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In today's fantasy-obsessed football world, it's easy to overlook the contributions of one position group: offensive line. Well, NFL Network analyst and former Pro Bowl center Shaun O'Hara is here to fix that. Following each week's games, O'Hara will revisit the O-line performances of all 32 teams and ultimately select a Built Ford Tough Offensive Line of the Week. And the winner is ...
There was life again inside AT&T Stadium this weekend, as Cowboys fans saw their team win at home for the first time since Week 1 of 2015. A major factor in Dallas' 31-17 victory over the Bears on "Sunday Night Football" was the dominating play of the offensive line. The unit was without one of the best left tackles in the league in Tyron Smith, who developed back spasms on Friday and was a surprise inactive player on Sunday. Second-year tackle Chaz Green made his first-career start in place of Smith, and while he did get beat a few times, he more than held his own.
The O-line battled through more adversity as starting left guard La'el Collinswas forced out of the game at halftime after gutting out the second quarter with a foot injury, which is believed to be a torn ligament and could leave him sidelined for a number of weeks. Ronald Leary -- who was a two-year starter before Collins took over in 2015 -- replaced him in the second half. Leary asked for a trade in the offseason, but Dallas chose to keep him for depth, which will turn out to be a blessing if Collins misses significant time.
Even with two backups, the offensive line kept rookie quarterback Dak Prescott clean, giving up zero QB hits and zero sacks. Prescott had his best performance of 2016, completing 19 of 24 passes for 248 yards, 1 touchdown and a career-high passer rating of 123.6. The O-line not only kept Prescott upright, but helped pave the way for 199 rushing yards and three touchdowns. Rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott led the way with 30 carries for 140 yards, while Prescott, Alfred Morris and Lance Dunbar all reached the end zone. According to Pro Football Focus, Dallas had the third-best run-blocking unit (behind the Eagles and Titans) in Week 3.
Philadelphia Eagles: The offensive line deserves a lot of credit for the Eagles' hot start and has done a great job of protecting rookie quarterback Carson Wentz. This week against Pittsburgh, Philly had zero sacks and just two QB hits attributed to the offensive line. Wentz completed 23 of 31 passes for 301 yards and two touchdowns, but it wasn't just pass protection where the O-line flourished. The Eagles had 125 rushing yards and were led by rookie Wendell Smallwood, who had 17 touches for 79 yards and a TD, as Ryan Mathews was sidelined after his ankle "stiffened."
New England Patriots: On a short week and with third-string rookie quarterback Jacoby Brissett, the New England Patriots put up a huge performance against the Texans on Thursday. The offensive line was not accredited a sack and gave up just one QB hit, which is pretty incredible since they played Houston sack artist J.J. Watt and Co. (Whitney Mercilus and Jadeveon Clowney). The Patriots had 185 rushing yards, averaging 4.7 yards per carry, and were led by LeGarrette Blount's big day (24 carries for 105 yards and two TDs).
Atlanta Falcons: The Falcons ran their way to a 45-32 win over the Saints on the heels of a huge performance from Devonta Freeman, who had 14 carries for 152 yards and five receptions for 55 yards and one TD. In total, the offensive line -- which featured a solid game from left tackle Jake Matthews -- helped Atlanta accrue more than 200 yards on the ground and gave up two sacks. Ironically, the sacks came on the first and last passing plays of the game, but in the between the two hits to quarterback Matt Ryan, the O-line provided a solid pocket. Ryan was 20-of -30 passing for 240 yards and two touchdowns.
In today's fantasy-obsessed football world, it's easy to overlook the contributions of one position group: offensive line. Well, NFL Network analyst and former Pro Bowl center Shaun O'Hara is here to fix that. Following each week's games, O'Hara will revisit the O-line performances of all the teams that played and ultimately select a Built Ford Tough Offensive Line of the Week. And the winner is ...
After watching the performance by the Packers' offensive line on Sunday night, it's no surprise that they are winning this award in Week 5. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers was R-E-L-A-X-ing in the pocket all night against the New York Giants. It looked like he was playing backyard football with a mandatory five-Mississippi count before anyone could rush, as he had an average of 3.39 seconds per throw, the most in the league according to Pro Football Focus. Rodgers completed 23 of 45 passes for 259 yards and two touchdowns, and the O-line was the second-best pass-blocking unit of the week -- allowing zero sacks and only one quarterback hit throughout the game.
Right guard Zack Martin, center Travis Frederick and left guard Ronald Leary made Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins a complete non-factor, as he recorded goose eggs across the board. The O-line gave up one sack to Carlos Dunlap, which resulted in a forced fumble. This play alone is why this unit didn't end up on top this week. Other than that play, it allowed four hurries but zero QB hits.
Arizona Cardinals:Thursday night's NFC West clash seems like forever ago, but we can't forget how much the Cardinals dominated the 49ers. It was a short week, and the team was without Carson Palmer, then lost both starting guards during the game. Earl Watford came in for RG Evan Mathis (ankle), who was placed on IR on Friday, while John Wetzel replaced Mike Iupati (ankle). This didn't stop the O-line from helping David Johnson rush for 157 yards, the most individual rushing yards in a single game this season, and two touchdowns. Johnson also leads the NFL in scrimmage yards (695). In total, Arizona rushed for 172 yards on 37 carries for 4.4 yards per carry, aided by great field position created by turnovers. The O-line was Pro Football Focus' top-ranked run-blocking unit of the week.
The O-line played well in a rowdy environment against a previously undefeated Broncos team, but it did give up two sacks. One came on Ryan Schraeder on a brilliant inside spin move by Von Miller, and the other was attributed to Matt Ryan. The Falcons' offense was the first to put up 20 or more points on Denver's defense this season and averaged 6 yards per play.
Tennessee Titans: The Titans rushed for 235 yards against the Dolphins, marking their fourth straight game with 100-plus rushing yards. They tallied 166 rushing yards in the first half, and quarterback Marcus Mariota totaled 60 yards on the ground in the game, more than the entire Dolphins team (51 yards). The Titans' O-line didn't give up a sack or QB hit, but it did allow eight hurries. Left tackle Taylor Lewan continues to play at an elite level (when he's not getting foolish penalties), and guards Josh Kline and Quinton Spain played well. And while rookie Jack Conklin struggled a few times in the passing game, he continues to improve each week.
Within the area five yards beyond the line of scrimmage, a defensive player may chuck an eligible receiver in front of him. The defender is allowed to maintain continuous and unbroken contact within the five-yard zone, so long as the receiver has not moved beyond a point that is even with the defender.
This line simply needs to stay healthy. Last season, tackles Jedrick Wills Jr. and Jack Conklin played only 763 and 361 snaps, respectively. No offensive line in the league can maintain high-level play with their tackles seeing such little action. The only question mark when fully healthy is Nick Harris, who has played only 211 snaps in his career while backing up current free agent J.C. Tretter.
While the Chiefs figure to field one of the best interior lines in the NFL next season, their right tackle position is still a question mark. Lucas Niang is the likely starter, but he was a liability at times in pass protection in his first year as a starter in 2021. He allowed five or more pressures in three of his seven full games last season, so he'll need to improve to justify this ranking.
Losing two starters from a year ago is quite the blow, but the core of Quenton Nelson, Ryan Kelly and Braden Smith is still elite. Plus, there is reason to think the Colts' options at left tackle and right guard are more than capable of holding their own. Third-year offensive lineman Danny Pinter earned a 74.7 overall grade on 226 snaps at mostly center last season. Matt Pryor was similarly impressive in limited playing time, posting a 76.5 overall grade on 438 snaps at mostly right tackle last season. If they continue to succeed in full-time roles, the Colts will finish at a much higher ranking on this list.
This lineup could look a lot different should center Lloyd Cushenberry III take another step forward. He went from a 40.5 overall grade as a rookie to a more respectable 64.2 mark in 2021. If we see another such improvement, the Broncos' line will be solid as can be across the board.
This line really hinges on Spencer Brown's development. He certainly exceeded expectations when forced to play 846 snaps as a project tackle taken in the third round last year. Exceeding expectations, however, still resulted in a 49.1 pass-blocking grade. That should change in 2022 to help the Bills' offensive line take a step forward.
The Steelers do at least have a solid guard duo along with some youth that should improve. That being said, the bar was so low a year ago that a huge leap for 2022 seems unrealistic. Not a single one of Pittsburgh's returning offensive line starters earned an overall grade over 65.0 in 2021.
Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals will visit Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills on Sunday in the divisional round of the 2023 NFL playoffs. This will be the first matchup of the season since the previous contest was canceled after Buffalo safety Damar Hamlin suffered a cardiac arrest on the field. The winner advances to next Sunday's AFC Championship Game with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line. The Bills were second in the NFL in scoring (28.8 points per game), while Cincinnati was seventh with 26. Bills vs. Bengals will air on CBS and stream live on Paramount+. 781b155fdc