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Dallas up 7
Pro Bowl left tackle Tyron Smith (ankle) returned to practice this week in a limited fashion. Smith has been managing a bone spur injury and had missed the prior two games. Usually, a player of Smith's age would have to prove his return to the lineup but positive comments from the Dallas front office tips the scales toward Smith's return. The Cowboys do have many options with Ty Nshkhe, Terrence Steele, and La'el Collins all able to contribute at a starting level. It all adds up to a sizable upgrade, and the Cowboys' offensive line ranks 6th with their best player in the lineup. They face a vulnerable Kansas City defense this weekend in what broadcasters have termed America's Game of the Week.
New England up 3
Former All-Pro right tackle Trent Brown rejoined the starting lineup last week and played 69% of snaps against Cleveland. After missing time since Week One, Brown rotated with Mike Onwenu. It is rare for any team to have a player of Onwenu's caliber as a bench player, but with Ted Karras playing well at left guard, and Brown working his way into form, that might be the outcome for this talented second-year player out of Michigan. Right guard Shaq Mason (abdomen) is officially questionable, as is Trent Brown (calf) but Mason played 100% of snaps last week and both are in ranks. The Patriots travel to Atlanta on a short week for Thursday Night Football, and that's always a tough assignment (look at Baltimore last week against Miami). On full rest, this Patriots' line has the talent to dominate not only this matchup but most on their remaining schedule. This group ranks 9th, as they move into the top ten of the current rankings.
Baltimore up 3
Despite their spotty performance last week on Thursday Night Football, this Baltimore group is due for a minor upgrade based on the return of right tackle Patrick Mekari. Mekari has missed several games with a high ankle sprain and has been limited in practice this week. However, assuming Mekari sends Tyre Phillips to the bench, the Ravens' offensive line would have a small upgrade prior to traveling to face a tough Chicago front this weekend. Neither Mekari nor Phillips are natural tackles, but Mekari does a better impersonation. In other news, center Bradley Bozeman has been away from the facility with a non-Covid illness. With ten days rest, Bozeman is included in the model, but his status should be monitored by those with exposure to this offense. The loss of Ronnie Stanley has put a cap on Baltimore's grades, but they rank 18th this week.
Minnesota up 1
After missing two games, center Garrett Bradbury has been activated from the Covid list. Bradbury practiced in a limited fashion, but he took reps with the first team. This is a controversial upgrade among Vikings' fans as the offense has looked much better with journeyman Mason Cole in the lineup than it did with Bradbury. Still, the team has invested first-round draft capital into Bradbury and will give him every opportunity to keep this job. It will be interesting to see what kind of leash the coaches give Bradbury, as he could be benched mid-game. It's a small upgrade that many will look at as a downgrade. So it goes in the wild world of offensive line evaluation. Minnesota ranks 25th prior to hosting a red-hot Packers' defensive front.
Carolina up 1
There was some hope for the bottom-dwelling Panthers' offensive line this week. Without their starting left tackle and center, the replacements stepped up and upset Arizona on the road. At left tackle, Dennis Daley played 84% of snaps, giving way to Brady Christensen, who played the final 13 snaps at the spot. Daley has been rock solid wherever the coaches put him and the development of Christensen is extremely positive news. With Matt Paradis on IR, Pat Elflein returned to his college center position and played well given the opportunity. The Panthers' line doesn't have a great grade, 30th in this week's ranks, but they are on the upswing prior to hosting a vulnerable Washington Football Team defense, reeling from the loss of defensive end Chase Young (ACL).
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