A good offensive line can help out all facets of an offense. Few quarterbacks can make do with multiple defenders in their face. Having capable pass blockers can not only keep your quarterback from getting pummeled, but it will allow for receivers to make bigger plays downfield.
The run game is also heavily dependent on great blocking. A good offensive line can make an average running back look like a Pro Bowler—it is quite easy to run when your line creates a truck-sized gap in the defense.
The hardest part, of course, is amassing a talented starting five. Injuries are always a factor in the NFL, but the loss of a single offensive lineman can drastically change the outcome of a season. If your team has to start shuffling players because of inadequate depth, the blocking as a whole may suffer.
How do the NFC North’s offensive lines stack up against each other?
Note: Players on each team are listed alphabetically. Bold indicates probable starters.
Evan Brown, Taylor Decker, Obinna Eze, Jonah Jackson, Kevin Jarvis, Tommy Kraemer, Ryan McCollum, Matt Nelson, Zein Obeid, Darrin Paulo, Frank Ragnow, Penei Sewell, Dan Skipper, Logan Stenberg, Halapoulivaati Vaitai
To say that the Lions’ offensive line enters the season with high expectations would be putting it lightly. After investing a lot of draft capital and dollars into their offensive line, the Lions need them to be among the best in the NFL. Thankfully, that isn’t out of reach.
Taylor Decker and Penei Sewell might be the best left tackle/right tackle duo in the league, acting as cornerstones for years to come. The interior of the offensive line is impressive as well. Jonah Jackson snagged a Pro Bowl invitation as an injury replacement, a stellar accomplishment this early in his career. Halapoulivaati Vaitai rebounded nicely after a rough first season in Detroit, settling in at right guard—he and Sewell were road graders along the right side. Last but not least, Frank Ragnow should be an All-Pro candidate as an elite center in the league.
The question for Detroit will be health. Both Decker and Ragnow missed time last season with injury, but they enter training camp at full speed. Losing Decker in particular hurt, as it forced Sewell to slide over to the left side and backup Matt Nelson to start at right. Nelson has proven to be an asset as a sixth lineman, but he cannot be counted on as a starter. Thankfully for the Lions, Ragnow’s injury was mitigated by the fantastic play of reserve Evan Brown. He will likely be the top backup along the interior, with Tommy Kraemer or Logan Stenberg competing for a spot.
David Bakhtiari, Ty Clary, Jake Hanson, Elgton Jenkins, Caleb Jones, Michal Menet, George Moore, Josh Myers, Royce Newman, Yosh Nijman, Jon Runyan, Cole Schneider, Zach Tom, Cole Van Lanen, Rasheed Walker
Health is a critical aspect of maintaining an effective offensive line, and no team’s success hinges on health as much as the Green Bay Packers. David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins are an excellent tackle pairing, with Bakhtiari being one of the most dominant players in the past decade and Jenkins converting nicely from left guard. However, both enter the season with serious injuries. Bakhtiari has undergone an extensive rehab process on his knee, missing most of last season. Jenkins, his replacement at left tackle, tore his ACL in the middle of the 2021 season. Both players will start on the PUP. If one or both of them can’t go, the burden may fall on the likes of Yosh Nijman or rookies Sean Rhyan or Zach Tom.
The interior of the offensive line is a decent combination of Jon Runyan (LG), Josh Myers (C), and Royce Newman (RG). The Packers have been rotating their offensive line a lot in camp, so Rhyan or Tom could challenge Newman for the right guard spot—if Newman doesn’t win the right tackle spot himself.
The number of injuries makes the Packers’ offensive line difficult to predict. If healthy, they look like an above-average unit. If their tackles are out for an extended period, expect Green Bay’s line to tumble down the rankings.
Garrett Bradbury, Blake Brandel, Ezra Cleveland, Christian Darrisaw, Jesse Davis, Wyatt Davis, Kyle Hinton, Ed Ingram, Vederian Lowe, Brian O’Neill, Timon Parris, Chris Reed, Austin Schlottmann, Josh Sokol, Oli Udoh
Four of the Vikings’ five offensive line spots appear to be set, but there is a massive conundrum at right guard. It is a three-horse race between Jesse Davis, Chris Reed, and Ed Ingram. Davis and Reed are free agent signings, while Ingram is a 2022 second-round pick, and there is no consensus regarding which player has the leg up right now. I’m giving Ingram the edge due to his draft status.
Brian O’Neill has been one of the better right tackles in the league, while Christian Darrisaw showed a lot of improvement down the stretch in his rookie season. The remaining spots are filled by decent, if unspectacular players. Garrett Bradbury (center) and Ezra Cleveland (left guard) are capable starters, but they are unlikely to garner many accolades. As a whole, it’s a fairly average line in Minnesota.
Larry Borom, Ja’Tyre Carter, Shon Coleman, Julien Davenport, Jean Delance, Dakota Dozier, Dieter Eiselen, Teven Jenkins, Braxton Jones, Doug Kramer, Sam Mustipher, Lucas Patrick, Riley Reiff, Michael Schofield, Lachavious Simmons, Zachary Thomas, Cody Whitehair
I have highlighted five potential starters for the Chicago Bears, but the actual lineup come Week 1 could be drastically different. Lucas Patrick (center) and Cody Whitehair (left guard) seem like the safest bets to start the season, but both players are closer to average than elite.
The remaining three spots are due for a shakeup. A week ago, the Bears’ offensive line would have been the frontrunner for the worst unit in the league, but a pair of veteran acquisitions puts them at merely bad. Riley Reiff is now projected to start at left tackle. As Lions fans may remember, he is a serviceable tackle, albeit not a dominant one. The Bears also signed Michael Schofield, a journeyman who had a modest showing as the Los Angeles Chargers’ right guard in 2021. Sam Mustipher, the starting center last year, could be in the mix for Schofield’s spot at right guard, however.
At right tackle, there will be a battle between 2021 draft picks Teven Jenkins and Larry Borom and 2022 fifth-rounder Braxton Jones. Borom was the primary right tackle over the course of the season, though his performance left much to be desired. Jenkins saw action at left tackle late last season, although he too struggled. It is a close race for the right tackle position, but don’t be surprised if the Bears try to give their young tackles a chance to dethrone Reiff at left tackle as well. The Bears’ offensive line is very unsettled as August approaches.
Where do the Lions rank in the division at OL?
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