After three weeks of preseason, there have been several interesting developments from the league’s offensive lines. Please check out the FBG Training Camp updates for offensive line notes on all of the teams in the league. Without further ado, let’s get after it.
San Francisco plus 4
Right tackle Trent Brown remains the nominal starter over Anthony Davis, who surprised onlookers by un-retiring and reporting a full thirty pounds lighter than his last playing weight. Davis has been much more effective than Brown in preseason action, but the coaches are still keeping Brown at tackle. Davis even has a new team-first attitude to go with his improved physique and the team officially moved him to right guard this week. This should be an easy adjustment for Davis, who has the natural talent befitting a former high first round pick. Wherever he plays, the lineup is improved with Davis in the lineup. The running attack especially should be helped by his presence.
Los Angeles plus 2
The Rams’ line had a rough start in week one against the Cowboys, but they looked much better against the Chiefs in preseason week two. A huge part of that improvement has to be the return of running back Todd Gurley. This is a young group but they look better going forward (run blocking) than they do in pass protection. Gurley took advantage of several large holes, especially over left guard Cody Wichmann and left tackle Greg Robinson and dominated. In other news, right tackle Rob Havenstein is still not ready to practice, Rodger Saffold continues to start in his absence. Given the play of Wichmann, this might actually be a better lineup going forward.
New england no change
Bad news for New England, as starting right tackle Sebastian Vollmer was sent to the injured reserve. Vollmer, who has been on PUP list all preseason and is also the Patriots’ most consistent lineman, underwent shoulder surgery over the weekend. But Vollmer is reportedly also dealing with a hip injury and his return from the IR list later in the year is in doubt. Marcus Cannon is likely the first off the bench at right tackle. Cannon has great size but not been technically consistent. Former Lions starting right tackle LaAdrian Waddle will also get reps. In other news, center Bryan Stork was traded to Washington (see other news below for how that move affects them). Also, right guard Shaq Mason has broken his hand and Josh Kline is starting in his place. One might ask, with all of this bad news, why haven’t the Patriots’ been downgraded in the rankings? They were second to last and even with all their upheaval they are still grading out better than the Seahawks.
Philadelphia minus 16
Starting right tackle Lane Johnson has been suspended 10 games for a PED violation. This is Johnson’s second offense, and it seems unlikely that any appeals process will shorten that punishment. In light of this, the Eagles’ offensive line was shuffled around for preseason week two versus the Steelers. The left guard, Allen Barbre, started at right tackle. Third-round rookie Isaac Seumalo will get the first crack at Barbre’s left guard spot. Seumalo had a mixed evening, at one point called for holding which wiped out a big gain by the offense. Lane Johnson is one of the best young tackles in the league and the suspension really hurts this lines’ ranking.
HOU minus 1
Starting center Nick Martin is dealing with an ankle injury that will likely require surgery. Martin, brother of Cowboys’ guard Zack, was drafted in the second round and has been a fixture in the starting lineup since mini camps. In his place, Greg Mancz has been given an opportunity over veteran Tony Bergstrom. The coaches seem to really like Mancz, an undrafted first-year player out of Akron who missed most of the last season with an injury. Still, expect a drop-off, as evidenced by Nick Fairley’s beating Mancz for a sack of Brock Osweiler during preseason week two against the Saints.
NO minus 1
After their lackluster performance against the Houston Texans in preseason week two, the Saints’ offensive line is the cause of great concern among fans. Defensive end Jadaveon Clowney had a big night, beating both Zach Strief and Andrus Peat for sacks of quarterback Drew Brees. Peat started the game at right guard and looked far more solid than he did at left tackle later in the contest. Peat might just be a guard in the league, at least that’s how his career is starting out. The other starting guard, Tim Lelito, had an especially rough performance, and if the team had a better option than Senio Kelemete, his job would be in serious danger.
Miami center Mike Pouncey injured.
Tough news for Miami, as center Mike Pouncey has a hip injury and the team is not sure that he will be ready for the start of regular season. The team has shut Pouncey down for the remainder of the preseason. The next man up is Anthony Steen, a first-year player with zero NFL starts. This is a situation that bears further observation; if Pouncey misses serious time, the line could be in real trouble.
Chicago right guard Kyle Long injured.
Kyle Long, who is Chicago's best lineman, by far, is dealing with a shoulder (labrum) injury. Long has been shut down, and has missed several practices. There are mixed reports at this point, with some sources saying it is serious, and others saying Long will be in the lineup for the regular season. Stay tuned, but no changes to the rankings for now.
New England Traded Bryan Stork to Washington.
After informing former Florida State center Bryan Stork of his outright release, the team found a trade partner in Washington. Stork is a physical player but has a history of concussions and a long string of personal foul penalties. It has been no secret that Washington has been looking for alternatives to Kory Lichtensteiger at the pivot, playing Spencer Long there in preseason. Stork is a wildcard in the mold of Ritchie Incognito he could start or he could be cut from the roster. Either way, the situation bears further observation.
Denver's Darrion Weems to start at right guard
With Ty Sambrailo injured, rookie Conner McGovern still raw, and Michael Schofield looking more comfortable at guard, the team appears to be leaning toward Darrion Weems, the former undrafted free agent out of Oregon, to make starts at right guard. Weems has been in the league since 2012 and is an excellent athlete. Like many current starters, Weems was a college tackle bumped inside to guard at the next level. It will be interesting to see if he can fight off competition and keep this job, possibly even after Sambrailo returns.
Green bay elevates J.C. Tretter to lineup over Corey Linsley
Linsley has been dealing with chronic hamstring issues and J.C. Tretter has legitimate starting potential. In the past, both players have performed well in games, and while Linsley is graded slightly better, there is essentially no drop off between the starter and the backup in this situation. Put it another way, Tretter would likely start on other lines. Green Bay remains one of the league's highest rated lines going into the season.
DALLAS DOMINATES RANKINGS
Since training camp opened, the gap between number one Dallas and number two Green Bay in the model (see below), is as large as the gap between Green Bay and the twenty-fourth ranked New York Giants. With perfect cohesion and all the accolades, the Cowboys are officially an outlier grade and the highest ranked line ever in the brief history (3+ years) of these projections. Are they perhaps ranked too highly? This will be a good test of the model.
|14||NO||13||-1||29.9||B||B||B||Concerns about pass protection.|
|19||PHI||3||-16||29.23||B-||B-||B-||L. Johnson suspended.|
|20||HOU||19||-1||29.1||B-||B-||C+||N. Martin needs surgery?|
|26||LA||28||2||28.48||C||C+||C-||Run blocking improved.|
|31||NE||31||0||26.98||D+||D||C-||S. Vollmer to IR.|
As usual, if you have a question about a situation not specifically talked about in this article, please feel free to contact me via twitter or in the Shark Pool.