O-linemen, by their nature, are boring to most casual football viewers. Without getting into a, “My dad can beat up your dad” contest; the below list is my opinion of who’s who—in the overall offensive lineman category. I promise you there are Fantasy Football implications here, so stay with me. These lovable pass-protectors and Run-blockers; are the guys who are barred from the, “All you can eat” Sushi restaurants, and primarily the reason so many small mom and pop buffets suddenly cringe at the sight of a mean group of massive offensive linemen; taking their diner by storm. Take a look below as we go on a Hungry Man’s mission, seeking which NFL teams bolster the top flight O-lines, and of course, choosing which category of restaurants to feed those endless bellies.
Here’s My 2014 Offensive Line Rankings
The Elite Offensive Linemen:
- Dallas Cowboys
In the Conversation
- St. Louis
Beauty is in the eye of the “beer holder” here folks, and we could argue till the cows comes home—as to why Green Bay isn’t on my list, or the Jets, or gosh; even the Chiefs or Bears for that matter. All cities, by the way, serve exceptional beer on tap I might add. Your list probably differs from mine, but you get the gist of this assignment.
Other than last years Seahawks, most NFL defenses are giving up yards similar to Pop Warner teams; guys like Peyton Manning and Drew Brees have taken advantage of rules changes—putting up offensive numbers never seen before. It’s also evident that defensive linemen are getting pushed around unlike anything we’ve ever seen. These new, young, nimble offensive linemen are getting stronger, bigger, and yes even growing lengthier wingspans—to corral those would-be pass rushers.
While it’s true, defenses in 2013 were allowing upwards of four 400 yards per game to four separate teams, let’s not overlook the men who are plowing the way, contributing—more specifically to this incredible change in professional football. In two of the past three years, four teams have given up more than 400 yards, and you know the O-line played a huge part in protecting the QB to achieve these figures.
Obviously, allowing offenses to gobble up yardage almost at will is the direction the game is headed. The Saints, Cowboys, Vikings and Bears are the most prolific “land givers” in the past few years, having allowed gobs of yards in most of their games. I’m not trying to dwell on the defensive challenges so much here, but more so to examine the solid efforts of the boyz in the trenches, the “Hogs” if you will of the O-line, and to commend them.
Before mocking your Fantasy Runners this year, we should all agree that the new NFL is pass happy—based on stats alone. Even the 1st round of the 2014 NFL Draft proved that runners are being passed up (so-to-speak), for studly wide outs to align with their QBs in accordance with this new “League Order.” NFL scouts, coaches, and wise guys are beating the bushes for big O-lineman to protect these precious QB’s and to still have the energy to Run-Block late in the game, when up by only one Touchdown.
Today’s O-linemen are well over 300lbs. and are super agile compared to the throw back glory years of old. To the average football fan, it appears like these offensive giants clash into one another after hearing a few sounds so familiar on the battle line front, something like, “Ready…Down…Hut.. Hut..Hut..Hut—H-U-T!” from their respected team captain QB; as they anxiously wait for the ball to be snapped. Truth is; the consistent play of the O-linemen has determined the success of the overall team, and mostly the final score of the ball game. I really understood the importance of O-linemen from my uncle Bill, who is apart of the NFL Combine, and someone who sees the new crop of collegiate talent prepare for entry to the pro’s.
Obviously the O-lineman must give their QBs enough time to pass the pigskin, or create holes for their star Runner, while mustering up the strength to not carry a bad attitude through the pain of it all, or even worse, giving up when things aren’t going their way.
Switching to the other side of the ball for a moment, are the defensive linemen; who not only have to endure the frustration of a veteran offensive linemen, but also have to figure out quickly whether the play call is a Run, or a Pass. This mutually exclusive decision can be dangerous if the DL retreats backwards on its heels; thinking the early look of the play resembles a pass—when only it’s a fierce, blast right, very evident, run up the gut. How much pressure the Defense decides to bring will vary on each snap of the ball. Most coaches want to create a “wall” (so-to-speak) for their Def. linemen, and thus, stop the penetration of a talented runner—who can surely beat then in a sprint any day of the week.
Cutting to the chase; so why then are O-linemen taking more steps back these days? And what about their Fantasy Football relevance? Duh, it’s a passing league, haven’t you been observing the records being broken through the air? While taking that first “Step back” with their outside foot, the offensive linemen gains a head start in pass protection, and attempts to avoid the bull-rushing, fire-breathing, defensive brute; who only has one goal in mind: sack that quarterback by using any means necessary—rip move, swim move or club forearm tomahawk to the face!
One thing is for sure; the game of Football loves to disguise play calling so the other team doesn’t catch on to what the real play is. Getting a “Read” from the defense, the offensive linemen can better prepare for stunts or trickery that defensive players employ, like intentionally putting one isolated O-lineman, out of position—because due to the strategic switching of defensive challengers, or cross over motions specifically-targeted at the O-line, these angry def. linemen whip their arms in eye of many a brick-house left tackler, trying to fend off these beastly def. all-pro contenders. The mission is simple: strike forcefully at the gaps, found mainly on the line of scrimmage in-between O-linemen and their stance.
You can see why Offensive linemen are getting upset with current direction of the league. Well, for one thing, they proclaim that there’s far too many passing play calls as opposed to sure-fire runs with the assistance of a Fullback to slow the game down, not to mention saving the O-line vigor and morale. Taking that first “Step” back, (so-to-speak) gets tiresome for these blue-collar workers, and maintaining their sanity all four quarters of a game? Forget about it. In fact, there’s many an O-lineman, who are gassed, dripping with sweat, and just plain exhausted during the battle of protecting his precious QB.
Many offensive linemen will lash out either to the QB or snarl with stink eye directed towards the sideline “Hog” coaches, you know, the typical hands thrown in disgust towards to the sky, with a moan you could hear in the 3rd row where the wives sit. This is after the big guy learns that the very next play is slotted to be yet another deep wide out Go-Route or post-pattern pass, to a skinny (non-blocking WR punk). In the old days, linemen had the luxury of downhill run blocking far more often. They enjoyed the cadence of the run play calls, the rhythm of blocking or clearing lanes for runners. Then, when the coach or QB wanted to audible for a pass, it was available—but more often in that sequential order.
For Fantasy purposes, do you know which teams have the run-happy offensive linemen? I mean the grinders like Jim Otto, Gene Upshaw and Art Shell of Raider years past. With the game now looking more and more like the Canadian Football league, Run-blocking linemen are all but extinct.
I realize the O-line of any football squad has got be one of the hardest positions to appraise or analyze from a numbers perspective. For example; how does one really evaluate how the O-line’s performance on a play, where, let’s say because the newly added collegiate RB, who by the way, never “Hits” the correct hole off the left tackle—which is what the coach originally wanted, proceeds to decision make like a John Rambo ex marine, bouncing outside towards the opposite direction ala Barry Sanders, picking up a cool 12 yards in the process. How in the world do we analysis whether the O-line assisted in such an improvisational type of broken play?
The ground-breaking point being; while this season were bound to see more and more offensive lineman taking that initial first step back (in pass block), I think its safe to say there’s a number of really aggressive Run block O-linemen still ready to push the defense linemen back, as if they were on ice skates (no different than the famous musical), “Disney on Ice.” These giants in trenches’ practically create a gaping hole wider than the Panama Canal, freeing up their buddy—that elusive RB. Once the RB1 takes one to the house, as he beats the secondary and respective linebacker core—accomplished in zero to 60 in 4.2 seconds, he thanks his boyz who did all the dirty work, oh yeah and buys them dinner too. So go now; do yourself a favor, and stop mocking for a bit—research O-linemen pronto, because your precious Fantasy RB first round pick depends on it come draft day.
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