Power Ranking NFL Offensive Line Depth Charts

Russell S. Baxter@@BaxFootballGuruContributor IJune 16, 2015

Power Ranking NFL Offensive Line Depth Charts

0 of 32

    Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports

    We are going to take some time to give the men up front their just due.

    More specifically, we are about to give you the do’s and don’ts when it comes to the 32 offensive fronts in the NFL.

    Not only will we rank these units based on performance and depth, we will try to give you the latest info regarding each club's version of their five-man electrical band. And we will base our evaluations with a large assist from the fine folks at Pro Football Focus. While we have included our projected starters on the line, take some of those predictions with a grain of salt depending on injuries and how much competition there is in training camp.

    Offensive line play remains one of the more complex aspects of this great game but we will do our best to give you the skinny on the big guys who make life easier (hopefully) for the supporting cast that depends on their execution on every play.

32. St. Louis Rams

1 of 32

    Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

    Projected Starters: LT Greg Robinson, LG Rodger Saffold, C Tim Barnes, RG Barrett Jones, RT Brandon Washington

    While the St. Louis Rams are loaded on the defensive line, the same can’t be said on the other side of the trenches.

    While the left tackle spot now belongs to Robinson—the second overall pick in the 2014 draft—and Saffold is set at left guard, the other three spots will all feature new starters as the team released center Scott Wells and didn’t re-sign guard Davin Joseph or tackle Joe Barksdale.

    On the other hand, head coach Jeff Fisher and general manager Les Snead used four of their nine picks in this year’s draft on tackles Rob Havenstein (Wisconsin), Jamon Brown (Louisville) and Andrew Donnal (Iowa) and guard Cody Wichmann (Baylor).

    It should make for a very interesting training camp this summer.

31. Miami Dolphins

2 of 32

    Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

    Projected Starters: LT Branden Albert, LG Dallas Thomas, C Mike Pouncey, RG Billy Turner, RT Ja’Wuan James

    Over the past two seasons, this unit has seen plenty of changes but only slight improvement.

    While the Miami Dolphins ranked 12th in the NFL in rushing in 2014, up from 26th the previous year, pass protection remains an issue here.

    It certainly didn’t help that Albert, in his first season in Miami, missed the final seven games of the season and is still on the mend. The Dolphins allowed 26 sacks in those contests and a total of 46 sacks in 2014. All told, quarterback Ryan Tannehill has been sacked a combined 104 times the past two seasons.

    Via free agency, the club added center J.D. Walton and guard Jeff Linkenbach this offseason and drafted guard Jamil Douglas (Arizona State) in the fourth round.

    All told, the team needs to put all the pieces together this season. Perhaps now practicing against the likes of Ndamukong Suh will help these blockers hone their skills.

30. Atlanta Falcons

3 of 32

    Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

    Projected Starters: LT Jake Matthews, LG Chris Chester, C Joe Hawley, RG Jon Asamoah, RT Ryan Schraeder

    Along with the league’s worst-ranked defense in 2014, the Atlanta Falcons had their share of issues along the offensive line. This past season, the club utilized three different starting right tackles and just as many centers, while no member of the line started all 16 games in the same spot.

    This offseason, longtime left guard Justin Blalock was let go. And on Monday, Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that the team has parted ways with tackle Sam Baker. Atlanta’s other first-round pick in 2008 (along with quarterback Matt Ryan) has had problems staying healthy and missed all of 2014 with a knee injury.

    Meanwhile, according to NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport (via Dan Hanzus of NFL.com), Blalock is planning to retire.

    In any case, Matthews hopes to improve on a disappointing rookie season in which he struggled at left tackle in place of the injured Baker. Chester recently came over from the Washington Redskins.

    Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com explained that much of this group is still trying to get healthy.

    Good luck.

29. Jacksonville Jaguars

4 of 32

    Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

    Projected Starters: LT Luke Joeckel, LG Zane Beadles, C Luke Bowanko, RG Brandon Linder, RT Jermey Parnell

    The renovations continue for a team that allowed a league-high 71 sacks this past season.

    Last offseason, the Jacksonville Jaguars dealt with the retirement of veteran center Brad Meester, who was replaced by the rookie Bowanko. The team would add Beadles via free agency. While he was solid in terms of pass protection, Pro Football Focus tells us that the former Pro Bowler with the Denver Broncos had his issues when it came to run blocking.

    General manager Dave Caldwell used a third-round pick this year on guard A.J. Cann (South Carolina) and also signed free-agent center Stefen Wisniewski, who spent his first four NFL seasons with the Oakland Raiders.

    While Joeckel started all 16 games at left tackle (after missing the final 11 games of his rookie season), he had his issues in his first full season at the position. Meanwhile, this past year’s revolving door at right tackle hopes to end with the signing of Parnell, a valuable backup with the Dallas Cowboys who started five games at right tackle when Doug Free went down.

    It will be interesting to see how this group progresses this upcoming season.

28. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

5 of 32

    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    Projected Starters: LT Donovan Smith, LG Logan Mankins, C Evan Dietrich-Smith, RG Patrick Omameh, RT Demar Dotson

    When you win only two games in one season, there’s plenty of blame to go around.

    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive front, despite some talented additions, comes off a season in which they allowed 52 sacks and graded out as the league’s worst unit in regards to pass protection. Add in the fact that only three teams in the NFL gained fewer yards rushing in 2014 and you see the problems.

    One issue that appears solved for now is the presence of Dotson, who now plans to attend the team’s workouts that begin later Tuesday. Mark Cook of PewterReport.com said the team’s underrated tackle who is seeking a new contract and missed the club’s earlier OTAs "has had a change of heart."

    In this year’s draft, the Bucs took a pair of blockers in the second round in tackles Donovan Smith (Penn State) and Ali Marpet (Hobart). The former could wind up the starter on the left side while Marpet is making the adjustment to guard.

27. Tennessee Titans

6 of 32

    Mark Zaleski/Associated Press

    Projected Starters: LT Taylor Lewan, LG Andy Levitre, C Brian Schwenke, RG Chance Warmack, RT Byron Stingily

    Is this a unit that is indeed ready to come together?

    Lewan, the 11th overall pick in the 2014 draft, takes over full time for veteran left tackle Michael Roos, who retired this offseason after 10 years with the Tennessee Titans but made just five starts this past season. Stingily was the starting right tackle down the stretch a year ago and like Lewan inherits the full-time job.

    While Levitre looks to bounce back from a shaky year, Warmack is emerging as one of the league’s better blockers. Schwenke also hopes to rebound from a rough year and the team did add center Andy Gallik (Boston College) in the sixth round this year, as well as free-agent tackle Byron Bell, who comes over from the Carolina Panthers.

26. Oakland Raiders

7 of 32

    Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    Projected Starters: LT Donald Penn, LG Gabe Jackson, C Rodney Hudson, RG Khalif Barnes, RT Austin Howard

    When you consider that the Oakland Raiders allowed just 28 sacks this past season, how bad can things be when it comes to this unit?

    Of course, what can you say about an offensive front that was part of a team that gained the fewest rushing yards and total yards in the league in 2014?

    The headliner here is Hudson, a free-agent pickup this year from the rival Kansas City Chiefs who takes over for Stefen Wisniewski, who wasn’t re-signed and joined the Jacksonville Jaguars.

    While the left-side combination of Penn and Jackson bear watching, the other side is unsettled as of now. However, Bill Williamson of ESPN.com feels that free-agent pickup J’Marcus Webb and 2013 second-round pick Menelik Watson will find their way into the starting lineup at right guard and right tackle (where Watson played nine games in 2014), respectively.

25. Arizona Cardinals

8 of 32

    Matt York/Associated Press

    Projected Starters: LT Jared Veldheer, LG Mike Iupati, C Ted Larsen, RG Jonathan Cooper, RT Bobby Massie

    When it came to the offensive line and overall grades this past season, only the Jacksonville Jaguars and Oakland Raiders ranked lower than the Arizona Cardinals.

    Hence it was not a surprise that for the second time in three years, the Cardinals addressed this unit in the first round with the addition of University of Florida tackle D.J. Humphries.

    To be fair, this line dealt with a lot of different quarterbacks and running backs in 2014. Then again, we are still waiting to see what Cooper can really do. He missed all of his rookie season and made just two starts this past year.

    There are positives. While Veldheer comes off of a solid season, things could be getting ready to be even better if Iupati brings that three-time Pro Bowl attitude to the desert.

    While Larsen spent his first season with the Cardinals as a starter at both guard spots, he will try to fend off free-agent pickup A.Q. Shipley for the starting center spot.

24. Buffalo Bills

9 of 32

    Bill Wippert/Associated Press

    Projected Starters: LT Cordy Glenn, LG John Miller, C Eric Wood, RG Richie Incognito, RT Seantrel Henderson

    It’s another year and there’s another new head coach in the city that made chicken wings an art form.

    Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News talks about former first-round pick and center Eric Wood, who has earned high praise from new sideline leader Rex Ryan.

    “I think Wood is right there with the top centers in the league,” Ryan said. “I was blessed with the Jets to be around a great one, and he’s very similar to that.”

    Ryan is referring to Nick Mangold, part of a team this past season that finished third in the NFL in rushing yards. In 2014, despite a 9-7 record (the team’s first winning season since 2004), Buffalo ranked just 25th in the NFL in rushing, one season after finishing second in the league to LeSean McCoy and the Philadelphia Eagles in 2013.

    Now McCoy is a member of the Bills and along with the additions of rookie guard John Miller, a third-round pick out of Louisville, and controversial guard Richie Incognito (hoping to make a quiet comeback to the NFL), Ryan and Co. hope that this unit performs far better than it did in 2014.

23. Carolina Panthers

10 of 32

    Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

    Projected Starters: LT Michael Oher, LG Andrew Norwell, C Ryan Kalil, RG Trai Turner, RT Mike Remmers

    Off last year’s performances, it was inevitable that the Carolina Panthers would not be bringing back left tackle Byron Bell. Via Pro Football Focus, who graded 142 offensive tackles' play in 2014, only Atlanta Falcons rookie Jake Matthews fared worse than Bell, who was rated the worst player in the league in terms of pass protection at his position.

    Now protecting the quarterback is Oher, who hopes Cam Newton doesn’t wind up starring in “The Back Side.” The former first-round pick of the Baltimore Ravens had a rough year at right tackle for the Tennessee Titans in 2014. The Panthers also added free-agent tackle Jonathan Martin this offseason.

    As for right tackle, Nate Chandler started 11 games this past season before going down due to injury and was replaced by Remmers for the final five weeks and postseason. But Carolina added Daryl Williams (Oklahoma) in the fourth round last month and he warrants some attention.

    To be fair, this group played much better down the stretch in 2014. Will they be able to recapture that form this upcoming season?

22. Denver Broncos

11 of 32

    Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

    Projected Starters: LT Ty Sambrailo, LG Ben Garland, C Gino Gradkowski, RG Louis Vasquez, RT Chris Clark

    Forget Houston. Denver, we may have a problem…

    These days, the Denver Broncos offensive line appears to be in a bit of disarray. Key performers from 2014 such as Orlando Franklin, Manny Ramirez and Will Montgomery are all elsewhere these days. Pro Bowl left tackle Ryan Clady suffered a knee injury a few weeks ago and is out for 2015.

    New head coach Gary Kubiak has his work cut out for him. There will be a new center in Gradkowski, who was obtained in a trade with the Baltimore Ravens, while free agency brought veterans Ryan Harris (who began his career in Denver) and Shelley Smith.

    Meanwhile, 9NEWS Broncos Insider Mike Klis has the latest on what quarterback Peyton Manning’s wall of protection will look like and spoke to the head coach about Sambrailo, a second-round pick this year now thrust into a key role.

    “He has been very impressive for a young man to go out to that spot and handle what he's handled,” Kubiak told Klis. “We know we're asking a lot of him and it's our job as coaches to make sure that we keep him taking the right steps, keep him comfortable.”

    It will be very interesting to see how comfortable Manning is this year.

21. New York Giants

12 of 32

    Scott Eklund/Associated Press

    Projected Starters: LT Ereck Flowers, LG Justin Pugh, C Weston Richburg, RG Geoff Schwartz, RT Marshall Newhouse

    In recent seasons, the New York Giants have not only had problems posting winning seasons but their once-formidable offensive line has gradually deteriorated.

    Is that a coincidence?

    In any case, for the second time in three years, the team used a first-round pick up front as general manager Jerry Reese added Flowers, of the University of Miami. He looks like the man to replace veteran Will Beatty, out for now with a torn pectoral muscle (as documented last month by Nick Powell of NJ.com).

    Meanwhile, Push shifts from right tackle to left guard while Newhouse, a free-agent pickup from the Cincinnati Bengals this offseason, takes over Pugh’s old spot (via Tom Rock of Newsday.com).

    Offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo is certainly hoping that the club can improve on last year’s running gamethese moves could help. The Giants ranked 23rd in the NFL in 2014 when it came to rushing yards per game, averaging just 100.2 yards per contest.

20. San Diego Chargers

13 of 32

    Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    Projected Starters: LT King Dunlap, LG Orlando Franklin, C Chris Watt, RG Kenny Wiggins, RT D.J. Fluker

    According to the team’s website, the 2014 San Diego Chargers started an unprecedented five different centers in 2014, the most by any NFL team since the merger.


    That is correct. And for now the second-year pro, who was in that mix this past season, has the job.

    While tackles Dunlap and Fluker return, head coach Mike McCoy welcomes a familiar face in Franklin, who began his career with the Denver Broncos before signing with the Bolts this offseason. Meanwhile, the right guard spot is sketchy for now as former starter Johnnie Troutman looks to bounce back from a knee injury suffered in December.

    The Chargers ranked 30th in the NFL in rushing this past season, hence the decision to trade up and grab University of Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon in the first round. The rookie will need his share of help from the men up front.

19. Detroit Lions

14 of 32

    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    Projected Starters: LT Riley Reiff, LG Manny Ramirez, C Travis Swanson, RG Larry Warford, RT LaAdrian Waddle

    What to make of an offense that not only gained the fifth-fewest rushing yards in the league but allowed nearly twice as many sacks as it did the previous season?

    Is it any wonder that the Detroit Lions have done a little tweaking up front? Gone is longtime center Dominic Raiola, while veteran guard Rob Sims wasn’t re-signed as well. There were plenty of faces at right tackle but Waddle did wind up starting 10 games at that spot.

    Duke University has a great tradition when it comes to guards. Of course, that’s basketball, but in this case the Lions are hoping they hit the jackpot with first-round pick Laken Tomlinson. Detroit added tackle Corey Robinson in the seventh round and traded with the Denver Broncos to reacquire Ramirez.

    This past season, quarterback Matthew Stafford was sacked 45 times, way up from 2013 (23). Combine that with other factors and you can see why the Lions produced only 33 offensive touchdowns.

18. Indianapolis Colts

15 of 32

    Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    Projected Starters: LT Anthony Castonzo, LG Donald Thomas, C Khaled Holmes, RG Todd Herremans, RT Jack Mewhort

    While many point to the defense—or lack of it—by the Indianapolis Colts as a reason for their playoff failures, the offensive line may be a very close second.

    The team continues to struggle to run the football and three-time Pro Bowl quarterback Andrew Luck has been sacked 100 times in 48 regular-season contests.

    The club did go through three starting centers this past season in A.Q. Shipley, Jonotthan Harrison and Khaled Holmes. And according to Kevin Bowen of Colts.com, there could be a change this season at right tackle if Gosder Cherilus isn’t able to bounce back from injury.

    On the bright side, the addition of Herremans brings some grit to this group. But the jury is still out on this unit.

17. Minnesota Vikings

16 of 32

    Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

    Projected Starters: LT Matt Kalil, LG Brandon Fusco, C John Sullivan, RG T.J. Clemmings, RT Phil Loadholt

    Will this be an offensive line that looks dramatically better if one of the game’s best running backs ever returns for a full season?

    The Minnesota Vikings, sans Adrian Peterson for all but one game, still managed to rank 14th in the NFL in rushing in 2014. But be it Teddy Bridgewater, Matt Cassel or Christian Ponder, no quarterback was safe behind an offensive front that allowed 51 sacks this past season.

    While Kalil has yet to recapture the Pro Bowl form of his 2012 rookie year, Fusco looks like the heir apparent to veteran left guard Charlie Johnson, who was let got this offseason. And Loadholt could have some new company on his side in the form of Clemmings, a fourth-round pick from the University of Pittsburgh in 2015.

16. Kansas City Chiefs

17 of 32

    Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    Projected Starters: LT Eric Fisher, LG Ben Grubbs, C Eric Kush, RG Jeff Allen, RT Donald Stephenson

    In each of the past two seasons, the Kansas City Chiefs ranked 10th in the league in rushing yards per game. That shouldn’t be a shock considering the presence of Pro Bowl running back Jamaal Charles.

    But what was a bit of a surprise was the fact that Andy Reid’s team allowed 49 sacks in 2014, one of the highest totals in the league.

    This is a fairly young group, with all but Grubbs (acquired via trade from the New Orleans Saints this offseason) owning three years or less of experience. The team added free-agent guard Paul Fanaika for depth while second-round pick Mitch Morse could give third-year pro Kush a run for his money a center, a spot vacated when underrated Rodney Hudson signed with the rival Oakland Raiders.

15. Washington Redskins

18 of 32

    Evan Vucci/Associated Press

    Projected Starters: LT Trent Williams, LG Shawn Lauvao, C Kory Lichtensteiger, RG Spencer Long, RT Brandon Scherff

    The Washington Redskins suddenly have a pair of talented bookends.

    While Williams comes off of a terrific season in 2014, new general manager Scot McCloughan surprised many by using the fifth overall pick in April on Scherff, who will be a Week 1 starter at right tackle.

    While Lichtensteiger comes off of a solid year and Lauvao was adequate at left guard, Long takes over at right guard for Chris Chester, who signed with the Atlanta Falcons after being released by Washington.

    Of course, this team could use all the help it can get. Only the Jacksonville Jaguars (71) allowed more sacks than the 58 surrendered by the Redskins in 2014.

14. Cleveland Browns

19 of 32

    Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

    Projected Starters: LT Joe Thomas, LG Joel Bitonio, C Alex Mack, RG John Greco, RT Mitchell Schwartz

    Talk about contrasts in consistency.

    If Josh McCown is the Week 1 quarterback for the Cleveland Browns in 2015, he will be the 23rd different starter at the position since the team rejoined the league in 1999.

    On the other hand, left tackle Joe Thomas has not only been in the NFL for eight seasons, he’s been invited to the Pro Bowl in each of those years.

    With veteran center Mack coming off of an injury-shortened campaign and entering the final year of his contract, the Browns used the second of their two first-round picks in April on Florida State University center Cameron Erving.

    Meanwhile, Bitonio comes off of an excellent rookie season and graded out as Pro Football Focus’ fifth-best guard this past season.

13. Chicago Bears

20 of 32

    Matt Marton/Associated Press

    Projected Starters: LT Jermon Bushrod, LG Matt Slauson, C Will Montgomery, RG Kyle Long, RT Jordan Mills

    More changes for the Chicago Bears.

    There are this year’s arrivals in head coach John Fox and offensive coordinator Adam Gase and the departure of wide receiver Brandon Marshall, traded to the New York Jets.

    Now Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune reports that during last week’s OTAs, Pro Bowl right guard Kyle Long was lining up at right tackle.

    Never fear. It’s just a temporary remedy, according to Fox. “Right now he’s a starting guard, and we’re out here trying to get better as a team, learn a new system,” said the team’s third different head coach in four years.

    “We had a shortage of tackles right now. We have a couple of guys in the training room. So we took a look at him there.”

    Fox may be looking at a few other things as well. This offensive line was average at best this past season and needs to play much better. And how will the addition of Montgomery, who replaces longtime center Roberto Garza, affect this unit in a positive way?

12. San Francisco 49ers

21 of 32

    Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

    Projected Starters: LT Joe Staley, LG Brandon Thomas, C Marcus Martin, RG Alex Boone, RT Erik Pears

    Back in 2010, the San Francisco 49ers used a pair of first-round draft choices on guard Mike Iupati and tackle Anthony Davis.

    This offseason, Iupati signed with the NFC West rival Arizona Cardinals and Davis announced his retirement (at least for now). The latter suffered through an injury-plagued 2014 and could resurface in 2016.

    So is Thomas, a third-round pick last year from Clemson, ready to step in? He saw no playing time in 2014 and now must take over for a three-time Pro Bowler. Pears now figures at right tackle in place of Davis. Martin struggled a year ago as a rookie but that should change this season.

    This was a unit that did not perform well in 2014 but look for some to have a bounce-back showing this year under new head coach Jim Tomsula.

11. New York Jets

22 of 32

    Seth Wenig/Associated Press

    Projected Starters: LT D’Brickashaw Ferguson, LG Willie Colon, C Nick Mangold, RG James Carpenter, RT Breno Giacomini

    Only the Seattle Seahawks and Dallas Cowboys gained more yards on the ground this past season than the Jets.

    Could this team be even better when it comes to running the football in 2015? The free-agent addition of Carpenter, who played with Giacomini in Seattle, certainly helps. And a little more pocket awareness from quarterback Geno Smith certainly wouldn’t hurt. The Jets did allow 47 sacks this past season.

    Still, with new offensive coordinator Chan Gailey and new head coach Todd Bowles leading the way, look for a rejuvenated year from Ferguson and continued excellence from Mangold, who came into the league together in 2006 and were part of teams that got within a game of the Super Bowl in both 2009 and ’10.

10. Seattle Seahawks

23 of 32

    Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

    Projected Starters: LT Russell Okung, LG Alvin Bailey, C Lemuel Jeanpierre, RG J.R. Sweezy, RT Justin Britt

    Perhaps the biggest question surrounding this unit is who will finally emerge as the starting center.

    Former Pro Bowler Max Unger, Patrick Lewis, Jeanpierre and Steve Schilling all took their turns snapping the ball to quarterback Russell Wilson. Only Unger distinguished himself, per Pro Football Focus.

    Of course, the veteran center was traded to the New Orleans Saints this offseason as part of the deal that enabled the two-time defending NFC champions to obtain three-time Pro Bowl tight end Jimmy Graham.

    Elsewhere, while Bailey takes over for free-agent defector James Carpenter, this is a group that certainly had a role in the Seattle Seahawks leading the NFL in rushing in 2014.

9. Cincinnati Bengals

24 of 32

    John Grieshop/Getty Images

    Projected Starters: LT Andrew Whitworth, LG Clint Boling, C Russell Bodine, RG Kevin Zeitler, RT Andre Smith

    This is a very solid and talented offensive front that played a big role in not only last season’s success but the fact that this is a Cincinnati Bengals franchise that has now reached the playoffs four straight years.

    With Whitworth getting up there in years and Smith seemingly always battling injuries, the team invested their first two picks in this year’s draft on tackles Cedric Ogbuehi (Texas A&M) and Jake Fisher (Oregon).

    While Boling and Zeitler are solid at guard, the rankings show that Bodine struggled during his rookie season at center. Could 2013 seventh-round selection T.J. Johnson press for a starting job?

    In any case, this is an offense that finished sixth in the NFL in rushing yards and allowed only 23 sacks.

8. New England Patriots

25 of 32

    Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    Projected Starters: LT Nate Solder, LG Tre’ Jackson, C Bryan Stork, RG Ryan Wendell, RT Sebastian Vollmer

    Four games into 2014, the New England Patriots were apparently headed nowhere and one of the reasons was a disjointed offensive line that before the start of the season dealt perennial Pro Bowl guard Logan Mankins to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

    But disaster would turn into delight as the team finished its season in Super Bowl XLIX and walked away with the Lombardi Trophy.

    The Pats allowed only 26 sacks in 2014, with 13 of those coming in the final 10 games. Meanwhile, the biggest news surrounding this unit is the addition of rookie guard Tre’ Jackson, who appears to be the new left guard in place of Dan Connolly, who was not re-signed by the club.

7. New Orleans Saints

26 of 32

    Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

    Projected Starters: LT Terron Armstead, LG Andrus Peat, C Max Unger, RG Jahri Evans, RT Zach Strief

    Gary Estwick of the Sun Herald updates us that six-time Pro Bowl guard Jahri Evans is on the mend these days but he’ll be back, which should make New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees happy.

    The addition of Unger is a huge plus while the drafting of Peat in the first round may be a sign to some that the club is not happy with Armstead. Then again, it sounds like head coach Sean Payton (as documented by Marc Sessler of NFL.com) may feel that the Stanford University standout is better suited at right tackle.

    In any case, one of the best offensive fronts on a yearly basis has a bit of a hole at left guard after the team dealt Ben Grubbs to the Kansas City Chiefs this offseason. Of course, don’t bet against Payton and the club remedying this issue of sorts sooner than later so that the league’s top-ranked offense this past year does not really miss a beat this upcoming season as they look to do a little more “marching” in 2015.

6. Houston Texans

27 of 32

    Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

    Projected Starters: LT Duane Brown, LG Xavier Su’a-Filo, C Ben Jones, RG Brandon Brooks, RT Derek Newton

    This may come as a bit of a surprise to some but we are giving this unit a vote of confidence.

    Brown is a three-time Pro Bowler, has started 106 games in seven seasons and comes off another solid year while Newton is an underrated performer who needs to be a little better when it comes to pass protection.

    Jones takes over at center for veteran Chris Myers, who had started every game for the team at the pivot each of the past seven seasons.

    With running backs Arian Foster and Alfred Blue leading the charge, only four teams gained more rushing yards in 2014. And when you consider that Houston Texans quarterbacks were sacked just 26 times this past season, you have to give a little credit where it’s due.

5. Green Bay Packers

28 of 32

    Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    Projected Starters: LT David Bakhtiari, LG Josh Sitton, C Corey Linsley, RG T.J. Lang, RT Bryan Bulaga

    Although he’s been the league’s Most Valuable Player twice in the past four seasons, we know that Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is far from a one-man show.

    In 2014, Rodgers not only got plenty of help from running back Eddie Lacy and wide receivers Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Davante Adams, but the talented performer got plenty of support from the men up front.

    Linsley slowly but surely rounded into a solid performer as a rookie while Bulaga and Sitton both come off of impressive years. Bakhtiari comes off a shaky second season, but look for improvement in the near future.

    Green Bay led the NFL in points scored, ranked sixth in the league in total yards (11th in rushing) while Rodgers and backup Matt Flynn were sacked only 30 times in 2014.

4. Pittsburgh Steelers

29 of 32

    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    Projected Starters: LT Kelvin Beachum, LG Ramon Foster, C Maurkice Pouncey, RG David DeCastro, RT Marcus Gilbert

    It wasn’t long ago that the offensive line was considered the Achilles' heel of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

    It is a unit that has certainly made some strides in recent seasons.

    The group not only paved the way for All-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell this past season, veteran quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (sacked 33 times on 641 pass plays) tied for the NFL lead in passing yards. Only the New Orleans Saints totaled more yards per game that the Steelers in 2014.

    While Pouncey bounced back from missing all but one game the previous season, DeCastro has slowly but surely begun to live up to his first-round draft status in 2012. Tackles Beachum and Gilbert played very well this past year but backup Mike Adams, a second-round pick in 2012, hasn’t done much to date.

    A lack of depth prevents this unit from being ranked a bit higher, but it’s an up-and-coming starting five.

3. Philadelphia Eagles

30 of 32

    Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    Projected Starters: LT Jason Peters, LG Dennis Kelly, C Jason Kelce, RG Allen Barbre, RT Lane Johnson

    Some may have dropped the Philadelphia Eagles a few slots in the rankings with this year’s offseason departures of veteran Todd Herremans and Pro Bowl guard Evan Mathis, the latter let go earlier this month.

    Think again.

    Speaking of the latter, Tim McManus of PhillyMag.com reports that the release of Mathis is being reviewed by the NFLPA. Stay tuned.

    Meanwhile, Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters recently spoke to Bob Brookover of the Philadelphia Inquirer and made his case for the Birds having the league’s top offensive line—and better than the rival Dallas Cowboys.

    “They’re the Cowboys” Peters said. “Don't get me wrong, they're a good, solid offensive line. But guy for guy, they can't touch us.”

    One guy the Eagles did touch this offseason was running back DeMarco Murray, who will now be running behind a revamped bunch of Birds. But let us not forget that when injuries to the likes of Mathis and Kelce struck last season, this unit still managed to hold its own and more.

    It’s been a very intriguing offseason for this franchise and you can add the offensive line to that mix.

2. Baltimore Ravens

31 of 32

    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    Projected Starters: LT Eugene Monroe, LG Kelechi Osemele, C Jeremy Zuttah, RG Marshal Yanda, RT Ricky Wagner

    A look and breakdown of the Baltimore Ravens offensive line and it was easy to see why the team bounced back to make the playoffs in 2014 after an 8-8 campaign the previous year.

    In 2013, John Harbaugh’s club ranked 30th in the NFL with a mere 83.0 yards per game. That number jumped to 126.2 yards per contest this past season with the help of running back Justin Forsett, improved play by the line for the most part (Yanda was the NFL’s top-ranked guard, according to Pro Football Focus) and the trade that brought Zuttah over from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

    Including a pair of playoff outings, the Ravens allowed only 20 sacks in 18 games this past season after allowing 48 sacks in 16 regular-season tilts in 2013. This past season, rookies such as John Urschel and James Hurst made their presence felt when called upon, while general manager Ozzie Newsome used a fifth-round pick this year to add guard Robert Myers (Tennessee State).

1. Dallas Cowboys

32 of 32

    Brandon Wade/Associated Press

    Projected Starters: LT Tyron Smith, LG Ronald Leary, C Travis Frederick, RG Zack Martin, RT Doug Free

    Was there any doubt after this past season?

    According to Pro Football Focus, no offensive line was more efficient this past season than the talent-laden unit of the Dallas Cowboys. Left tackle Smith (2011), center Frederick (2013) and right guard Martin (2014) were all selected in the first round since 2011 and each was named to the Pro Bowl in 2014—with both Smith and Martin earning All-Pro accolades as well.

    It was also a group that stayed healthy for the most part this past year save for Free, who missed five games and was replaced by Jermey Parnell (now with the Jacksonville Jaguars).

    How about some more good news? The depth chart not only includes one-time starting guard Mackenzy Bernadeau but 2015 draft choices in tackles Chaz Green (Florida) and Laurence Gibson (Virginia Tech), selected in the third and seventh rounds, respectively.

    Finally, the addition of guard La’el Collins, a first-round talent who unexpectedly went undrafted this year due to an unforeseen series of events (as documented by Robert Klemko of The MMQB), makes this not only a talented group but very young as well.

    Depth chart information comes via Ourlads. Unless otherwise noted, all player and team statistics come from Pro-Football-Reference and ESPN.com.


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.