After sweating it out in training camp, the players are finally getting a chance to get their aggression out on other teams. This week we have the first full installment of the rankings (numbers and everything), updates on injuries and starting position battles and a new feature called "The Block of the Week." NFL offensive lines, the big men: let's get after it!
MIA - LG T. Larsen OUT With a torn bicep.
Starting left guard Ted Larsen suffered a serious injury and he will likely miss months, if not the whole season. Larsen could be a candidate to return off the injured reserve, depending on his progress in rehab and how badly his replacements are playing. Anthony Steen got the nod for Larsen in the preseason win over the Atlanta Falcons, and he could have the lead on the job over rookie Isaac Asiata, who has been working with the backups. Kraig Urbik is also in the picture but he has been starting at center while Mike Pouncey is given maintenance days off. Ted Larsen is a replaceable starter but there's not a ton of upside in this situation. The Dolphins' offensive line is at 22nd in the latest ranks.
IND - C RYAN KELLY OUT 6-8 WEEKS (FOOT)
Starting center Ryan Kelly injured his foot during practice and was not able to play in the preseason loss to the Detroit Lions. The coaches indicated Kelly should return to action in a week, but those statements were overly optimistic. Kelly had surgery this week and will be out 6-8 weeks. The Colts’ offensive line was thin at interior before Kelly’s injury as Brian Schwenke has been on PUP all preseason. The team brought Jeremy Zuttah in for a workout and could sign the veteran as both center and guard insurance. Schwenke could be closer to action than people realize. For now Deyshawn Bond takes first team reps and the Colts' offensive line falls the the low-tier without their starting center for the first three to six games of the regular season.
DET - THE NEW TACKLES ARE LOOKING Decent.
In the preseason win over the Indianapolis Colts, both tackles were solid. Right tackle Rick Wagner was excellent while left tackle Greg Robinson (acquired in a trade after Taylor Decker went down) only allowed a single hurry. While Robinson is far from perfect technically, his rare physical gifts bail him out of bad situations. He actually looked like a real starter. After Robinson left the game, it was undrafted Storm Norton who got the call at left tackle, not Cyrus Kouandijo. In the latest rankings, the Lions' offensive line climbs out of the low tier and back into the middle tier, 16th overall.
BAL - Signed RT Austin Howard.
Guard has been a sucking wound for the Ravens' offensive line. First they lost John Urschel to early retirement (he's getting his PhD in M.I.T. in Mathematics) and Alex Lewis to a torn labrum. The latest move is right tackle James Hurst bumping inside, a move that better fits his physical skillset. In Hurst's place steps free agent Austin Howard. Howard, who was recently cut by the Oakland Raiders, is a veteran upgrade over Hurst. Some progress for the Ravens' line who remain a low-tier option, but trending upward at 22nd overall.
JAX - LT Branden Albert released, rookie Cam Robinson to start.
The last time we checked in with the Jaguars' offensive line, Branden Albert announced he was considering retirement. Albert then reported to camp, at which point the team chose to release him rather than pay his contract. The team prepared for this eventuality with their first round selection of Alabama tackle Cam Robinson, who looked good in his NFL debut. He was great in run blocking but was vulnerable to the bull rush in pass protection. His rookie season will be a learning experience but the Jaguars should have Robinson manning that left tackle position for years to come. The model values experience and players playing next to each other so it is with some regret that the Jaguars' offensive line gets a downgrade. If Robinson's career continues at this pace, the downgrade will be short lived. As for Albert, he is a two-time Pro-Bowl selection but it is not clear what teams will pay his price at this point in the offseason. He was a guard in college and teams could look to move him there as his career winds down.
LAC - G Forest Lamp out with a torn ACL.
Rookie guard Forrest Lamp (a second round pick) tore his ACL and will miss the season. In his place, Kenny Wiggins and third round rookie Dan Feeney will compete for the right guard spot. Wiggins has experience; he started one game last year and nine in his career. Dan Feeney is promising but has been working mostly at center. If more injuries occur they could go lower in the rankings. Lamp was looking good before the injury and obviously in the long term plans. Surprisingly, the Chargers' 2017 lineup gets a three slot upgrade, after factoring in Wiggins' cohesion with the other four starters. The unit remains a low-tier option at this time but it could easily be a mid-tier option if they remain healthy (and other teams do not).
PHI - LG Chance Warmack and the line struggles.
The Eagles’ first team offensive line struggled in their preseason loss to the Green Bay Packers. Chance Warmack got the start at left guard, but he split series with Isaac Seumalo. Both players are run blocking assets but Seumalo has problems in pass protection. Warmack might have the lead in this contest based on his experience as a more veteran player. Still, neither had success against the Green Bay defense. Several free rushers found their way to quarterback Carson Wentz; Clay Matthews had him dead to rights on the Mack Hollins’ touchdown. The problem may be deeper than who starts at left guard.It’s hard to tell if these free rushers are getting through because of missed assignments or bad communication. But it seems fixable. Center Jason Kelce looked good in pass protection but he was not getting good push forward and the first team often found themselves running sideways rather than downhill on zone scheme. The Eagles’ offensive line still grades out as a top-tier unit but they get a small downgrade based on the uncertainty at the left guard spot (and lack of cohesion overall).
What If The Hold Outs Don't REPORT?
In the offseason, Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier wrote an essay about the five toughest offensive linemen he's ever faced. It's a good read. He calls Tyron Smith "a friggin Sasquatch out there, playing football." This anecdote illustrates how the supply of good left tackles is similar to the supply of quality quarterbacks. There are only about 20 real ones in the world at any given time.
Which brings us to Duane Brown and Donald Penn, currently holding out of training camp. Progress in negotiations appears to be non-existent. To make a real-life prediction, both players will get raises and both will be in the lineup on opening day.
But in case these situations remain deadlocked, the ranks currently reflect the possible outcome that neither player returns for opening day.
OAK LT Donald Penn is still holding out.
Marshall Newhouse swapped to Penn’s left side spot for preseason week one. Vadal Alexander (a second-year player) got the start at right tackle. Alexander played right tackle as a freshman and again as a senior at LSU. The new tackles allowed a vicious sack of backup quarterback E.J. Manuel. Manuel did not stand a chance on 3rd and 10, as Arizona linebackers Josh Bynes and Kareem Martin met at the quarterback. The Raiders’ offensive line is elite with Penn in the lineup but without him, they fall all the way to the twenties, the low tier.
HOU LT Duane Brown is still holding out.
The Texans’ first string offensive line missed Duane Brown in the preseason loss to the Carolina Panthers. Quarterback Tom Savage was put under heavy pressure by the Panthers’ starting defense. Left guard Xavier S’ua-Filo gave up a sack to Kawann Short in the first series. Chris Clark got the start at left tackle and he also did not hold up in pass protection. Kendall Lamm got the start at right tackle and Lamm later saw reps on the left side when Breno Giacomini entered the contest. Giacomini was called for a holding penalty and his roster spot could be in danger. Overall this Texans' offensive line is a mid-tier unit with Brown and a low-tier unit without him.
Injuries to watch
BUF - LT Cordy Glenn, day-to-day (foot).
Left tackle Cordy Glenn has been listed as day to day due to a foot injury. Glenn had been suffering from chronic soreness in the area and recently saw a specialist to see if the injury required surgery. The news was reportedly good on that front, but Glenn did not dress for the preseason loss against Minnesota. Glenn is likely to be fine for the season opener but this is a situation which bears further observation. In Glenn’s place, Seantrel Henderson got the start at left tackle. Henderson was beaten for a sack by Vikings’ defender Everson Griffen. Henderson is suspended for five games to start the season, leaving Dion Dawkins or Cameron Jefferson to start week one if Glenn can’t go. At right tackle, Jordan Mills has really stepped up his play since Dawkins was drafted, and he appears to have control over that starting position. Overall the Bills’ line grade out as a top-tier unit, assuming Glenn makes it back to full health by the season opener.
GB - OL Don Barclay, No Timeline (Ankle)
Utility backup Don Barclay was carted from the game with an ankle injury. The coaches did not give a timeline for Barclay’s return but they did say the injury was not as severe as it first appeared.
DAL - OL Chaz Green, Back at Practice (Shoulder)
Chaz Green has been recovering from a shoulder injury and missed preseason games to this point. On Wednesday, Green was spotted back in full pads practice. Green and Jonathan Cooper are battling for the left guard spot. If Green can put the injury behind him, he should be in the opening day lineup.
THE BLOCK OF THE WEEK
Shout out to @VeteranScout who is doing great work on Twitter looking at offensive lineman. This week, Seattle Seahawks interior lineman Will Pericak #75 just buries his man. I've watched this on repeat all day, and it keeps gets better. It's all about leverage, kids.
|10||PHI||6||-4||29.73||LG and cohesion issues.|
|16||DET||26||10||28.98||New OT looking decent.|
|21||MIA||22||1||28.68||LG T. Larsen torn bicep.|
|LOW TIER||22t||OAK||4||-18||28.53||LT D. Penn holding out.|
|22t||BAL||25||2||28.53||Signed RT A. Howard|
|25||IND||14||-11||28.45||C Ryan Kelly foot surgery.|
|26||LAC||29||3||28.4||LG F. Lamp torn ACL.|
|27||JAX||15||-12||28.28||LT B.Albert released.|
|28||HOU||21||-7||28.1||LT D. Brown holding out.|
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.