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Why NFL OL's suck right now


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http://www.nationalfootballpost.com/NFP-Sunday-Blitz-3466.html

As I went through my tour of training camps, it struck me how one theme was constant wherever I went: offensive line play is a concern. Every team had some sort of issue up front on offense. I don’t believe there is a coaching staff in the league that is completely comfortable with its offensive line.

There is no question line play has deteriorated in recent years. Neither individual linemen nor offensive line units are what they used to be. So I started to ask people what they thought the reasons were. Here are some of the theories I heard.

Where have you gone Tony Boselli?

*As athletes, offensive linemen have not kept pace with pass rushers.

“Offensive line play probably is not as good as it used to be because, more than ever, all the best athletes play defense,” Giants general manager Jerry Reese told me. “You see it at the combine. The height, weight, speed difference between the lines is pretty dramatic.”

The Giants have a pass rusher in Jason Pierre-Paul who can do 23 consecutive backflips. I can name some guards who look like they would struggle to do a single forward somersault. The Bears have an interior pass rusher in Henry Melton who was athletic enough to play running back at Texas, and an outside pass rusher in Julius Peppers who was athletic enough to play forward on the North Carolina basketball team.

Meanwhile, the offensive linemen are the least talented players on the field, and among the lowest paid on average. The best offensive linemen in the league today (Joe Thomas, Jake Long) don’t compare athletically with the best offensive linemen in the league a dozen years ago (Boselli, Jonathan Ogden, Orlando Pace, Willie Roaf). The Pro Bowl alternate tackles last year in the NFC were Tyson Clabo and Donald Penn.

The dominating left tackle does not exist anymore. “Where are those guys?” Reese said. “You don’t see them. People talk about how you have to have a great offensive tackle. If you have one, great. But who has one? David Diehl is a terrific one, and I’ll take him any day but he’s not at the Tony Boselli level.”

And it doesn’t look like it will be getting better anytime soon. Among the offensive linemen who played in the 2011 Pro Bowl but won’t be playing this year are Kris Dielman, Brian Waters, Matt Light, Jason Peters and Chad Clifton.

Said Redskins coach Mike Shanahan, “Everybody says we don’t have a good right tackle. I say show me who does?”

*There is nowhere near the continuity on offensive lines that there used to be.

Free agency—and the fact that teams have devalued linemen, especially guards--makes almost every team do an annual offensive line shuffle.

This year, only two teams—the Falcons and Lions--are expected to open the season with the same five starters in the same five spots that they played with last year. And in Detroit many believe it’s just a matter of time before first round pick Riley Reiff replaces incumbent Gosder Cherilus at right tackle.

What’s more, nine teams have new offensive line coaches. They are the Bears, Bucs, Chiefs, Colts, Cowboys, Dolphins, Falcons, Jets and Rams.

Diehl knows about a lack of continuity on a line. When the Giants moved him to right tackle this year, it was the fifth time in his career he moved. He has played every position on the line except center.

“People forget playing together for a long period of time is what makes you the best as possible,” Diehl said. “Now with someone getting hurt, or free agency, you don’t see a group together very long. When we had our best years here, it was when the five of us played together during that one long stretch. That’s what you have to have to have an effective offensive line. You have to have a lot of game experience together because there is so much continuity, fitting next to each other, being on the same page, being able to communicate when you can’t hear because of the noise.”

*The new collective bargaining agreement that limits offseason and training camp practice time may hurt the play of offensive lines more than any other group.

“It’s harder for offensive linemen to play well together with fewer reps,” Bears general manager Phil Emery said. “They need live pass situations. It hurts their pad level, their feel for leverage, their development and their ability to work together.”

*Many of the offensive linemen who are coming into the league have not played in pro style offenses and have a lot to learn.

Offensive line play has been a victim of the spread revolution. “They come to the NFL without knowing how to run block,” one NFC head coach said. “The way they are running offenses in college, some position has to suffer, and it is the offensive line.”

In fact, one of the reasons so many teams are turning to the spread is to hide line limitations of offensive linemen. Get rid of the ball quickly, and you don’t have to worry about blockers who can’t handle superior pass rushers.

*NFL coaches haven’t all caught up with the fact that they can’t neutralize pass rushes the way they used to. Some of them still expect their left tackles to take on great pass rushes as if this were 1998, and they don’t give them enough help.

There are more opportunities for sacks, holdings and false starts than ever before. NFL teams threw 17,410 times last year—more than ever.

“You can’t run a certain offense if you don’t have the players,” Shanahan said. “Some coaches want to run their offense no matter what. Sometimes you have to figure out how to win 17-14.”

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*NFL coaches haven’t all caught up with the fact that they can’t neutralize pass rushes the way they used to. Some of them still expect their left tackles to take on great pass rushes as if this were 1998, and they don’t give them enough help.

Really disagree with this premise. Reality is that most teams are lining up their best pass rushers on the strong side these days. There's not much a guy like Brick can do against JPP or Mario when they're lining up against Hunter.

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Really disagree with this premise. Reality is that most teams are lining up their best pass rushers on the strong side these days. There's not much a guy like Brick can do against JPP or Mario when they're lining up against Hunter.

Exactly. You see defenses moving around their best player to optimize match-ups throughout the game, whether sliding them inside on passing downs or what have you. (what took defensive coordinators so long to do this??) It goes back to what Jason and you guys brought up; that it's just not simply worth it to have a high paid LT or any one man on the offensive line, as the returns aren't there, considering teams will just move their pass rusher to a better supposed match-up. I think we're going to start seeing, if we haven't already, an offensive line unit that is going to be paid roughly the same across the board.

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I thought the reason guys like JPP and John Abraham are feasting is because teams have gone to the spread, which allows smaller dudes to play in the box in defense. PFF was saying today that there are only a handful of TE's that they considered even competent at blocking, which is a reversal. I blame Dom Capers and the zone blitz. Teams couldn't block it, so they'd just put a tiny slot guy on the field and hope their QB finds the hot receiver before he got drilled.

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Really disagree with this premise. Reality is that most teams are lining up their best pass rushers on the strong side these days. There's not much a guy like Brick can do against JPP or Mario when they're lining up against Hunter.

Which makes it extra promising when the Jets premptively addressed the RT position before it became embarassingly transparent to everyone in the league.

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all offseason I've been trying to tell people that the Jets OL is one of the best in the league. If that's because every other team's sucks worse, so be it. But seriously if you take a look around the league, there's not many better units. i have tennessee as better and cleveland as about as good.

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Exactly. You see defenses moving around their best player to optimize match-ups throughout the game, whether sliding them inside on passing downs or what have you. (what took defensive coordinators so long to do this??) It goes back to what Jason and you guys brought up; that it's just not simply worth it to have a high paid LT or any one man on the offensive line, as the returns aren't there, considering teams will just move their pass rusher to a better supposed match-up. I think we're going to start seeing, if we haven't already, an offensive line unit that is going to be paid roughly the same across the board.

Probably a combo of several variables. Off the top of my head I can think of two. It took offenses long enough to catch up to the Taylors and Whites of the world. All of a sudden you get guys like Long and Thomas being bred from the high school level on up. sh*t like that always seems to take a generation. Also, DC's never really had cause to focus so heavily on its experimentation until the rule changes took place.

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I thought the reason guys like JPP and John Abraham are feasting is because teams have gone to the spread, which allows smaller dudes to play in the box in defense. PFF was saying today that there are only a handful of TE's that they considered even competent at blocking, which is a reversal. I blame Dom Capers and the zone blitz. Teams couldn't block it, so they'd just put a tiny slot guy on the field and hope their QB finds the hot receiver before he got drilled.

so no references to tanny? c'mon dont you have any comment/comedy on how Tanny royally screwed up the team by not being better than every other team by cherrypickin a pro bowl RT from the bountiful draft?

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all offseason I've been trying to tell people that the Jets OL is one of the best in the league. If that's because every other team's sucks worse, so be it. But seriously if you take a look around the league, there's not many better units. i have tennessee as better and cleveland as about as good.

The games without Mangold last year you can throw out. The rest of the games are more perplexing. The talent is there on paper. Mangold is the best center in football, Brick and Moore are pro-bowlers. I know people insist that having a guy like Slauson and another like Hunter/Howard/etc. is this big tragedy, but there aren't many teams that are more stacked on the line than we are.

So you have to look at what else is going on there. I see a RB that is good, and competent, but needs to be complimented by a speedier back, a QB that had an injury which complicated the fact that he was already indecisive, a WR like Holmes that was dogging it, a WR like Plax that was useful in the redzone but did nothing elsewhere. Those are the biggest problems.

I really think Hill can help this team out this year, despite being raw. But to do so he must be a max effort guy (running full speed, blocking, etc.) and must show the ability to do damage if he isn't covered properly (i.e., catch the damn football). If he does that, it's going to help a ton... just get that guy running flys and deep posts, keep defenders out of the box a bit.

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Im with RJF on this one. Its not a lack of talent on the offensive side its the belief that LT is the be all end all of a line while defensive coordinators have learned to simply exploit matchups. Its bizarre because it happens on the same teams. In one room Rex will sit there and overload a weak point or send his best guy (Maybin?) on that weak point, yet when he goes into the offensive room that all goes out the window with the thought that Brick and Mangold just get it done.

Im not even sure where the thought would be that guys are sacked more now than before either. Last season the league sack percentage was 6.5%. In 1998 it was 7.2%. YPA and YPC are about the same so its not like the results are different due to the short passes. I think that on defense maybe guys seem more effective because they are getting so many more opportunities to rush. Pass attempts are way up as teams have totally shifted away from the running game so pass rushers get more chances to be effective. Plus when they are effective they can be devastating lining up against Wayne Hunter or Guy Whimper so to the eye its a huge deal since DeMarcus Ware eats those players alive.

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I thought the reason guys like JPP and John Abraham are feasting is because teams have gone to the spread, which allows smaller dudes to play in the box in defense. PFF was saying today that there are only a handful of TE's that they considered even competent at blocking, which is a reversal. I blame Dom Capers and the zone blitz. Teams couldn't block it, so they'd just put a tiny slot guy on the field and hope their QB finds the hot receiver before he got drilled.

That is a really good point. And it makes what the Jets plan on doing on offense this year intriguing if nothing else.

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The games without Mangold last year you can throw out. The rest of the games are more perplexing. The talent is there on paper. Mangold is the best center in football, Brick and Moore are pro-bowlers. I know people insist that having a guy like Slauson and another like Hunter/Howard/etc. is this big tragedy, but there aren't many teams that are more stacked on the line than we are.

So you have to look at what else is going on there. I see a RB that is good, and competent, but needs to be complimented by a speedier back, a QB that had an injury which complicated the fact that he was already indecisive, a WR like Holmes that was dogging it, a WR like Plax that was useful in the redzone but did nothing elsewhere. Those are the biggest problems.

I really think Hill can help this team out this year, despite being raw. But to do so he must be a max effort guy (running full speed, blocking, etc.) and must show the ability to do damage if he isn't covered properly (i.e., catch the damn football). If he does that, it's going to help a ton... just get that guy running flys and deep posts, keep defenders out of the box a bit.

The starting 5 graded out horribly last season in pass protection. Some of the blame goes on Sanchez who I think took 23% sacks on a pressure compared to the league average of about 16%, but they just played poorly. Ferguson was not even explainable. Mangold was hurt but centers rarely give up much anyway. He had one really bad game that I can recall but was fine other than that. Essentially the way things went is you had two top 10 tackles in Brick and Woody replaced by Hunter and Bricks best Hunter impersonation. Thats why they fell apart. The bookends played terrible.

Ferguson got much worse as the year went on so maybe conditioning was an issue. When you plan an extra 6 games in 2 years it takes a toll on your body. Its the one reason I have a little hope for Scott since he basically has an extra half season of football on his belt from 2008-2010. Beat up players with no offseason treatments because of the lockout may have hurt some of our better players. If not then the team is in trouble.

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Im with RJF on this one. Its not a lack of talent on the offensive side its the belief that LT is the be all end all of a line while defensive coordinators have learned to simply exploit matchups. Its bizarre because it happens on the same teams. In one room Rex will sit there and overload a weak point or send his best guy (Maybin?) on that weak point, yet when he goes into the offensive room that all goes out the window with the thought that Brick and Mangold just get it done.

Im not even sure where the thought would be that guys are sacked more now than before either. Last season the league sack percentage was 6.5%. In 1998 it was 7.2%. YPA and YPC are about the same so its not like the results are different due to the short passes. I think that on defense maybe guys seem more effective because they are getting so many more opportunities to rush. Pass attempts are way up as teams have totally shifted away from the running game so pass rushers get more chances to be effective. Plus when they are effective they can be devastating lining up against Wayne Hunter or Guy Whimper so to the eye its a huge deal since DeMarcus Ware eats those players alive.

I'm not sure I agree with that. Teams are getting the plays off quicker. One of the main ideas behind a true spread is to get the most amount of offensive plays off in a game possible. That is one reason that the sack % are lower - more offensive plays per game. That is also the reason that more total yards are being accumulated - but the averages have stayed the same. Rex's blitz's come from all over and are predicated in the quarteback's cadence which is easier to predict against a spread.

Edited by RSJ
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The starting 5 graded out horribly last season in pass protection. Some of the blame goes on Sanchez who I think took 23% sacks on a pressure compared to the league average of about 16%, but they just played poorly. Ferguson was not even explainable. Mangold was hurt but centers rarely give up much anyway. He had one really bad game that I can recall but was fine other than that. Essentially the way things went is you had two top 10 tackles in Brick and Woody replaced by Hunter and Bricks best Hunter impersonation. Thats why they fell apart. The bookends played terrible.

Ferguson got much worse as the year went on so maybe conditioning was an issue. When you plan an extra 6 games in 2 years it takes a toll on your body. Its the one reason I have a little hope for Scott since he basically has an extra half season of football on his belt from 2008-2010. Beat up players with no offseason treatments because of the lockout may have hurt some of our better players. If not then the team is in trouble.

Yeah when I saw your post I realized that I forgot to comment about Brick. No clue what happened to him. He seems to be an underachiever in general on the NFL level, but still good anyway. Last season was awful for him and your explanation is good.

Did Moore miss a game or two? I forget but one way or another he was working on an injury too.

Teams routinely lose linemen and have JAGs fill their spots adequately (though not impressively) so there's really no excuse here. They should have been able to get it done, but their skill players sure need to help.

Still think this o-line is better than anyone is giving them credit for, and they should prove it shortly. But admittedly, they have not looked good in the pre-season.

Edited by stoicsentry
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The starting 5 graded out horribly last season in pass protection. Some of the blame goes on Sanchez who I think took 23% sacks on a pressure compared to the league average of about 16%, but they just played poorly

some? try most. Hunter (and others) had their breakdowns but Mark can't seem to make a quick decision. Look at the numbers, Sanchez was under pressure something like 140 snaps, which is less than average. Eli was at 230 and won the Super Bowl.

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Im with RJF on this one. Its not a lack of talent on the offensive side its the belief that LT is the be all end all of a line while defensive coordinators have learned to simply exploit matchups. Its bizarre because it happens on the same teams. In one room Rex will sit there and overload a weak point or send his best guy (Maybin?) on that weak point, yet when he goes into the offensive room that all goes out the window with the thought that Brick and Mangold just get it done.

Im not even sure where the thought would be that guys are sacked more now than before either. Last season the league sack percentage was 6.5%. In 1998 it was 7.2%. YPA and YPC are about the same so its not like the results are different due to the short passes. I think that on defense maybe guys seem more effective because they are getting so many more opportunities to rush. Pass attempts are way up as teams have totally shifted away from the running game so pass rushers get more chances to be effective. Plus when they are effective they can be devastating lining up against Wayne Hunter or Guy Whimper so to the eye its a huge deal since DeMarcus Ware eats those players alive.

Kind of why you have to give Miami it's due for how they're handling Long. The new administration doesn't have any attachments to that pick, and that they're not letting him use Thomas as a barometer, which hopefully sets a standard for the future. It'll also be interesting to see if it affects its positional stock value in the draft with the new rookie salary slots. I don't think it will because it's still integral to protect a QB's blindside no matter what defenses develop, and now that it'll be affordable for a good 5 years, along with resigning them at a lower rate; I think they'll still go high even if their market value goes down financially.

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Really disagree with this premise. Reality is that most teams are lining up their best pass rushers on the strong side these days. There's not much a guy like Brick can do against JPP or Mario when they're lining up against Hunter.

DCs no longer feel compelled to keep their best pass rushers facing the primo LT any more. You move a guy like JPP around looking for a mismatch, to basically negate what ever advantage a Brick, Thomas or Long might've had 10-15 years ago. And you might move him around from play to play. An OC cannot really do that with an OT. Edited by Bugg
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some? try most. Hunter (and others) had their breakdowns but Mark can't seem to make a quick decision. Look at the numbers, Sanchez was under pressure something like 140 snaps, which is less than average. Eli was at 230 and won the Super Bowl.

A smart QB can make an ordinary OL look very competent. Not to say all is well with the Jets' OL, simply a good QB can cover for a wealth of mistakes elsewhere.
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The games without Mangold last year you can throw out. The rest of the games are more perplexing. The talent is there on paper. Mangold is the best center in football, Brick and Moore are pro-bowlers. I know people insist that having a guy like Slauson and another like Hunter/Howard/etc. is this big tragedy, but there aren't many teams that are more stacked on the line than we are.

So you have to look at what else is going on there. I see a RB that is good, and competent, but needs to be complimented by a speedier back, a QB that had an injury which complicated the fact that he was already indecisive, a WR like Holmes that was dogging it, a WR like Plax that was useful in the redzone but did nothing elsewhere. Those are the biggest problems.

I really think Hill can help this team out this year, despite being raw. But to do so he must be a max effort guy (running full speed, blocking, etc.) and must show the ability to do damage if he isn't covered properly (i.e., catch the damn football). If he does that, it's going to help a ton... just get that guy running flys and deep posts, keep defenders out of the box a bit.

You need to accept the fact the Jets' OL problems in 2011 really were somewhere other than on most of the OL. Your team sent 3, count 'em 3!, OLers to the Pro Bowl, so the Jets should have been much better in pass protection and in YPC in rushing. Schottenheimer either didn't create an offense to use the OL talent very well, especially helping out Hunter, or he did create one and Sanchez didn't/couldn't execute it. Sanchez's poor pre-snap reads, his holding the ball too long, and his dependence on throwing check-downs hindered the Jets' OL. That the Jets did NOT and still do NOT have RBs NOR a single TE who can block well also significantly hurt OL performance.

Since the Jets first team OL performance in preseason has continued to be poor, it says that the problem wasn't Schottenheimer.

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You need to accept the fact the Jets' OL problems in 2011 really were somewhere other than on most of the OL. Your team sent 3, count 'em 3!, OLers to the Pro Bowl, so the Jets should have been much better in pass protection and in YPC in rushing. Schottenheimer either didn't create an offense to use the OL talent very well, especially helping out Hunter, or he did create one and Sanchez didn't/couldn't execute it. Sanchez's poor pre-snap reads, his holding the ball too long, and his dependence on throwing check-downs hindered the Jets' OL. That the Jets did NOT and still do NOT have RBs NOR a single TE who can block well also significantly hurt OL performance.

Yes. That was one of the main points of my post. But a slight disagreement in that I'm still gonna put some of the blame on other things. The Mangold injury set us back. Also, I know I made a big deal out of the 3 pro-bowlers thing but Brick made the pro-bowl on reputation. He didn't play like a pro-bowler last year. I'm confident in a rebound from both of those two, but Sanchez? Not so much.

Edited by stoicsentry
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Our o-line was the best in the business a few years ago, but the FO did "nothing" to fortify it.

It began with the stupid release of Alan Faneca, then Woody's retirement.

They banked on this freakin' Vlad guy replacing a 9x pro-bowler/superbowl champ!

Vlad's biggest accomplishment is winning the King Ugly contest.

All the attention has been paid to the defense, but Tanny needs to show the o-line some love next offseason.

Edited by Knix Tix
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