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Offensive Line Rankings and Notes: Week 14 - Footballguys

Offensive line related news, injuries and updates, prior to week fourteen of the regular season.

UPGRADES

New Orleans up five slots.

After missing three games with a pectoral injury, left tackle Terron Armstead returned to practice this week. Although Armstead (and right tackle Ryan Ramzyck) were only limited participants, the head coach stated both will be fine. Earlier this week, the team worked out several veteran free agents, including former Houston Texans starter Derek Newton, but the team ended up only signing former undrafted Akron guard Isaiah Williams to their practice squad. The signing of a futures player over a possible spot starter indicates the line is rounding into health. Armstead can be a frustrating player from a dependability standpoint, as he has never started all 16 games in a season in his career before. But when he available, Armstead has the rare athletic gifts to make a difference. Assuming he and Ramcyzk are in the lineup, this line rejoins the top-tier prior to this weekend's contest at Tampa Bay.

Dallas up 16 slots.

Last week the line was downgraded due to a neck injury suffered by their best lineman, left tackle Tyron Smith. Smith missed two games but he has returned to practice this week and is expected to start this weekend at home against Philadelphia. While Cameron Fleming did a decent job in relief, with Smith back this line regains a large chunk of their grade. Left guard Connor Williams has not been listed on any injury report for two weeks, yet the rookie has not regained the job from Xavier S'ua-Filo and the team might focus Williams' development to backup tackle. Prior to Week 12, the Cowboys' line was upgraded based on their improved play and the positional coaching of Marc Columbo. Rather than again detail all the reasons why the Cowboys' line is playing well, please refer to that article. They have recovered much of their rank from the recent loss of Smith and the preseason loss of center Travis Frederick. The entire team should be well rested given their ten days off after beating the Saints last Thursday Night, and this line is again ranked as a top-tier option.

Tampa Bay up four slots.

Right guard Caleb Benenoch has been struggling in recent weeks and veteran right tackle Demar Dotson was forced from the game with a hamstring injury. Usually, a line isn't rewarded with an upgrade after changing out two starters. But the coaches swapped Benenoch out for rookie Alex Kappa and backup Leonard Wester for Dotson and the line play improved last week against Carolina. Kappa is a powerful player who comported himself like a veteran on the interior and could challenge Benenoch for the job. Wester provided a noted improvement in pass protection and the coaches had high praise for Wester's play after the game. It would be a surprise if Dotson gets this job back, as he is not in the teams' long-term plans. With a new look right side the Buccaneers' line grades as a mid-tier option.

Denver up four slots.

It's rare for a line to be upgraded two articles in a row but the Broncos' line continues to improve in the wake of losing center Matt Paradis for the season. The rushing attack is red-hot, accounting for over 450 yards in the last three games. Left tackle Garett Bolles is living up to his first-round draft status while right tackle Jared Veldheer is fully recovered from a knee injury which hampered him for most of the season. With Billy Turner at left guard, Connor McGovern at center, and Elijah Wilkinson at right guard, the new-look line is physically larger and also more efficient, having not been called for a penalty in the last two weeks, wins against the Chargers and Bengals. The coaches deserve credit for finding a possible long-term lineup. After a listless start to the season, this team is in the thick of the AFC wild-card hunt, and the line's recent play has been a huge part of this turnaround. Once graded among the worst in football, this line has risen to the mid-tier quickly. They are playing well and could continue to rise in the rankings in the last month of the regular season.

Jacksonville up five slots.

Few lines have been as injury-stricken this year as the Jaguars. The team has lost three tackles, their left guard Andrew Norwell, and their starting center Brandon Linder to injured reserve. But the team may have found at least a short-term solution on the left side with recently cut NY Giants Ereck Flowers at left tackle and Patrick Omameh at left guard. Flowers' struggles have been well-documented but is still young and has played well over the last two weeks, not allowing any pressures of backup quarterback Cody Kessler. Omameh is a power rushing player who started 23 games for Jacksonville in the last two seasons prior to joining the Giants in free agency this year. Omameh is not an elite player but he obviously has comfort in this offensive system. Although Indianapolis defensive tackle Denico Autry recorded 3 sacks of Kessler last week, the pressure is coming through right guard A.J. Cann and replacement center Tyler Shatley. The Jaguars' line is still a low-tier option but they are showing signs of life.

DOWNGRADES

Green Bay down 11 slots.

Interim head coach Joe Philbin was without two starting linemen for his first practice as both right guard Byron Bell and right tackle Bryan Bulaga were sidelined with injuries. Both exited the loss against Cardinals with knee injuries and neither is expected to be healthy enough to start this week when the team hosts Atlanta. Justin McCray and Jason Spriggs are expected to replace these players. McCray is more or less a wash with Bell, but Spriggs has been mostly a disappointment since his second-round draft selection and represents a significant downgrade from Bulaga. The recent news has been negative but Packers still grade as a mid-tier line based on the strength of the existing three starters.

Washington down three slots.

Although left tackle Trent Williams has been healthy enough to start recently, the team has been decimated along the interior. The team lost left guard Jonathan Cooper and right guard Tony Bergstrom during last week's Monday Night Football loss to Philadelphia. The team put Luke Bowanko at left guard and usual swing tackle Ty Nsekhe at right guard in their place. While Bergstrom's injury appears short term, Cooper has been placed on injured reserve and Bowanko could keep this job for the remainder of the season. One an elite option, Washington's line continues their skid down the rankings. They grade as a mid-tier option but they are running out of warm bodies in DC.

Cincinnati down 11 slots.

After losing two tackles (Cordy Glenn and Jake Fisher) to back injuries, the team moved left guard Clint Boling to left tackle prior to the loss against Denver. Boling is the team's most reliable lineman but starting him at left tackle is asking too much. The rest of the lineup was Trey Hopkins at left guard, Billy Price at center, Adam Richmond at right guard and Bobby Hart at right tackle. Already without Andy Dalton and A.J. Green, the offense has been bleak of late and the line situation isn't helping. A shuffle such as this plays havoc with cohesion and the Bengals' line falls from the mid-tier to the low-tier in the latest rankings.

Buffalo down three spots.

Last week, the Bills' offensive line had a performance against Miami which one local writer described as "unequivocally horrific." After Russell Bodine was placed on injured reserve with a broken leg, Ryan Groy was below average at center. Bodine had been holding this unit together. Right guard Jeremiah Sirles was an even worse liability than Groy in place of the injured John Miller. Rookie left guard Wyatt Teller, who was starting his third game in place of Vlad Ducasse, incurred a holding penalty which brought back a touchdown. Overall this is a bad line, made worse by a lack of depth to deal with recent injuries.

Arizona down two spots.

With left tackle D.J. Humphries and left guard Mike Iupati added to the injured reserve list prior to last week's game, center Mason Cole is the only Week 1 starter for the Cardinals still standing. Seventh-round rookie Korey Cunningham has been doing a decent job for Humphries in recent weeks but there have been other changes to the lineup. Colby Gossett was signed from the Vikings' practice squad and given the start at left guard. Right tackle Will Holden is a decent swing option but it's tough to know what to expect from journeyman Oday Aboushi at right guard spot. This line falls to the bottom of the rankings.

OTHER NEWS

DET - LT Taylor Decker scored a TD. And he got the touchdown football back. Let's hope this tackle eligible thing becomes a fad like reverse throwbacks.

HOU - Two starters are not practicing. Right guard Zach Fulton (hand) and tackle Kendall Lamm (concussion) did not practice this Wednesday and both could miss this weekend's game against Indianapolis. Fulton has been playing through this injury recently and the model assumes both are ready by Sunday. This line is still shaky in pass protection but they are pushing the pile on run downs more in recent weeks. If they continue to improve their health and cut down on the sacks, this line could be due for an upgrade.

NYJ - New left guard Dakota Dozier. The coaches announced prior to the Tennessee game Dozier would be the replacement starter for left guard James Carpenter, who was placed on injured reserve. The offense had its moments but could not score a touchdown in the road loss.

PHI - LT Jason Peters dealing with an ankle injury. Peters missed the final five snaps of Monday Night Football when his ankle was rolled up by center Jason Kelce. Peters didn't practice on Wednesday but the coaches have told the press he should be fine.

TEN - LG Quentin Spain benched. The coaches have enough of Spain's effort level and have bumped center Ben Jones to guard and elevated Corey Levin to center. Jones is an upgrade over Spain but adding Levin to the lineup may prove to be a sideways move.

FULL RANKINGS

Rank
Team
Old
Diff
Score
Overall Grade
Run Grade
Pass Grade
Cohesion
Notes
1
LAR
1
0
33.5
A+
A+
A+
5.0
2
PHI
2
0
33.0
A+
A+
A
4.0
3
DAL
19
16
30.8
A
A+
A-
4.5
Assuming LT Tyron Smith returns from his neck injury (Cameron Fleming).
4
NO
9
5
30.8
A
A-
A+
5.0
Assuming LT Terron Armstead returns from his shoulder injury (Jermon Bushrod).
5
PIT
3
-2
30.7
A
A+
A-
4.5
6
BAL
5
-1
30.3
A-
A
B+
4.5
7
SEA
6
-1
30.1
A-
A
B+
5.0
8
LAC
7
-1
30.0
A-
A-
A-
5.0
9
SF
8
-1
30.0
A-
B+
A
4.5
10
CLE
12
2
29.5
B+
A-
B
4.5
11
TEN
11
0
29.5
B+
A-
B
4.0
12
KC
10
-2
29.3
B+
B
A-
3.5
13
OAK
13
0
29.2
B+
A-
B-
4.0
14
ATL
15
1
29.1
B
B+
B-
3.0
15
GB
4
-11
29.0
B
B
B
3.5
RG Byron Bell and RT Bryan Bulaga unlikely to play this week (Justin McCray & Jason Spriggs).
16
DET
16
0
29.0
B
B
B
4.5
17
WAS
14
-3
29.0
B
B+
B-
3.5
LG Jonathan Cooper to IR (Luke Bowanko).
18
TB
22
4
29.0
B
B-
B+
4.5
RT Leonard Wester for Demar Dotson. RG Alex Kappa rotating with Caleb Benenoch.
19
IND
17
-2
28.9
B-
B-
B-
4.5
C Ryan Kelly missed the last two games (Evan Boehm). #11 line with Kelly.
20
NE
18
-2
28.9
B-
C+
A-
5.0
21
DEN
25
4
28.8
B-
A-
C+
5.0
Power rushing cohesion upgrade.
22
MIN
21
-1
28.6
C+
C-
B
4.5
23
NYG
23
0
28.5
C+
B
C-
4.5
24
CHI
24
0
28.3
C+
B-
C
4.5
25
HOU
26
1
28.2
C
B
D
4.5
26
NYJ
27
1
28.0
C
B-
D+
3.5
27
JAX
32
5
27.9
C-
C
D+
4.5
28
MIA
29
1
27.8
C-
C
D+
4.5
C Travis Swanson (neck) unlikely to play this week (Jake Brendel).
29
CAR
20
-9
27.6
C-
C+
C+
4.0
RG Trai Turner could miss this week with a neck injury (Tyler Larsen).
30
CIN
19
-11
27.3
D+
B
C+
4.0
Line shuffle (Clint Boling to LT, Trey Hopkins to LG & Adam Redmond to RG).
31
BUF
28
-3
27.2
D+
C-
D
4.5
C Russell Bodine and RG John Miller injured (Ryan Groy & Jeremiah Sirles).
32
AZ
30
-2
26.8
D
D+
D-
4.5
Various injuries (C Mason Cole the only starter not on IR).

If you have a question about a player, team or matchup not specifically talked about in this article, please feel free to contact the author via Twitter.

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