2003 Offensive Lines
Posted 7/29 by Chris Smith - Exclusive to Footballguys.com
While not the most glamorous position in the NFL, offensive lines are crucial
to a team's success. How great can Kurt Warner be if the offensive line cannot
pass block for him? How effective can Ricky Williams be if the line blocking
for him cannot open the hole? Players such as Orlando Pace, Jonathon Ogden and
Will Shields are difference makers on the field but are rarely noticed by the
This article will break down how each line ranked last year in Rushing Yards,
YPC and Sacks. This article will also take a look at free agent acquisitions,
players drafted and any other happenings that could affect the performance of
this group in 2003.
How will Alexander perform in 2003?
Can Warner stay healthy enough to regain his MVP form?
Can Tomlinson flirt with 2000 rushing yards?
Those questions become clearer when you breakdown the offensive lines in front
- For Rushing Yards and YPC, I subtracted the QB carries and QB rushing yards
from the total to get a true reflection on an offensive line's proficiency.
- All Latest News blurbs
have been pulled from our News
Blogger. To read more of each story, run a search (News Blogger) by typing
in player's name.
1. Kansas City Chiefs
2002: 3rd in rushing (134.1), 3rd in YPC (5.0), 8th in sacks (26), 8th
in PA per sack (19.3)
Good coaching, great talent and solid teamwork make the Chiefs offensive line
the best in football. Solid right across the line, there is no weakness for
defenses to exploit. This is the second season they will play together as a
unit, which could result in even stronger results than a year ago. Will Shields
and William Roaf are amongst the best at their position in the NFL, John Tait
is a rock at the tackle position and Casey Wiegmann is getting stronger as the
starting center. This group simply knows how to dominate the defenses across
from them on a play-by-play basis. Whether it is Priest Holmes or rookie draft
pick Larry Johnson running the football in 2003, expect to see big holes for
the player to exploit. Perhaps the best part of these linemen is their durability
as not one of them missed a start in 2002.
The Chiefs drafted two young offensive tackles (Brett Williams, Jordan Black)
in the NFL Draft and both will be given the luxury of learning the position
behind two of the best. Amongst the backups is Marcus Spears who has started
in the past and Donald Willis who has fought health and weight problems throughout
his career. If injuries strike this unit, it may prove catastrophic if one of
more backups cannot emerge as legitimate starting lineman.
The bottom line is the Chiefs are a talented, well-coached unit who will enjoy
another outstanding campaign as the Chiefs attempt to make a Super Bowl push.
- Brett Williams (6-5, 321) joins Kansas City after completing a successful
collegiate career at Florida State University where he saw action in 40 games
(35 starts) at tackle for the Seminoles. Williams started all 14 games at
left tackle in 2002, earning first-team All-America honors from The NFL Draft
Report, The Sporting News and the American Football Coaches Association. He
also earned first-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference honors. Williams earned
second-team All-ACC honors his first two years at Florida State. He signed
on July 17th.
- Jordan Black(6'5, 314) joins Kansas City as a fifth round draft choice
after playing his collegiate career at Notre Dame University. He is an intelligent
blocker who can play both guard and tackle and will be a valuable backup in
Kansas City. He signed a contract July 12th.
Rushing: 1st in NFL
Passing: 1st in NFL
2. Green Bay Packers
2002: 8th (116.3), 8th in YPC (4.4), 9th in sacks (27), 7th in PA per
This group has been together for some time now and it shows on the field. They
play together as a unit and compliment one another nicely. The Packers added
veteran guard Grey Ruegamer from the Patriots and he'll be welcome depth to
the squad. Chad Clifton is becoming the force he was expected to when drafted
in the 2000 draft. He is a big, strong kid who gets the job done. Marco Rivera
made the Pro Bowl last year and has developed into a tremendous talent at guard.
He was the first Pro Bowl offensive lineman to play for Green Bay in seven years.
The backup linemen (Grey Ruegamer, Frank Winters, Bill Ferrario and Kevin Barry)
have experience and some talent that will help this unit if injuries crop up.
- Offensive tackle Earl Dotson formally announced his retirement after
10 seasons in the NFL, all with the Packers. Dotson, 32, was a starter on
both of the Super Bowl teams in the '90s and one of the toughest and most
respected players in the locker room. Chronic back problems caused him to
continually play in pain, yet he refused to give up the game.
- For the first time since last September, the talented tackle tandem of
Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher was intact, ready to resume protecting the
Green Bay Packers' franchise quarterback. "To see them back in there
certainly is exciting," coach Mike Sherman said. "I know our quarterback's
Rushing: 3rd in NFL
Passing: 4th in NFL
3. Miami Dolphins
2002: 1st in rushing (142.7), 4th in YPC (4.9), 7th in sacks (25), 9th
in PA per sack (19.2)
Last season, the Dolphins offensive line had some injury woes to deal with.
However they managed to do a solid job both protecting the quarterback and opening
holes for running back Ricky Williams. The Dolphins had the most rushing yardage
of any team in the AFC. The starting five are a veteran bunch with over 32 years
of experience and if healthy should be one of the stronger units. Mark Dixon
was one of the lowest paid starting tackles in the NFL but performed as one
of the better tackles. Jamie Nails revitalized his career and had an outstanding
The backups are young and talented, led by Seth McKinney and this seasons draft
picks, Wade Smith and Taylor Whitley. Down the road, each of these three players
will be given every opportunity to start but for now they will learn behind
the veteran unit.
- LG Jamie Nails, who is recovering from a torn Achilles' tendon, worked
the up-tempo, two-minute drills during the final offseason workouts without
any issues. Nails kept himself in decent shape during his layoff. Still, he
could be held back some at the start of camp, just to make sure he doesn't
try to do too much too soon.
Rushing: 2nd in NFL
Passing: 11th in NFL
4. San Francisco 49ers
2002: 6th in rushing (118.6), 6th in YPC (4.6), 3rd in sacks (22), 2nd
in PA per sack (26.9)
The 49ers drafted tackle Kwame Harris in the first round and he'll compete
for playing time immediately. He is a big, athletic kid who uses his size well.
The team lost guard Dave Fiore and he will be missed by the offense. Replacing
him is Eric Heitmann who was a 7th round pick a year ago and could be a weak
link on an otherwise solid line. The team wanted Kwame Harris to claim a starting
spot on the line so they can relegate Heitmann to backup status where he probably
belongs but it doesn't appear that will be happening now. Harris is better suited
to the tackle position.. Ron Stone is a great offensive guard and Jeremy Newberry
is a perennial Pro-Bowl player.
Kwame Harris will provide depth unless he wins a starting job out of the gate.
That isn't very likely though. After him, the talent pool is pretty empty.
- First-round draft pick Kwame Harris will remain at left tackle, coach
Dennis Erickson said. Originally, the team had thought about having Harris
compete for the starting job at left guard as a rookie. Now, the plan is for
Harris to play in a reserve role behind starter Derrick Deese.
Rushing: 6th in NFL
Passing: 5th in NFL
5. Philadelphia Eagles
2002: 11th in rushing (108.8), 14th in YPC (4.2), 16th in sacks (36),
15th in PA per sack (16.2)
The Eagles have a solid offensive line but have never developed into a great
unit but will be incredible if they do. Individually these guys have talent
(three made the Pro-Bowl in 2002) but something is missing when they step onto
the field. This is a veteran unit that will continue to play solid football
but they could be excellent if they find the missing ingredient. Tra Thomas
is a giant of a man at left tackle and is clearly the best lineman the team
has. He has surprising agility for a man who weighs 350 lbs. However Thomas
didn't have the best of seasons last year and will need to come back determined
in 2003. This is a good group but they have a chance to develop into much more.
Jermane Mayberry has settled in to the guard position to become the most consistent
lineman on the team.
Backups on the line include former 2nd round draft choice Bobby Williams and
last year's 4th round pick Scott Peters. Both have talent but need to elevate
their play if injuries occur up front.
- OLT Tra Thomas has been to the Pro-Bowl, the NFC Championship game, and
has become a leader on the offensive line. But he isn't satisfied. Thomas
was manhandled by Simeon Rice in the championship game last season, and is
looking for redemption, and a trip to the Super Bowl this season.
Rushing: 12th in NFL
Passing: 7th in NFL
6. Pittsburgh Steelers
2002: 7th in rushing (117.9), 14th in YPC (4.2), 13th in sacks (34),
12th in PA per sack (17.2)
The Steelers have a solid core led by Jeff Hartings but this unit will really
miss the skills of Wayne Gandy (signed by Saints). Todd Fordham was brought
in to replace Gandy and the team needs him to do well. He will be in a fierce
competition with Oliver Ross at the right tackle position The four returning
veterans are young, talented, still improving and should continue to grow as
players. The interior three are as good as they come. Hartings, Simmons and
Faneca are very talented and will control the inside. Marvel Smith will switch
from right tackle to left tackle to fill the hole created with the departure
of Gandy. The tackle positions are a big question mark and only time will tell
if Smith and Fordham can get the job done. Look for another strong performance
from this line although perhaps not as dominating as in seasons past.
The backup situation in Pittsburgh is questionable at this time. There is some
talent in this group such as 4th round pick in 2001 Nkwenti Mathias and the
5th round pick in the same year, Okobi Chukky but the players are still unproven
at this point.
- Offensive tackle Marvel Smith may just be moving from one end of the
Steelers line to the other, but going from right tackle to left tackle is
much more than that. Smith made the move during the off-season after Wayne
Gandy signed with the New Orleans Saints as an unrestricted free agent. He
worked there through the coaching sessions and off-season practices, but still
feels like there is work to be done.
Rushing: 13th in NFL
Passing: 6th in NFL
7. Washington Redskins
2002: 9th in rushing (111.4), 8th in YPC (4.4), 19th in sacks (38),
18th in PA per sack (15.7)
The Redskins have improved the talent on the line significantly this off-season.
They added Derrick Dockery who is a huge rookie guard from Texas as well as
free-agent guards Dave Fiore and Randy Thomas, both of whom will certainly start.
Chris Samuels and Jon Jansen are two of the better tackles on one team in the
NFL. They are young and athletic and should backbone this core for years to
come. If these guys can learn to play with one another right away, watch out
for the Redskins on offense. This has the making of a tremendous line, perhaps
even the tops in the league by the end of the season.
Depth comes in the form of veteran Tre Johnson and rookie Derrick Dockery,
a 3rd round pick from this season. Dockery is a 'Man amongst Boys' at 6'6 and
347 pounds but may be a little too big for his own good, as his endurance and
quickness have been questioned while at the University of Texas. However he
hits hard, sustains his blocks and is a hard guy to get around. He will provide
valuable depth this year and will start in a season or two.
- "I want to lead this offensive line to be the best it can be. Whatever
it takes, we're going to do it--that's my attitude. You're going to see a
guy out there who is very dedicated to his job and his team."
- Dave Fiore's strongest position is at the left guard. He said at the
press conference that announced his signing with the Redskins that it was
a promise made by the coaching staff that ultimately led him to sign with
the team. That promise was that he would be able to play one position and
not be forced to continue the revolving position game that he faced in San
Francisco. That position would be the left guard. Regarding the chance to
play one position, Fiore was quoted as saying "That was one of the things
that drove me here. I thought I had the chance to play one position and stay
with it." Another factor also was being able to line up beside one of
the NFL's premier offensive tackles, Chris Samuels. Fiore was also quoted
as saying "The Redskins welcomed me and were eager to have me here. I
like the aggressiveness here, I like the willingness to win."
Rushing: 9th in NFL
Passing: 12th in NFL
8. St. Louis Rams
2002: 28th in rushing (86.1), 12th in YPC (4.3), 28th in sacks (46),
21st in PA per sack (14.8)
The Rams have one of the best bookends in the game with Orland Pace and Kyle
Turley striking fear in defensive ends all over the country. Pace is the most
dominating tackle in the NFL today and simply destroys the person across from
him. However Pace is still battling for a new contract instead of practicing
on the field and that is a big concern. The Rams did well to sign Turley and
Wohlabaugh to contracts this off-season. They will add toughness to the mix
and will make everyone better around them. The Rams offensive line is better
than they played last year and I expect serious improvement in 2003. At this
time Pace hasn't signed. If he and the team cannot agree on a long-term contract,
he is expected to accept the one-year offer on the table.
The top backup is John St. Clair who disappointed as a first time starter
in 2002 but provides good depth for the team. His experience as a starter will
be invaluable to him this year and he'll likely be much stronger if the opportunity
presents itself this season. Other backups include last season's 4th round draft
pick Travis Scott and free agent acquisition David Loverne, formerly of the
- Pace, the team's Pro Bowl left tackle, is without a contract. His agent
and the Rams are so far apart in terms of contract proposals, it's looking
more and more like training camp will come and go without him. The next step
for Pace would be to sign his one-year tender. In terms of a multiple-year
contract, the Rams have offered Pace something in the neighborhood of $42
million over seven years. That's roughly what the team is paying Kurt Warner,
Marshall Faulk, Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt. Pace's agent, Carl Poston, asked
for twice that amount.
- No matter how long disgruntled LT Orlando Pace holds out, the team will
keep Kyle Turley at right tackle. Grant Williams, who has improved his upper-body
strength, will start at left tackle during Pace's absence.
Rushing: 7th in NFL
Passing: 17th in NFL
9. New York Giants
2002: 8th in rushing (117.6), 12th in YPC (4.3), 5th in sacks (24),
5th in PA per sack (23.9)
After last season there is little doubt that offensive line couch Jim McNally
is the best in the business. He gets more out of average football players than
perhaps any positional coach in the NFL. On paper this offensive line should
be atrocious but they played well above their head and that is thanks to one
man, their coach. The anchors of this line are Luke Petitgout, a 4th year veteran
from Notre Dame and Chris Bober who excelled as a young center in 2002. Question
marks abound at the other positions but McNally went through the same situation
last year and developed this group into one of the strongest groups in football.
Rookie David Diehl will be competing for a starting position but may serve
as a backup instead this season. If he doesn't start this year, he has an excellent
shot to do so in 2004. Jeff Hatch, a 3rd round pick in 2002 has a good shot
as well to crack the starting lineup and he should be a decent, although inexperienced
backup. Not much else to say about this collection of average blockers. Give
McNally a raise
a BIG RAISE!
- At the moment, Fassel considers Ian Allen and Tam Hopkins as the starters
at right tackle and right guard, respectively. Hopkins is hoping to replace
Jason Whittle, who signed as a free agent in Tampa Bay (and recently suffered
a broken right leg that required the insertion of a pin). "But there
are others I like," he said, naming Hatch, Barrett Brooks and rookie
(fifth round pick) David Diehl as those who he hopes will compete for the
Rushing: 11th in NFL
Passing: 10th in NFL
10. Oakland Raiders
2002: 14th in rushing (100.4), 8th in YPC (4.4), 15th in sacks (36),
11th in PA per sack (18.2)
This is the same group that started the season in 2002 and they are a good
unit surrounded by proven players at the skilled positions. Tackles Lincoln
Kennedy and Barry Sims are a gifted tandem who can dominate their opponents
at times during a game. The question mark going into the season is the mental
health of Barret Robbins. If he has recovered from his bipolar condition and
can effectively return to the team, it will be a big plus to the Raiders championship
dreams. Other than the Robbins question marks, the rest of the starting five
appears to be written in stone with the signing of Mo Collins. 2nd year player
Matt Stinchcomb will have to have an excellent pre-season to move ahead of Collins
or Middleton as the starting guard.
The Raiders have excellent depth with Matt Stinchcomb, Brad Badger and Langster
Walker all having NFL experience. Matt Stinchcomb especially could find playing
time with a good camp. He was the 1st round pick last season and should be much
more prepared in 2003.
- All-Pro center Barret Robbins was among four players placed on the Oakland
Raiders' physically-unable-to-perform list after failing physicals on the
eve of training camp Thursday.
- Dustin Rykert was delighted to join the Silver and Black family after
being selected in the 6th Round of the 2003 NFL Draft. After the rookie mini-camp
in May it was evident that this lineman was a versatile player who has a lot
of potential to strengthen the Raiders already established offense. Head Coach
Bill Callahan noted, "He's obviously a size guy that can be knocked down
inside and play guard; he can play the tackle position, so it'll take some
time for his development [and for him] to get accustomed to the pro game,
but he's a guy that as you project in the late rounds and is sitting there
that falls to you, and we couldn't pass him up."
Rushing: 16th in NFL
Passing: 9th in NFL
11. Denver Broncos
2002: 2nd in rushing (134.4), 1st in YPC (5.2), 27th in sacks (46),
25th in PA per sack (13.0)
The Broncos lost two linemen but may end up better for it. The core of this
group is solid with Tom Nalen, Dan Neil and Matt Lepsis who have played well
together since 2001 but the team wants a better season out of Lepsis who struggled
last year. Ben Hamilton and Ephraim Salaam are decent players but could be replaced
in training camp as 1st-round pick George Foster and free-agent pickup Heath
Irwin will give them a battle for playing time. Once a great line, the Broncos
have slipped some over the last two years although most of the disappointment
from last season can be attributed to the team losing tremendous center Tom
Nalen for the season in week seven with a knee injury. With him out of the lineup
and Dan Neil playing hurt most of the season, the level of play for this group
was down. Expect a much stronger performance in 2003.
At this time, the key backups appear to be rookie George Foster, Heath Irvin
and Carlisle Cooper. There is some talent amongst these players and one or more
may crack the starting lineup if Lepsis and Salaam cannot find more consistency
- The Denver Broncos Thursday singed first-round draft pick tackle George
Foster, Head Coach Mike Shanahan announced. Foster is the last of the Broncos'
10 selections in last April's NFL Draft to sign with the team. Foster, 6-5,
338 pounds, was the team's first-round pick (20th overall), after playing
in 43 career games at Georgia and making 10 starts.
- Center Tom Nalen saw his season end in Week seven last year after suffering
a torn anterior cruciate ligament against the Chiefs. Nalen's absence was
a painful one. In games Nalen started last year, the Broncos were 5-2. Without
the perennial Pro Bowl center, they were 4-5. "He's a proven Pro Bowl
player who's got plenty of gas left in his tank. I think there's a lot of
teams that would love to have him as a luxury on their team," Beuerlein
said. "It gives us our best lineman healthy again, getting Ben to move
over to guard, but when you put Tommy back in there at the middle, it makes
our offensive line a whole lot better.
Rushing: 4th in NFL
Passing: 22nd in NFL
12. Minnesota Vikings
2002: 5th in rushing (118.6), 1st in YPC (5.2), 29th in sacks (49),
27th in PA per sack (12.4)
The Vikings have the biggest offensive line in the NFL with a combined weight
of 1646 pounds. Having Bryant McKinnie available right from training camp will
be a major plus for the Vikings. The contract dispute last year did little to
help his progress as a rookie. He is talented and ready to become an elite tackle.
Mike Rosenthal was brought in to solidify the right side of the line. At center
the Vikings are set with Matt Birk. He is an outstanding center who is amongst
the best in the NFL. The arrival of Rosenthal will allow Liwienski to return
to his natural position at guard and David Dixon should have another decent
season in him. Look for significant improvement in pass protection in 2003 and
a good showing with run blocking again this season.
Key backups include Everett Lindsay and Adam Haayer but nobody really stands
out as a great prospect if the Vikings lose a starter to injury.
- Winning in the trenches depends on continuity and cohesion. Last year,
the Vikings led the NFL in rushing despite having an offensive line that was
shuffled with players injured, holding out and playing out of position. That
isn't the case anymore and, if anything, this year's offensive line should
only be better at opening holes for the running game and protecting Daunte
Culpepper in the passing game. If the mantra about games being won in the
trenches is true, the Vikings have set themselves up for success by building
the foundation blocks where it counts.
Rushing: 5th in NFL
Passing: 25th in NFL
13. Buffalo Bills
2002: 19th in rushing (95.8), 14th in YPC (4.2), 30th in sacks (54),
28th in PA per sack (12.3)
Led by Mike Williams at tackle, the Bills offensive line was very improved
last season. Williams has the talent to be the best lineman in the NFL and he
is tsill learning his craft. He is a ferocious run blocker and is getting better
at protecting the quarterback. Add to that the fact he weights 370 pounds and
has agility and he could be devastating down the road. Reuben Brown is simply
one of the best players at his position. He is big, imposing and great at opening
holes. The rest of the line features Trey Teague, Jonas Jennings and Marques
Sullivan and they are each young, solid players getting better all the time.
The strength of this line is run blocking while the weakness is protecting Drew
Bledsoe. However I expect the pass protection to be improved this season.
Marcus Price did a good job when called on last year. He started three games
on the season and the unit looked solid while he played. Another player the
team is high on is Mike Pucillo who will get a chance to start this season and
will provide good depth if he doesn't win the job.
- After starting all 16 games at a new position, you would think Marques
Sullivan's job would be secured. Think again. The team is high on second-year
pro Mike Pucillo, who didn't play last year but had a strong off season. While
Sullivan has a lot of upside, he was the Bills' most penalized lineman. If
he falters, Pucillo might be ready to take over.
- The Bills think they have the offensive line to play a more physical
style this year. Molding the five returning starters and four or five backups
into a cohesive unit might be the most important task of the offense over
the next six weeks. "I'm very optimistic the offensive line is going
to prove to be one of the strengths of our team," said OC Kevin Gilbride.
Rushing: 17th in NFL
Passing: 26th in NFL
14. Arizona Cardinals
2002: 20th in rushing (95.0), 14th in YPC (4.2), 23rd in sacks (41),
22nd in PA per sack (14.4)
When healthy, this group is clearly the best group on the team. However injury
problems have plagued these guys and they have never developed the continuity
that is so important when it comes to blocking at the professional level. This
group is huge with an average weight of 325 pounds. L.J. Shelton and Anthony
Clement have the potential to be dynamite bookends but have never reached their
full potential. Both are huge players with excellent skills and the NFL better
watch out if they ever put it all together. Leonard Davis is a huge man at 370
pounds and could easily be a star player in the league if he continues to grow
as a player. Pete Kendall hasn't been able to stay healthy and Frank Garcia
was brought in to stabilize the middle of the offensive line. I think this unit
will be very solid in 2003 but will anybody notice the improvement with the
poor talent at the skill positions in Arizona.
The reserves are stronger this season than in years past. Raleigh Roundtree,
Chris Dishman, Cameron Spikes and Jason Starkey all bring experience to the
table and will be able to fill in if injuries strike this group again.
- OL Pete Kendall, the starting left guard the past two seasons, will work
primarily at center early in training camp, coach Dave McGinnis said. Kendall's
intelligence and athletic ability are suited to playing center, McGinnis said,
and the move might strengthen the team's starting unit. The team is deep at
guard, with Chris Dishman, Cameron Spikes and Raleigh Roundtree competing
for the job on the left side.
Rushing: 17th in NFL
Passing: 21st in NFL
15. Tennessee Titans
2002: 21st in rushing (94.7), 28th in YPC (3.6), 2nd in sacks (21),
4th in PA per sack (24.8)
Just an average collection of talent here. The best lineman on the team continues
to be Hopkins who is very experienced and gets the job done. Miller is a talented
player but is often rattled and can get off of his game. This unit won't hurt
the Titans but won't dominate on a weekly basis as well. There biggest strength
appears to be keeping the defensive lineman off of Steve McNair and that is
important to the success of the team. One of the keys this season was to get
guard Zack Piller under contract and the Titans were able to get that done.
He isn't a top guard but is a solid performer and is a nice fit on this offensive
Backup lineman Jason Matthews has the talent to start on this line and is a
valuable backup. The rest of the backups are mediocre talents at best and the
Titans would be best served to not have to use them much this season. Helping
the reserve situation would be the signing of free agent Gennaro DiNapoli but
at the time of this article, he remains unsigned. However there seems to be
progress in regards to him and perhaps he'll join the team soon. He was a solid
contributor for the Titans last year.
- A major training camp battle could come at center. If DiNapoli returns,
expect a fight for the starting position with Ackerman. DiNapoli started every
game at center last year helping to pave the way for 1,952 team rushing yards,
including the sixth 1,100-yard season for George.
Rushing: 25th in NFL
Passing: 3rd in NFL
16. Cincinnati Bengals
2002: 13th in rushing (102.9), 14th in YPC (4.2), 18th in sacks (37),
13th in PA per sack (17.0)
These five guys could be dominating when it comes to run blocking. Mike Goff
and Matt O'Dwyer are mean-spirited players who fight, scratch, and do whatever
it takes to get the job done. Anderson is a dominating presence outside for
the team and Jones is ready to contribute in a big way. If rookie guard Eric
Steinbach can step in and play well, the sky is the limit for this squad. The
Bengals stole Steinbach with a second round pick. He has a ton of talent and
could step in and dominate like Steve Hutchinson did with the Seahawks back
in 2001 as a rookie.
The backups aren't as impressive and the starting five will have to stay healthy
for the Bengals to have success. Rich Braham and Scott Rehberg are probably
the top reserves.
- The preseason also will be an important time for the interior of the
offensive line, which has been revamped. Former right guard Mike Goff has
moved to center, and former left guard Matt O'Dwyer goes to right guard, where
he played with the Jets. The new left guard is second-round draft pick Eric
Steinbach. The Bengals are looking for an immediate return from him.
Rushing: 18th in NFL
Passing: 14th in NFL
17. Seattle Seahawks
2002: 23rd in rushing (94.4), 24th in YPC (4.0), 12th in sacks (33),
10th in PA per sack (18.8)
Last year the Seahawks had a major contract hassle with Walter Jones and it
affected his season. He is very important to the success of the Seahawks and
they need him on the field. However at this time, Jones is still holding out
and this could be a serious problem for the Seahawks. He isn't worth the amount
of money he is seeking but the Hawks success is going to be dependent on a great
left tackle. Also, Steve Hutchinson must be healthy and ready to play. Hutchinson
is already one of the best guards in the NFL. Robbie Tobeck is not an athletic
center but he is tenacious and fights hard on every play. Chris Gray and Chris
Terry aren't world-beaters but they won't hurt the team.
The Seahawks stole tackle Wayne Hunter from the University of Hawaii in the
3rd round. Many perceived him to be a first round pick. He will add invaluable
depth and could compete for playing time immediately if Jones once again holds
out. The Hawks are deep at offensive line with Jerry Wunsch, Pork Chop Womack
and tenacious Michael Thompson (signed from Atlanta) all joining Hunter in the
reserve positions. The Hawks can afford injuries if they do creep up.
- Walter Jones remains unsigned, which was the case going into last summer's
camp. Jones, tagged as the Seahawks' franchise player, missed all of camp
in 2002 as well as the first two regular-season games before signing a one-year
tender at $4.92 million. Jones can sign the tender, which is up to $5.73 million
this season, and report to camp, which is what the Seahawks would like to
have happen sooner than later. Mike Reinfeldt, the Seahawks' top contract
negotiator and senior vice president, would like Jones to sign the tender
and then work out the long-term deal Jones and his agent, Roosevelt Barnes,
Rushing: 19th in NFL
Passing: 13th in NFL
18. San Diego Chargers
2002: 4th in rushing (125.1), 5th in YPC (4.7), 6th in sacks (24), 6th
in PA per sack (23.4)
Led by rookie guard Toniu Fonoti, the Chargers offensive line did better than
anybody expected. He became an immediate impact player for the team with his
attacking style on the field and the entire line seemed to rally around him.
Another rookie last year Jason Ball also started and did a solid job. Both players
should be even better in 2003. Vaughn Parker and Damion McIntosh are solid veterans
at the tackle positions. Neither player is amongst the best at their position
but neither player will hurt the Chargers chances in 2003. Pass protection is
a liability though despite the low sacks. The team kept tight ends and fullbacks
in to block and QB Drew Brees was solid at throwing away the football to avoid
The key backup this season could be rookie Courtney Van Buren who weighs in
at an impressive 350 pounds. He does have some refining to do though and may
not be able to play right away. If not, Cory Raymer, Soloman Page and Bob Hallen
provide decent depth.
- Chargers have signed third-round draft pick Courtney Van Buren from Arkansas-Pine
Bluff to a three-year deal, the team announced on Thursday. The Chargers selected
Van Buren, 6-5, 350, with the 80th overall choice in the 2003 NFL Draft.
Rushing: 8th in NFL
Passing: 20th in NFL
19. New Orleans Saints
2002: 22nd in rushing (94.6), 14th in YPC (4.2), 19th in sacks (38),
19th in PA per sack (15.2)
The Saints trading away fan-favorite tackle Kyle Turley and picked up pro-bowl
tackle Wayne Gandy. That is a solid move for an offensive line desperately seeking
an anchor, as the Saints line has been adrift for years. For the second consecutive
season there isn't the type of continuity that helps a line grow as a unit and
it's doubtful that they will improve much from last season's average results.
The other four players are decent but won't blow you away with their talent
and athletic ability although coach Jim Haslett believes LeCharles Bentley can
develop into a great football player. Jon Stinchcomb has the talent to become
a good NFL player but probably isn't ready to be a full time player in the NFL.
However it appears as though he may get his chance to make me eat my words as
he has a shot to start out of the gate. There are too many question marks to
rank the Saints higher than this.
Two rookie lineman (Stinchcomb and Montrae Holland) were drafted and will be
counted on to improve the talent in this group. Victor Riley and Jerry Fontenot
are both veterans who may start week one and may provide valuable depth at the
- The New Orleans Saints have signed T Jon Stinchcomb to a four-year contract,
it was announced today by Executive Vice President/General Manager of Football
Operations Mickey Loomis. Stinchcomb, 6-foot-5, 302 pounds, was considered
one of the best offensive linemen in April's NFL Draft.
- The New Orleans Saints have signed fourth-round pick G Montrae Holland
to a three-year contract, it was announced today by Executive Vice President/General
Manager of Football Operations Mickey Loomis.
- New Orleans has five veteran starters in place, appears to possess adequate
depth, and added two excellent prospects in this year's draft. By signing
former St. Louis and Pittsburgh starter Wayne Gandy to replace Kyle Turley
at the LT spot, and keeping C Jerry Fontenot for at least one more campaign,
the team avoided what otherwise might have been a wholesale reshuffling.
ranking updated to reflect Jerry Fontenot into the starting lineup
Rushing: 29th in NFL
Passing: 19th in NFL
20. Baltimore Ravens
2002: 12th in rushing (104.9), 8th in YPC (4.4), 22nd in sacks (41),
26th in PA per sack (12.7)
The Ravens offensive line was in a state of flux last year but managed to play
better than expected. They still are blessed with Jonathon Ogden who is the
best offensive lineman in the AFC. Likely it is his presence that helped this
mediocre group play better than many thought they could. The team has been very
weak at right tackle since Orlando Brown left in 1998. The Ravens signed him
this year to be the right tackle even though he has been out of football for
three seasons with an eye injury. Only time will tell if Brown still has game
or not. Edwin Mulitalo and Bennie Anderson are solid when it comes to run blocking
thanks to their attacking style. This group is definitely stronger at run blocking
than pass blocking and that doesn't bode well for the Ravens at quarterback.
Reserve tackle Ethan Brooks will have a chance to start if the Orlando Brown
experiment fails. He did a decent job last season as the starting right tackle.
Other backups include the 5th round pick this year Anthony Pashos and 3rd round
pick back in 2001 Casey Rabach.
- This could be the year that Casey Rabach, the former third-round pick,
emerges as a starter. Rabach saw action at left and right guard, as well as
center, last year, earning starts in five of the 12 games he played. Rabach's
versatility gives the team options. He will compete for time at both center
and right guard. A possible scenario is Rabach starting at center and Flynn
moving to right guard, where he played during the 2000 Super Bowl run.
Rushing: 14th in NFL
Passing: 23rd in NFL
21. Indianapolis Colts
2002: 26th in rushing (88.3), 28th in YPC (3.6), 4th in sacks (23),
3rd in PA per sack (26.7)
Continuity is crucial to a line's success and this is the same five that began
the season a year ago. Saturday is a brilliant pass blocker who simply keeps
defenders from reaching his quarterback. On the outside, Glenn is also a strong
pass blocker who effectively guards Peyton Manning's backside. Meadows is a
solid all-around player but struggled some during the 2002 campaign and the
team will push him with Diem, who is a huge guard at 6'7, 331 pounds. DeMulling
is a solid player at the other guard position. The best thing about the Colts
offensive line is that they are all under 30 years of age. They'll be solid
for quite a while.
The reserve linemen appear to be shaky at best. The key backups appear to be
Hans Olsen and 4th round pick Steve Sciullo but the Colts better hope they don't
suffer injury problems up front.
- The Colts drafted Steve Sciullo, who played offensive tackle at Marshall
University, in the fourth round of the NFL Draft this past April. Team officials
informed him upon his selection they planned to play him at offensive guard.
Rushing: 23rd in NFL
Passing: 2nd in NFL
22. Jacksonville Jaguars
2002: 10th in rushing (108.9), 7th in YPC (4.5), 24th in sacks (42),
29th in PA per sack (12.0)
This has the makings of a very strong offensive line by the 2004 season. The
Jaguars lost three of their offensive lineman from last season via free agency
which means the team will be forced to use youth this season. The good news
though is that these young kids are very talented. The team has used early draft
picks on four of these players over the last four seasons. The big battle this
pre-season will be between rookie Vince Manuwai and free-agent signing Jamar
Nesbit who both could win the starting guard position. Mike Pearson and Maurice
Williams have the talent to become elite tackles and only need experience to
reach the next level. Both players are big, strong and quick. Chris Naeole solidified
the guard position last year by playing all 16 games. Brad Meester will be tried
at center but he will likely be the weak link of the unit unless he plays better
than anticipated. The only question mark with this talented group is how well
they'll play as a unit in 2003. This offensive line will be solid this year
and great in '04.
The key backup for the Jaguars offensive line will be either Jamar Nesbit or
Vince Manuwai who has all the talent to be an impact guard if he learns the
professional game quick enough. The other backups are unlikely to play very
well at the NFL level and the Jaguars need to pray that injuries do not occur
within this unit.
- The club could be set if LT Mike Pearson continues to develop. He had
his moments as a rookie but is an unproven run blocker and struggles against
a fast pass rush. Despite those concerns, the team did not bring in a replacement.
There are no worries about RT Maurice Williams, who is technically sound and
has quick feet. He missed 11 games (broken leg) last season but says he is
completely recovered. The backup situation isn't encouraging.
Rushing: 15th in NFL
Passing: 24th in NFL
23. Cleveland Browns
2002: 18th in rushing (95.6), 22nd in YPC (4.1), 14th in sacks (35),
14th in PA per sack (16.8)
The Browns offensive line has come a long way over the last two seasons and
first-round pick Jeff Faine will help strengthen this unit even more. He should
provide stability, toughness and ability to the middle of the line. His selection
means Melvin Fowler will slot into one of the guard spots where he is more suited
with either Shaun O'Hara or Paul Zukauskas manning the other spot. I expect
Faine to come out and immediately make an impact on the field like Steve Hutchinson
did with the Hawks two years ago. Ross Verba and Ryan Tuckers are solid veterans
at the tackle positions and bring experience to the table. Neither player is
great but fit nicely into the Browns scheme. This unit isn't great but is improving
Top reserves will be whoever loses the battle between O'Hara and Zukauskas
and Barry Stokes who was the starter in 2002. These players will be solid role-players
and provide excellent depth for the Browns. An interesting player to watch is
Qasim Mitchell who weighs in at an impressive 365 pounds.
- Mitchell has been much hyped this off-season as a right guard who could
make the running game that much better. Never mind that the Browns' starter
is Shaun O'Hara, and he's bigger and stronger this season, Mitchell is the
guy everyone wants to see. He has gained 35 pounds of muscle with a serious
weight-lifting program and is making noise at training camp.
Rushing: 20th in NFL
Passing: 15th in NFL
24. New York Jets
2002: 17th in rushing (96.6), 14th in YPC (4.2), 11th in sacks (32),
16th in PA per sack (16.2)
The Jets lost Randy Thomas but managed to sign Tom Nutten who is a fine pass
blocker. Dave Szott was injured last year and needs to come back strong. Jason
Fabini is a solid left tackle and center is in good shape with veteran Kevin
Mawae snapping the ball. At the other tackle spot, Kareem McKenzie is O.K. but
will need to continue improving on a weekly basis. Overall this is a decent
offensive line but needs some work to become a good unit.
The reserves include Brent Smith, Jonathon Goodwin and 7th round pick Dave
Yovanovits. Not a lot of talent amongst these players.
- The New York Jets announced today they have been awarded C Matt O'Neal
off waivers and they have signed DE Salem Simon. The announcement was made
by Jets' General Manager Terry Bradway.
Rushing: 21st in NFL
Passing: 16th in NFL
25. New England Patriots
2002: 27th in rushing (87.5), 24th in YPC (4.0), 10th in sacks (31),
8th in PA per sack (20.5)
This offensive line is young and talented but seemed to take a step back last
year. Another year together should certainly strengthen their play but it is
possible they are already at the peak of their ability and there is little upside.
Look for more of the same out of this offensive line in 2003. Kenyatta Jones
disappointed the Patriots last season with his efforts and they'll give him
competition for the job in 2003 with Adrian Klemm. The run-blocking last season
was not at the level it needed to be and the team will need to work on that
this year. The key player in this group is Damien Woody who is young and improving.
This group could easily be much better than this ranking but only time will
tell if they can come together and play better as a unit.
The key backup will be Adrian Klemm unless he can beat out Kenyatta Jones for
a spot. After that, most of the reserves are a big question mark at this time.
Rookie 5th round pick Dan Koppen could develop into a decent center/guard but
he'll need a couple of years to make improvements.
- "After minicamp, we had another three weeks of training. We had
95- to 100-percent attendance during the workout program. During that time
we worked really hard on all the little things; all the agility drills, really
working on our speed and our strength. For the two weeks that we go home,
we don't really hit it as hard as we did before, but we try to maintain what
we'd done in the past. So when we come back for camp we are refreshed and
we get ready to run that conditioning test." - Matt Light
Rushing: 24th in NFL
Passing: 8th in NFL
26. Chicago Bears
2002: 31st in rushing (74.8), 31st in YPC (3.5), 25th in sacks (44),
24th in PA per sack (13.3)
One look at the Bears offensive line last year and it is clear why the team
plummeted back down to earth in 2002. The line play was atrocious last season
providing little pass blocking and opening no holes. Injuries were the main
cause of the problems for this group last year and I'm surprised they didn't
add more depth via the draft. The best thing about these five players is their
age. All of them are under 30 years of age and should continue to improve as
a unit. Marc Columbo has the talent to become a start tackle in the league but
needs another season or two of seasoning before that will happen. He is also
fighting injury still and may not be ready to start the season. Mike Gandy is
a 3rd year player who played a lot of football last year. He will be expected
to start and improve this season with the departure of James Williams. Rex Tucker
missed most of last season with a broken ankle. Olin Kreutz is a solid center
who leads by example in the middle. The Bears will be much better on the line
this season if they stay healthy. It is a big question mark though how healthy
this group can stay.
The key backups are Bernard Robertson who started in some games last year and
may do so again, Terrence Metcalf, a young guard from Mississippi and Aaron
Gibson who will break the scale if he steps on it.
- No Bears player is more eager to participate in the first training camp
practice Friday morning than OG Rex Tucker. The veteran left guard is rebounding
from a broken ankle and fractured fibula in his left leg that forced him to
miss the final 11 games last season. "It feels like I haven't played
forever," Tucker said. "I feel good. I'm real excited to get started
and I'm ready to go."
- OL Marc Colombo hasn't recovered from a second operation on his left
knee and won't practice with the Chicago Bears when they open training camp
Friday. Last year's first-round draft pick, expected to be the starter at
right tackle this season, probably won't be ready for the preseason opener
Rushing: 30th in NFL
Passing: 27th in NFL
27. Carolina Panthers
2002: 24th in rushing (91.8), 28th in YPC (3.6), 25th in sacks (44),
30th in PA per sack (11.5)
T-Jordan Gross <r>
There is a lot of experience on this line but it didn't add up to success in
2002. There will likely be two new starters this season, one of them being first
round pick, Jordan Gross who is big, athletic and should make a difference if
he can pick up his assignments quickly. Todd Steussie is a solid all-around
tackle but needs to work on his on-field discipline; Donnalley is getting older
but still has a mean streak in him. 2nd round pick this year Bruce Nelson will
eventually replace him but not in 2003. Jeff Mitchell is a rock in the center
for the team but didn't have his best season last year. If this group can mesh
together they could be solid but there are a lot of ifs with this group.
Because of the battles going on with the line spots, there is some quality
depth in Carolina. Melvin Tuten will likely back up Gross but may start in his
place if Gross isn't ready to go. He brings experience to the table. Jeno James
and Bruce Nelson will also provide good depth.
- At some point, second-round draft pick Bruce Nelson is likely to replace
Kevin Donnalley. But don't count on it happening just yet. Donnalley, who
is 35 and heading into the final year of his contract, is a smart and dependable
player. He also is in excellent shape. As long as Donnalley is healthy, it
makes sense to start him next to rookie right tackle Jordan Gross and bring
Nelson along slowly.
- The Panthers signed Doug Brzezinski, who has been a starter and backup
with Philadelphia. The job, though, won't be handed to Brzezinski. Look for
him to get a challenge from Jeno James, who has spent his four seasons shuffling
between guard and tackle. With a chance to concentrate on one position, James
could be a factor.
- One of the more refreshing things about Carolina Panthers first-round
draft pick Jordan Gross is his humility. Unlike many first-round picks that
come into this league, Gross has his head on straight and is willing to learn,
often staying late during the team's coaching sessions making his teammates
very eager about his upcoming first season.
Rushing: 26th in NFL
Passing: 31st in NFL
28. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2002: 25th in rushing (89.3), 27th in YPC (3.7), 21st in sacks (41),
20th in PA per sack (14.8)
This isn't a great unit but they played well a season ago despite the poor
numbers above. Kenyatta Walker is a good young tackle that will anchor this
line for years to come. The rest of the linemen are only average football players
and the team will be pleased if they can match the performance of a season ago.
What this unit needs to do is become more aggressive during play. The players
seem to be a little to laid back to really dominate a football game. John Wade
was signed from Jacksonville and he could become a solid option in the middle
as he takes over from Jeff Christy. Jason Whittle will likely start in the place
of Cosey Coleman who wasn't very good last year.
With three draft picks spent on offensive linemen, the depth has improved for
this unit. Rookies Lance Ninmo, Austin King and Sean Mahan won't compete for
spots this year but may do so in 2004. The other backups include Cosey Coleman
who may still start during the upcoming season.
- The Buccaneers' offensive line was magnificent during the playoffs last
January but, by their own admission, inconsistent for much of the 2002 regular
season. Early in the offseason, that unit was shaken up, with center Jeff
Christy and interior-line sub Todd Washington departing and center John Wade
and guard Jason Whittle arriving. "They're making great progress,"
said Gruden. "They're not going up against Jones Junior High every day,
either. These guys they're blocking are outstanding football players, as good
as there are in the world, and they bring it every single play.
Rushing: 31th in NFL
Passing: 18th in NFL
29. Atlanta Falcons
2002: 16th in rushing (98.4), 26th in YPC (3.9), 16th in sacks (36),
23rd in PA per sack (14.3)
The cornerstone of this group is Bob Whitfield who has manned the tackle position
with the team since '92. However his best years are behind him and he no longer
plays at a Pro-Bowl level. This group has talent but was disappointing in performance
a season ago. Three of the starters are under 26 years of age (Claridge, Forney
and Garza) and should continue to grow as football players. It appears as though
Garza will step into the role of center for the team, a position he is very
comfortable with. There is also a gifted young backup in Martin Bibla who could
compete for playing time this season. I expect this group to grow this season
and become a better all-around line.
A couple of youngsters will be the first ones off the bench if injury strikes.
Both Todd McClure and Martin Bibla could compete to start this season but will
provide solid depth if they don't win the battle. A sleeper lineman to watch
is Dwayne Morgan who has looked good in camps so far.
- "From where (Dwayne Morgan) started (the program) to where he ended
up, he made very, very large gains," Miller stated. "He's got some
explosion and he's a kid that also made about 100 percent of his workouts
and drove from Griffin, GA (an hour trek) every day to get here; that tells
you a lot about him.
- Todd McClure and Roberto Garza each spent time working with the No. 1
offensive line. Theirs will be one of the most interesting competitions in
training camp. Offensive line coach Rennie Simmons said McClure, who started
all 16 games last season will be No. 1 on the depth chart when camp opens.
But Garza, a third-year pro has shown promise.
Rushing: 27th in NFL
Passing: 28th in NFL
30. Detroit Lions
2002: 30th in rushing (86.0), 22nd in YPC (4.1), 1st in sacks (20),
1st in PA per sack (29.9)
Nobody expected much out of the Lions offensive line in 2002 but they actually
played pretty well considering the lack of weapons the team had on offense.
The team has Ray Brown penciled into the starting lineup. Considering he is
40 years old already, that could be a scary proposition. He is in great shape
and has been a great player but how much fuel can be left in the gas tank? The
rest of the line is young and talented and should hold its own this year. Both
Jeff Backus and Dominic Raiola began to come into their own last season. Stockar
McDougle is a huge individual who weighs in at 367 pounds and is a very tough
man to get around to sack the quarterback. If he continues to improve on the
field, he could develop into a very good tackle. This unit could perform much
better than my ranking would indicate. I simply think Brown may be a little
too old to be a full time starter and the others probably need another year
of seasoning. The Lions have potential here to play very well.
There is some experience at the backup positions. Matt Joyce and Eric Beverly
are capable of doing a solid job if given the chance. Neither are great players
but they would hold their own out there on the field.
- The last time that a Detroit Lion offensive lineman made a trip to Honolulu,
Hawaii, to represent the Honolulu blue and silver in the NFL Pro Bowl was
1998. That could change as three members of the starting unit LT Jeff Backus,
RT Stockar McDougle and C Dominic Raiola are primed to make big contributions
this season. At least, that is what Lions president and CEO Matt Millen thinks.
Rushing: 28th in NFL
Passing: 8th in NFL
31. Dallas Cowboys
2002: 15th in rushing (99.3), 14th in YPC (4.2), 30th in sacks (54),
31st in PA per sack (9.7)
The only holdover left from the glory days of the Cowboys is Larry Allen who
is entering his tenth season. He was the best in the NFL at one point but he
has lost some steps over the last several seasons and has had difficulty staying
healthy. He can still a solid player though and is the anchor of this young
line. Andre Gurode is an athletic, young talent who will continue to improve
with playing time. The playing time he was able to earn last season was invaluable
to a young player. Tyson Walter also received playing time as a 6th round pick
last year and held his own. Flozell Adams can play at a high level but at times
seems to doubt himself on the field and hasn't been able to put forth a consistent
effort play in and play out.. Look for another average season at best.
Al Johnson is a quality center who was drafted in the 2nd round of this year's
draft. He is more talented than Walter and may get a shot right out of the gate
to start on this line. Don't be surprised to see him starting from the beginning
of the season. Matt Lehr and Justin Bates provided mediocre depth.
- The Cowboys announced that they have agreed to terms with second-round
pick Al Johnson, a center from Wisconsin. Details of the deal weren't released.
Rushing: 22nd in NFL
Passing: 32nd in NFL
32. Houston Texans
2002: 32nd in rushing (66.5), 32nd in YPC (2.9), 32nd in sacks (76),
32nd in PA per sack (6.9)
The Texans may have been the worst offensive line in the history of the NFL
a season ago. The team picked up a starter via free agency in Zach Wiegert and
he represents a huge increase in talent on the line. The interior trio of Steve
McKinney, Ryan Schau and Fred Weary should do a decent job but the team will
need to improve the talent either via the draft or free agency next season.
Chester Pitts learned on the fly last year as a rookie and struggled, however
the experience should help him improve somewhat in 2003. This unit will still
be weak compared to most NFL teams but shouldn't give up an embarrassing 76
sacks again and hopefully we have a better YPC average of only 2.9. I don't
think it is possible to be any worse.
Key backups will be Greg Randall picked up in free agency and 3rd round draft
choice Seth Wand. Randall will provide excellent depth and Wand will hopefully
get to learn on the sideline for much of the season because like Pitts, he isn't
ready to play yet at this level.
- LT Tony Boselli Retires leaving a huge hole on the offensive line: "I
am retiring because of medical reasons, specifically my left shoulder, which
did not continue to improve to the point where I could play," Boselli
- Even with the retirement of Tony Boselli, the Texans appear to be in
better shape on the offensive line. With Boselli's status clear, the club
can now concentrate on filling in the blanks after a series of offseason moves.
The Texans addressed their depth needs by signing tackle Zach Wiegert and
guard Todd Washington in free agency, trading for tackle Greg Randall and
drafting tackle Seth Wand. Chester Pitts filled in for Boselli at left tackle
last season and will move into the role on a permanent basis. That leaves
Fred Weary, Milford Brown and Ryan Schau competing for playing time.
Rushing: 32nd in NFL
Passing: 30th in NFL