Publish Date: 01/18/2017
Fact checked by: Simon Briffa
How important is offensive line play in the NFL? It is maybe the most important position in determining the success of an entire team. This listing bears that out as all the teams playing in the conference finals are all in the top 10.
Rookie Ronnie Stanley over the last eight weeks of the season, maybe the best-left tackle in the game. The Ravens also have the best guard in football in Marshall Yanda. Rookie Alex Lewis struggled at times, but overall this offensive line performed better than most expected this year.
The Patriots offensive line play was much improved from last year. I think the biggest offseason improvement this team made was to bring back O-line coach Dante Scarnecchia; he had an enormous impact on this unit. RT Marcus Cannon has gone from a liability to a second-team All-Pro, and I think most of that credit can be given to the offensive line coach, and RG Shaquille Mason has undergone a similar transformation when it comes to pass protection. Nate Solder returned to form after two mediocre seasons, and only the struggles of rookie Joe Thuney as a pass blocker held this line back. Thuney allowed 45 total QB pressures and was flagged ten times over the season. The Patriots are a perfect example of how important a top-notch offensive line coach is.
Trent Williams after being suspended for the first four games of the season, returned after that suspension and did not miss a beat. Williams is maybe the most physically dominant tackle in the game. The Center position was upgraded big-time with the addition of Spencer Long. This team has the makings of a dominant, deep offensive line if they can keep this group together.
This line would probably be top five if RT Lance Johnson could keep from getting suspended. Johnson is one of, if not the best RT in the NFL, but that doesn’t help when you are getting suspended for ten games out of sixteen. New addition Brandon Brooks was great at guard. If this team could stay completely healthy, they can be a top 5 group.
This is maybe the best pass protecting offensive line in the NFL, as for run blocking, that is an entirely different story. LT David Bakhtiari allowed just 20 total QB pressures; RT Bryan Bulaga would likely have been the first team all-pro if he could run block, and while LG Lane Taylor has been able to do a reasonable job in replacing Josh Sitton as a pass blocker, but once again run blocking was a problem for him also. The Packers are a pass heavy team, with maybe the best tandem of pass blocking tackles in the league.
Injuries ended up dooming the season for the Raiders in the playoffs and these rankings. The Raiders built this offensive line through free agency as all of the starters were free agents except for Gabe Jackson. The free-agent imports were LT Donald Penn, LG Kelechi Osemele, and C Rodney Hudson. Osemele was a monster this year, but like I said injuries hurt the line at the end of the year. If they are all together and healthy next year, expect a monster year for the Raiders.
Alex Mack was the signing that put this team over the top. He came in and from day one was one of the very best centers in the game. The Falcons are a great run blocking team but have struggled at times with pass blocking. The biggest liability in the passing game has been RG, Chris Chester. More was expected of LT Jake Matthews, but he has not played bad, he just hasn’t played as well as expected.
Surprise! No, I don’t have the Cowboys ranked number one, don’t get me wrong they have a great offensive line. The problems were starting LT Tyron Smith has missed time with injuries, but the biggest problem was at RT as Doug Free struggled the entire year. If they upgrade right tackle just a little bit, they become number one. The two teams I ranked above them have no particular weakness at any position along the line.
There is no weak link on this offensive line, they might not have as many stars as the other lines do, but they are all excellent run blockers and pass blockers. If the Titans can keep this line together and healthy, expect Marcus Mariota to have a lot of success.
When I started watching film of the top lines I probably projected to rank the Steelers between 6-10. I was wrong! This line has become a dominant group. The biggest surprise on this line has to have been the play of Alejandro Villanueva—who was previously the weak link on this line showed dramatic improvement. Villanueva surrendered just one sack over the final ten games of the season, all while dominating players at times in the run game. The Steelers guard tandem of David DeCastro and Ramon Foster is dominant. Christopher Hubbard was able to provide quality play off the bench also.