After two weeks of the preseason, the offensive line picture is coming into sharp focus. Here are the latest updates to the rankings. For more detailed information, please check our Training Camp Report: Week 2, which has updates on all 32 NFL teams.
Jacksonville plus 5
In the game against Pittsburgh, left tackle Luke Joeckel gave up a sack to James Harrison. Still, the group had an overall solid night, that one mistake aside. Luke Bowanko is clearly holding off Stefen Wisniewski for the starting center duties, and this helps the Jaguars’ cohesion. The Jaguars are trending upwards, solidly at 16th in the offensive line rankings.
Detroit plus 8
In the first preseason action, the Lions’ line is looking improved from last season. Left guard Manny Ramirez is barely holding off first round rookie Laken Tomlinson, who looked great in second team action against the Jets. All of this adds up to 19th in the offensive line rankings, an eight slot jump from last rankings.
Minnesota minus 6
The Vikings received some bad news, as right tackle Phil Loadholt suffered a torn Achilles tendon and is done for year. Rookie T.J. Clemmings will be given the shot to start at right tackle, next to Mike Harris at right guard. Another rookie, Austin Shepherd could also get a shot at the right tackle position, should Clemmings falter. Without Loadholt, the Vikings’ line falls to 15th in the latest offensive line rankings
San Francisco minus 6
Joe Staley and Alex Boone form an impressive tandem on the left side. However at right tackle, Erik Pears is a below average starter and the team is not ready to put rookie Trent Brown in that job. Brandon Thomas is in the mix for a guard spot but has not distinguished himself yet. If and when Daniel Kilgore returns to the lineup, the 49ers can climb a couple slots in the rankings. There is a feasible scenario where Kilgore misses the preseason and starts week one. With Kilgore out, Erik Pears at right tackle, and Alex Boone at guard, the 49ers line falls to 18th overall.
Indianapolis minus 2
Right tackle Gosder Cherilus was waived, under a cloud of rumors about his injury status. The twitter-verse had his ailment as a possibly career threatening knee issue, but that seems to have been overblown. In his place, Jack Mewhort was moved over to right tackle (the position he played in college) and Lance Louis enters the lineup at left guard. With the loss of last year’s right tackle, the Colts fall a few slots, to 21st in the latest offensive line rankings.
Kansas City minus 2
Recently named the right tackle, Jeff Allen suffered a knee injury against Arizona and had to leave the preseason contest early. It is not clear what the severity of this injury is at this time. If Allen’s injury is an MCL sprain, he may not miss any time at all, as offensive linemen often wear braces and play through that situation. The team has decent option in his place, with former third rounder Donald Stephenson first off the bench. The Chiefs are clocking at 24th in the offensive line rankings.
ARIZONA MINUS 12
Recent free agent addition left guard Mike Iupati is scheduled for knee surgery and is expected to miss six to eight weeks. This recovery time would have him missing the first four games of the season. The drop between Iupati and Ted Larsen is massive. At right tackle, Bobby Massie's three game suspension doesn't help their ranking, and rookie D.J. Humphries has been disparaged by the coaching staff for his effort. This leaves Bradley Sowell to start at right tackle. It wasn't all bad news for the Cardinals, however, as the team brought back last year’s starting center Lyle Sendlein. Sendlein's contract makes it likely that he will be the starter again this season, with A.Q. Shipley as the backup. Getting Sendlein back is good news and this improvement in both personnel and cohesion. Still the loss of Iupati especially is troublesome and therefore the Cardinals fall in the rankings twelve spots to 28th, firmly in the low tier.
Tampa Bay LOSES Demar Dotson, Signs Gosder Cherilus
The Bucs lost right tackle Demar Dotson to an injury the other night against the Vikings. Dotson was carted off and the team reported Monday morning that an MRI showed an MCL sprain and he is expected to miss up to ten weeks. In a worst case scenario, that would bring Dotson’s return date to about week seven of the regular season. Without Dotson, the team has signed former Lions right tackle Gosder Cherilus. Although several sources graded Cherilus out as a poor starter in 2014, he has over 100 starts on his resume and was also getting free agent interest from Minnesota. It should also be noted that while Dotson was a good player he was not the Bucs' best lineman or a Pro Bowl player. Recall that the team drafted a rookie (Donovan Smith) and are starting him at left tackle, a position that Dotson manned last season. Between Dotson and Cherilus, the drop off should be minimal. This is a situation that will be watched closely but for now we are considering Cherilus to be a solid option and his addition keeps the Bucs’ offensive line ranking in the middle tier.
STAY CLASSY, SAN DIEGO
I recently received a question about the Chargers’ relatively low rankings. This reader pointed out that Orlando Franklin was a great offseason addition, and that D.J. Fluker was looking great at guard.
The ranking spreadsheet places an emphasis on guys playing together, in the same spots. Cohesion is important with offensive line, I count it as a 6th starting player, that's how much it matters.
The SD line has only 2 guys returning in the same spots from last year, that's why they are down so low... at least at first. I absolutely agree that Franklin and Fluker are potentially a beastly pair of guards, maybe even best in the league along with Sitton/Lang in GB and Osemele/Yanda in BAL.
As those guys play together, and Barksdale, the Chargers will probably rise in the rankings. It's a good looking group, just have to gel. A mid-tier grade by week four is not out of the question.
One note of caution, King Dunlap is the starter at left tackle, he's obviously a huge man but nothing special technically. He can get out leveraged by the smaller defensive ends and it's tough for a guy that tall to maintain proper leverage all the time. Left tackle is an important position and Dunlap can be exploited in pass protection. Rivers does a great job getting rid of the football quickly and that makes everyone look good. If they had a Joe Thomas for example, the Chargers' line would be ranked much higher. But the line will likely rise, so keep that in mind when drafting in the next few weeks.
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.
|14||TB||17||3||29.4||B-||B||B-||RT Dotson out, RT Cherilus signed.|
|15||MIN||9||-6||29.1||B-||B||B-||RT Phil Loadholt out for season.|
|16||JAX||21||5||28.9||B-||C+||B-||C Luke Bowanko starting.|
|18||SF||12||-6||28.48||C+||B-||C||Alex Boone to LG, Erik Pears to RT.|
|19||DET||27||8||28.48||C+||C||C+||Laken Tomlinson doing well.|
|21||IND||19||-2||28.37||C||C||C||RT Gosder Cherilus waived.|
|24||KC||22||-2||28.15||C-||C+||C-||RT Jeff Allen injured.|
|25||SD||25||0||28.15||C-||C+||C-||Will likely rise to mid tier.|
|28||AZ||16||-12||27.45||D+||C-||D+||LG Mike Iupati injured.|