If all the offensive line comments, tweets, and articles were collected, there would probably be two groups: complaints about the bad lines and hype about the dominant groups. This article wades into the murky middle-tier and hopes to identify the lines who, by the midpoint of this season, will be considered the most improved.
Improvement, for the purposes of this article, is defined as not currently top-tier, but a group which is healthy and showing positive improvement over the course of the preseason. Many of these lines were considered problems in the recent past, but change is a constant in the league. Sometimes one or two key moves can turn a weakness into a strength.
MOST IMPROVED LINES OF 2018 (SO FAR)
Current Rank: 14th
The Los Angeles Chargers added veteran center Mike Pouncey via free agency this offseason. Pouncey brings a Pro Bowl resume but more importantly leadership qualities to a line which lacked an identity in previous seasons. Through two preseason games, the line has been opening giant holes for running back Melvin Gordon III. While some of their success might be due to running against vanilla defensive schemes, there's an edge to this group. Right tackle Joe Barksdale appears fully recovered not just from his physical injuries but also from untreated depression, which also held back his performance in the past. Barksdale and left tackle Russell Okung are quietly an above average set of tackle bookends. The interior next to Pouncey is shaping up with Dan Feeney improving in his second season at left guard and Michael Schofield mauling as the starting right guard. Schofield will be pushed by last year's second-round pick Forrest Lamp, who is finally healthy after a year of rehab. Overall, this line is playing with good chemistry and look like a transformed group with the addition of Pouncey.
Current Rank: 18th
This offseason the Seattle Seahawks' offense switched to a more man-to-man straight ahead power blocking scheme under new offensive line coach Mike Solari. The system works to the strengths of new arrival right guard D.J. Fluker. Fluker, who is currently nursing a minor finger injury and is expected to be fine for opening day, brings an added dimension to this line it previously lacked. Looking at the first team with Fluker during preseason action, the Seahawks converted obvious short yardage situations using a running back dive, a straightforward play past versions of this offense wouldn't even attempt. Left tackle Duane Brown is still a legitimate left tackle starter and while not perfect, he provides quarterback Russell Wilson with a level of blind side pass protection he's never had before in his career. Critics will point to right tackle Germain Ifedi as a weak spot, Ifedi, who was last seen getting blown up in the preseason by Los Angeles Chargers' pass rusher Melvin Ingram III, is now in a battle for the job. The team reacted and put last year's left tackle George Fant to the right side, where he will likely win the job from Ifedi. The team has other depth options such as J.R. Sweezy, working at left guard behind Ethan Pocic after rehabbing an ankle injury. National media and casual fans are not used to thinking about the Seahawks as having a good offensive line, but perhaps it's time to reconsider these preconceived notions.
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