Shout out to twitter user "@BobbyPodunk" for the head's up on the Titans' offensive line. The cohesion score was out of date and it turned out that Josh Kline is actually a great replacement for Chance Warmack. Center Ben Jones was an excellent acquisition this offseason and the young tackle tandem of Taylor Lewan and Jack Conklin have shown promise. Russ Grimm is one of the league's best offensive line coaches and is doing an outstanding job with this unit. While they aren't grading among the top-tier yet, consider this a well-deserved performance-based upgrade for the Titans' offensive line.
Minnesota plus 1.
A small upgrade as guards Alex Boone and Brandon Fusco are practicing without limitation and are expected to start. Fusco had been out for a game with a concussion and he had been replaced by Zac Kirin. Already with both starting tackles on the injured reserve list, this Vikings' offensive line had been getting thin. The offense is certainly producing and it's not affecting the win-loss record but this unit remains one of the lower grades, due to injury.
Philadelphia minus 11.
There are several issues in Philadelphia, as starting center Jason Kelce has been diagnosed with plantar fasciitis (foot injury). This traditionally requires surgery or a great deal of rest to heal, and Kelce will have neither of those luxuries as he guts it out. It is not clear that Kelce will get the start this weekend. The team could turn to veteran Stefan Wisniewski to take his place. Another issue is the play of rookie right tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai, who gave up two sacks last weekend during the loss to Washington. Vaitai is in the lineup in place of the suspended Lane Johnson and the line as a whole looks totally different since Johnson left the lineup. Onlookers are wondering if Vaitai was ready to start or even if he was the best possible option. Head Coach Doug Peterson has expressed an interest in keeping players in the same spots, but an alternative lineup of Allen Barbre at right tackle might be more effective. The real question for Philadelphia is this a win-now squad or is this still a rebuilding year, despite the 3-0 start? Either way, the Eagles' line is trending downward and they are barely a mid-tier option at this point.
Chicago minus 19.
Tough news for the Bears' offensive line as they head into the game with their division rival Green Bay Packers without starting left guard Josh Sitton. Sitton, who had been an All-Pro with the Packers, has been performing at a high level this season with the Bears, especially in the run game. Sitton was probably eager to get a shot at his old franchise after they unceremoniously cut him prior to the season. Eric Kush, formerly of the L.A. Rams and Kansas City Chiefs, is likely to get the start in Sitton's place. It is a huge drop-off between the starter and backup, and as a result the Bears' line grades out as a low-tier unit going into Thursday Night Football.
Indianapolis minus 11.
Starting left guard Jack Mewhort has been ruled out of the contest this week at Tennessee. Joe Haeg will move from right tackle to left guard and Joe Reitz will resume starting at right tackle. These are good substitutes but Mewhort is the glue guy for the Colts' line and this is a huge loss to their cohesion. The Colts' offense could be in trouble without their key offensive line. Without Mewhort, this unit grades out as a low-tier unit.
Baltimore minus 10.
A mixed bag for the Ravens' line this week, as All-Pro right guard Marshal Yanda missed last week's contest against the New York Giants and he is likely to miss the contest this weekend at the New York Jets. Yanda is one of the best guards in the league, and there is a big gap between him and his replacement, which is likely to be James Hurst. Ryan Jensen or John Urschel could also factor into the guard mix but it's still a huge drop-off. The Ravens' line did get some good news when rookie left tackle Ronnie Stanley returned to practice in full. Expect Stanley to get the start this weekend while Yanda should miss at least one game while he recovers from his foot ailment.
CIN - Ogbuehi benched @ Pats but keeps starting job.
Right tackle Cedric Ogbuehi was replaced by Eric Winston last week on a coach's decision, but Winston wasn't good. Look for Ogbuehi to keep his job. Center Russell Bodine also left the contest, but for an injury. He was replaced by T.J. Johnson and it's not clear if Bodine will be ready to start this weekend against the Cleveland Browns. Because of the lack of clarity, there is no change to the Bengals' ranking at this time.
BUF - Glenn limited in practice but likely to play.
Left tackle Cordy Glenn is likely to play this weekend against Miami but this situation should be monitored, as he's a key player for that Bills' offense.
JAX - Parnell limited in practice but likely to play.
Right tackle Jermey Parnell was limited in practice but should play this weekend against Oakland.
SF - Rookie Garnett had a mixed performance in his first start.
To follow up on last week's news, Joshua Garnett had a choppy start last week at Buffalo.
NYJ - Giacomini still on PUP but practicing.
Right tackle Breno Giacomini was sighted at Jets' practice this week. The team is still starting Ben Ijalana but would welcome Giacomini back into the starting lineup as soon as he's available. The team now has a three week window to either bring Giacomini on the roster or send him to injured reserve.
Week 7 Matchups of Note
- 4th CIN offensive line vs. 32nd CLE defensive front seven (+28)
- 3rd ATL offensive line vs. 31st SD defensive front seven (+27)
- 5th OAK offensive line @ 17th JAX defensive front seven (+12)
- 2nd WAS offensive line @ 11th DET defensive front seven (+9)
- 27th IND offensive line @ 10th TEN defensive front seven. (-17)
- 21st PHI offensive line vs. 5th MIN defensive front seven (-16)
- 17th NYG offensive line @ 6th LA defensive front seven (-15)*
- 28th BAL offensive line @ 14th NYJ defensive front seven (-14)
- 18th SF offensive line vs. 8th TB defensive front seven (-10)
* = Game in UK (Neutral Site).
Week 7 Offensive Line Rankings
|7||NO||11||4||30.4||A-||B||A-||Armstead returns, Peat out.|
|8||CAR||15||7||30.35||A-||B||C+||Oher returns (after bye).|
|21||PHI||10||-11||28.73||C+||B-||C||Kelce out. Vaitai poor.|
Week 7 Defensive Front Seven Rankings
|9||Kansas City||Houston at practice.|
|14||New York (A)|
|16||New York (N)|
|18||Chicago||McPhee at practice.|
|19||New Orleans||Rankins at practice.|
|26||Dallas||McClain sus. 4 games.|
RE: 3 Key Defenders "At Practice"
Careful readers of the defensive front seven rankings will notice that Justin Houston (KC), Pernell McPhee (CHI), and Sheldon Rankins (NO) were listed as "at practice." The short explanation is those guys could return to their teams, but it hasn't happened yet. E.G. Justin Houston is not currently in the KC grade.
Would you like to know more?
Houston and McPhee have been on PUP all season and the first round rookie Rankins is on the injured reserve. PUP players have three weeks from their first practice to be elevated to the 53 man roster or "IR'ed" outright. And, due to a rule change previous to 2016, all teams can redeem one player from that IR list. A young, relatively high first round pick who gets healthy much faster than the doctors expect would be a proper usage of the first "redemption" in league history. All three of these players would boost their team's d7 rankings, if they become active.
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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