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OL Report: Week Four

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Published, 9/26/13
    

Editor’s Note: New for 2013 we’ve enlisted OL Guru Lance Zierlein to help us understand how each OL is performing and the ramifications for fantasy football. Lance’s father is a line coach in the NFL, and he knows the OLs as well as anyone out there.
    
Here’s Lance’s look at the lines based on their Week Three showings, with some mini previews offered up for Week Four.

 

San Francisco 49ers at St. Louis Rams

 

49ers Last Week: The 49ers running game should have been better than what it was, but the 49ers got away from the power game on the edge. C Jonathan Goodwin isn’t getting any movement up front and the TEs were absolutely terrible in the run game. The 49ers really missed Vernon Davis (and departed TE Delanie Walker). In the passing game, there was heat once again, but QB Colin Kaepernick wasn’t bolting the pocket when he shouldn’t have as well. It wasn’t all on the offensive line.

 

Rams Last Week: After keeping Sam Bradford from being sacked over his first two starts, the Rams got obliterated by the Cowboys pass rush allowing 6 sacks and 16 pressures. Tackles Jake Long and Joseph Barksdale had issues all game long with protection. Guards Chris Williams and Harvey Dahl had trouble against bull rushes and defensive line twists. The Rams only tried to run the ball 12 times, but they weren’t going to do anything even with 30 attempts.

 

This Week: I know that the Rams won’t be able to run the ball against the 49ers because it is a bad matchup on paper and it is the primary weakness of the Rams offense, but the 49ers still need to prove they are still a dominant run defense as Justin Smith isn’t the hammer he once was. Without Aldon Smith, the 49ers pass rush will suffer which means the secondary will have to cover longer but it shouldn’t matter. This should be a “must-sit” for all Rams starters. The 49ers got away from the running game and they relied way too heavily on Kaepernick who spent too much time in a state of confusion. They will get back to the run game against a poor run defense and Gore gets to 100 yards.

 

Last Week’s Grades

Team (Opponent)

Pass Protection

Run Blocking

49ers (IND)

C

B-

Rams (DAL)

F

F

 

New England Patriots at Atlanta Falcons

 

Patriots Last Week: It wasn’t exactly pretty, but it was effective. The Patriots running game increased their rushing total with every quarter against the hard-nosed Tampa defense and when it was time to close them out, the Patriots running game did just that. Terrific cut block by Logan Mankins on Brandon Bolden’s 25 yard run in the 3rd quarter and the tackles had a solid performance. The Patriots still need to protect better as they gave up a sack on a delayed, hug blitz to a middle linebacker and one to DE Adrian Clayborn who beat them on a T/E twist.

 

Falcons Last Week: LT Sam Baker was out with an injury last game and the Falcons offensive lines have one of their best games of the season. RT Trueblood and RG Reynolds played great getting their down blocks handled in the power game and knocking the Dolphins defenders off of their spot consistently. Lamar Holmes did an admirable job at the left side tackle spot in pass protection and in the run game and if the Falcons can run it like this in the future, life will be much easier for Matt Ryan.

 

This Week: I don’t expect the Falcons to run it as successfully as last weekend, but I do think they will open the game throwing and then try and establish the run from there. RB Jacquizz Rodgers carries some value because I do think he can post a 60+ yard game on the ground and he’ll get checkdown looks. The Patriots running game was about repetition last weekend, but I still think it is more likely that they attack through the air and challenge the Falcons pass rush and coverage. I see the Patriots offensive line having a sharp game in this matchup.

 

Last Week’s Grades

Team (Opponent)

Pass Protection

Run Blocking

Patriots (TB)

C

A-

Falcons (ATL)

A

A-


Seattle Seahawks at Houston Texans

 

Seahawks Last Week: Seattle is playing without LT Russell Okung and it shows out there on the field. The protection is still a little spotty and RT Giacomini was banged up against the Jaguars as well which certainly doesn’t help moving forward. The game was a layup for the Seahawks and honestly, I felt like their offensive line kind of slept-walked through it. Interestingly enough, the Seahawks had much of their success on the ground out of 3 WR sets.

 

Texans Last Week: The offensive line got off to a solid start with the Texans running game moving down the field for stretched during the first half, but once the Texans got behind by two scores after defensive/special teams TDs, they stopped running and started passing and their tackles struggled in protection. LT Duane Brown was out and it showed as Ryan Harris was a big step down in talent. The Texans had better success running right as opposed to their usual trips to the left side.

 

This Week: This game could become a battle of which running game has the most yards after contact and which beat-up offensive tackle unit plays at the highest level. Okung is out and Texans LT Duane Brown will be a game-time decision. Giacomini and C Max Unger are both hurting and Texans RT Derek Newton struggles in pass protection. Can either team protect effectively enough? As for the running games, the Texans have made over half of their yards this year AFTER initial contact and the Seahawks do a great job of wrapping up. Arian Foster looked sharp last week in limited carries and may be coming around. The Texans defense looks great on paper, but Marshawn Lynch should still be able to run at them. Neither WR corps will be able to get off big in this one.

 

Last Week’s Grades

Team (Opponent)

Pass Protection

Run Blocking

Seahawks (JAX)

B-

B-

Texans (BAL)

C-

C+

 

Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions

 

Bears Last Week: The Bears offensive cohesiveness and offensive line play is night and day from last year. The rookie right side of RG Kyle Long and RT Jordan Mills did a terrific job of helping to open holes in the first half but there wasn’t much running room in the 2nd half. In the past, the inability to run might have killed the Bears, but the pass protection is much more solid at both tackle spots and Jay Cutler got rid of the ball against Dick LeBeau’s blitz packages.

 

Lions Last Week: The Lions had a couple of nice down-blocking plays where they pulled their LG Sims into the B-gap on the right side of the line which helped to spring Joique Bell, but keep in mind that 79.3% of Bell’s yardage came after contact in that game which meant he had to work for those yards. When asked to protect on straight dropbacks, RT Corey Hilliard used some awful footwork and he could be a problem moving forward as a starter.

 

This Week: The Bears have figured out that they can run a power scheme behind rookie RG Kyle Long because LG Matt Slauson is pretty good at pulling and getting into the gaps and hitting moving targets. The Bears will have to work for their rushing yards against Fairley and Suh which means that they will likely try and attack through the air rather than worrying too much about the ground game. On the other side of the ball, the Lions world just got easier with the Bears loss of DT Henry Melton to an ACL injury. The Lions modified zone-read (where Stafford decided whether to hand off or to pass to a WR/TE in the seam) will keep the Bears LBs on their heels, which should benefit Reggie Bush and Joique Bell. Keep in mind, however, that the Bears have some issues at CB and Matt Stafford should hang a number on them as long as the Lions do their job up front protecting. The Lions are relying on quite a few 5 man protections which means Stafford is getting rid of it quickly.

 

Last Week’s Grades

Team (Opponent)

Pass Protection

Run Blocking

Bears (PIT)

C

C-

Lions (WAS)

B

D+


New York Giants at Kansas City Chiefs

 

Giants Last Week: Just a piss-poor performance by an offensive line that was one of the better units in the game last year. LT Will Beatty was particularly heinous with 2.5 sacks allowed, 3 pressures and a holding penalty. What is flying under the radar is the alarmingly mediocre play of RG Chris Snee up to this point. The offensive line shouldn’t expect much help from RB David Wilson as he made bad reads and decisions more than once.

 

Chiefs Last Week: The running game just isn’t what it was last year and I think a big reason is because the Chiefs have gotten away from their outsize zone as their go-to, bread-and-butter running play. Both Allen and Schwartz struggled against the Chiefs to get their blocks in their man-blocking plays while C Rodney Hudson looked good with the zone stuff. RT Eric Fisher continues to struggle, but it is simply because he is over-setting and letting rushers inside of him. That is correctable.

 

This Week: The Chiefs have holes in their pass protection and their running game is still trying to find it’s footing so there is hope for the Giants defense if they decide to show up this week. Here is the bigger issue. The Chiefs know that they can win by being conservative and playing defense. I like Jamaal Charles this week, but not the passing game. The Giants only know one way of playing offense, but that way includes running the ball and they haven’t been able to do it so far and probably won’t be all that good against this solid Chiefs defensive line. Tamba Hali and Justin Houston taking on Will Beatty and Justin Pugh is a big problem for Eli Manning and the passing game.

 

Last Week’s Grades

Team (Opponent)

Pass Protection

Run Blocking

Giants (CAR)

F

F

Chiefs (PHI)

D

B-

 

Dallas Cowboys at San Diego Chargers

 

Cowboys Last Week: Maybe… just maybe, the Cowboys offensive line is starting to come around. RG Brian Waters isn’t what he once was and RT Doug Free is still just serviceable as a starter, but as a unit, they played really well. The Cowboys couldn’t get much going with their toss plays and zone plays, but their power plays helped open holes. The Cowboys didn’t dominate at the point, but they engaged defenders and stayed engaged and RB DeMarco Murray put on a show finding holes where there weren’t supposed to be any and showing an elite level of burst. LT Tyron Smith gave up some pass rush pressure to Robert Quinn but did an excellent job of keeping Quinn from being a factor.

 

Chargers Last Week: Only 13 of the Chargers 102 rushing yards came on the right side of the line where D.J. Fluker lives and that was pretty shocking to me. When the Chargers had some success it was with their power attack up the middle, but the Titans speedy LBs were able to slow down the wide stuff. From a protection standpoint, the Chargers did a nice job of utilizing their quick passing attack and I’m at the point of no longer being concerned about their protection issues.

 

This Week: Sure the Titans LBs are speedy, but that defense is nothing compared to what the Chargers are getting ready to see in terms of speed and flying around to the ball. Monte Kiffin’s Tampa-2 will force a bunch of short throws which means that Rivers is unlikely to accumulate fantasy numbers worthy of speaking about. The Chargers defense is okay, but the Cowboys offensive line and DeMarco Murray looked great last weekend. The Chargers are struggling to stop pass and Dallas has been protecting Tony Romo very effectively. Put those two together and Dez Bryant should get an early Christmas present this week.

 

Last Week’s Grades

Team (Opponent)

Pass Protection

Run Blocking

Cowboys (STL)

A-

A

Chargers (TEN)

B-

C

 

Philadelphia Eagles at Denver Broncos

 

Eagles Last Week: LT Jason Peters and RT Lane Johnson stunk last week against the Chiefs. That is all there is to say about that. The Chiefs were in Mike Vick’s face all game long because neither tackle could keep pass rushers from getting to Vick and protecting the passer is supposed to be Johnson’s strength. As bad as they were, RG Todd Herremans was equally poor. There will always be room to run thanks to the spacing of this offense, but the pass blocking must get more consistent as Vick tends to hang onto the ball a little longer than you might like.

 

Broncos Last Week: Despite missing Ryan Clady, the Broncos passing attack (and run game) seemed to move forward like it was business as usual. Denver tried to grind it out between the tackles, but they showed that they have the ability to run wide if called on. Twice, QB Manning audibled to “apple” which resulted in a toss play out of the shotgun where the left tackle and left guard get out and lead block for the offset back. Both plays were successful and it’s curious why the Broncos don’t utilize their wide running game more often.

 

This Week: Man, what a great idea for Chip Kelly to trash-talk Peyton Manning. That should work out well for him. We saw last week that the left tackle position really doesn’t matter much in terms of protecting Manning and we also saw that the Broncos are willing to feed that running game which should yield results for RB Knowshon Moreno against the Eagles defense which will be spread thin. The Eagles will still have a solid running game as they always do and I actually think that the pass protection will be good enough in this spot to help the Eagles attack down the field. Fantasy Football Super Bowl, baby! Points, Points, Points and Yards, Yards, Yards!

 

Last Week’s Grades

Team (Opponent)

Pass Protection

Run Blocking

Eagles (KC)

F

A

Broncos (OAK)

A

A

 

Other Matchups

 

Pittsburgh at Minnesota - The Vikings not only have no problem with having the box loaded against Adrian Peterson, they actually want it. The Vikings do something crazy - they formation defenses INTO the box with the hope that Peterson can break the second level and hit a big play. Troy Polamalu will live near the line of scrimmage and it will be another grind for Peterson. The Steelers have now started to rotate in Kelvin Beachum along with Mike Adams and Marcus Gilbert at the tackle spots. Right now they are just throwing crap up against a wall to see what sticks. The Vikings will offer the Steelers running game a chance to get better and I think RG David DeCastro has his best game as a pro in this game.

 

Baltimore at Buffalo - The Ravens offensive line has been a huge disappointment relative to their talent and Bernard Pierce looked slow to the hole last weekend. The interior o-line has to play more consistently (I’m looking at you, C Gino Gradkowski) in order to top 100 yards rushing for the first time, which should happen against the porous Bills front. The Bills pass protection was solid until last weekend when the Jets ruined them and the running game. If you take away Fred Jackson’s 55 yard run and the yardage from EJ Manuel, this offensive line struggled to find running yards. Baltimore has kept running games from taking off and have the pass rushers to bother the Bills tackles. Look out here.

 

Indianapolis at Jacksonville - The Colts offensive line battled the talented 49ers front all game and RBs Ahmad Bradshaw and Trent Richardson got all they could from each run. It is obvious that the Colts are going to rely more heavily on the run and the way their o-line is pulling and hitting moving targets, they should have success against the Jaguars. Jacksonville simply can’t protect the QB consistently and they don’t have enough talent to generate running lanes between the tackles. MJD has a shot at getting to the outside and making some things happen, but if the Colts get out on the Jaguars early, it won’t matter. The Jaguars interior line is a disaster.

 

Arizona at Tampa Bay - Doug Martin is the hardest working man in football behind Adrian Peterson and a big reason for that is the average play up front. The Bucs guards just aren’t getting it done consistently enough and the Cardinals have proven to be a tough out against the run. I still like Doug Martin to do what he does because of the talent, not the o-line. Arizona’s pass protection is starting to show more leaks than just at the LT position and that could be a problem of they don’t run it well against Tampa’s disruptive defensive line. This looks like a bad fantasy day for Arizona.

 

NY Jets at Tennessee - Bilal Powell’s perimeter quickness and toughness give the Jets running game more life than usual as their outdated in-line blocking leads to too many “phone-booth” running plays. The Jets will find the going tougher against the Titans who have some quick athletes up front - especially against the pass. This may sound crazy, but if the Titans can just keep the ball on the perimeters and away from the Jets defensive line, they might have a chance. LG Levitre is good in space but has a bad matchup heads-up. RG Warmack is powerful at the point of attack but needs to be better on zone plays. I don’t like Chris Johnson here, but I do think he can hit a big play around the corner if the Titans TEs play more aggressively than they have so far.

 

Washington at Oakland - Injuries along the offensive line really stymied the Raiders against the Broncos, but the Redskins defense gives them a chance to get better as long as Terrelle Pryor is healthy and a running threat. Without the threat of Pryor on the zone read, the Raiders run game turn immediately into a pumpkin with limited running room for McFadden. Alfred Morris used some nice cutback moves to hit two really nice runs and didn’t get the kind of help from his offensive line that he needs in this spot. The Raiders have a fast LB corps so it will be challenging for the Redskins linemen to get up to the second level on zone plays in order to break big runs. I expect RG3 to have plenty of time to throw and to have a big day in this spot.

 

Cincinnati at Cleveland - I won’t even waste your time talking about the running game for the Browns because there is zero value in it for this game. The Bengals will shut that down and they can do it without committing a safety to the box. RT Mitchell Schwartz is still trying to fix his pass protection issues and the Browns pass protection will have problems here. The Cleveland defensive line is tough against the run and the Bengals grinding run game won’t churn out much fantasy value, but a bigger concern will be whether or not the Bengals suddenly shaky protection can stiffen up here and give Dalton more time.

 

Miami at New Orleans - Remember back when the Dolphins looked like a tough run stop unit? Yeah, me too. What happened? The Falcons, of all offensive lines, gashed the Dolphins last weekend and I’m sure the Saints will dip their toes in the water with Pierre Thomas as well. Cameron Wake and the left side of the Dolphins defense will be targeted. If you take away the QB rushing yards and the adjust for the one, big run from Lamar Miller, the Dolphins had an “Adjusted YPC” of 2.8. Not good. I was unimpressed with the Saints rush defense and Miller will have a good game here. As for pass protection, the Dolphins are getting poor play from their entire offensive line and the Saints are in attack mode so be very leery about their yards through the air this week.

 

Grading System Explained

To come up with my grades, I utilize a proprietary data based formula combined with good old-fashioned game watching. I will weight grades based on whether or not a team played to or beyond their talent level and based on the competition the offensive line played. Here are the grades from Week 2.

 

Team

Pass Pro Grade

Run Grade

Arizona Cardinals

D+

B-

Atlanta Falcons

A

A-

Baltimore Ravens

B-

D

Buffalo Bills

F

D

Carolina Panthers

A

B

Chicago Bears

C

C-

Cincinnati Bengals

D

C-

Cleveland Browns

B-

C+

Dallas Cowboys

A-

A

Denver Broncos

A

A

Detroit Lions

B

D+

Green Bay Packers

C-

A

Houston Texans

C-

C+

Indianapolis Colts

B

A-

Jacksonville Jaguars

D

F

Kansas City Chiefs

D

B-

Miami Dolphins

D-

C-

Minnesota Vikings

F

C-

New England Patriots

C

A-

New Orleans Saints

C-

C+

New York Giants

F

F

New York Jets

A

B

Oakland Raiders

C-

F

Philadelphia Eagles

F

A

Pittsburgh Steelers

D+

C-

San Diego Chargers

B-

C

San Francisco 49ers

C

B-

Seattle Seahawks

B-

B-

St. Louis Rams

F

F

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

C-

C+

Tennessee Titans

B

C+

Washington Redskins

C+

C

 

 

 

Bad draft picks are down 1,593%. Must be the Guru!

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