- Kevin Seifert, NFL Nation
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Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. recently ranked the NFC North's four offensive lines in the order listed below. You'll need an Insider subscription to read the entire "Scouts Eye" piece, but I've provided a snippet for each team along with my own thoughts:
Williamson snippet: "The strongest portion of this line is at center and right guard. Scott Wells is a vastly underrated center, and Josh Sitton might just be the best guard in the league. Sitton is far and away the best offensive lineman in the NFC North."
Seifert comment: I've heard good things about Sitton, but Williamson is offering the best compliment I've heard yet. The Packers have a likely transition upcoming at left guard if Daryn Colledge doesn't return, and they are hoping to squeeze another year out of left tackle Chad Clifton. Otherwise, however, this was a group that finished last season without an obvious gap. No one else in this division could say the same.
Williamson snippet: "This is an average at best line in blocking for the run, but it's quite good in the passing game."
Seifert comment: Left tackle Jeff Backus made our 2010 All-NFC North team, and his steady play can be partially attributed to the acquisition of left guard Rob Sims. Right tackle remains an issue for as long as Gosder Cherilus needs to recover from microfracture surgery on his knee.
Williamson snippet: "For a big, heavy-footed group, its pass protection was surprisingly superior to its run blocking, which was terrible. But fixing the Vikings' line could be problematic -- there is no easy solution."
Seifert comment: The biggest problem: Do the Vikings have an anchor to build around? I'm not sure about that. Left guard Steve Hutchinson is 33 and is no longer playing at an elite level. Tackles Bryant McKinnie and Phil Loadholt aren't always reliable. Right guard Anthony Herrera has fought through a number of injuries, and center John Sullivan never recovered his stride last season after a preseason calf strain.
Williamson snippet: "In 2010, the Bears' run blocking was terrible. But the pass protection was horrendous. ... Even though the coaching staff did a great job masking these insufficiencies, there will be changes. It is amazing that the Bears got as far as they did in the postseason with that group of linemen."
Seifert comment: Here's all you need to know: As of today, the Bears couldn't definitively match a single starter with their 2011 position. That's how much is in the air.