They seldom make the highlight packages. If you hear their name during a game, it’s usually because they’ve done something wrong. Yet they are the often overlooked element when it comes to the success or failure of
They are the offensive linemen, and although they're always essential, it's this time of the season when they can really create separation. As the weather turns colder, wetter and windier, teams frequently run the ball more, relying on their big men up front to set the tone and push open holes.
It's tricky to judge the effectiveness of an offensive line based solely on simple statistics such as sacks, yards per carry, rushing touchdowns and the like. There are so many factors and complexities — among them: What was the quarterback's role in that sack? Did a back miss his block? Who's carrying the ball? How good is the opposing defense at stopping the run? Several websites do a good job of drilling down on the stats, looking deeper into the numbers to assign a pecking order to the league's 32 offensive lines, but it's a nuanced science.
“In the end, the film is the most important thing,” said former NFL offensive lineman
For the purposes of ranking the NFL's top five and bottom five offensive lines heading into the second half of the regular season, I turned to a trio of experts: Schwartz and offensive line consultant Duke Manyweather, who co-host the "Block Em' Up" podcast; and Hall of Fame tackle Jackie Slater, who played his entire 20-year career with the Rams and now coaches offensive line at Azusa Pacific.
"It's hard to assess offensive lines," Manyweather said. "There are people who get it and people who don't. A lot of people may not want to admit this, but even teams get it wrong a lot."
Now, a look at the five lines playing the best as of Week 10:
1. Philadelphia — When nine-time
2. New Orleans — The
3. Dallas — The
4. Rams — In one year, the Rams have gone from having the NFL’s worst line to one of its best. The addition of left tackle
5. Pittsburgh — It’s a blast from the past with the
Best of the rest — Washington would be a top-five line but for some key injuries. … Oakland was right up there with Dallas as the league's best last season, but the Raiders have taken a slight step backward with their scheme adjustments. … Jacksonville, Minnesota and Tennessee could all make convincing cases to be among the top five.
Here are the bottom five at this point, starting with the worst:
2. Cincinnati — The
5. Seattle — After losing their left tackle in training camp, the
Also struggling — Other than the Rams, it has not been a good year for offensive lines in the