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2004 Offensive Line Rankings
- More Meat than a herd of cattle

The Prime Cuts

Green Bay Packers
Continuity means a lot and this group is loaded with experience and talent. The Packers return all five starters from a unit that helped the team rank among the league's top rushing offenses in 2003. Even with just an average line, Favre is among the toughest QBs in the league to sack, so keep this in mind thru the season and downgrade your team defense or IDPs (DL) when matched up against this group.
Grade: A

Baltimore Ravens
A 2,000 yard season for Jamal Lewis is a great barometer of the Ravens run blocking prowess. The Ravens re-signed Orlando Brown during the off-season meaning all five starters return to provide stability and comfort for the running game and 2nd year QB Kyle Boller.
Grade: A

Kansas City Chiefs
The loss of tackle John Tait hurts the right side of the line causing this elite unit to slip back to the pack a little, but don't feel sorry for this group. The Chiefs have options with Chris Bober and John Welbourn, who is expected to replace Tait. Overall, they return all of the remaining four starters and their depth is solid as well.
Grade: A

Denver Broncos
Losing legendary coach Alex Gibbs to Atlanta hurts, but the Broncos will be fine with '03 top pick George Foster replacing Ephraim Salaam at right tackle and the rest of starting unit returning intact. For anyone who witnessed Quentin Griffin's pre-season showing, there is little doubt about it - the Broncos line is the #1 reason why they annually are among the league's most prolific offenses, especially on the ground.
Grade: A-

Minnesota Vikings
What the Vikings lack in agility they make up for with girth and continuity. Bryant McKinnie is a rising star and center Matt Birk is an established Pro Bowler. The Vikings return all five starters and will once again remain a key ingredient for one of the league's most prolific offenses.
Grade: A-

Seattle Seahawks
Continuity is the key ingredient for grading offensive lines and the Hawks return all five starters assuming they mend fences with their annual holdout, Walter Jones, who continues to seek a long-term contract while carrying the franchise tag moniker. Guard Steve Hutchinson is a budding Pro Bowler for years to come. With a healthy Jones in fold this unit has the potential to be among the elite offensive lines in the league.
Grade: B+

Indianapolis Colts
Tarik Glenn headlines this group of unsung heros who perennially rank among the league's best in sacks allowed. This line has been together for a few years now, and despite losing Adam Meadows via free agency, they remain among the league's top ranked units.
Grade: B+

New Orleans Saints
LeCharles Bentley is a blossoming All-Pro as he slides inside to replace veteran holdover Jerry Fontenot at center. Victor Riley and Wayne Gandy provide a formidable pair of bookend tackles who pass protect well and provide a good basis for the running game. With all five starters returning and good depth this group is rock solid.
Grade: B+


Better than Chuck

Philadelphia Eagles
1st round pick Shawn Andrews joins a solid pair of tackles to help offset the loss of guard John Welbourn. Artis Hicks and Jermane Mayberry will try to fill Welbourn's shoes. Overall the line is solid, not but not outstanding. Runyan gets dominated by strong pass rushers like Strahan at times, but so do most tackles.
Grade: B

Carolina Panthers
Adam Meadows was signed to replace Todd Steussie at right tackle, and then retired a couple weeks ago. Jordan Gross is the most talented player and the anchor for the line, he's making the switch to left tackle. Meanwhile Jeno James bolted to Miami and Kevin Donnalley retired leaving the line thin all of a sudden considering Todd Steussie is also gone. Matt Willig takes over at RT backed up by Melvin Tutten. The interior consisting of RG Tutan Reyes, C Jeff Mitchell and LG Doug Brzezinski is solid and the depth is decent, but this much turnover suggests the Panthers line will take time to come together, but it remains solid on paper.
Grade: B

Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals have a strong pair of tackles in LT Levi Jones and RT Willie Anderson and 2nd year guard Eric Steinbach has Pro Bowl potential. Stacy Andrews was drafted in the 4th round to be the swing tackle and Bobbie Williams slides into Victor Leyva's spot at RG. The other four starting spots remain unchanged. Depth could be a challenge if injuries strike, but this group is solid in protection and quickl becoming a power when it comes to the ground game. This group is on the rise.
Grade: B

New England Patriots
Damien Woody's loss is over-rated considering Dan Koppen started at center during the team's run to their 2nd Super Bowl title. There's no stars amongst this group, but like other positions on this team the coaching staff seems to get the most from the talent at hand.
Grade: B

Jacksonville Jaguars
RT Maurice Williams is a pillar of strength as are Chris Naeole and Manuwai. LT Mike Pearson must improve before this group realizes it's full potential. Free agents Ephraim Salaam and Mike Compton bring much needed competition and depth. All five starters return, which is a big plus and this ranking could prove to be very conservative. The Jaguars have re-tooled at the skill positions quite well and this offense could really get rolling if this unit performs up to it's potential.
Grade: B-

Tennessee Titans
Brad Hopkins and Fred Miller appeared to be potential cap victims, but both players return to man the tackles. The Titans benefit from continuity and veteran leadership with five returning starters, but their depth will be challenged and their play slipped slightly last season. They need the infusion of youth and talent to make an impact soon.
Grade: B-

NY Jets
The Jets were fortunate to add veteran LG Pete Kendall just before training camp. The tackles consist of Jason Fabini and Kareem McKenzie, who are both solid and experienced. Center Kevin Mawae is one of the league's best. There's potential here don't be fooled, they looked weaker earlier in the off-season but grabbing Kendall late in the game was a nice coop, even though they paid dearly for him. Overall this group was middle of the pack, but now could emerge during the season as a strong group and it wouldn't surprise me if Curtis Martin and/or Lamont Jordan have strong seasons. Brandon Moore and Brent Smith are the potential weak link at right guard.
Grade: B-

Chicago Bears
The right side of the line got an overhaul adding Pro Bowler John Tait and veteran guard Reuben Brown and center Olin Kruetz is one of the better technicians in the league. It may take a little while before this line comes together, but the Bears offensive production should improve significantly this season as Rex Grossman becomes familiar with the offense. Losing Rex Tucker in the pre-season for 10 weeks hurts, but Reuben Brown is moving over to fill the gap as Mike Gandy was holding him off for the starting RG job anyway. Even Aaron Gibson has looked good during the off-season.
Grade: B-

Detroit Lions
This group played pretty well for the most part in 2003 but expect more growth and improvement this year with the addition of free agent Damien Woody at RG. Stockar McDougle and Jeff Backus give the Lions a solid tackle combo, but depth at guard remains a concern where David Loverne remains the starter at left guard. Solomon Page has been a bust so far. Joey Harrington is the least sacked QB in the league, amazingly, but it's not all due to the line's excellent pass protection. Harrington must mature this year and hold the ball longer and work the deeper routes before this offense blossoms. The Lion's offensive success will be directly proportional to their success up front, but the talent is there.
Grade: B-

St. Louis Rams
Orlando Pace and Kyle Turley form arguably the league's top tackle combo, when healthy and signed! But that hasn't happened yet. The Rams desperately need to sign Pace long-term. McCollum, Wohlabaugh and Timmerman formed a strong veteran trio inside, but Wohlabaugh was cut in training camp leaving the interior more questionable. Kyle Turley is out for another month or two and Orlando Pace remains unsigned with the franchise tag again slapped on him. Combined, these are some serious RED FLAGS for the Rams offense to be sure. It might take a while for the Greatest Show on Turf to get off the ground this year leaving Bulger more vulnerable as well. Then again, all COULD be well and good once Pace signs and IF Turley's back allows him to get back in the lineup. These two players are the key. No Turley is a bad situation for the Rams especially Marshall Faulk and Marc Bulger.
Grade: C+


Middle of the Pack

Oakland Raiders
Al Davis swung for the fences this offseason and connected by drafting LT Robert Gallery and C Jake Grove in the draft, the best players at their positions, and signing former Pro Bowl veteran RG Ron Stone. Depth is improved and if the line comes together quickly Norv Turner's offense could get off to a nice start. Gallery dislocated his elbow and will miss some time, but they'll be fine. Both Gallery and Grove will probably start immediately with 2nd year right tackle Langston Walker and veteran Barry Sims at left guard.
Grade: C

Arizona Cardinals
The Cards big, beefy line might lack the quickness and athleticism needed to really implement coach Denny Green's offense. Green certainly got their attention early cutting Pete Kendall before training camp. Left tackle Leonard Davis has unlimited potential, but must now play up to it. L.J. Shelton now backs him up. Rookie Alex Stepanovich will start at center with veteran Frank Garcia backing him up. The depth is good across the board. As a whole, everyone just needs to live up to their potential because talent is not the problem here. Guard could be a problem though with the unexpected exodus of Kendall.
Grade: C

Washington Redskins
The return of Joe Gibbs and OL coach Joe Bugel should work wonders here, but make no mistake about it - losing Jon Jansen is a hard blow to the gut for this unit. Under Spurrier it seemed as though this group chronically underachieved as the term "max protect" seemed to be missing from the playbook. Bugel should deliver much better results even without Jon Jansen. Chris Samuels, Randy Thomas and Derrick Dockery will lead the way. Kenyatta Jones and Darryl Terrell will try to plug the gaping hole at right tackle. Regardless, Mark Brunell should be safer behind this line than he was at any time during his last couple seasons in Jacksonville. Let's see if he can finally top 20 TDs now.
Grade: C

Buffalo Bills
Former 1st round pick RT Mike Williams needs to keep improving if this line has aspirations of ascending into the upper echelon. Reuben Brown's departure won't hurt as much as some people might think. His play slipped badly last season. The starting unit remains intact so continuity and experience should yield better results in '04. The depth isn't bad either with Marques Sullivan at guard, Marcus Price at RT and Richard seals at RG.
Grade: C

Houston Texans
Free agent singings of RT Todd Wade and RG Zach Weigert help strengthen the right side of the line. Wade is solid, but Weigert is merely a serviceable veteran. This group might surprise. C Steve McKinney, LT Seth Wand and LG Chester Pitts all have unfulfilled potential at this point, but they just could also fuel a marked improvement for this group in 2004. The depth is decent across the board and TE Mark Bruener is also a strong blocker for his position.
Grade: C-

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The coaching staff was unhappy with their line play in '03. So, they signed several veteran free agents beginning with Todd Steussie, Derrick Deese, and Matt Stinchcomb, all of which are expected to start. The team is banking on improvement, but with this much turnover it could take a while. Watch them during the pre-season for signs either way. The depth is strong across the board so the Bucs offense should be better than average especially considering that Chucky is behind the controls.
Grade: C-

San Francisco 49ers
There's ample pressure on Kwame Harris to replace Derrick Deese at LT as 49ers are transitioning to youth at the cost of losing two former Pro Bowl performers in Deese and Ron Stone. Expect some growing pains in 2004, but for the long-term this group will be fine. Scott Gragg is a sturdy veteran right tackle and Jeremy Newberry is solid at center. Gaurds Eric Heitmann and Kyle Kosier will be the key to a strong running game, and as a unit they'll have a tall order in keeping defenses at bay with their immobile QB tandem of Tim Rattay and Ken Dorsey. Would it be unreasonable to think we could see Cody Pickett or Brandon Doman some time this year? Kevan Barlow owners hope not.
Grade: C-

Atlanta Falcons
Adding coach Alex Gibbs is a major addition behind the scenes, but you can't make filet mignon out of ground chuck. The right side of the line will anchor the line beginning with veteran right tackle Todd Weiner, RG Kynan Forney and center Todd McClure. It's a disappointment that TE Hunter Goodwin promptly retired after signing as a free agent in the off-season to be a glorified 3rd tackle. His blocking could have really fueled a rebirth to their ground game. Bob Whitfield is the veteran backup at LT and the depth is above average overall.
Grade: C-


Table Scraps: Where's the Beef?

Pittsburgh Steelers
Injuries plagued the Steelers line in '03. They were counting on Marvel Smith and Kendall Simmons to rebound, but Simmons is now possibly out for the year. Center Jeff Hartings has chronically bad knees but is being counted on to start. The depth is improved with rookie Max Starks at RT. The Steelers should be solid, if not average at least providing they gel and finally remain a bit healthier. Losing Simmons in the pre-season will test their depth. The offensive line is the biggest reason the Steelers offense slipped in 2003, for them to improve as a team they need to do it beginning right here. Alan Faneca is a rock at LG.
Grade: D+

Dallas Cowboys
Larry Allen appeared to be clearly declining and an infusion of youth and talent has been long overd. Yet there are promising signs coming from Allen and the line overall in training camp that Parcells may be able to coax more out of this group than originally anticipated. They better improve because the front office did nothing to address their needs in the off-season. Flozell Adams returns at LT, Larry Allen at LG and Al Johnson at center. Andre Gurode and Torrin Tucker will lay the ground work on the right side.
Grade: D+

Cleveland Browns
LT Ross Verba is a decent player, but he's out of position. Center Jeff Faine and RT Ryan Tucker are average, but not exactly Pro Bowlers either. The entire line is fairly unproven but they do have plenty of youth and possibly from their depth a few key players might emerge. Free agent Kelvin Garmon is an improvement at right guard, but left guard is a question mark with Enoch DeMar and Paul Zukauskas heading up the depth chart. Overall, this group lacks the punch needed to generate a power running attack and the Browns front office failed to make significant improvements in this area during the off-season. Be happy, Browns fans, you got the freakin' soldier!
Grade: D

NY Giants
Chris Bober and Jeff Hatch are gone. Who? Exactly. The only thing worse than losing two of their starters is replacing them with former Browns starters. Seriously. When have the Browns ever had a good offensive line since their return to the NFL? Adding RG Chris Snee in the 2nd round helps, but with a lot of turnover and no major additions to last year's lackluster group that allowed 44 sacks (3rd most in the NFL), the outlook is a bit grim. Welcome aboard Kurt and Eli! No wonder new coach Tom Coughlin is keen on the rebirth of Ron Dayne to help provide these quarterbacks with a strong running attack and less pressure. The line could pan out to be decent, but it's not very pretty on paper and it may take a while for this entire offense to start clicking with so many new pieces to the puzzle.
Grade: D

Miami Dolphins
According to Dan Pompei, General manager Rick Spielman insists this year's offensive line is much better than their line a year ago at this time. I'll believe it when I see it even though Spielman is a good personnel guy. John St. Clair is shaky at left tackle, Vernon Carey will be counted on heavily to provide some relief soon, regardless of what position he ends up at. Free agent guard Jeno James definitely helps at right guard. Center Seth McKinney and left tackle Wade Smith are key players but right guard looks questionable. They allowed 31 sacks last year and there's a decent amoung of turnover here. Throw in the loss of Ricky Williams and David Boston, and all of a sudden this line looks kinda shakey, so expect some growing pains and another frustrating season for the Miami offense overall.
Grade: D

San Diego Chargers
Veteran Roman Oben takes over at left tacke after coming over from Tampa Bay. He's easily the most experienced member of this unit. The jury is still out on last year's 2nd rounder right guard Toniu Fonoti and the line has a lot of turnover without any definite upgrade in talent outside of Oben. If it weren't for Oben, the chargers off-season would be considered a disaster for the line. Regardless, the run blocking could be acceptable. But now you know why Eli Manning didn't want anything to do with MartyBall or the Chargers mess of an offensive line.
Grade: D-

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