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, we look at which of the league's 32 offensive lines are trending up and down.
By Week 10 of the regular season, teams have found their identity. Pretenders' weaknesses have been exposed, and contenders are vying to keep momentum through to the postseason. Without further ado, let's check in on which offensive lines are trending up and down around the league.
The Falcons came storming out of the gate following their bye week, manhandling a division-leading Redskins team on the road last Sunday. Atlanta put up a season-high 38 points, and managed their best rushing performance of the season against a defense that had held Saquon Barkley, Ezekiel Elliott and Christian McCaffery to a combined 91 rushing yards during their last three contests. Tevin Coleman ran for 88 yards on 13 carries and caught five passes for an additional 68 yards and two touchdowns through the air, and remained clearly ahead of rookie Ito Smith, who notched 64 rushing yards and a touchdown himself. The team's dominant offensive showing Week 9 was in no small part facilitated by the O-line's best performance of the year. Alex Mack continues to play like one of the best centers in the league, and LG Wes Schweitzer finally seems to be coming around as a reliable option in both pass-protection and run-blocking. The team looks to be a playoff contender despite a poor start to the season, and looks to remain a high-octane offense for fantasy purposes.
What to Watch: Quarterback Matt Ryan continued on a fantastic 2018 comeback campaign, following his disappointing performance last year, with 350 yards passing and four TDs. He looks to be a top-5 weekly fantasy option going forward.
Despite a meaningful loss to the Steelers last week, the Ravens have reasons for optimism. Quarterback Joe Flacco was sacked twice and hit six times during Sunday's loss, during which Baltimore played without starting left tackle: RT Ronnie Stanley (left ankle) and LT James Hurst (back) both sat out the contest, and are appear likely to return in the near future. It's worth remembering that Pittsburgh's defense entered the game tied (with Baltimore) as the league-leader in sacks, so allowing Flacco to be taken down twice while absent Stanley and Hurst certainly can't be considered a meltdown performance. If anything, rookie Orlando Brown Jr. has made considerable progress throughout his three starts in replacement of Hurst, and second-year pro Alex Lewis was looked to have acclimated fairly in his first NFL start at left tackle. Baltimore appears optimistic that both left tackles could return to the lineup for Sunday's matchup against the Bengals, during which time the Flacco-led air attack will look to bounce back.
What to Watch: The Ravens lead the NFL in passing attempts this season, putting Flacco's 16 sacks in perspective as a relatively small amount. If the offensive unit's blocking can return to the high standard it held early in the season, both Flacco and favorite target John Brown could nicely rebound down the stretch.
Last Sunday, Washington lost 40 percent of their starting offensive line when Guards Shawn Lauvao and Brandon Scherff each suffered season-ending injuries. Left tackle Trent Williams, arguably the O-line's star player, underwent surgery in Week 9 and is expected to miss about a month, and starting right tackle Morgan Moses suffered a knee injury during Sunday's loss and has not yet practiced this week. It seems realistic that Washington will need to replace four of their starting linemen this week – and that they'll be missing at least half the line for a considerable amount of time. Washington signed five free agent offensive linemen this week, and will attempt to compile a unit with some semblance of synergy as best they can – but asking for an NFL-ready O-line to be put together in six days is asking quite a bit. The team will benefit from the presence of solid backup Tye Nsekhe, but a expect a bumpy road ahead.
What to Watch: Washington has boasted one of the top pass-protection units all season, but mounting O-line issues may change that. Coupled with a season-ending injury to Paul Richardson, quarterback Alex Smith's already lackluster fantasy numbers could be in line to take a hit.
Two years ago, the Raiders touted one of the best offensive line units in the league. Halfway through the 2018 season, quarterback Derek Carr is on track to take 48 sacks, more than double either of his previous yearly totals (16 and 20). Injuries, inexperience and other excuses have mounted throughout the season, but nothing quite explains why none of the team's former stars – Kelichi Osemele for instance – are playing at the level of even a league-average starter. Whatever the reason, it seems like last week's 34-3 loss to the Nick Mullens-led 49ers, in which quarterback Derek Carr was sacked seven times and eventually replaced by backup A.J. McCarron, is closer to the new normal than an outlier. Now lacking both Amari Cooper and Marshawn Lynch, this Oakland offense is one to avoid when possible in fantasy realms.
What to Watch: In what looks to be the beginning of a long rebuild for the Raiders, fantasy owners of Derek Carr – especially in Superflex and 2QB formats – have to worry that the quarterback's abysmal protection and lack of surrounding talent simply make him impossible to evaluate this season.
Much like Oakland's O-line, Dallas once fielded an offensive protection unit that the rest of the league could only dream of. These days, the Cowboys' O-line numbers among one of the team's growing list of problems. All-Pro center Travis Frederick has been absent from football activities while recovering from Guillain-Barre syndrome, LT Tyron Smith isn't his usual dominant self, and injuries have repeatedly knocked starters in and out of the lineup. Poor O-line play served to exacerbate mediocre skill-position performances and lifeless play calling, resulting in a noncompetitive offensive showing during Monday's 28-14 loss to the Titans. To make matters worse, rookie guard Connor Williams suffered a knee injury during the Week 9 loss and will be sidelined for multiple weeks after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right knee. Adam Redmond and Xavier Su'a-Filo will compete to replace Williams in the starting lineup, and will do their best to defend quarterback Dak Prescott against the Eagles' defensive front this Sunday.
What to Watch: If Dallas' offensive line is able to get healthy and elevate their protection at some point this season, the pieces could fall into place. With the addition of Amari Cooper, the Cowboys now possess a dual-threat quarterback, a top caliber running back and a respectable receiving corps. It seems like a change in play calling may also be necessary to revitalize the team, but if things fall into place this offense has the pieces to churn out yards and points with the best of them.