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Thursday, July 14, 2011
Ranking the O-lines

By Dan Graziano

Some time this season, I hope, I will encounter the guys from Pro Football Focus, and when I do I plan to shake their hands and thank them for helping provide content to link to during these extremely slow lockout days. One of their recent efforts was a ranking of all 32 offensive lines based on 2010 performance, and yeah. We're going to take a look at it here.

They broke it into two parts, and two NFC East teams landed in each half. The reviews on the Cowboys, at No. 9, and the Giants, at No. 13, are found in this portion of the breakdown. The reviews on the Eagles (No. 17) and the Redskins (No. 28) can be found here. Each team review includes a "Best Player" and a "Biggest Concern." Let's check them out, team-by-team, in the order in which they finished in the rankings.

The Cowboys' best offensive lineman, PFF says, was left tackle Doug Free, who graded out as their best run-blocking tackle in the league and "more than held his own against tough pass-rushers" in his first year as the starter on the left side. As for concerns, PFF doesn't have many, even with the expected departure of Marc Colombo. "So the biggest concern has to be age and injuries catching up with both guards, and Tyron Smith not panning out. Good situation."

The Giants came in 13th in the league in a year that saw age and injury impact several starters. PFF's best Giants offensive lineman was right tackle Kareem McKenzie, whom they love. And the biggest concern is left tackle David Diehl, who the site points out was initially a guard and isn't equipped to deal with the likes of DeMarcus Ware. I think the Giants are hoping they can start Will Beatty at that left tackle spot soon. But if he's not ready, it could be rough in the early going.

The Eagles just missed the top half of the rankings, coming in 17th. And PFF seems to give them a bit of a pass because of how difficult it must be to block for Michael Vick when you're never sure where he's going to go on a given play. Best player: left tackle Jason Peters, though PFF says it thinks he should be protecting someone's blind side instead of playing on the left side in front of the left-handed Vick. And the biggest concern is whether first-round draft pick Danny Watkins can be an effective starter at right guard right away. But overall, "if they can keep most of their guys healthier than they have, the talent is there."

As for the Redskins, we've discussed their line as a work-in-progress. PFF says tackles Trent Williams and Jammal Brown both played poorly, that Kory Lichtensteiger was the only Redskins lineman to grade out positively in run blocking and that only Will Montgomery earned a positive pass-protection grade. PFF gives Montgomery the Best Player designation, though it makes it clear it's by default. And the biggest concern is Williams and the 11 sacks he gave up. Surely, the Redskins (and others) believe Williams has the talent to do better than that. But PFF is right that he's got to show it for the Redskins to have any hope of improvement here.