As the season enters Week 14, injuries continue to take their toll. There's a slew of news this week, let's get after it:
Buffalo plus 7.
The main reason for this upgrade has been the production of Richie Incognito at left guard. Often leading for LeSean McCoy on pulling plays, Incognito has been called the Bills' best offensive player this season by several sources. Incognito had a great day against the Houston defensive line, especially blocking J.J. Watt on power runs in his direction. Incognito is a dominant player right now and appears to be on track for a Pro Bowl selection. His new individual grade currently reflects his high level of play. In other Bills' news, Kraig Urbik continues to replace John Miller at right guard. Seantrel Henderson was inactive last week, but the coaching staff believes he will be available next week against the Philadelphia Eagles. The Bills currently check in at 11th overall, and are considered a top-tier line in the latest rankings.
Cleveland minus 5.
The Browns put ascending left guard Joel Bitonio on injured reserve this week, despite news reports that he was getting healthier. In his place Cameron Erving (first round rookie) looked awful against the Bengals. In one notable play two weeks ago, Erving was reverse-pancaked by Cameron Heyward. After similar struggles against Geno Atkins this week, the coaches had no recourse but to bench this player. Austin Pasztor took his place. The team also picked up Gabe Ikard to bolster the position. Although I certainly did not predict a win against the Bengals, I was hopeful that Erving would be better than he's showed. However Pasztor looks to be the starter going forward, and this drop in talent lowers the Browns' line to 7th overall. They are still a top-tier unit, but this injury (and a lack of reliable depth) has taken a toll.
Miami minus 6.
Last week against Baltimore, right tackle Ju'Wuan James missed his fifth consecutive game with a toe injury. Coaches keep saying the right things to beat writers, that they are optimistic he will return soon, but this player has not yet regained full health. James has not played since Oct 29, against New England. In his place, Jason Fox has been unsteady. The line is much better with James in the lineup. In related news, left tackle Branden Albert has been regaining his form, and could even be a darkhorse for a Pro Bowl honor. However, missing their right tackle, the line falls to 14th overall. If center Mike Pouncey (foot) misses the game as well, the line will drop to low-tier status. On a more general note, with the replacement of the offensive coordinator, this team has undergone a transition from a pass-first offense to a run-first offense; adjust exposure accordingly.
New Orleans minus 9.
Against the Panthers last week, right guard Jahri Evans was inactive with an ankle injury. In his place, Tim Lelito recorded 55 snaps, while Senio Kelemete played 12. Lelito is better than Kelemete but neither hold a candle to Evans. Evans hasn't looked like himself this season, and it is possible he has reached a point in his career where his decline is steepening. Evans did participate in Wednesday's practice, which is good news, but this player has not been reliable in prior weeks. We are keeping him out of the rankings until he can prove his health. And when he does return, his individual grade will be lowered to reflect his current form. In related news, Max Unger had a tough performance at center last week against Carolina. Currently the Saints' line grades out at 19th, a mid tier option.
Tampa Bay minus 5.
Right tackle Gosder Cherilus was inactive last week against Atlanta. In his place, Demar Dotson got his first action of the season, and was quite rusty. Some of this is to be expected from a player that is still rounding into shape after months in the training room. The coaches said they were pleased with Dotson, who should improve as the season winds down. Still, the immediate drop off represents a five slot downgrade, to 20th overall in the latest rankings. The Bucs remains a mid-tier unit.
New York (N) minus 2.
Left tackle Ereck Flowers suffered a high ankle sprain in the contest against the Jets, and he appears to be out this week against the Dolphins on Monday Night. In his place Justin Pugh slid over to left tackle, and Dallas Reynolds took Pugh's place at guard. Pugh had a rough going at left tackle, giving up at least two key penalties (holding and tripping). On the right side, Bobby Hart did a decent job filling in for Marshall Newhouse, and could actually keep that job after Newhouse returns to health. Still, without Flowers, the Giants' line drops two spots, currently checking in at 29th overall. The Giants remain a clearly low-tier unit.
Week 14's Match-ups of Note
- 2nd NYJ O-Line vs. 22nd TEN defensive front seven (+20).
- 10th JAX O-Line vs. 29th IND defensive front seven (+19).
- 6th CIN O-Line vs. 23rd PIT defensive front seven (+18).
- 1st DAL O-Line @ 19th GB defensive front seven (+18).
- 16th WAS O-Line @ 30th CHI defensive front seven (+14).
- 13th CAR O-Line vs. 27th ATL defensive front seven (+14).
- 29th NYG O-Line @ 7th MIA defensive front seven (-22).
- 25th SD O-Line @ 3rd KC defensive front seven (-22).
- 32nd STL O-Line vs. 11th DET defensive front seven (-21).
A look back on Week 13's Match-ups of Note
Last week's predictions were 5-3, bringing the yearly total to 72 good predictions and 52 bad predictions.
BAL - Monroe to IR?
Left tackle Eugene Monroe, who is already withheld from the rankings, could go to the injured reserve. James Hurst has been unsteady in his place.
KC - mitch morse returns to practice.
After missing last week's win over the Raiders, center Mitch Morse returned to practice on Wednesday. Zach Fulton did a nice job in his place, but will return to the bench.
IND - Castonzo and Thornton out.
Thornton is a replacement level starter and Castonzo expects to be back by week 15.
OAK - Rodney Hudson remained inactive.
The Raiders' rushing attack has faltered without their center, who is still recovering from an ankle injury. Hudson has been seen at practice but his status is still unknown. Tony Bergstrom fumbled a snap to quarterback Derek Carr last week in the loss against Kansas City.
STL - Andrew Donnal inactive.
Donnal has a knee injury and the Rams' line remains a dumpster fire with or without him.
AZ - Earl Watford to IR.
Watford (broken hand) had been a depth spot starter type, and was not in the starting lineup.
HOU - Brandon Brooks back in practice.
Brooks had missed last week's game with severe abdominal pain and spent the night in a hospital. Brooks has a history of stomach ulcers. However he was back in practice on Wednesday and is expected to play this weekend.
GB - Bulaga and Lang in drills.
After missing the game last week, these players returned to practice in a limited fashion. Neither player was seen in team portion of practice on Wednesday. They are being held out of the rankings for now but their status is unknown.
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 or in the Shark Pool.
Week 14 Offensive Line Rankings
|7||CLE||2||-5||30.1||B+||B||A-||Bitonio on IR. Erving benched.|
|11||BUF||18||7||29.15||B||B||B-||Incognito playing well.|
|14||MIA||8||-6||29.05||B||B||B||James out. Fox replaced.|
|20||TB||15||-5||28.4||C||C||C-||Cherilus out, Dotson rusty.|
Week 14 Defensive Front seven Rankings
|5||New York (A)|
|18||St. Louis||Robert Quinn to IR.|
|26||New York (N)|