From pass protection to run blocking, every aspect of the modern NFL offence runs through the O-line. Aside from skill position players themselves, nothing has a larger impact on the outcome of a play call than the battle up front. In the Offensive Line Overview series, the ebb and flow of all 32 offensive line groups around the NFL is analyzed and relevant fantasy implications are uncovered.
With two weeks of the regular season to digest, we can finally start to really separate the contenders and pretenders. One common theme shared between underwhelming offenses? – shoddy offensive line play. Looking at teams like the Cardinals, Texans and Giants, it's obvious that not even fantasy studs like David Johnson, OBJ and Deshaun Watson are immune to being dragged down by poor O-line play. Now heading into Week 3 of the 2018 season, let's take a look at which lines around the league are trending up or down:
Kansas City Chiefs
When a team puts up 80 points over two weeks, it should be no surprise that their O-line is playing at a dominant level. Kansas City has invested heavily in their line for the past few seasons, and that investment seems to be paying off in dividends. The same group that helped Kareem Hunt win the rushing title in 2017 remained largely intact heading into this season, and has protected quarterback Patrick Mahomes astoundingly well throughout his record breaking 10-touchdown, two-week stretch. Just how well has the Chiefs' offense performed thus far? In two games against the Chargers and Steelers – both solid defenses – Kansas City has allowed Mahomes to be sacked just two times. The Chiefs' unit will attempt to put together another strong performance against a middle-of-the-pack 49ers group this Sunday.
What to watch: Kareem Hunt is yet to score a rushing touchdown this season, but the 49ers should struggle to keep the second-year running back out of the endzone this week.
Despite quarterback Mitch Trubisky being sacked six times throughout the season's first two games, Chicago's offensive line has performed at a consistently high level. Many of Trubisky's sacks should be attributed to the quarterback holding the ball too long, which is likely due in part to the team's complex new offensive scheme – which the entire Bears offense, with exception to tight end Trey Burton, first put into effect this season. The O-line's standouts have been left tackle Charles Leno and right guard Kyle Long thus far, and center Cody Whitehair deserves ample praise for excellent communication in signaling blitzes. As the season continues and Chicago's offense better acclimates to Nagy's playbook, expect an increase in the consistency of the O-line's protection.
What to Watch: Chicago faces a strong pass defense against the Cardinals in Week 3, so look for the Bears to rely on the offensive line and Jordan Howard heavily on Sunday. Howard seems primed to log his first game with over 20 rushing attempts of the season, against an Arizona defense which allowed three touchdowns to Todd Gurley last week.
Green Bay Packers
Green Bay's primary concern heading into Week 3 must be to protect Aaron Rodgers while he progresses in his recovery from a knee sprain – and the team couldn't ask for a much better offensive line to task with the job. Right tackle Brian Bulaga's performance over the first two weeks of the season was statistically mediocre, but don't let that fool you – in those two weeks, Bulaga was tasked with blocking Khalil Mack and Danielle Hunter, the top two pass-rushers in Green Bay's division, and two of the best in the league. With Bulaga primed for a bounceback performance against Washington on Sunday, the Packers' offensive line seems in line for a dominant performance. This would hugely benefit Green Bay's running game, which has struggled throughout the first two games of the regular season – and with Aaron Jones back after serving his two-game suspension, the Packers' ground attack seems well positioned to finally take off.
What to Watch: No Packers running back found the endzone against the Vikings and Bears run defenses, but a middle-of-the-pack Redskins' squad should have less success shutting down the ground game.
New York Giants
Two weeks following an offseason of optimistic talk about how the Giants O-line had been fixed, New York's protection looks as dysfunctional as ever. Despite revamping the line this offseason, with the only starter from the 2017 season remaining being Ereck Flowers, few tangible improvements are visible on the field. The Cowboys blitzed 13 times in their victory over the G-Men last week, sacking Eli Manning on five of those plays. Over the first two weeks of the season, Manning has taken 8 sacks and 14 quarterback hits. As a result, the Manning-led Giants offense has managed to put up just 28 points this season. Giants running backs have averaged only 0.17 yards before contact according to Pro Football Focus, the lowest margin in the NFL by a substantial margin. In fairness, the G-Man have faced off against one of the league's top defenses in Jacksonville, and an sturdy looking Cowboy's defensive front – but with another tough matchup against the Texans around the corner in Week 3 (followed by the Saints, Panthers and Eagles), New York's schedule doesn't get easy any time soon.
New York Jets
Gang Green's O-line fell back to earth after a solid showing in their season opener. Rookie quarterback Sam Darnold was sacked three times in Sunday's loss against the Dolphins, and Jets running backs averaged a miserable combined 2.4 YPC. A general poor showing by the line derailed New York's offense, especially since the interior was unable to open a single significant hole for the running game. Left guard James Carpenter allowed two sacks, a QB hit and two quarterback pressures alone, while left tackle Kelvin Beachum allowed one sack, one quarterback hit and one QB pressure – exposing the left side of the Jets line as an obvious weakness. On a positive note, right tackle Brandon Shell did not allow a single hit or sack on the team's rookie franchise quarterback, and the right side of the O-line as a whole performed passably. The Jets' offensive line will need to look much improved against a tough Browns defensive front on Thursday Night Football to avoid handing Cleveland their first win in eighteen NFL Games.
What to Watch: Saquon Barkley has been stopped for a loss or no gain on 31 percent of his carries, so expect the No. 2 overall pick to once again receive a substantial amount of his fantasy relevance due to pass catching.
Houston entered the 2018 season with four new starters on the offensive line, with second-year right tackle Julién Davenport rookie left tackle Martinas Rankin being the least experienced of the bunch. Both tackles started their first games at their respective positions this season. Rankin, who missed the entire offseason due to a broken foot, was thrust into the starting role after Seantrel Henderson suffered a season-ending ankle injury in Week 1's matchup. Though the Texans' young linemen have shown signs of improvement, poor pass protection led to second-year quarterback Deshaun Watson being sacked four times in last Sunday's loss to the Titans. The O-line's lone bright spot has been run blocking, with the Texans having rushed for a league-high 315 yards over the first two weeks of the season. It's reasonable for an offensive line to take time to get in sync, especially one relying on two young players as starters, but Houston will nonetheless struggle to consistently move the chains until this line is able to hold their own against a legitimate pass rush.
What to Watch: Deshaun Watson rushed for at least 40 yards in the first two weeks of the season, and should be able to achieve similar success on the ground against the Giants this week – giving the second-year quarterback a reasonable fantasy floor.
Miami's offensive line showed well in the absence of free-agency acquisition Josh Sitton, who will miss the remainder of the 2018 season due to a torn rotator cuff. The four-time Pro Bowler and former All-Pro was replaced by Ted Larson at left guard, who allowed two sacks against the Jets in Week 2 – though both came on plays where quarterback Ryan Tannehill arguably held the ball too long. The interior offensive line seems likely to become a problem-area for Miami as the season creeps along, but should hold up fine against middle-of-the-road competition. The Dolphins' tackles have thus far stood out as the O-line's lone bright spot, with left tackle Laremy Tunsil and right tackle Ja'Wuan James having allowed only four hurries throughout the first two games of the season.
What to Watch: Frank Gore received nine carries in each of the Dolphins' first two games of the season. If this trend continues, Gore could serve as a serviceable and under-the-radar flex play against Oakland in Week 3.