The leaves are changing and the air is brisk. The season is closing in on the halfway point. #OffensiveLine news, let's get after it!
Miami plus 8.
The Miami running game has come alive with Jay Ajayi's consecutive 200+ yard contests. Key to the production has been the improved run blocking of rookie Laremy Tunsil and right guard Jermon Bushrod. Bushrod had been inconsistent in recent weeks but has blocked like a man possessed recently. Two week's prior, Pro Bowl center Mike Pouncey returned to the lineup after missing a month of action with a hip injury. With Pouncey back the lineup has gelled quickly and the Dolphins clearly grade out as a top-tier unit.
Arizona plus 4.
The news out of Arizona isn't great. Left tackle Jared Veldheer has a fractured finger and will play with a cast. Left guard Mike Iupati was quoted as saying he "felt like he was hit by a truck" after last week's contest. It seems counter-intuitive to upgrade this offensive line coming off of last week's brutal 6-6 tie at home against Seattle. Still, the model rewards cohesion and Iupati's return to the lineup counts as good news. The year is getting to the point where key vets playing hurt is a good outcome, compared to than the alternatives. This group has a tough match up this week, at Carolina, who is the top-ranked defensive front seven, coming off a bye. But going forward, Arizona'a offensive line will stay in the top tier if their lineup can remain healthy.
Baltimore plus 17.
The Ravens' are on a bye this week, and this upgrade assumes that they return healthy. Both right guard Marshal Yanda and left tackle Ronnie Stanley returned to practice this week. Assuming both rejoin the lineup in Week 9, this line will return again to the top-tier of grades. While center Jeremy Zuttah and guard Alex Lewis have been struggling in recent weeks, their performances should improve as the other starters return.
Detroit plus 11.
In tackle news, Taylor Decker is having an excellent rookie campaign. Although right tackle Reily Reiff missed practice on Wednesday, but it was reported to only be an illness and he should be fine for this weekend. The real story is the interior, where rookie Graham Glasgow had been pushing center Travis Swanson, but Swanson just kept elevating his game. Thus, Glasgow has taken 2015 first round pick Laken Tomlinson's left guard starting spot, and the switch has been positive, as evidenced by three wins in the three games he has played. Glasgow's play can be characterised as high-motor and fan writers are already calling him the future of the position. With Larry Warford in a contract year, the team will have a decision to make at the end of this season, and it will be interesting if Tomlinson gets another shot at the lineup. In the meantime, the Detroit line grades out just outside the border for top-tier.
Tennessee minus 2.
Left guard Quinton Spain is injured and reportedly will miss 3-4 weeks with a knee injury. Brian Schwenke took Spain's spot in the game last week and will likely get the call again this Thursday evening. Schwenke is no stranger to the starting lineup, but his experience has not always been positive. IUn theory, Sebastian Tretola is another option, as is Dennis Kelly, who is still on the Titans' roster after being acquired via trade this preseason. Without Spain, the Titans' line falls two spots. They still grade comfortably in the mid-tier.
Carolina minus 4.
Michael Oher is having difficulty getting clear of the league's concussion protocol and he has been ruled out for this week's contest against Arizona. That makes four games since entering the protocol. Oher had the bye week to recover, and this situation illustrates the difficulty with predicting the recovery time for this particular injury. Mike Remmers will continue to start, which is tough, as he is better as a right tackle. Without their starting left tackle, the Panthers' line grades in the mid-tier.
Philadelphia minus 2.
Rookie right tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai has been an adventure since he has taken the suspended Lane Johnson's place in the lineup. Vaitai can look acceptable or even good for a few snaps, and then he will have absolutely terrible reps, such as the belly-flop cut blocks evident in this gif breakdown. The offense is keeping running backs or tight ends in to block, giving Vaitai help, and the productivity of the Eagles' offense has taken a dive in recent weeks. There's no easy way to put this, but the Eagles' line, an elite option only a few weeks ago, now grade out in the low-tier.
New York (A) minus 14.
Center Nick Mangold was forced from last week's contest against Baltimore when teammate Ryan Clady rolled up on his leg. Mangold was seen in a walking boot this week at practice and seems far away from full health. Mangold's status is tough to predict as he is one of the league's true warriors, but he's been playing hurt for a while and it might be time to give the injury a rest. Assuming Mangold misses the contest, Wesley Johnson (who isn't terrible) gets the start. Without their best player, the Jets' line falls from the mid-tier to the low-tier.
Kansas City minus 8.
Right tackle Mitchell Schwartz aggravated an ankle injury last week and was forced from the game. He also did not participate in Wednesday's practice. Jah Reid took Schwartz' place in the game and appears to be the lead to get the start this weekend. This situation is murky and bears monitoring. While Reid is a solid veteran backup, the Chiefs' line takes a hit if Schwartz is not able to play.
Houston minus 15.
Right tackle Derek Newton suffered what can only be described as a horrific injury last week. Newton ruptured patella tendons in both knees and will spend the next few months in a wheelchair. No one has ever returned from this injury, but stranger things have happened. In his place, Chris Clark will get the start at right tackle. Clark got five weeks of starts on the left side while Duane Brown was out earlier this year. Clark is one of the most experienced backup tackles in the league, and while he's better on the left side, he should be able to hold down the fort for the remainder of the season. Still, the Texans' offensive line grade out as a low-tier option until they prove they can overcome the loss of Newton.
IND - LG Mewhort's Injury is unclear.
Jack Mewhort (tricep) returned to practice on Wednesday but missed it on Thursday. If Mewhort returns it is a large boost to the Colts' grade, but it's hard to feel comfortable including him in the rankings at press time. Monitor the situation.
NO - LT Armstead still not ready.
Terron Armstead returned to the lineup last weekend but was forced from the contest. Look for Andrus Peat to continue to start in his place. In related news Senio Kelemente started last weekend's contest but suffered a stinger and Tim Lelito finished the contest. They hold similar grades.
CIN - LT Whitworth still in Concussion Protocol.
Andrew Whitworth is doing everything in his power to make sure he passes the league's concussion protocol in time for the team's flight to London. These rankings assume he makes it. If he is not on the flight, Jake Fisher would get the start.
CHI - RG Long left game last week, questionable this week.
The Bears' guard situation is murky, with Josh Sitton missing last week's game and Kyle Long was forced from it with a triceps injury. These rankings assume Long will make the start while Sitton requires another week or so. Eric Kush plays for Sitton while Ted Larsen would get the start in Long's place.
SEA - LT Sowell carted off last week
Left tackle Bradley Sowell was carted off Sunday night. George Fant replaced. Sowell has not been ruled out but the Seahawks remain the league's lowest graded line, regardless.
WAS - INJURies for LT Williams & RG Scherff.
Both left tackle Trent Williams and right guard Brandon Scherff were forced from the game last week against Detroit. Both returned to practice on Wednesday however, and these rankings assume they will play.
Week 8 Matchups of Note
- 4th CIN offensive line vs. 29th WAS defensive front seven (+23)*
- 3rd ATL offensive line vs. 21st GB defensive front seven (+17)
* = Game in London, UK.
- 30th MIN offensive line @ 7th CHI defensive front seven (-23)
- 29th HOU offensive line vs. 12th DET defensive front seven (-17)
- 32nd SEA offensive line @ 19th NO defensive front seven (-13)
Week 8 Offensive Line Rankings
|7||MIA||15||8||30.55||A-||A||B||Strong run blocking|
|11||BAL||28||17||29.9||B+||B||A-||Stanley, Yanda return (bye).|
|13||DET||24||11||29.48||B||B-||B+||Glascow wins LG job.|
|LOW TIER||22||PHI||21||-1||28.48||C||C||C-||Vaitai rough at RT.|
|27||NYJ||13||-14||28.23||C-||C||C-||Mangold likely out.|
|28||KC||20||-8||28.15||C-||C||C-||Schwartz likely out.|
|29||HOU||14||-15||28.1||C-||C-||C-||Newton on IR.|
Week 8 Defensive Front Seven Rankings
|7||Chicago||McPhee is playing.|
|10||Kansas City||Houston at practice.|
|15||New York (A)|
|17||New York (N)|
|19||New Orleans||Rankins at practice.|
|26||Dallas||McClain sus. 3 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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