2016 Offensive Line Review & Ratings

John Tuvey, @jtuvey

Fantasy owners are always looking for an advantage, but too often they ignore a great big one that’s sitting right in front of them.

It’s the kind of advantage that typically goes about 6-4 and 300-plus pounds and can be found with his hand in the dirt in front of the quarterbacks and running backs that grace your fantasy rosters.

Understanding offensive line play is one more tool in the fantasy owner’s kit that allows us to better grasp what Lamar Miller’s move to Houston means for his stats, why RG3 might be running for his life, and how Ezekiel Elliott is better situated for success than Todd Gurley. These rankings, and the team-by-team capsules that follow, break down the big fellas up front and help you spin that information into usable fantasy intel.

While the trove of metrics and statistical data measuring offensive line play continues to grow, keep in mind these rankings are subjective. They take into account past performance, continuity, scheme, and personnel as well as the data available from sources such as Football Outsiders (FO) and Pro Football Focus (PFF). Also noted is the predominant running game scheme each team uses—though every NFL team employs both man and zone concepts to varying degrees.

Among the stats referenced include the following:

  • Adjusted Line Yards — an FO stat that assigns responsibility for rushing yards to the offensive line based on where those yards were gained in proximity to the line of scrimmage
  • Power Success — an FO stat that tracks the percentage of runs on third or fourth down with two yards or less to go (or first or second down and goal to go from two yards and in) that resulted in a first-down or touchdown
  • Stuffed — an FO stat measuring the percentage of rushing attempts where the back is tackled at or behind the line of scrimmage
  • Second Level Yards – an FO stat measuring yards gained by the running back between 5 and 10 yards past the line of scrimmage
  • Open Field Yards – an FO stat measuring yards gained by the running back more than 10 yards past the line of scrimmage
  • Adjusted Sack Rate – an FO stat measuring sacks per pass attempt tweaked for down, distance, and opponent

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Rank Team Overall Grade Rush Grade Pass Grade Regulars Returning
1 Dallas Cowboys A- A A- 5
2 Cincinnati Bengals A- A- A- 4
3 Pittsburgh Steelers B+ B+ B+ 5
4 Atlanta Falcons B+ B B+ 3
5 Arizona Cardinals B+ B A- 3
6 New Orleans Saints B B B+ 4
7 Oakland Raiders B B B+ 4

8

Green Bay Packers B B- B 5
9 New England Patriots B B B- 5
10 Minnesota Vikings B- B+ C- 3
11 Carolina Panthers B- B C 5
12 Tampa Bay Buccaneers B- B C+ 4
13 Washington Redskins B- C+ B- 5
14 Denver Broncos B- B C+ 3
15 Baltimore Ravens B- C B+ 3
16 Houston Texans C+ B C- 3
17 Buffalo Bills C+ B C- 5
18 Chicago Bears C+ B C 3
19 Kansas City Chiefs C+ B+ C- 3
20 Seattle Seahawks C+ B C- 3
21 Los Angeles Rams C+ C- B 5
22 Philadelphia Eagles C C- C+ 4
23 New York Giants C C- B- 4
24 Miami Dolphins C C C+ 3
25 New York Jets C C- B 4
26 Cleveland Browns C B- C- 3
27 Indianapolis Colts C- D+ C 2
28 Detroit Lions C- C- C 4
29 Jacksonville Jaguars C- C- D+ 4
30 San Diego Chargers C- D+ C 4
31 Tennessee Titans D+ C- D 3
32 San Francisco 49ers D D+ D 2

ARIZONA CARDINALS

(Man/Power) Investing in their offensive line paid off for the Cards, who finished eighth in the league in rushing—their highest ranking since 1988, their first year in Arizona. Right tackle Bobby Massie left via free agency, and he’ll be missed as the Cardinals ran frequently—and successfully—to his side. The hope is that 2015 first-rounder DJ Humphries has matured enough to take over, and he’ll have veteran Evan Mathis alongside for assistance. Consistently among the top-rated guards by Pro Football Focus, Mathis’ success has come primarily in zone schemes—but he has the strength to succeed in the Cardinals’ scheme as well. The left side is rock solid with Jared Valdheer and Mike Iupati, though even with the addition of the road-grading former 49er Arizona ranked a surprisingly low 29th in converting short-yardage situations according to Football Outsiders. One of the older lines in the league will get younger if fourth-round pick Evan Boehm takes over for AQ Shipley at center, recently a trouble spot for the Cardinals. Bruce Arians prefers to dress only seven offensive linemen for games, so backups Earl Watford and rookie Cole Toner need to learn multiple positions.

PROJECTED STARTERS
LT  Jared Veldheer
LG  Mike Iupati
C  Evan Boehm (rookie)
RG  Evan Mathis
RT  DJ Humphries

Regulars Returning: 3

GRADES
Run: B
Pass: A-
Overall: B+

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ATLANTA FALCONS

(Stretch Zone)For the most part the Falcons took to Kyle Shanahan’s zone blocking scheme; they posted the biggest improvement in Pro Football Focus’ offensive line rankings, leaping from 26th in 2014 to 4th last year. Credit Atlanta’s outstanding tackle tandem, as Jake Matthews gave up only one sack on the left side and Ryan Schraeder allowed only two quarterback hits all year on the right. The Falcons loved to run to the outside as well, sporting the league’s highest percentage of runs around both ends. Despite running effectively up the middle (4.41 yards per carry, best in the NFL), Atlanta ranked 31st in percent of rushing attempts to that area of the field. The interior was also the weak spot in pass protection, so the Falcons signed three-time Pro Bowl center Alex Mack via free agency. Mack is already lockering next to Matt Ryan, and their combined football IQ should consistently put Atlanta’s line in position to succeed. Guards Andy Levitre and Chris Chester both have their moments; last year Atlanta averaged six yards per carry behind Chester at right guard. They’ll be pushed by sixth-round pick Wes Schweitzer, who has familiar with both the blocking scheme and the coaching staff from his college days.

PROJECTED STARTERS
LT   Jake Matthews
LG   Andy Levitre
C   Alex Mack
RG  Chris Chester
RT  Ryan Schraeder

Regulars Returning: 3

GRADES
Run: B
Pass: B+
Overall: B+

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BALTIMORE RAVENS

(Zone)With the arrival of offensive coordinator Marc Trestman last season, this is no longer your father’s Baltimore offensive line. While the Ravens were third in sacks and second in sack rate last season they ranked 28th in converting short-yardage situations and 25th in run stuffed at the line of scrimmage, according to Pro Football Focus. Expect the move away from power and towards finesse to continue with the departure of stud left guard Kelechi Osemele via free agency and the addition of athletic Ronnie Stanley via the first round of the draft. Stanley will step in at left tackle to replace the departed Eugene Monroe, who missed almost half of the past two seasons due to injury after signing a $37.5 million contract. While John Harbaugh said the move was purely a football decision, Monroe’s advocacy for medical cannabis didn’t help. Jeremy Zuttah returns from a shoulder injury that cost him the second half of last season to anchor the line at center. He’ll have standout guard Marshal Yanda on the right side and brainiac John Urschel, who’s pursuing his Ph.D. in applied mathematics at MIT, replacing Osemele on the left. Ryan Jensen, who started six games at left guard last year, and fourth-round pick Alex Lewis will push Urschel. Ricky Wagner, who battled an ankle injury most of last season, returns to hold down the right tackle gig.

PROJECTED STARTERS
LT   Ronnie Stanley (rookie)
LG  John Urschel
C   Jeremy Zuttah
RG  Marshal Yanda
RT  Ricky Wagner

Regulars Returning: 3

GRADES
Run: C
Pass: B+
Overall: B-

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BUFFALO BILLS

(Man/Power)The Bills made smart decisions in the offseason, shelling out more than $75 million to bring back the dominant left side of their line. Tackle Cordy Glenn commanded the biggest share, landing a five-year $60 million deal but guard Richie Incognito (three years, $15.7 million) may be more valuable. That duo helped propel Buffalo to the most rushing yards in the league and the sixth-best total in franchise history; the Bills also led the league in yards per carry and rushing touchdowns. Not surprisingly, most of their attempts—and success—came to the left side. But this line doesn’t get all the credit; running quarterback Tyrod Taylor and a squad of running backs who ranked second in the league in second-level yards and open field yards (both Football Outsiders stats) did much of the work as Buffalo ranked just 23rd in adjusted line yards. You can also credit/blame Taylor for the Bills’ sack total (42, 22nd in the league) and sack rate (27th) as well. Still, the continuity of returning all five regulars—including center Eric Wood and second-year guard John Miller—should help this line continue to be effective. Jordan Mills needs to be pushed at right tackle by Cyrus Kouandijo or Seantrel Henderson—last year’s starter before he was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease—for this line to become truly elite.

PROJECTED STARTERS
LT   Cordy Glenn
LG   Richie Incognito
C   Eric Wood
RG   John Miller
RT   Jordan Mills

Regulars Returning: 5

GRADES
Run:
B
Pass: C-
Overall:
C+

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CAROLINA PANTHERS

(Inside Zone)The Carolina line isn’t as bad as Von Miller made them look in the Super Bowl, but the big stage certainly did expose some flaws. Considering both tackles—Michael Oher on the left and Mike Remmers on the right—were on their third and fifth teams respectively and ranked 16th and 53rd among tackles in average salary, the Panthers generated a pretty good return on their investment. The entire line returns for another go-around this season, and while Oher and Remmers get the attention (good and bad) the strength of this line lies within. Ryan Kalil is among the best centers in the league and right guard Trai Turner is a star in the making while Andrew Norwell on the left side isn’t too shabby himself. As a run-blocking unit the Panthers were reasonably successful, both in short yardage (2nd in power success) and down the field (5th in second-level yards). Cam Newton’s size and speed help the sack numbers remain respectable, plus not every defense the Panthers see will bring the heat like the Broncos did in February. The biggest issue in Carolina is depth, where the Panthers are in deep doo-doo if any of their front-line blockers go down with an injury.

PROJECTED STARTERS
LT   Michael Oher
LG   Andrew Norwell
C   Ryan Kalil
RG  Trai Turner
RT  Mike Remmers

Regulars Returning: 5

GRADES
Run:
B
Pass:C
Overall:
B-

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CHICAGO BEARS

(Man/Power)There were positive developments along the Chicago line last season, most notably the discoveries of tackle Charles Leno and center Hronnis Grasu. Still, an offseason overhaul means no starter from the beginning of last season will return to the same position this year. Kyle Long is back at guard after kicking outside to tackle last year. Long’s move, precipitated by the free agent signing of tackle Bobby Massie, makes the Bears better at two positions. Grasu spent the offseason bulking up and is slotted at center, while second-round pick Cody Whitehair starts immediately at left guard since veteran Manny Ramirez decided to retire. Charles Leno, who started 13 games at left tackle last season after expensive free agent Jermon Bushrod suffered a concussion, returns and will man the left tackle position. The Bears ranked seventh in adjusted line yards versus 22nd in actual running back yards, fourth in power success and second in stuffs but dead last in open field yards. All those Football Outsiders stats indicate that Bears running backs picked up what was blocked for them… and not much more. With a bigger and in theory better line, the question in Chicago is whether or not they have the backs to take advantage. The Bears were middle of the pack in pass protection last season, but with Adam Gase gone the line will need to step up their game to keep Jay Cutler’s jersey clean and decision-making focused.

PROJECTED STARTERS
LT   Charles Leno
LG   Cody Whitehair (rookie)
C   Hroniss Grasu
RG   Kyle Long
RT   Bobby Massie

Regulars Returning: 3

GRADES
Run:
B
Pass: C
Overall:
C+

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CINCINNATI BENGALS

(Man/Power)Cincinnati prepared for the future last year by taking tackles Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher in the first two rounds. With Andre Smith leaving via free agency, Ogbuehi is expected to slide in on the right side and keep the beat for one of the league’s top lines. The Bengals ranked first in adjusted line yards and third in stuffed rate but 17th in running back yards and 31st in open field yards; those Football Outsiders stats suggest the line was picking up the bulk of those yards for Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard. The Bengals ranked 13th or better in yards per carry at every spot from tackle to tackle—but 25th around left end and 28th to the right. With Ken Zampese replacing Hue Jackson as play-caller the Bengals' focus may shift back towards the pass, but either way this line is set up for success. Andrew Whitworth locks down left tackle, while guards Clint Boling and Kevin Zeitler form the best tandem you’ve never heard off. You’ll hear more about Zeitler this coming offseason as he's in a contract year and is in line for a big payday. Center Russell Bodine is viewed as the line’s weak link but his is a thankless task facing the 3-4 fronts of the AFC North. He could be pushed by fifth-round pick Christian Westerman. Fisher and veteran Eric Winston gives this unit solid depth as well. The late-season injury to Andy Dalton and insertion of AJ McCarron into the lineup artificially inflated Cincy’s sack totals, but they still ranked eighth in sacks and 15th in sack rate.

PROJECTED STARTERS
LT   Andrew Whitworth
LG  Clint Boling
C   Russell Bodine
RG   Kevin Zeitler
RT  Cedric Ogbuehi

Regulars Returning: 4

GRADES
Run:
A-
Pass: A-
Overall:
A-

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CLEVELAND BROWNS

(NEW! Man/Power) For all the individual talent along Cleveland’s offensive line, last year’s results were abysmal—and may explain why the team didn’t seem to blink at losing Alex Mack and Mitchell Schwartz to free agency. On the ground the Browns ranked 29th or worse in adjusted line yards, stuffed and second level yards. They were no better protecting the passer, giving up 53 sacks and ranking 26th in sack rate. Even future Hall of Famer Joe Thomas couldn’t make a difference as the Browns ranked last in the league in yards per carry to the left side. Thomas has been to nine straight Pro Bowls and has yet to miss a snap in his NFL career, so at least should give Robert Griffin III confidence his blind side is covered. Left guard Joel Bitonio suffered through a sophomore slump; now he’ll have to break in a new center next to him. Cameron Erving was a first-round pick in 2015, and his athleticism and offseason training regimen should serve him well in Hue Jackson’s new system. John Greco is a placeholder at right guard, with fifth-round pick Spencer Drango expected to push him. Right tackle is up for grabs, with Austin Pasztor, Alvin Bailey and third-round pick Shon Coleman all in the mix. After free agency took its bite this unit is a far cry from what Jackson worked with in Cincinnati, but his new style could revitalize Bitonio and Erving; add in Thomas and a healthy Coleman and the Browns’ blocking picture isn’t nearly as bleak as it appeared back in March.

PROJECTED STARTERS
LT  Joe Thomas
LG  Joel Bitonio
C   Cameron Erving
RG  John Greco
RT  Shon Coleman (rookie)

Regulars Returning: 3

GRADES
Run:
B-
Pass: C-
Overall:
C

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DALLAS COWBOYS

(Stretch Zone)Invest three first-round picks into your offensive line, have another probable first-rounder fall into your lap, and you have the league’s premier unit. Even though the Cowboys underachieved last season—they converted the fewest third-and-one attempts in the league, were 27th in goal-to-go situations and 31st in false starts—there is more than enough talent here for Dallas to remain atop the heap. The entire line returns intact, with elite performers stretching from left tackle to right guard. Tyron Smith had an off year at left tackle, giving up eight sacks and committing three holding penalties, but he’s young enough and talented enough that a bounceback is expected. Right guard Zack Martin, another first round pick, is already being mentioned in the same breath as Larry Allen—a big deal in Big D. In between are center Travis Frederick, who allowed one sack in 1,027 snaps and second-year left guard La’el Collins, who is fast becoming a league leader in pancake blocks. Right tackle Doug Free is the “weak link”, but he’s also the unit’s leader and veteran. Plant Ezekiel Elliott behind a line that ranked in the top 10 in yards per carry in four of the five measured locations (struggling only off right tackle) and ranked in the top half of the league in all of Football Outsiders’ run metrics—including sixth in Adjusted Line Yards—and you can see why fantasy owners are giddy about the rookie’s prospects.

PROJECTED STARTERS
LT   Tyron Smith
LG   La’el Collins
C   Travis Frederick
RG  Zack Martin
RT   Doug Free

Regulars Returning: 5

GRADES
Run:
A
Pass: A-
Overall:
A-

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DENVER BRONCOS

(Stretch Zone)How thorough is the Broncos’ o-line housecleaning? None of this year’s projected starters were on the roster when Gary Kubiak took over as head coach. Half of the offensive linemen on Denver’s Super Bowl roster less than six months ago are gone. On the bright side, this line is more suited to Kubiak’s zone blocking scheme, including new tackles Russell Okung and Donald Stephenson. Youth will be served at guard in the form of sophomores Max Garcia, who played nearly half of the team’s offensive snaps last season, and Ty Sambrailo, who opened last year at tackle before a torn labrum ended his rookie campaign. Center Matt Paradis is the line’s longest-tenured vet with four years in Denver under his belt; he was the only Bronco to play all 1,312 offensive snaps last season. The Broncos’ line stats were typical of a zone team: low marks in Power Success (23rd) and Stuffed (23rd), a strong showing (3rd) in Second Level Yards. The team had its best success (4.46 yards per carry) running off left tackle behind the departed Ryan Harris, but Seattle backs averaged 4.53 yards per carry behind Okung last year so there shouldn’t be a dropoff. Fifth-round pick Connor McGovern could push for playing time sooner rather than later as this line re-forms itself into something more akin to what we’re used to seeing from a Kubiak club.

PROJECTED STARTERS
LT   Russell Okung
LG  Max Garcia
C   Matt Paradis
RG  Ty Sambrailo
RT  Donald Stephenson

Regulars Returning: 3

GRADES
Run:
B
Pass: C+
Overall:
B-

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DETROIT LIONS

(Stretch Zone)If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again. That’s been Detroit’s motto along the offensive line, as they’ve spent three first-round picks and three third-round picks on the position since 2012. Five of those six should start this season, with 2016 first-rounder Taylor Decker taking over at left tackle and pushing 2012 first-rounder Riley Reiff to the right side. Guards Laken Tomlinson and Larry Warford have the potential to give Detroit its best interior push in year, and the added incentive of a contract year could be the boost Warford needs. Center Travis Swanson was more than solid in the passing game, giving up zero sacks and whiffing on only four blocks in 649 passing snaps, but he could be in a battle for his job with this year’s third-rounder Graham Glasgow. Rookie Joe Dahl and veteran Geoff Schwartz offer at minimum quality depth, which the Lions may turn to more quickly after ranking 20th or worse in every Football Outsiders run metric except Power Success (12th) last season. Detroit’s rank of 22nd in sack rate was nothing special, either. This line is still young enough to improve, but if that improvement doesn’t come soon the Lions will be forced to spend even more draft capital on upgrading this problem area.

PROJECTED STARTERS
LT   Taylor Decker (rookie)
LG   Laken Tomlinson
C   Travis Swanson
RG   Larry Warford
RT   Riley Reiff

Regulars Returning: 4

GRADES
Run:
C-
Pass: C
Overall:
C-

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GREEN BAY PACKERS

(Zone-Man Hybrid) Injuries took a toll on the Packers’ line last season, as only one starter played all 16 games. As a result Green Bay failed to crack the top half of the league in any of Football Outsiders’ run game metrics and ranked a dismal 28th in sacks and 23rd in sack rate despite Aaron Rodgers’ trademark mobility. The Pack hopes to get left tackle David Bakhtiari back from torn ankle ligaments, and they know better than to bank on right tackle Bryan Bulaga; he’s never played a full 16 game slate in six NFL seasons. Green Bay drafted Jason Spriggs as tackle insurance—backups allowed seven sacks in the three games Bakhtiari missed—and/or as an investment in their future, as Bakhtiari is a free agent after this season. The guard tandem of Josh Sitton and TJ Lang is as good as any in the league, but both are in a contract year as well. Corey Linsley is overlooked between Sitton and Lang, but he’s a solid center whom Rodgers feels comfortable behind. Green Bay’s front office loves to stash and develop offensive linemen, and with three starters plus supersub JC Tretter all in the final year of their contracts Spriggs and sixth-rounder Kyle Murphy could be pushed into the lineup sooner rather than later. Last year’s results weren’t indicative of what this line is capable of, but they’ll need to stay healthy if they want to make what might be their last season together a productive one.

PROJECTED STARTERS
LT   David Bakhtiari
LG   Josh Sitton
C   Corey Linsley
RG   TJ Lang
RT   Bryan Bulaga

Regulars Returning: 5

GRADES
Run:
B-
Pass: B
Overall:
B

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HOUSTON TEXANS

(Zone-Man Hybrid) The combination of Houston’s continued transition from their longtime zone blocking scheme to Bill O’Brien’s hybrid system and Arian Foster’s injury-riddled season made Houston’s line look worse than they really were. A significant difference in the Texans’ adjusted line yards, where they ranked 16th, and their actual running back yards, where they ranked 26th, suggests that it wasn’t so much the line as it was subpar running back play. And when you consider that Lamar Miller’s Dolphins flipped that script, ranking 10th in running back yards behind a Miami line that ranked 28th in adjusted line yards, Houston’s free agent back appears poised for a big year. The additions of rookie center Nick Martin and free agent guard Jeff Allen should help as well, but the key will be how Duan Brown bounces back from the torn right quadriceps tendon that prematurely ended his 2015 season. Chris Clark is a solid backup plan, but when Brown is healthy he’s still among the better tackles in the league. The Texans also return Xavier Su’a-Filo at left guard and Derek Newton at right tackle, and there’s adequate depth in Clark, Jeff Adams and Tony Bergstrom. Houston’s pass blocking was middle of the road last year, and again Brown’s health will go a long way towards determining how clean Brock Osweiler’s jersey remains. But if this line performs as well as last season, the upgrade in running back play should set the tone for the Houston offense.

PROJECTED STARTERS
LT  Duane Brown
LG  Xavier Su’a-Filo
C   Nick Martin (R)
RG Jeff Allen
RT   Derek Newton

Regulars Returning: 3

GRADES
Run:
B
Pass: C-
Overall:
C+

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INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

(Man/Power) With $140 million earmarked for franchise quarterback Andrew Luck, the Colts finally decided to get serious about protecting him. For the first time in 33 years, back when the draft was 12 rounds, the Colts dedicated four draft picks to their offensive line. First-rounder Ryan Kelly will step in immediately at center, and Indianapolis is hopeful he’ll be the Jeff Saturday to Luck’s Peyton Manning. The Colts’ other three rookies may not crack the starting lineup right away, but they provide much-needed depth and a bright future for the Indy offense. The influx of new talent was desperately needed for a line that ranked 24th or worse in every Football Outsiders’ run metric and in the middle of the pack in sack rate. Anthony Castonzo and Jack Mewhort are settled on the left side, but Hugh Thornton and Denzelle Good on the left side will be pushed by third-rounder Le’Raven Clark, fifth-rounder Joe Haeg, and even seventh-rounder Austin Blythe as well as holdover Jon Harrison. Of the Colts’ two-deep offensive line depth chart, eight have two years of experience or less. If Indianapolis has chosen wisely, this unit can grow together in front of Luck and develop into… well, maybe not a force, but the Colts will settle for not letting Luck get beat to a pulp on a weekly basis.

PROJECTED STARTERS
LT   Anthony Castonzo
LG   Jack Mewhort
C   Ryan Kelly (R)
RG   Jonotthan Harrison
RT   Denzelle Good

Regulars Returning: 2

GRADES
Run:
D+
Pass: C
Overall:
C-

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JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

(Zone) The Jaguars had an offensive resurgence last season, no thanks to an ineffective and injury-riddled offensive line. With Jacksonville expected to take the next step behind Blake Bortles and a loaded set of skill position players, the line will need to improve dramatically to keep pace. This unit has allowed 172 sacks over the past three seasons, including 51 last year, and they ranked 16th or worse in every run-blocking metric Football Outsiders measures—though they posted above-average adjusted line yards per carry numbers everywhere except off left tackle. With former first-rounder Luke Joeckel failing to deliver at that position the Jags signed former Steeler Kelvin Beachum in free agency—but he won’t even practice until August after tearing his ACL last season. Once he’s healthy Beachum should start—the Jaguars aren’t paying him $45 million to sit—and Joeckel could kick inside to guard. At the moment that position is a battle royale that includes Mackenzy Bernadeau, Tyler Shatley, Josh Wells, Jeff Linkenbach or Luke Bowanko (if he doesn’t start the season on IR or the PUP list due to a hip injury). The Jags will be happy to get Brandon Linder, their best offensive lineman, back after he missed 13 games last season with a torn labrum. He’s moving to center so AJ Cann, who filled in for Linder last season, can remain at right guard. Jermey Parnell returns at right tackle, where he was adequate last season. “Adequate” cut it in Jacksonville last year, but for the Jags to take the leap many expect this entire unit needs to kick it up a notch.

PROJECTED STARTERS
LT   Luke Joeckel
LG   Mackenzy Bernadeau
C   Brandon Linder
RG   AJ Cann
RT   Jermey Parnell

Regulars Returning: 4

GRADES
Run:
C-
Pass: D+
Overall:
C-

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KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

(Stretch Zone) Another season of change along the Kansas City line, as left tackle Eric Fisher is the only projected starter from the start of last season who remains on the roster. Ben Grubbs retired, Jeff Allen and Donald Stephenson found new homes, and the Chiefs find themselves back at the drawing board. On the bright side, former first-round pick Fisher finally started living up to billing last year and his continued improvement bodes well for the future of this unit. As a result of Fisher’s improved play the Chiefs were dynamic running the ball from the center of the line left, including the top adjusted line yards per carry off of left tackle and a ranking of 11th or better in every run metric Football Outsiders measures. The interior of the line is promising as well. Mitch Morse was pressed into the starting center gig as a rookie; so was sophomore right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif. Fellow 2014 sixth-rounder Zach Fulton is the front-runner in a battle for the left guard spot that includes Jah Reid, Jarrod Pughsley and fourth-round pick Parker Ehinger. While Kansas City’s entire line was in flux last season—the team started multiple players at all five positions—no spot was less stable than right tackle, where the Chiefs used four different players. KC spent $33 million to stop the revolving door, adding underappreciated ex-Brown Mitchell Schwartz to stonewall the likes of Von Miller and Khalil Mack. Schwartz gave up just three sacks in 705 pass-rush snaps last season and has played all 4,427 snaps of his four-year career. The addition of Schwartz should upgrade the Chiefs’ lousy pass-blocking numbers, though as a unit KC improved after giving up 23 sacks in the first six games. Like most quarterbacks, Alex Smith is better with a clean pocket and if Schwartz can instigate an uptick to the Chiefs’ ranking of 28th in sack rate last season the entire offense will benefit.

PROJECTED STARTERS
LT   Eric Fisher
LG   Zach Fulton
C   Mitch Morse
RG  Laurent Duvernay-Tardif
RT   Mitchell Schwartz

Regulars Returning: 3

GRADES
Run:
B+
Pass: C-
Overall:
C+

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LOS ANGELES RAMS

(Man/Power) The bad news is that the numbers suggest the Rams’ offensive line didn’t give Todd Gurley much help last season; the team ranked 24th in adjusted line yards, 20th in power success and 28th in stuffed while Rams backs ranked 11th in yards per carry and third in open field yards. The good news for a team that just traded a king’s ransom for the right to draft quarterback Jared Goff is that Los Angeles gave up the fewest sacks in the league and ranked first in sack rate as well. And the better news is that all five regulars are back for the Rams’ return to California to improve on last season’s missteps and build on its successes. The Rams threw rookies Jamon Brown and Rob Havenstein into the fire on the right side last season, and both were more than up to the challenge. Brown was solid before a broken leg ended his season a couple months early, while Haverstein did not allow a sack or commit a penalty in his first NFL season. The left side has potential but also major questions. Can Rodger Saffold, who’s had shoulder surgery each of the past two seasons, stay healthy and deliver a full 16 games at left guard—something he’s failed to do in four of his six NFL seasons? And can Greg Robinson eliminate the pass protection breakdowns and copious penalties—no offensive player in the league was penalized more, and Robinson committed 11 holding penalties in 2015—to deliver on the promise that made him the second overall pick of the 2014 draft? Tim Barnes mans the middle of a line that, if able to stay healthy and live up to expectations, will make life easier for Goff—and make Gurley an even bigger fantasy star than he already is.

PROJECTED STARTERS
LT   Greg Robinson
LG   Rodger Saffold
C   Tim Barnes
RG   Jamon Brown
RT   Rob Havenstein

Regulars Returning: 5

GRADES
Run:
C-
Pass: B
Overall:
C+

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MIAMI DOLPHINS

(Zone) It’s not as if the Dolphins aren’t trying to assemble an elite offensive line, but the three first-round picks on their roster prior to this year’s draft had only managed to be on the field together for seven full games over the past two seasons. That Miami went 6-1 in those seven games suggests what the team might be capable of if everyone stays healthy. And when you add to that unit Laremy Tunsil falling into their laps in this year’s draft, the Dolphins line has as much talent as any in the league. In fact, Tunsil is likely to play guard this season, a position he has never played before, with fellow first-rounders Branden Albert and Ja’Wuan James holding down the tackle spots. The Dolphins’ fourth first-rounder, center Mike Pouncey, might be the best of the bunch. In 788 snaps last season he allowed just half a sack and was flagged for only two penalties. The lone position not manned by a first-round pick is wide open, with Billy Turner at the fore of a competition that also includes Jamil Douglas, Dallas Thomas, Jermon Bushrod and Kraig Urbik. All that talent has to produce better results than what the Dolphins have seen of late. Last year they ranked 28th in adjusted line yards, 27th in power success, and 30th in stuffs while posting significantly better numbers in running back yards per carry (10th), second level yards (seventh), and open field yards (seventh). Those numbers are indicative of the back doing most of the work on his own. The arrival of new head coach Adam Gase should help as well, especially in the passing game where he helped the Bears improve Jay Cutler’s protection. Chicago ranked 12th in sack rate last season, compared to Miami’s 24th; Gase and good health should push the Dolphins’ number upwards. And while Gase is expected to stick with the zone blocking system as his base scheme look for the Dolphins to move away from the pure “stretch zone” and incorporate more man concepts like he used in Chicago.

PROJECTED STARTERS
LT   Branden Albert
LG  Laremy Tunsil (rookie)
C   Mike Pouncey
RG   Billy Turner
RT   Ja’Wuan James

Regulars Returning: 3

GRADES
Run:
C
Pass: C+
Overall:
C

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MINNESOTA VIKINGS

(Man/Power) Minnesota was the only team to start the same line combination all 16 games last year, but that came after losing expected starters John Sullivan (back surgery) and Phil Loadholt (ruptured Achilles’ tendon) to injuries in the preseason. The resulting unit fared adequately, posting run numbers (10th in adjusted line yards, 2nd in power success, 12th in stuffed) that were aided by the talents of Adrian Peterson (the team finished fourth in RB yards, fourth in second-level yards and fifth in open field yards). Where they struggled was in pass protection; despite throwing infrequently the Vikings ranked 29th in sack rate and gave up 45 sacks as Teddy Bridgewater faced pressure on almost half of his dropbacks—more than any other quarterback in the league. Change came quickly following Minnesota’s playoff exit, as line coach Jeff Davidson was replaced by Tony Sporano. Then, the Vikings created competition across the board by bringing in free agent guard Alex Boone for $26.8 million and tackle Andre Smith on a one-year “prove it” deal. As a result, the Vikings have more than 28 percent of their salary cap invested in their offensive line—and nine players who have started at least 16 NFL games, so experience and depth shouldn’t be a problem. The addition of Boone, a Minnesota fan favorite after opining that he’d like to punch Green Bay linebacker Clay Matthews in the face, should give Mike Zimmer the nastiness he wants in his big fellas. The Vikings need that nastiness to spread to Matt Kalil, who was lights out as a rookie but has scuffled since then and is now in the final season of his rookie contract. Planting Boone at left guard next to Kalil can only help. Sullivan should return to reclaim his center spot, but if not Joe Berger was solid there last season. Brandon Fusco moves back to the right side, where he’s more comfortable, while Smith and Loadholt will battle for the right tackle gig—assuming the latter is healthy. That leaves sophomore TJ Clemmings, an emergency starter at right guard last year, as depth or perhaps the eventual replacement for Kalil. It’s a deep line with the depth and potential to make life lucrative for Peterson and Bridgewater.

PROJECTED STARTERS
LT   Matt Kalil
LG   Alex Boone
C   John Sullivan
RG   Brandon Fusco
RT   Andre Smith

Regulars Returning: 3

GRADES
Run:
B+
Pass: C-
Overall:
B-

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NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

(Man/Power) Carolina’s offensive line takes a ton of heat for being beaten like a rented mule in the Super Bowl, but the Patriots were equally as bad in the AFC title game, serving up 20 hits on Tom Brady. Of course, by that time New England was on their 41st different offensive line combination, over a dozen more than any other team was forced to use. Though not all hands were on deck for OTAs the expectation is that everyone will be healthy come training camp, meaning the Patriots will likely employ five guys who started for them at some point last season. Then again, offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia—returning to rescue this unit after a two-year mini-retirement—may have something else in mind. You can bank on Nate Solder, who missed the final three months with a torn biceps, and Sebastian Vollmer manning the tackles. Sophomores Shaq Mason, who came on strong later in the year, and Tre’ Jackson, who missed the playoffs with an ankle injury, provide a potential long-term solution at the guard positions. Undrafted rookie David Andrews started the first nine games at center while Bryan Stork was on IR, and while the latter returned for the second half of the season both were taking first-team snaps in OTAs. The Patriots won’t let the injury bug get the best of them again, as they added to their depth by trading for Jonathan Cooper, signing free agent LaAdrian Waddle, and spending a third-round pick on Joe Thuney. Even with all the injuries the Patriots still ranked second in adjusted line yards (despite New England backs ranking 23rd in yards per carry) and first in stuffs. The lack of continuity did impact pass protection as the Patriots fell from second to 18th in sack rate, but the combination of Scarnecchia’s return and fewer injuries should return the Patriots’ o-line to its usual perch in the upper half of the league.

PROJECTED STARTERS
LT   Nate Solder
LG   Shaquille Mason
C   Bryan Stork
RG   Tre’ Jackson
RT   Sebastian Vollmer

Regulars Returning: 5

GRADES
Run:
B
Pass: B-
Overall:
B

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NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

(Zone) The Saints were their usual successful self up front last season, ranking in the top quarter of the league in sacks and sack rate and the top half of the league in adjusted line yards per carry everywhere but off right tackle. However, with the release of four-time All Pro guard Jahri Evans there will be changes along the New Orleans line. Andrus Peat, last year’s first-round pick, started four games at guard last season but didn’t impress; still, he’ll likely get first shot at replacing Evans in the starting lineup. Peat could also challenge Zach Strief for the starting right tackle gig, but after what we saw in his rookie season that may be asking too much, at least right now. Terron Armstead is an emerging superstar at left tackle; only Joe Thomas and Tyron Smith earned higher pass-blocking efficiency grades from Pro Football Focus, and only Smith earned a better run-blocking grade. Max Unger, acquired from Seattle in the Jimmy Graham trade, solidifies the middle of the New Orleans line—key for the Saints given Drew Brees’ height (or lack thereof) and propensity for stepping up in the pocket. That aspect of the Saints offense explains why guard play has historically been so important for them, but with Evans’ departure the team will be looking for help at the position. Tim Lelito was adequate last year, and Senio Kelemete could also factor into the mix, but if Strief remains at right tackle Peat should earn one of the inside spots. The Saints may have also found a pair of undrafted gems in Landon Turner and Jack Allen; both had higher draft grades yet didn’t hear their name called and landed in New Orleans.

PROJECTED STARTERS
LT   Terron Armstead
LG   Tim Lelito
C   Max Unger
RG   Andrus Peat
RT   Zach Strief

Regulars Returning: 4

GRADES
Run:
B
Pass: B+
Overall:
B

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NEW YORK GIANTS

(Stretch Zone) Last year was a transitional season for the Giants’ offensive line, as all five starters were either new to the team or in new roles for Big Blue. For the most part it worked, as the Giants gave up the fourth-fewest sacks and ranked sixth in sack rate while posting adequate run-blocking numbers (11th in adjusted line yards). Weston Richburg blossomed at center after sliding over from left guard, allowing zero sacks in 1,016 snaps. Justin Pugh moved from right tackle and settled in at left guard. An injury to Will Beatty forced Ereck Flowers into the lineup at left tackle, where despite allowing 69 pressures he showed enough to make the Giants believe he’s their long-term solution there. John Jerry stepped in for the injured Geoff Schwartz at right guard and is good enough in pass protection there to keep his job; the hope is that he’ll be better after spending his offseason at LeCharles Bentley’s O-Line Performance Center. That leaves right tackle Marshall Newhouse, who will battle 2015 seventh-rounder Bobby Hart for the starting gig. Both the run blocking and pass protection diminishes in effectiveness as you move away from the center of the line, and the Giants recognize their limitations; that’s why they ranked 29th in percent of running plays around end. So long as Eli Manning has a clean jersey and time to find Odell Beckham Jr., this line will be considered successful enough.

PROJECTED STARTERS
LT   Ereck Flowers
LG   Justin Pugh
C   Weston Richburg
RG   John Jerry
RT   Marshall Newhouse

Regulars Returning: 4

GRADES
Run:
C-
Pass: B-
Overall:
C

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NEW YORK JETS

(Zone-Man Hybrid) The combination of age-related decline and the Jets’ staunch refusal to invest in their offensive line caught up with Gang Green last season, showing up most prominently in their ineffective run blocking. A year removed from Ground ’N’ Pound, the Jets ranked 26th in adjusted line yards and 23rd or worse at every measured spot along the line of scrimmage except right end. They were also 26th in stuffed and 26th in power, and their running back yards per carry rank of 15th supports the theory that Chris Ivory was getting most of his yardage on his own. Still, the Jets will return most of last year’s line, losing only left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson to retirement. In his place the Jets acquired Ryan Clady, who has the talent to make life after D’Brickashaw easy… if only he can stay healthy. Ferguson missed one snap in 10 years with the Jets; Clady has missed 30 games over the past three seasons due to a torn ACL and a lisfranc injury. James Carpenter had perhaps his best pro season at left guard last year, and—in another health question—if Nick Mangold can avoid the nagging injuries that have cost him games in three of the past five seasons he can play at a near-elite level as well. The right side returns guard Brian Winters and tackle Breno Giacomini, but only because the Jets have nothing else—primarily because they haven’t used a first-round pick on the offensive line since taking Ferguson and Mangold in 2006 and have spent only one second-rounder on the line in that same span. Instead, the Jets will cross their fingers and hope Brent Qvale (a UDFA in 2014), Dakota Dozier (a fourth-round pick that same year) or fifth-round pick Brandon Shell can emerge and compete for playing time. On the bright side, Chan Gailey’s scheme helped the Jets cut their sacks in half as they gave up just 22 (second-fewest in the league).

PROJECTED STARTERS
LT   Ryan Clady
LG   James Carpenter
C   Nick Mangold
RG   Brian Winters
RT  Breno Giacomini

Regulars Returning: 4

GRADES
Run:
C-
Pass: B
Overall:
C

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OAKLAND RAIDERS

(Man/Power) Last year in this space we opined that the Raiders were “halfway there” with regards to rebuilding their offensive line. This past offseason Oakland went the rest of the way, spending $60 million to woo guard Kelechi Osemele from Baltimore and re-upping tackle Donald Penn for another $14 million. With four-fifths of the line returning intact and Osemele a dramatic upgrade over J’Marcus Webb, arguments are being made across the media for the Raiders as the league’s top offensive line. If nothing else they’re certainly the biggest, averaging almost 328 pounds per man across their front. Osemele will play alongside Penn on the left side, kicking rising star Gabe Jackson to the right. Last year’s big-ticket purchase, Rodney Hudson, returns to hold down the center position despite being the smallest member of the group at a mere 299 pounds. Austin Howard will be pushed at right tackle by 2013 second-round pick Menelik Watson, who ruptured his Achilles’ tendon in the preseason and missed all of 2015. Sans Osemele this unit ranked fourth in sack rate, sixth in stuffed and seventh in power success; the addition of the former Raven will upgrade the Raiders in both areas but particularly in the ground game—a boon for Latavius Murray. Seventh-rounder Vadal Alexander could wind up being a steal; he’s the kind of big body offensive line coach Mike Tice has molded into successful NFL linemen before.

PROJECTED STARTERS
LT   Donald Penn
LG   Kelechi Osemele
C   Rodney Hudson
RG   Gabe Jackson
RT   Austin Howard

Regulars Returning: 4

GRADES
Run:
B
Pass: B+
Overall:
B

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PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

(NEW! Man/Power) Perhaps the move that most directly led to Chip Kelly’s express ticket out of Philadelphia was his release of both starting guards prior to last season. The Eagles were unable to replace Evan Mathis and Todd Herremans and as a result their offensive productivity went into the tank. Pass protection was mediocre at best, and while Philly ran the ball more than all but three other teams and finished 13th in yards per carry, they ranked an abysmal 30th in adjusted line yards and 19th or worse across the line. They were particularly bad to the left, where Jason Peters is starting to show his age. However, Doug Pederson brought in Jeff Stoutland to coach the offensive line and he’ll steer this athletic unit towards more man/power blocking while retaining plenty of the zone concepts Kelly used. The addition of free agent guard Brandon Brooks will help, as will a spirited competition at left guard between Stefen Wisniewski, Allen Barbre, former practice squader Malcolm Bunche and third-round pick Isaac Seumalo. Upgrading both guard spots will help Jason Kelce, who was left on an island after the departure of Mathis and Herremans last year. Lane Johnson signed a five-year, $63 million deal that will keep him in Philly for quite some time, and he’ll flip over to the left side to replace Peters sooner rather than later. Before that happens the Eagles hope to develop fifth round pick Halapoulivaati Vaitai into a suitable replacement on the right side.

PROJECTED STARTERS
LT   Jason Peters
LG   Allen Barbre
C   Jason Kelce
RG   Brandon Brooks
RT   Lane Johnson

Regulars Returning: 4

GRADES
Run:
C-
Pass: C+
Overall:
C

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PITTSBURGH STEELERS

(Zone) Offensive line coach Mike Munchak doesn’t deserve all the credit, but it’s easy to point to his arrival in Pittsburgh as the genesis for the emergence of this line as a real force. Last year the Steelers ranked a respectable eight in sack rate and eighth in adjusted line yards—and they did it despite losing All Pro center Maurkice Pouncey for the entire season and starting left tackle Kelvin Beachum for most of it. Beachum is the only starter not returning, in part because in his absence Pittsburgh discovered former tight end and Army Ranger Alejandro Villanueva could hold down the position just fine. Multiple surgeries later Pouncey returns as well; when healthy he’s among the best centers in the game. Ramon Foster is solid at left guard, and the aforementioned Munchak deserves kudos for how he has molded tackle Marcus Gilbert and guard David DeCastro into one of the best right sides in the league. Pittsburgh has Super Bowl champion Ryan Harris as Villanueva insurance, though he’s more likely to serve as the team’s swing tackle while fourth round pick Jerald Hawkins develops. It’s not necessarily a unit full of household names, but the Steelers’ line keeps Ben Roethlisberger upright and opens holes for Pittsburgh’s backs, be it Le’Veon Bell or DeAngelo Williams.

PROJECTED STARTERS
LT   Alejandro Villanueva
LG   Ramon Foster
C   Maurkice Pouncey
RG   David DeCastro
RT   Marcus Gilbert

Regulars Returning: 5

GRADES
Run:
B+
Pass: B+
Overall:
B+

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SAN DIEGO CHARGERS

(Zone) The Chargers had grand plans for their offensive line last season, but injuries limited their projected starters to a total of 74 snaps together for the season—most of them in the season opener. All told the Chargers used 11 different players and 24 different line combinations for the year. Banking that lightning can’t strike twice San Diego brings back most of the same personnel hoping for better results. The pass protection wasn’t bad; while the Bolts ranked 21st in sacks allowed with 40, they threw more than any other team so they ranked a respectable 11th in sack rate—especially considering the edge rushers they face regularly in the AFC West. The ground game was a different story, however, as San Diego compiled a league-worst 3.46 yards per carry and finished 31st in adjusted line yards. That they ranked 32nd in second-level yards and 27th in open field yards but sixth in power success and 15th in stuffs suggests that the backs were as much if not more so responsible for the team’s rushing struggles. Right tackle Joe Barksdale was the only San Diego lineman to start all 16 games last season, so consider him the anchor. A high ankle sprain prevented King Dunlap from finishing all but two of the seven games he was available for, but he’s healthy and will return to his left tackle gig. Guards Orlando Franklin and DJ Fluker both missed time with concussions and ankle injuries, and Franklin tossed in a knee injury as a bonus. Free agent Matt Slauson was added to set a nasty tone for this line and keep the center position warm until third-round pick Max Tuerk recovers from the knee injury that cost him nine games at USC last year. The Chargers also have a bevy of new coaches working with this group, from offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt to o-line coach Jeff Davidson (late of the Vikings) and assistant Dave DeGuglielmo, New England’s line coach the past two seasons. Whisenhunt’s scheme should lead to quicker releases from Philip Rivers, which should help the sack numbers. The staff may also use more stretch zone plays to take advantage of Melvin Gordon’s skill set, though the Chargers’ line is more beefy than athletic.

PROJECTED STARTERS
LT   King Dunlap
LG   Orlando Franklin
C   Matt Slauson
RG   DJ Fluker
RT   Joe Barksdale

Regulars Returning: 4

GRADES
Run:
D+
Pass: C
Overall:
C-

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SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

(NEW! Zone) Just a couple years ago the Niners were in the NFC title game and their offensive line was one of the dominant units in the league. Four defections later, only Joe Staley remains and San Francisco is scrambling to rebuild a unit more suitable to Chip Kelly’s zone blocking scheme—though OC Curtis Modkins will include plenty of power runs, counters and pulling guards as well. As you might expect from a line gutted of much of its talent, the numbers weren’t pretty. San Francisco gave up 53 sacks, 30th in the league, and finished 31st in adjusted sack rate—the second straight year with such numbers. The run blocking wasn’t much better as the 49ers ranked dead last in running back yards and adjusted line yards and 31st in stuffed. The Niners hope a new pair of guards, free agent signee Zane Beadles and first-round pick Joshua Garnett, will help Staley turn things around. The highly decorated Garnett was considered the best run-blocking guard coming out of college, and as an added bonus he has experience with Kelly’s blocking scheme from his time at Stanford. The return of center Daniel Kilgore from a broken leg also signifies an upgrade, and second-year right tackle Trenton Brown has potential—though he’ll be pushed by rookie fifth-rounders Fahn Cooper and John Theus.

PROJECTED STARTERS
LT   Joe Staley
LG   Zane Beadles
C   Daniel Kilgore
RG   Joshua Garnett (R)
RT  Trenton Brown

Regulars Returning: 2

GRADES
Run:
D+
Pass: D
Overall:
D

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SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

(Stretch Zone) All five offensive line starters from the Seahawks’ Super Bowl champs from just three years ago are no longer on the roster. For a while it seemed as if Seattle truly believed they could take UDFA defensive linemen and turn them into serviceable NFL offensive linemen, but after a disastrous start that saw them give up 31 sacks in the first seven games the philosophy has changed. Seattle spent three draft picks on actual offensive linemen, including a first-rounder on Germain Ifedi. They also added experience, if not talent, via free agency and could end up with new starters at all five positions—and if nothing else, with an average size of 6-5 and 321 pounds, they’ll be big. Russell Okung, long the team’s top lineman, and JR Sweezy left via free agency; Ifedi is slotted to replace the latter at right guard, while former college tight end Gary Gilliam is switching sides to take Okung’s place at left tackle. Mark Glowinski will flip alongside Gilliam and is penciled in at left guard while Justin Britt, on his third position in three years, will be given every chance to unseat Patrick Lewis at center. Journeyman J’Marcus Webb is the presumed starting right tackle, though there are several possible combinations to this line that could include third-round pick Rees Odhiambo at one of the guard spots. Pro Football Focus considers this line the worst in the league, going so far as to say they may be the worst position group in the NFL. And yet last year’s unit produced top 10 adjusted line yards at every measured spot and ranked fourth overall in ALY as well as seventh in running back yards, 5th in stuffed and 8th in power success. Plus, after that horrendous start in pass protection Seattle surrendered just 15 sacks in the final nine games of the season—when they were throwing the ball much more than at the start of the year. Now that the Seahawks have given Tom Cable something to work with, the results could be even better.

PROJECTED STARTERS
LT   Gary Gilliam
LG   Mark Glowinski
C   Justin Britt
RG   Germain Ifedi (rookie)
RT   J’Marcus Webb

Regulars Returning: 3

GRADES
Run:
B
Pass: C-
Overall:
C+

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TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

(Zone) Not only did the Bucs land their franchise quarterback in last year’s draft, they spent two second-round picks on big fellas to protect him—and struck gold with both left tackle Donovan Smith and right guard Ali Marpet. That tandem spearheaded a line that surrendered the fourth fewest sacks and ranked first in running back yards and 13th or better in every run blocking metric Football Outsiders measures. That’s quite an improvement from the previous season—a full yard per carry better, a jump of 23 spots in the adjusted line yards rankings, and a more than 50 percent reduction in sacks. The dropoff from retiring left guard Logan Mankins to free agent signee JR Sweezy is substantial, but the return of right tackle Demar Dotson from the knee injury that scuttled his 2015 campaign offsets that loss. Joe Hawley and Evan Smith will battle for the starting center gig, while Dotson’s return allows Gosder Cherilus to be the swing tackle and Kevin Pamphile to focus on playing guard. Fifth round pick Caleb Benonoch could force his way into the guard competition with a strong training camp. Smith played every snap as a rookie, while Marpet made the leap from Division III to the NFL and was hardly overmatched. This isn’t a talent-laden line, but they overachieved last season and have enough depth to make a repeat performance possible—maybe even probable.

PROJECTED STARTERS
LT   Donovan Smith
LG  JR Sweezy
C   Joe Hawley
RG   Ali Marpet
RT   Demar Dotson

Regulars Returning: 4

GRADES
Run:
B
Pass: C+
Overall:
B-

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TENNESSEE TITANS

(Man/Power) For the third time in four years the Titans spent a first-round pick on an offensive lineman; the results have to be better than what we’ve seen, given that Tennessee gave up more sacks than any other team and ranked 20th or lower in every run metric measured by Football Outsiders. The Titans have surrendered 104 sacks the past two seasons and have gone without a 1,000-yard rusher in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1994-95. So back to the first-round well. This year’s selection, Jack Conklin, will step in immediately at right tackle alongside 2013 top pick Chance Warmack. Conklin is a good fit stylistically for the brand of football Mike Mularkey wants to play; the team declined Warmack’s contract option so he’ll have additional financial motivation this year. 2014 first-rounder Taylor Lewan remains at left tackle, with Jeremiah Poutasi battling Byron Bell and sixth-round pick Sebastian Tretola for the starting left guard gig. Tennessee signed center Ben Jones away from division rival Houston to make the line calls for this unit; they also brought in Hall of Famer Russ Grimm to coach them up. With the future of the franchise tied up in quarterback Marcus Mariota and heavy investments in running backs DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry as well, it’s time for Tennessee’s line to play up to their draft status.

PROJECTED STARTERS
LT   Taylor Lewan
LG  Jeremiah Poutasi
C   Ben Jones
RG  Chance Warmack
RT   Jack Conklin (rookie)

Regulars Returning: 3

GRADES
Run:
C-
Pass: D
Overall:
D+

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WASHINGTON REDSKINS

(Zone-Man Hybrid) Washington battled through multiple injuries up front, losing left guard Shawn Lauvao and center Kory Lichtensteiger for extended periods of time. Still, under the guidance of o-line coach Bill Callahan the Redskins reduced their sack total by 31—the biggest single-season turnaround since sacks became an official stat in 1982. In the transition from Mike Shanahan’s zone scheme to Callahan’s hybrid the Redskins have become a solid pass blocking unit, ranking 10th in sack rate last season. That’s welcome news to Kirk Cousins’ fantasy owners. Trent Williams remains a fixture at left tackle, and after recovering from ankle surgery Lauvao is expected to return to his left guard spot alongside him—though last year’s fill in Spencer Long and Arie Kouandijo will force Lauvao to earn his job back. Lauvao’s return should help the Redskins run the ball more effectively up the middle; last year their adjusted line yards between the guards ranked 28th, and only two teams ran up the gut with less frequency. Lichtensteiger missed 11 games with a neck injury but like Lauvao will be back in the lineup. Last year’s first-round pick Brandon Scherff stepped directly into the lineup at right guard and teamed with second-year tackle Morgan Moses to solidify that side of Washington’s line. A healthy line and another year of Callahan’s tutelage could help turn Matt Jones into a productive fantasy entity as well.

PROJECTED STARTERS
LT   Trent Williams
LG   Shawn Lauvao
C   Korey Lichtensteiger
RG   Brandon Scherff
RT   Morgan Moses

Regulars Returning: 5

GRADES
Run:
C+
Pass: B-
Overall:
B-

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