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2005 Offensive Line Preview
Todd Gray
June 8, 2005


Seattle Seahawks
34 Sacks Allowed (12th)
4.5 Yards Per Carry (Tie-4th)

Seattle fielded the best offensive line in the NFC West in 2004, and on paper the Seahawks should be able to do the same in 2005. The hottest tackle on the free agent market – the Seahawks’ own Pro Bowl T Walter Jones – re-signed with the team, as did veteran C Robbie Tobeck. Seattle also selected Chris Spencer – rated by many as the best center in the draft – with the 26 th overall pick. Spencer can play both guard positions and will be groomed to replace the 35-year-old Tobeck. The Seahawks are hoping that young tackles Wayne Hunter or Sean Locklear step it up to compensate for the release of RT Chris Terry.

St. Louis Rams
50 Sacks Allowed (Tie-27th)
4.3 Yards Per Carry (Tie-11th)

The Rams took a number of steps to improve the team’s weakest link on offense. LT Orlando Pace was inked to a long-term contract, Rex Tucker (released by Bears) was signed to compete with Blaine Saipaia at left guard and St. Louis selected three offensive linemen with its first six picks in the draft for the first time in team history. First-round pick T Alex Barron (Florida State) will compete with Scott Tercero for the vacancy at RT left by Kyle Turley, who had a major falling out with head coach Mike Martz. Other starters include steady Andy McCollum at center and Adam Timmerman at right guard.

Arizona Cardinals
39 Sacks Allowed (20th)
3.5 Yards Per Carry (Tie-30th)

It was business as usual for the Cardinals offensive line during the first half of the 2004 season and, as usual, business was not good. Then head coach Dennis Green parted ways with offensive line coach Bob Wylie, made a couple of adjustments, and the Cardinals’ line finished the year on an upswing despite remaining one of the worst units in the league. This year’s task is to protect statuesque QB Kurt Warner and to pave the way for more than 3.5 yards per carry in the running game that tied for the worst mark in the NFL in 2004. The left side of the line shows promise with LT Leonard Davis having a big second half in 2004 and with Reggie Wells showing his versatility by playing both guard and tackle. Top young center Alex Stepanovich should only be better in 2005. The right side of the line is questionable, although free agent signee Oliver Ross (Steelers) should be a solid replacement at right tackle for L.J. Shelton, who was cut by the team in May.

San Francisco 49ers
52 Sacks Allowed (Tie-29th)
3.5 Yards Per Carry (Tie-30th)

There were reasons aplenty for the 49ers dismal 2-14 record in 2004, and the OL was a very big one. Much hinges on the availability of two-time Pro Bowl center Jeremy Newberry, whose availability for the start of training camp is in question due to a second arthroscopic surgery on his bothersome knee in the spring. Newberry will be asked to lead a retooled OL that includes free agent prize Jonas Jennings (Bills) and three recent draft picks: T Kwame Harris, G Justin Smiley and G David Baas. The 49ers did lose OL Kyle Kosier (signed by Lions), but Jennings should provide an upgrade in his stead.


Atlanta Falcons
52 Sacks Allowed (Tie-29th)
5.1 Yards Per Carry (1st)

Atlanta’s line made great strides in 2004 with legendary line coach Alex Gibbs as the unit’s leader, but just looking at the stats doesn’t paint an accurate picture. The Falcons’ 52 sacks allowed ranked near the bottom of the league, but the team’s 5.1 yards per carry were second to none. Both numbers reflect to some degree the impact made by happy-footed QB Michael Vick. This year, Gibbs will serve as a consultant to the team while Jeff Jagodzinski takes over an OL that returns almost intact. LG is up in the air and free agent signee G/C Matt Lehr (ex-Rams) and LG Michael Moore will compete for the starting spot. Free agent signee Barry Stokes (ex-Giants) should provide much-needed depth at the tackle spots behind starters Kevin Shaffer and Todd Weiner.

New Orleans Saints
42 Sacks Allowed (Tie-21st)
4.0 Yards Per Carry (Tie-19th)

The going should get a bit easier for Aaron Brooks, Deuce McAllister and company following New Orleans’ emphasis on upgrading its OL. The biggest moves were the selection of Outland Trophy-winning RT Jammal Brown (Oklahoma) with the 13 th pick in the draft, and the signing of free agent T/G Jermane Mayberry (ex-Philadelphia). Brown will replace the departed Victor Riley at right tackle, which will allow Mayberry to move to his more comfortable spot at right guard, which in turn will facilitate Montrae Holland’s move from left guard to the right side. The promising new line should improve the running game, which in turn will increase New Orleans’ time of possession, which will help to keep the NFL’s lowest-rated defense in 2004 off the field as much as possible.

Carolina Panthers
33 Sacks Allowed (11th)
3.7 Yards Per Carry (Tie-28th)

Much went out the window for the Panthers when they lost RB Stephen Davis and WR Steve Smith to injuries early in the 2004 season, in addition to losing free agent signee G Adam Meadows to sudden retirement. The OL performed admirably despite these losses, and the unit gets a big boost this year with a couple of key moves. Most notable is the signing of LG Mike Wahle (ex-Packers), an outstanding run blocker and considered by many to be the steal of free agency. Jordan Gross, who struggled in his more natural position at left tackle, will return to the right side where he excelled as a rookie. Rookie Evan Mathis (Alabama), drafted in the third round, is widely considered one of the steals of the draft and will compete with Tutan Reyes for the starting job at right guard.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
44 Sacks Allowed (Tie-23rd)
3.8 Yards Per Carry (Tie-25th)

Tampa Bay seemingly did little to strengthen its offensive line in 2005, which makes sense as the Bucs fielded one of the worst such units in the league last season. Gone are unrestricted free agent guards Matt O’Dwyer (signed by Packers) and Cosey Coleman (signed by Browns). The Bucs did draft mammoth T Chris Colmer (N.C. State) in the third round and G Dan Buenning (Wisconsin) in the fourth. Colmer in particular should vie for a starting spot on what promises to be a revamped OL on an offense that may field 11 new starters to kick off the 2005 campaign.


Chicago Bears
66 Sacks Allowed (32nd)
3.8 Yards Per Carry (Tie-25th)

The injury bug bit especially hard in Chicago last season, and boy did it show in the results. Chicago QBs were sacked once for every four completions last season and finished with a franchise-record and NFL-high 66 turf-whuppins. To put that in perspective, Peyton Manning completed approximately 25 passes in-between sacks. And this was with a Chicago OL that included four-time Pro Bowl C Olin Kreutz, eight-time Pro Bowl G Ruben Brown and veteran RT John Tait. The problem was hardly the personnel, but injuries that led to 10 different starters throughout the season. The team’s key personnel addition for the OL during the offseason was RT Fred Miller (Tennessee), whose presence will allow Tait to move to LT to replace the oft-overwhelmed Qasim Mitchell. In addition, the Bears signed former Falcons OL Roberto Garza to compete at RG with Terrance Metcalf. Overall, this unit stands to improve greatly from last season to this one if its members can stay healthy.

Green Bay Packers
14 Sacks Allowed (Tie-1st)
4.3 Yards Per Carry (Tie-11th)

The Packers hope that C Mike Flanagan can return to health, because standout guards LG Mike Wahle (signed by Carolina) and RG Marco Rivera (signed by Dallas) won’t be returning at all. Flanagan missed the final 13 games of 2004 after undergoing knee surgery, and though Grey Ruegamer filled in admirably for him, Flanagan’s presence was sorely missed. Despite the loss of Wahle and Rivera, the Packers appear set to reload in a hurry. Matt O'Dwyer should replace Rivera at right guard, Matt Tauscher is the favorite to start at right tackle, Chad Cligton will start at left tackle and the LG spot will be decided between Adrian Klemm and Grey Rugamer with Kevin Barry also in the mix.

Minnesota Vikings
46 Sacks Allowed (25th)
4.7 Yards Per Carry (2nd)

Perennial Pro Bowl C Matt Birk remains the anchor of what should be a very strong line in 2005, despite shuffling at most every other position. LG Chris Liwienski, who has started all 64 games since 2001, may supplant David Dixon at right guard despite Dixon having the best season of his career in 2004. Second-round draft pick Marcus Johnson (Mississippi) may be the favorite to land the starting LG spot vacated by Liwienski. LT Bryant McKinnie, who protects Culpepper’s blind side, needs to overcome his struggles on the road, and RT Mike Rosenthal, who missed most of last season with a torn ligament in his right foot, should be healthy and starting again in 2005.

Detroit Lions
37 Sacks Allowed (T-16th)
4.4 Yards Per Carry (T-8th)

The 2005 Lions will field a flexible unit with a few starters who have experience at multiple positions. While not as big as recent Lions lines, it should be more athletic and feature more depth. Behemoth RT Stockar McDougle (signed by Miami) is gone, but C Dominic Raiola re-signed and rejoins LT Jeff Backus and last year’s free-agent catch, RG Damien Woody, to form a strong nucleus. Detroit also added LG Rick DeMulling (Indianapolis) and G/T Kyle Kosier (49ers), both starters with their former teams. Kosier is expected to have the upper hand over Kelly Butler to start at right tackle.


Philadelphia Eagles
37 Sacks Allowed (Tie-16th)
4.4 Yards Per Carry (Tie-8th)

Philadelphia’s OL was expected to be one of the team’s strengths in 2004, but inconsistent play and injuries plagued the line throughout much of the season. Despite the challenges, head coach Andy Reid remains confident in the same group heading into the 2005 season, which includes LT Tra Thomas, LG Artis Hicks, RG Shawn Andrews, RT Jon Runyan and C Hank Fraley. Thomas and Runyan are quality tackles and Hicks is a versatile player who can slide to either tackle spot if needed. Fraley is possibly a Pro Bowl-caliber center and some say that Andrews will dominate when and if he can recover fully from a broken leg suffered early last season. Though this relatively young unit can be expected to be better after having played together for awhile now, the Eagles took no chances and added three offensive linemen in the draft.

Dallas Cowboys
36 Sacks Allowed (Tie-14th)
3.9 Yards Per Carry (Tie-22nd)

One week after receiving a $9 million signing bonus, key offseason acquisition Marco Rivera (Packers) underwent surgery to repair a bulging disk in his lower back. The good news is that Rivera, 33, hasn’t missed a game the past six seasons and should open the 2005 campaign at right guard for the Cowboys. He’ll anchor the side of the line where Dallas struggled last season, which will allow LT Flozell Adams to stay on the left side of the line. Joining Rivera on the right side will most likely be T Kurt Vollers, who re-signed with the team. Meanwhile, the left side of the line was the picture of consistency yet again with perennial All-Pro G Larry Allen and Adams leading the way.

Washington Redskins
38 Sacks Allowed (Tie-18th)
3.7 Yards Per Carry (Tie-28th)

Things are looking up for the Redskins’ OL, which struggled in 2004 to protect QB Patrick Ramsey and to open holes for RB Clinton Portis. Washington signed top free agent center Casey Rabach in a move that should upgrade the run blocking tremendously. In addition, LT Jon Jansen should be back to full health after missing the 2004 season with a ruptured Achilles’ tendon. All other starting linemen from last season should be in the fold, as well, including T Chris Samuels, who signed a seven-year deal in March.

New York Giants
52 Sacks Allowed (Tie-29th)
4.5 Yards Per Carry (Tie-4th)

The Giants have steadily made progress on their OL since 2003 and despite allowing 52 sacks in 2004, one consolation is that the line had to protect either a rookie QB (Eli Manning) or one who couldn’t move (Kurt Warner). It’s hard to imagine anything but improvement for the OL this season following the signings of free agents RT Kareem McKenzie and LT Bob Whitfield. McKenzie should take over at RT, which would facilitate the move of the versatile David Diehl, the only Giant to start the past 32 games, from right tackle to left guard where the team feels that he is best suited to play. There, Diehl should face some competition from last year’s starting LG, Jason Whittle. Meanwhile, Whitfield provides valuable backup to LT Luke Petitgout, who struggled at the position in 2004, giving the Giants depth at every position along the line.


Oakland Raiders
30 Sacks Allowed (6 th)
4.0 Yards Per Carry (Tie-19 th)

Most of the same faces return, but a few positions have changed. Hopefully for the Raiders, the shake-up will help them eclipse the league-low 1,295 yards that they gained in 2004. In a mild surprise, second-year C/G Jake Grove will likely supplant Adam Treu at center after finishing last season at right guard – next to center Treu. Former tackle Langston Walker will start at left guard and Brad Badger will begin the season as right guard, making LT Barry Sims and up-and-coming 2004 first-round pick RT Robert Gallery the only players returning to their positions from a year ago.

San Diego Chargers
15 Sacks Allowed (3rd)
4.2 Yards Per Carry (Tie-14th)

The Chargers experienced a rather charmed life on the offensive line in 2004: four players started every game, and C Nick Hardwick missed only two games. It’s a young line for the most part with second-year players Harkwick and RT Shane Olivea starting as rookies in 2004. All nine offensive linemen on the 53-man roster at the end of the season return, plus a healthy Courtney Van Buren and three rookies: fifth-round pick T Wesley Britt (Alabama), sixth-round selection G Wes Sims (Oklahoma) and seventh-round pick C Scott Mruczkowski. Van Buren started seven games as a rookie in 2003, but hasn’t played since due to his bad knees. Nine-year veteran LT Roman Oben and eight-year vet RG Mike Goff will have plenty of understudies.

Denver Broncos
15 Sacks Allowed (3rd)
4.4 Yards Per Carry (Tie-8th)

New offensive line coach Rick Dennison inherits a veteran group of linemen that comprise one of the best units in the league. For the 12 th straight season, C Tom Nalen will man the middle of the line and will be flanked by guards Ben Hamilton and Cooper Carlisle, the latter of whom admirably replaced Dan Neil following Neil’s knee injury late in the 2004 season. Matt Lepsis will start at left tackle and George Foster will line up on the right, and once again the bench should be deep.

Kansas City Chiefs
32 Sacks Allowed (Tie-9th)
4.6 Yards Per Carry (3rd)

Kansas City’s OL was quite possibly the best in the league in 2004 and was the only unit in the league to finish in the top 10 in rushing yards per carry and sacks allowed. Expect another strong season from this unit, which will include stud LT Willie Roaf, LG Brian Waters, C Casey Wiegmann, RG Will Shields and RT Jordan Black.


Indianapolis Colts
14 Sacks Allowed (Tie-1st)
4.3 Yards Per Carry (Tie-11th)

The Colts’ offensive line was once again one of the team’s best units in 2004, succeeding in spite of numerous injuries that changed its combinations, often by the week. The original starting five – LT Tarik Glenn, LG Rick DeMulling, C Jeff Saturday, RG Jake Scott and RT Ryan Diem – started the first six games together, and then only one more thereafter. By season’s end, the Colts had started five different line combinations including two rookies – Jake Scott and Ryan Lilja – who started a combined 12 games. The Colts saw most consistency from the tackle position, where Glenn and Diem both played in all 16 games. The 2005 version of the OL will look a lot like the 2004 version and should meet with similar success despite losing DeMulling (signed with Lions). In the recent past, the Colts have proven themselves able to weather such a loss.

Houston Texans
49 Sacks Allowed (26th)
3.9 Yards Per Carry (Tie-22nd)

QB David Carr has been sacked more than any other NFL QB over the past few years and, needless to say, it’s not all his fault. Young LT Seth Wand took most of the heat for the line’s failure to protect Carr, yet the team has enough confidence in Wand’s development to stick with him in 2005, albeit with free agent signee Victor Riley (ex-Saints) looking over his shoulder. Todd Wades’ job at RT is seemingly secure, meaning Riley’s best chance to earn lots of time may be if Wand falters.

Jacksonville Jaguars
32 Sacks Allowed (Tie-9th)
4.1 Yards Per Carry (Tie-17th)

Jacksonville’s offensive line did a good job of protecting the QB and paved the way for a respectable 4.1 yards per carry, but the Jaguars’ offense remained among the weakest in the league nonetheless. Key will be whether or not starting LT Mike Pearson (knee) returns to health to begin the season. Pearson tore multiple ligaments in his left knee four games into the 2004 season and he’s currently entering the final year of his contract. If Pearson’s knee continues to trouble him, the team hopes that second-round pick Khalif Barnes (Washington) is ready for a starting spot in the pros.

Tennessee Titans
44 Sacks Allowed (Tie-23rd)
4.5 Yards Per Carry (Tie-4th)

Starting tackle Fred Miller is now starting for Chicago, and the Titans didn’t waste any time looking for a replacement by drafting three offensive tackles in the first five rounds. The favorite to claim the job is second-round pick Michael Roos (Eastern Washington), who is known as a great drive blocker in the run game.


Cincinnati Bengals
31 Sacks Allowed (Tie-7th)
4.2 Yards Per Carry (Tie-14th)

One would think that things could only get better for Cincinnati’s offense in 2005. After all, the Bengals return all 11 starters on offense from 2004, including all five starters on an OL that remained a healthy bunch throughout the year. T Willie Anderson, LT Levi Jones and RG Bobbie Williams started in every game, LG Eric Steinbach started 15 games and C Rich Braham started in 10 before suffering a slight fracture of a fibula on Dec. 12 at New England. Cincinnati also drafted Eric Ghiaciuc (Central Michigan) in the fourth round, and signed Ben Wilkerson (LSU) as a rookie free agent. Wilkerson was rated the No. 1 center coming out of college before he injured his knee on the last play of LSU’s Oct. 30 game against Vanderbilt.

Cleveland Browns
41 Sacks Allowed (Tie-21st)
3.8 Yards Per Carry (Tie-25th)

After gaining some momentum with a nine-win season in 2002, the Browns have backpedaled ever since thanks in no small part to struggles along its troubled line – recently one of the worst in the NFL. New head coach Romeo Crennel made the interior of the OL the team’s No. 1 priority during the offseason and signed free agent G Cosey Coleman (Buccaneers) and G Joe Andruzzi (New England), both of whom represent significant upgrades over the handful of guards the Browns have shuffled in and out of the OL the past few seasons.

Pittsburgh Steelers
36 Sacks Allowed (Tie-14th)
4.0 Yards Per Carry (Tie-19th)

Despite losing two key performers in RT Oliver Ross (signed by Arizona) and RG Keydrick Vincent (signed by Baltimore), this year’s Steelers line has the potential to improve. RG Kendall Simmons, the Steelers’ first-round pick in the 2002 NFL draft, returns to the team after missing last season with a knee injury. Big things are expected from second-year T Max Starks, who is the frontrunner to inherit Ross’ starting job. In addition, the Steelers addressed their need for depth by drafting OT Trai Essex (Northwestern) in the third round and OG Chris Kemoeatu (Utah) in the sixth round.

Baltimore Ravens
35 Sacks Allowed (13th)
4.2 Yards Per Carry (Tie-14th)

Baltimore’s OL certainly isn’t the reason that the Ravens’ passing game has finished 22 nd or worse in five of coach Brian Billick’s six seasons, but it does shoulder its share of the blame. While the team wasn’t all that aggressive in pursuing this need during the offseason, some important additions arrive in the person of G Keydrick Vincent (ex-Steeler), second-round pick OT Adam Terry and fourth-round selection C Jason Brown. Vincent is expected to replace departed G Bennie Anderson (signed by Bills)


Buffalo Bills
38 Sacks Allowed (Tie-18th)
3.9 Yards Per Carry (Tie-22nd)

The Bills have one heck of a hole to fill with the departure of free agent Jonas Jennings to the 49ers. Frontrunner to inherit the position is Mike Gandy, who was cut by the Bears last November after starting five games at left guard. Trey Teague, a former tackle himself, may also compete for the job, but it is likely that Teague will stay at center. It can only help that second-year QB J.P. Losman has something that former QB, Drew Bledsoe lacked: operable feet. Losman, who runs fast and throws long, should spice up the offense as long as he’s not knocked silly. In order to add depth, the Bills drafted C Ray Preston (Illinois) in the fourth round and G Justin Geisinger (Vanderbilt) in the sixth round.

Miami Dolphins
42 Sacks Allowed (Tie-29th)
3.5 Yards Per Carry (Tie-29th)

There’s a real chance that the Dolphins OL could lurch into the realm of respectability this season, and that is meant as a real positive. Miami opened the 2004 campaign with five fresh faces on the line, and it showed in the stats. The Dolphins allowed 52 sacks and blocked the running game to a 3.5-yard average, both marks at or near that worst in the NFL. The same group is back together this year with the addition of T Stockar McDougle, a member of a line in Detroit that allowed only 48 sacks the past two years combined. Help is also on the way in the person of new offensive line coach Hudson Houck, architect of the great Dallas lines of the 90s.

New England Patriots
26 Sacks Allowed (5th)
4.1 Yards Per Carry (Tie-17th)

The Patriots hope that what worked for them in the past works for them in 2005. Gone is Joe Andruzzi to Cleveland, but recent history shows that the Pats do a great job of patching together strong offensive lines. The loss of Andruzzi did prompt head coach Bill Belichick to draft a pair of guards, including Logan Mankins (Fresno State) in the first round and Nick Kaczur (Toledo) in the third round. Mankins could emerge as a starter either at left guard replacing Andruzzi or at right tackle. New England should get another boost from the return of RT Tom Ashworth, whose 2004 season ended with a back injury after only six starts.

New York Jets
52 Sacks Allowed (Tie-29th)
4.5 Yards Per Carry (Tie-4th)

The defection of RT Kareem McKenzie via free agency to the crosstown-rival Giants is a big blow absorbed somewhat by the promise shown by second-year T Adrian Jones. Jones, an athletic ex-college tight end who showed a lot of promise in 2004, has a slight edge over Marko Cavka to inherit the RT vacancy left by the departure of McKenzie. The rest of the line looks solid and includes up-and-coming G Brandon Moore, All-Pro C Kevin Mawae and veteran T Jason Fabini, who has started the team’s last 80 games.