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Scouts Inc.: Offensive line continuity

8/25/2010

How big of a deal is it for the offensive line to play together during the preseason?

Offensive line continuity is extremely important. Communication up front and knowing exactly what to expect from your linemates can be as important as talent. There are plenty of smart, tough offensive linemen who are limited athletes but go on to have long and productive careers. It is imperative for the front five to function as a unit.

With the wealth of pass-rushers in the NFC East, it is safe to say that protection is of paramount importance for the passing offenses in this division. And it looks as though all of these teams will utilize plenty of three- and four-wide receiver sets and stress the pass more than ever, so that leaves fewer bodies in protection. Of course this puts more stress on the front five. Communication gaffes could cost Tony Romo, Eli Manning, Donovan McNabb or Kevin Kolb valuable playing time and cost their respective teams victories.

There is a lot of unrest with the four offensive lines in this division. Philadelphia is set with its tackles, but making up for the loss of center Jamaal Jackson might prove to be easier said than done. In fact, the entire interior of the line is in a short-term state of flux right now. Max Jean-Gilles really isn’t anywhere close to being a starting caliber guard. Settling on an interior starting three needs to happen as soon as possible.

The Redskins are breaking in several new starters -- most prominently at the tackle spots -- and all are also learning a new offensive scheme. Also, while Trent Williams is clearly a very talented player, watching him get whipped by Terrell Suggs this past weekend didn’t inspire confidence. And Jammal Brown is not only switching teams, but switching the side of the line he plays on. The starting five in Washington does look set, though, and it certainly looks poised to be better than it was a year ago.

Dallas and New York have consistently had starting offensive linemen missing playing time because of injury. It is tough to speculate what these lines will look like on opening weekend, as they are just littered with bumps and bruises right now. But it is safe to say that continuity should be a concern for both of those lines. How many reps have the starting fives for the Cowboys and Giants been able to accumulate since the start of camp? Very few.

Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com.