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Thread: The sad state of offensive line play

  1. #1
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    The sad state of offensive line play

    http://www.nationalfootballpost.com/...litz-3466.html

    By Dan Pompei

    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.”

  2. #2
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    Thank you! That is a great read. Very interesting! It makes me sit back and think and the guy has nailed it. Again, thank you!

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by TJ View Post
    http://www.nationalfootballpost.com/...litz-3466.html

    By Dan Pompei

    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.”
    I think I read a quote from John Clayton a week or so ago saying he had a difficult time last year finding a deserving RT to vote to the Pro Bowl..

    I'd still like the Jets to take a look at Otah again after week 1 now that he's been in LeCharles Bentley's OL camp for a month...

  4. #4
    And the point of this is? Mangold is probably the best center to enter the NFL in 25 years. Please stop.

  5. #5
    why is this such a surprise? pass blocking is easier to master than run blocking and most teams are passing more than running. also there is the whole sack stat. the nfl keeps stats on sacks but none for sacks not allowed so defensive players are graded for positive results while offensive are graded for negative results.

    what the nfl really should do is limit player weights by position. that way you won't see 300# centers going against 360# nose tackles or other weight/strength mismatches. what it will also do is improve the future health of the players by decreasing the need for peds.

  6. #6
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    Excellent article.

  7. #7
    A real eye opener, thanks. I don't feel better about our line but I feel less bad.

  8. #8
    Yes, free agency has made for more difficulty in keeping squads together. That is definitely true compared to, say, the 70's or 80's. But most of this article is based on conjecture and casual observation. Defenses have ALWAYS been more athletic than offenses. Coaches ALWAYS change from one season to another. These things have been happening for decades.

    I'd find the argument more compelling if they backed it up with some objective facts - such as the number of sacks per game were going up or the number of pass plays before a sack on average (to account for more passing now). Without that it just sounds like old guys sitting on a porch complaining.
    Last edited by lageman4ever; 09-02-2012 at 08:10 PM.

  9. #9
    A very informative article...nice post.

  10. #10
    Looking around the league, there are teams that had worse OL performances. We have a mediocre RB, there is nothing special about Greene. He is slow, doesn't have great vision, and doesn't break tackles or make people miss often. Other teams have RBs that can make the first guy miss and make something out of nothing, we really don't have that.

    Our OL is fine as long as Austin Howard doesn't play like a liability, which is what Wayne Hunter was.

  11. #11
    I think there are some very good olines out there. I just don't think there is a team with any depth whatsoever. You get one or two injuries on the oline and any team could be in serious trouble. (their fortunes could change really quick)

    I like Raiders starting five(when they get their center back Wisniewski) LT Veldheer LG C Carlisle/ Tony Bergstrom C Wisniewski Rg M Brisiel and Rt Khalif barnes( should have big year as he more comfortable in zone blocking scheme)

    There backup center is weak. Backup Guards are decent. Big question at tackle . Joe Barksdale who was suppose to challenge for RT has been really bad this offseason. (god help the Qb if he has to play) Willie Smith - who knows what this raw tackle they picked up on waivers has. (Giants put in waiver claim but Raiders got him having worse record)

  12. #12
    Great article ... Reassures me that we are Extremely lucky to have Brick since he is an athletic freak at LT.

  13. #13
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    I think the keys for us this year are Austin Howard holding down that RT position and everyone staying healthy (obviously) These players need to be a "unit" and continuity of the personnel is important.

  14. #14
    Offensive line play is better right now than it has been at any point in the history of the NFL. Teams just expect more out of their offensive lines than they used to. They want to dropback 10 more times per game than they used to while not allowing any additional sacks. Even so, the sack rate has been on a steady decline since the 70s, and seems to have plateaued at around 6.0% over the last 3 years.

    Fewer and fewer runs are stopped in the backfield as well. Teams aren't happy with their lines, but that's because expectations have changed, not because the players aren't as good.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JB1089 View Post
    Offensive line play is better right now than it has been at any point in the history of the NFL. Teams just expect more out of their offensive lines than they used to. They want to dropback 10 more times per game than they used to while not allowing any additional sacks. Even so, the sack rate has been on a steady decline since the 70s, and seems to have plateaued at around 6.0% over the last 3 years.

    Fewer and fewer runs are stopped in the backfield as well. Teams aren't happy with their lines, but that's because expectations have changed, not because the players aren't as good.
    You're confident enough in your ability to judge talent that you can claim the complete antithesis of the author of this article and the NFL COACHES he quoted saying as much?

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by Jasper17 View Post
    You're confident enough in your ability to judge talent that you can claim the complete antithesis of the author of this article and the NFL COACHES he quoted saying as much?
    Yes. Just because a coach says something doesn't make it correct. I'm actually just very confident in my ability to interpret data.

    It's the same BS I hear in the NBA with people talking about how the players don't shoot as well as they used to. A lot of people actually believe that nonsense too. But then someone actually looked at the shot charts and compared the different eras and found that players are better shooters now than they ever were before.

    Nostalgia is a powerful force.


    edit: I'm also aware that there are other factors that influence the sack rate, like changes in offensive philosophy and the decline in offensive holding on pass plays, but there has been too much of a decline for an increase in the level of offensive line play not to be a factor.
    Last edited by JB1089; 09-02-2012 at 09:34 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JB1089 View Post
    Yes. Just because a coach says something doesn't make it correct. I'm actually just very confident in my ability to interpret data.

    It's the same BS I hear in the NBA with people talking about how the players don't shoot as well as they used to. A lot of people actually believe that nonsense too. But then someone actually looked at the shot charts and compared the different eras and found that players are better shooters now than they ever were before.

    Nostalgia is a powerful force.


    edit: I'm also aware that there are other factors that influence the sack rate, like changes in offensive philosophy and the decline in offensive holding on pass plays, but there has been too much of a decline for an increase in the level of offensive line play not to be a factor.
    I can't even begin to comment about the NBA. If they disbanded the NBA tomorrow, I would consider my life improved.

    I'll certainly give your right to your opinion, I just can't so whimisically toss aside what folks like Mike Shannahan, Jerry Reese, and other proven professionals say.

    I think the argument is valid though. Outside of guys like Jake Long and on a good day, D'Brickashaw and some others, there's not anyone close to comparing to the likes of Boselli and J-O and some of those. And even those guys that are at the top of their game today I don't think touch those guys.

    I think there is also a TON of merit in the argument about what the Spread is doing to all of the offensive positions from college to the NFL. You could even credit the fall of our brand new friend Jason Smith to this phenomenon. Where are the top 10 drafted lineman coming from any more? Look at the higher-ranked lineman from this class. Reiff, DeCastro, Martin, etc. Pro style offenses. Now that's not fool proof. Look at someone like Michael Oher who played in a pro-style offense and has really not materialized to what he was supposed to. But why not let that add to the same argument that lineman today just aren't what they were?

    Personally I found the article very enlightening and pretty accurate based on my knowledge. Like I said, I don't have any problems with your opinion. I don't necessarily agree with it, but it is what it is. It's a pleasure to exchange ideas with you.

  18. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by Jasper17 View Post
    I can't even begin to comment about the NBA. If they disbanded the NBA tomorrow, I would consider my life improved.

    I'll certainly give your right to your opinion, I just can't so whimisically toss aside what folks like Mike Shannahan, Jerry Reese, and other proven professionals say.

    I think the argument is valid though. Outside of guys like Jake Long and on a good day, D'Brickashaw and some others, there's not anyone close to comparing to the likes of Boselli and J-O and some of those. And even those guys that are at the top of their game today I don't think touch those guys.

    I think there is also a TON of merit in the argument about what the Spread is doing to all of the offensive positions from college to the NFL. You could even credit the fall of our brand new friend Jason Smith to this phenomenon. Where are the top 10 drafted lineman coming from any more? Look at the higher-ranked lineman from this class. Reiff, DeCastro, Martin, etc. Pro style offenses. Now that's not fool proof. Look at someone like Michael Oher who played in a pro-style offense and has really not materialized to what he was supposed to. But why not let that add to the same argument that lineman today just aren't what they were?

    Personally I found the article very enlightening and pretty accurate based on my knowledge. Like I said, I don't have any problems with your opinion. I don't necessarily agree with it, but it is what it is. It's a pleasure to exchange ideas with you.
    Likewise.

    I'll also add that as good as guys like Ogden were, they also had problems with the new breed of super-athletic pass rushers. I'll always remember the Ravens-Colts game where Dwight Freeney just destroyed Ogden on play after play, alternating between a speed rush and his spin move.

    Boselli retired before he was 30, dooming the career of David Carr.


    If they want to make athletic comparisons, I'd at least like to see their respective combine numbers, as compared to today's left tackles.


    I just have a hard time thinking that you can find someone much better than Joe Thomas, who is a complete beast. He plays in a division with James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley, and Terrell Suggs and only gives up 3 or 4 sacks per year. All while protecting bad QBs who definitely don't always get the ball out on time.

    Jake Long had been a similarly dominant player, but struggled with nagging injuries last year.

    I'm going to try to hunt down the combine numbers for some of the older linemen.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by JB1089 View Post
    Likewise.

    I'll also add that as good as guys like Ogden were, they also had problems with the new breed of super-athletic pass rushers. I'll always remember the Ravens-Colts game where Dwight Freeney just destroyed Ogden on play after play, alternating between a speed rush and his spin move.

    Boselli retired before he was 30, dooming the career of David Carr.


    If they want to make athletic comparisons, I'd at least like to see their respective combine numbers, as compared to today's left tackles.


    I just have a hard time thinking that you can find someone much better than Joe Thomas, who is a complete beast. He plays in a division with James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley, and Terrell Suggs and only gives up 3 or 4 sacks per year. All while protecting bad QBs who definitely don't always get the ball out on time.

    Jake Long had been a similarly dominant player, but struggled with nagging injuries last year.

    I'm going to try to hunt down the combine numbers for some of the older linemen.
    Good point. Even the threat of what a very good QB can do will make the line look better.

  20. #20
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    ... good read, appreciate it! ...










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