2008 Offensive Line Analysis – Washington Redskins

The Washington Redskins bounced back in 2007 with nine wins after a difficult 2006 season. The improvement was mainly due to the defense that was one of the worst in 2006 but was one of the ten best in the NFL in 2007. The offense had to deal with a lot of injuries on the line and allowed 29 sacks, ten more than the previous year while the rushing offense went from one of the best in the league to below average.

At left tackle the Redskins can count on one of the best in the NFL in Chris Samuels. Samuels was the third overall pick in the 2000 NFL Draft and has only missed four starts with the Redskins since being drafted. At 6’5” and 310 lbs, he is a punishing blocker in the running game and has vastly improved his lateral mobility. Samuels is one of the best run blocking left tackles in the NFL and is still above average in pass protection. He has not shown any signs of slowing down even though he will be 31 years old at the start of the season and is the main reason why this offensive line did not totally collapse last season. Samuels has been named to a total of five Pro Bowl teams including the last three years and should continue to perform at a high level for a few more years. On the right side, the Redskins hope to have Jon Jansen return as the starter after he suffered a season-ending leg injury in the first week of the 2007 season. When healthy, Jansen is very dangerous as a run blocker because of his strength and good technique. The problem with Jansen is that he has never been very athletic and now at 32 years old and coming off a leg injury his feet are likely to slow down even more. It remains to be seen if Jansen can still offer adequate protection in the passing game but he is still a very good run blocker. Competing with Jansen for the right tackle job will be Stephon Heyer. Heyer was signed as an undrafted free agent last season and became the starter on the right side when both Jansen and Wade went down with injuries. He has very nice size for a tackle at 6’6” and 320 lbs but the Redskins averaged only 3.4 yards per carry in the five games he started. He still has to improve his technique and find a way to make up for his slower feet in pass protection but overall he showed some promise as a rookie. He should continue to improve as he gains experience and will look much better with a better guard on his left. The 31 year old Todd Wade will also provide depth at tackle. Wade has had injury problems for the past four seasons and cannot be relied upon for an extended period of time. He is still a decent backup with pretty good run blocking skills but he is limited to the right tackle position.

Pete Kendall will return as the starting left guard for the second consecutive season with the Redskins. Kendall was a Seahawks first round pick in 1996 and has since started with four different teams. Kendall will be 35 years old when the season begins so he is starting to slow down but his excellent technique and awareness are allowing him to extend his career. Kendall was brought in a few weeks before the season began in a trade with the New York Jets and did a good job considering the circumstances. He is an effective run blocker but lacks strength at only 280 lbs. If he can stay healthy, Kendall should improve this season with a full off-season to learn the offense. Starting on the right side will be the 32 year old Randy Thomas who suffered a triceps injury last season which kept him out for most of the year. Thomas is a very good run blocker at 6’5” and 320 lbs and can do a pretty good job in pass protection as well. His health is a concern but he is definitely an asset for this line if he stays healthy and his absence is the main reason why the running game took a big hit last season. The 33 year old Jason Fabini provides depth at guard and is a pretty good backup because of his versatility to play most positions on the line. Fabini played in 13 games last season in replacement of Randy Thomas at right guard but he is starting to slow down and struggled in both pass and run blocking last season. He could still be a decent backup for a few games a year but does not have the physical abilities to play 13 games like he did last season. The Redskins added a little youth to the line by selecting Chad Rinehart in the third round of the 2008 NFL Draft. Rinehart is strong and smart but may take some time to adjust to the NFL game coming from a small school. His footwork and athleticism needs to be improved to pull to the outside but he is very effective when run blocking inside. Rinehart will probably not be ready to come in this year but could be Kendall’s replacement at left guard next season.

Starting at center for the fourth consecutive season will be the 30 year old Casey Rabach. Rabach was signed as an unrestricted free agent from the Ravens and has only missed one start in the last four seasons. He has adequate size for a center at 295 lbs and he has excellent awareness. His importance on the line was shown when he missed the week 7 game last season against the Cardinals and the Redskins averaged only 2.6 yards per carry. The absence of Thomas last year made Rabach much more vulnerable but he should look better this year.

2008 Outlook:
The Redskins line had to deal with injuries to its two starters on the right side of the line for most of the season and yet did a pretty good job. The problem with this line is that all five starters and two of the backups are over 30 years old and the average age of the starters will be 32 years old when the season begins. For the past few seasons, injuries have been a concern for this line and unfortunately will likely continue to be one this season. The good news is that things could not be much worse than last year because the two best run blockers on this line in Thomas and Jansen missed almost the entire season. The Redskins have pretty good depth with Heyer, Wade, Rinehart and Fabini and will be fine as long as Samuels stays healthy. Overall the line should improve in run blocking, especially if Jansen is the starter at right tackle but could take a small hit in pass protection with the veterans starting to lose some mobility.

2008 Offensive Line Analysis – Tennessee Titans

The Tennessee Titans had their best season since 2003 with ten wins in 2007. It was a great improvement mainly due to the defense which went from the worst in the NFL in yards allowed to the fifth best. The offense ranked 21st in the NFL in yards of offense but the rushing game took a step back with only 3.9 yards per carry, down from 4.7 in the previous year. The Titans lost both of its starting guards in Jacob Bell and Benji Olson this off-season so there are some question marks going into the season.

At left tackle, 2005 second round pick Michael Roos will be playing his fourth season as a starter. Since being drafted, Roos has not missed a single start at tackle playing both on the left and right side in his first three seasons but the left tackle position is definitely his now. Roos is a perfect fit for the left side because of his 6’7” and 315 lbs frame and his excellent mobility and footwork. Those skills make him one of the five best pass protecting tackles in the NFL but he is only an average run blocker. Roos is underrated around the league because he is not the most explosive lineman but his pass protecting abilities definitely make him one of the ten best tackles in the league. Starting on the right side is another good tackle in David Stewart. Stewart has a very similar frame at 6’7” and 320 lbs and has started 30 games at right tackle since being drafted in the fourth round of the 2005 NFL Draft. He is a much better fit on the right side because he does not have great lateral mobility but is very strong and intense. Stewart is definitely an above average run blocker but remains below average in pass protection. Although he will never be a Pro Bowl caliber tackle, he will continue to improve and will be a good tackle in this league for several years. Daniel Loper is the main backup at tackle. He was a fifth round pick in 2005 but has not seen much NFL action other than on special teams. He has the versatility to play both guard and tackle but his upside is limited because of his lack of mobility. He would probably be a decent backup at guard or right tackle but he has not seen much action so it is hard to evaluate him. The other backup tackle is last year’s seventh round pick Mike Otto. Otto spent the last season on the practice squad but he is very intelligent and had a lot of experience at left tackle in college so he should adjust pretty well to the NFL. He has to get stronger to be effective in the NFL but has good pass blocking technique and could be a starter in the NFL some day.

The Titans signed Jake Scott from the Indianapolis Colts in the off-season to replace either Benji Olson who recently announced his retirement or Jacob Bell who signed with the Rams as a free agent. Scott will likely start at right guard but is capable of playing the left guard position as well or even the right tackle position. He has not missed a game in three seasons for the Colts and was a key part of their offensive line. Scott is excellent in pass protection because of his footwork and technique but is not very strong at 6’5” and only 295 lbs so his run blocking is slightly below average. His great intensity makes up in part for his lack of strength and also allows him to pull to the outside to block. Overall Scott is a very smart and dependable guard who will make few mistakes and will be a nice replacement for Bell or Olson. The left guard position will however not look as good with Leroy Harris or Eugene Amano. Harris was the team’s fourth round pick in the 2007 NFL Draft and was dressed for five games last season when Mawae and Olson were injured. Harris has the versatility to play the guard and center positions but he would be much more suited in a backup role. He is tough and hard-working but has very little mobility so will have trouble pulling to the outside and will have trouble against big athletic NFL defensive linemen. Harris’s competition will come from Eugene Amano who started five games last season in replacement of Olson at guard and Mawae at center. Amano has been a backup in the NFL since being drafted in the seventh round in 2004 and this may be his best chance to become a starter.

Starting at center for the third consecutive season with the Titans will be the 6’4” and 290 lbs Kevin Mawae. Mawae is a veteran who spent most of his career with the New York Jets until he was released in 2005. He was named to six Pro Bowls from 1999 to 2004 but at 37 years old, injuries are starting to slow him down. The Titans averaged only 3.0 yards per carry in the two games that Mawae missed late in the season so he is definitely an asset for this line. Mawae is pretty good both in run blocking and pass protection but the Titans have to hope that Amano and Harris are ready to step in because at that age, Mawae’s health is always a question mark.

2008 Outlook:
The Titans line will need to form chemistry quickly in training camp after losing both of its starting guards in the off-season. However, last season in the three games that Olson was injured, the Titans averaged 4.6 yards per carry against defenses that allowed 4.4 yards per carry on average. In those three games, Amano was starting at right guard so the only change would be Jake Scott replacing Jacob Bell. Scott is very similar to Bell in terms of skills as both are excellent in pass protection but average at best in run blocking. Depth is however a big concern for this line with Loper, Otto and Harris having no NFL experience. Overall this line should be similar to last year and might improve slightly if everyone stays healthy but depth is a big concern and Vince Young will see a lot of pressure if Scott or either of the tackles goes down with an injury.

2008 Offensive Line Analysis – Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers started rebuilding their offensive line in 2006 by drafting current starting RG Davin Joseph in the first round and RT Jeremy Trueblood in the second. They continued the process last off-season by signing LT Luke Petitgout from the Giants and drafting LG Arron Sears in the second round. Unfortunately for the Bucs, Petitgout suffered a season-ending knee injury in week 4. Arron Sears on the other hand had a very solid season and allowed the Buccaneers to run for over 1,800 yards and a solid 4.2 yards per carry. The front office continued spending big money on their offensive line this off-season by making Jeff Faine, formerly of the Saints, the highest paid center in the NFL. There is no question that Faine was an overpayment but the center position was a big weakness for the team last year and this move had to be made.

One of the most interesting battles in camp is likely to be at left tackle between the injury-prone Luke Petitgout and former undrafted free agent Donald Penn. In only his second NFL season, Penn surprised many people and surpassed expectations. Penn is a decent pass blocker but he lacks strength and technique so often gets pushed into the backfield. However, Penn often needed help from the TE last season and the Bucs became reluctant to run to the left side after Petitgout went down. If Petitgout manages to stay healthy, he should be the starting left tackle but is a big question mark having only played 13 games in the past two seasons. Petitgout has the abilities to be one of the best run blocking tackles in the NFL and can hold his own in pass protection as well. However, last season the Buccaneers yards per carry average was about the same with Petitgout and Penn which is a sign that Petitgout’s back injuries have slowed him down and he is not the same he used to be. Petigout will likely win the job but the left tackle position will remain a question mark because Petitgout will be 32 years old when the season begins and Penn is definitely not a long term solution. The right side is in much better shape with the 24 year old Jeremy Trueblood. At 6’8” and 320lbs, Trueblood is a very powerful run blocker and uses his long wingspan to keep pass rushers in front of him. He is entering his third season in the NFL so still has plenty of time to improve his footwork. He struggles in pass protection against speedy rushers but should only improve over the next few years. The Buccaneers also selected Jeremy Zuttah in the third round of the NFL Draft, a player that many think will be the left tackle of the future for the team. Zuttah has the versatility to play any position on the line but will have to build-up his strength to be effective in the NFL. He is a very tough lineman and an excellent pass protector because of his quickness but will likely struggle to open holes in the running game until he becomes stronger.

At left guard, the Buccaneers are in very good shape with the young Arron Sears. Sears was the most consistent lineman for the team in 2007 and was rewarded by being named to the NFL All-Rookie team. Sears has good footwork and is a very smart blocker with versatility to play the tackle position as well. Sears still has things to learn as a pass blocker but his strength and mobility make him an excellent run blocker who will open up holes play after play for the running backs. On the right side, the Buccaneers have another very young guard in Davin Joseph. Joseph is also pretty athletic and strong but will make a lot of mental mistakes. The former first round pick Joseph has the physical attributes to become an excellent guard in the NFL but has to show the willingness to learn. The versatile Anthony Davis will provide depth at the guard position. Davis is also a very big and strong lineman at 6’4” and 320lbs. Davis was the starting left tackle in both 2005 and 2006 so is definitely very capable of providing depth at both the guard and tackle positions. Dan Buenning will provide depth at both guard and center and could compete for a starting job if he remains healthy which has not been the case in the past.

At center, the Buccaneers will be counting on the 27 year old Jeff Faine who was signed as a free agent from New Orleans. Faine is a smaller sized center at only 290lbs but his excellent footwork and technique make him a good pass blocker. However, Faine is a below average run blocker who is unlikely to create holes by himself in the running game.

2008 Outlook:
The Buccaneers offensive line is a very young and powerful line which will open up big holes in the running game. The return of Luke Petitgout can only help this line as it will create competition on the left side. Pass protection was a problem for this line last season and Jeff Faine will definitely help in that department. Faine is a big improvement over John Wade and will give Garcia a lot more time to find his receivers. The Buccaneers will open the season with at least four of its linemen at 27 years of age or under and possibly five depending on who wins the battle at left tackle. It will be important for this line to gel together quickly but Faine was a leader for the line in New Orleans and should help this young group play well as a unit. Overall, this line remains much better at run blocking than pass blocking but there is no reason why this young group shouldn’t improve in 2008.

August 4, 2008 – Luke Petitgout is still recovering from last season’s knee injury and Donald Penn continues to improve at left tackle in Petitgout’s absence. The line gave up 30 sacks in 12 games with Penn as opposed to 6 in 4 games with Penn. Penn should be better this season if Petitgout is not ready to go and Jeff Faine is also an upgrade over John Wade in pass protection.

August 20, 2008 – Starting RG Davin Joseph is expected to miss about two months because of a broken foot so could be out until about week six. Third round pick Jeremy Zuttah will replace Joseph in the starting lineup. This is a downgrade for the Bucs interior run blocking but Joseph will be back before the end of the year and many teams will suffer injuries like these throughout the year. The Buccaneers also cut Luke Petitgout which means Donald Penn who replaced Petitgout last year will start.