Who Are the Most Versatile Offensive Linemen in the NFL?
While we love to talk quarterbacks, laud the ability of wide receivers and debate the future value of the running back position, most football fans know one simple truth.
Games are won and lost in the trenches.
If your offensive line gets banged up, you'd better have replacements. A guy who can move all across the line is worth his weight in gold.
In today's NFL, if you aren't at one of the "skill" positions, you're always a bad series away from being replaced. Offensive linemen in particular have a short shelf life if they are merely average and often have a "blink-and-you-miss-it" career if they are below average.
The guys who aren't the elite—the lunch-pail, blue-collar guys—make their bones by being reliable and flexible. Versatility is the name of the game in the NFL, and the more things you can do well, the longer your career. Here are five guys who have shown the ability to fill in wherever and whenever their teams have needed them.
Kelechi Osemele, Baltimore Ravens
In his rookie year, Kelechi Osemele worked as a guard as well as a tackle before being kicked inside permanently this season.
While he is still developing as an NFL-level lineman, Osemele has enough quickness and moves well enough to cover the edge with enough power to shore up the inside. He isn’t perfect but has a lot of potential.
Harvey Dahl, St. Louis Rams
Normally a guard these days, Harvey Dahl used to be a tackle and can still step in if need be. He’s reliable enough to be in the starting lineup as a guard but not as a tackle unless you have to plug him in.
He’s not quite quick or agile enough to be great at either spot, but the versatility helps protect the Rams in case someone more vital goes down. He’s reliable, and that’s big for the Rams if they are going to keep quarterback Sam Bradford upright.
Marcus Cannon, New England Patriots
The New England Patriots offensive line had a down year, with an injury to right tackle Sebastian Vollmer and poor play from the interior.
Cannon was far from perfect but was able to slide easily from the left tackle to the right as needed. The issues with Logan Mankins and Dan Connolly as well as center Ryan Wendell made it hard for anyone to completely excel (though Nate Solder was solid). With better inside help, Cannon could be a much better fit.
Michael Bowie, Seattle Seahawks
While he was injured in preseason and inactive for a chunk of the season and playoffs, former seventh-round pick Micheal Bowie had a very nice season.
Normally a right tackle, Bowie played on both ends of the line last season and then kicked inside for Week 16 and the divisional playoff round.
He was probably the most consistent player on a line that switched up combinations constantly.
The Seahawks value versatility in their players and are prone to using rotations all over the field. Bowie proved he could be an asset in several spots. While he seems to be a better fit for guard, it's good for the staff to know he can hold his own at tackle if the need arises.
Andrew Whitworth, Cincinnati Bengals
Andrew Whitworth played nine games at left tackle this past season and another five at left guard, playing pretty well in both instances.
Given that PFF had the whole line as the second-highest-rated offensive line, that’s very high praise.
As Pro Football Focus' Khaled Elsayed writes while naming Whitworth the line's resident stud, “It’s hard enough to be good at one line position, but Andrew Whitworth excelled at two.”
Considering the Bengals had injury issues at guard, you can be sure the team was thankful for Whitworth’s versatility.
Andrew Garda is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association. He is also a member of the fantasy football staff at FootballGuys.com and the NFL writer at CheeseheadTV.com. You can follow him @andrew_garda on Twitter.