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Old 04-05-2008, 05:05 AM   #1
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Offensive Line for Dummies

Building blocks

Rating the offensive line positions based on difficulty
SI.com - Writers - Ross Tucker: Ranking the five O-line positions - Friday April 4, 2008 11:53AM

Posted: Friday April 4, 2008 11:53AM; Updated: Friday April 4, 2008 11:53AM

Chris Samuels is worth his hefty $47 million contract because of the amount of turnovers he prevents the quarterback from making.
Heinz Kluetmeier/SI

Browns fans ridiculed my thought process. Wall Street financial analysts suggested I incorporate the Monte Carlo method. Multiple NFL scouts want to discuss the quantitative analysis of NFL players with me.

Last week's article struck quite a chord with many readers. My thesis was simply that I do not believe the exorbitant amount given to a left guard like Alan Faneca is worth it in regards to the impact his performance will have on the win/loss column.

If a team is going to pay a huge premium for the increase in performance that a good player delivers over an average one, that player should play a position that has a greater opportunity to significantly impact the outcome of a game. In order to clarify my beliefs regarding the salary structure among offensive linemen, I decided to list in order the positions among the front five that I feel are most worthy of receiving big money. Having played all five positions at different points in my career, and starting at least four games at all three interior spots, I am uniquely qualified to assess the difficulties associated with playing these positions. Just to be safe and unbiased, however, I solicited the opinions of several other linemen around the league.

LEFT TACKLE

Picking the left tackle at the top of this list was not as easy as one might think. Most teams in the NFL often slide their protection to the quarterback's blind side, which is almost always the left. The center is able to provide inside help for the left guard and the left guard is able to protect the left tackle's inside as the three work in concert to block the two defensive linemen while eyeing their other responsibility, the weak-side linebacker. That often leaves the right guard and right tackle one-on-one. For this reason, I briefly considered putting the right tackle at the top of this list.

Ultimately, however, the left tackle still has to block the elite pass rushers around the NFL play after play, week in and week out. If the left tackle makes a mistake, it can result in not only a sack but also quite often a fumble as the defensive end strips the quarterback from behind. Turnovers always play a big part in determining the outcome of a game, increasing the importance of the blind-side protector.
Certain offensive lineman, like Chris Samuels of the Redskins, can provide enormous additional value by rarely receiving any help from his interior linemates. This allows them to solidify the interior of the offensive line. The Redskins' confidence in leaving Samuels on an island without typically receiving any help whatsoever is a luxury many teams cannot afford.

RIGHT TACKLE

The consensus among the linemen with whom I spoke reinforced my belief in the importance of right tackles. The position, in most offenses, receives less aid from fellow linemen then the left tackle. This is somewhat balanced, however, by the reality that right tackles are more likely to have the tight end on their side of the formation, which can create an additional obstacle for a defensive lineman to consider.

Though right tackles go up against top-flight rushers like the Seahawks' Patrick Kerney and the Packers' Aaron Kampman, there is not the same consistency in terms of quality of opponent as there is for the left tackle. Right tackles also are more likely to receive help from a running back in the form of a "chip." Finally, the likelihood that their mistake will cause a game-altering turnover is somewhat lessened since the rusher is usually in the quarterback's line of sight.

RIGHT GUARD


Eric Steinbach signed a seven-year, $49 million contract prior to the 2007 season.
Thomas E. Witte/SI

Without question the most difficult of the interior line positions, right guards are most likely to be left one-on-one with an elite inside rusher. The predominance of teams to slide their center to the left to protect the quarterback's blind side creates a greater value for the right guard position. Fourteen-year veteran Todd Steussie, currently available on the free agent market, says, "Right guard is definitely harder than left guard." Recently-retired lineman Todd Fordham, a 10-year NFL vet, agreed: "The left guard always has help."

Though the difference in value between the two guard spots is lessened somewhat in an offense that rarely slides the pass protections like the Colts, the strength of the formation often dictates that the right guard has the wider alignment, and thus more difficult assignment, on his side.

LEFT GUARD

Because the left guard position is generally less difficult than the right guard position, I have been consistently perplexed the last couple of seasons by the amount of money teams are investing in the position.
Steve Hutchinson, Kris Dielman, Eric Steinbach, Derrick Dockery and Faneca lead the parade of left guards that have received contracts in excess of $40 million. Though I am not sure either guard is worth that much of the salary cap, I would be much more willing to pay those dollars to a right guard given the greater difficulty in his assignment. I think the Browns got a relative steal by signing right guard Rex Hadnot to a two-year, $7 million deal this offseason.

The greatest reason why left guards are cashing in these days? There are two: 1) The grading system for offensive linemen; and 2) General lack of understanding among some NFL personnel people concerning the difficulty inherent with the different positions.

All of these players are considered upper echelon and likely grade out among the highest linemen on their respective teams. Part of that is because they are good players, but a lot of it has to do with the fact they are much more likely to receive help from the center and thus less likely to create a negative play. The formula is simple: Less one-on-ones against defensive linemen means less chances to give up a sack or pressure. Their consistently high performance given the lower risk at the position tricks many personnel people to assume they are worthy of that money. I disagree. I believe they are all outstanding players but think they would have a tougher time if they played right guard.

There is a reason why most of the interior guys getting paid the big money are left guards and not right guards and the sooner teams can figure it out, the sooner they can begin to allocate more of their money to a position that creates a greater value proposition.

CENTER

Centers are paid more for their intelligence and experience then they are for the difficulty associated with their physical assignment. Though some athletic centers can create additional value with their ability to pull or effectively block at the second level, the greatest reason centers get paid well is the fear among coaches that their pivot man not be able to readjust the blocking scheme depending on a certain blitz look or audible.

Make no mistake about it: A center that cannot make the right decisions at critical junctures could have a huge impact on the outcome of a game.
That being said, it was unanimous among the four offensive lineman that I polled that center was the easiest position, at least physically, along the line. The center is rarely in a one-on-one pass blocking situation, which as we have noted, is the most likely situation in which an offensive linemen could have a large impact on the outcome of a game.

Centers are often the ones providing the help in pass protection so it is surprising to me that teams like the Buccaneers value the position highly enough to reward a player like Jeff Faine with a contract that guarantees him $15 million. Most centers go through an entire season without giving up any sacks and are rarely credited with even being responsible for a pressure.

Though every team wants to have a highly-regarded player at every position, the economics of the game do not allow that to be the case. That is why the money invested in the offensive line should be given first to the tackles and then to the right guard, since those are the positions that could potentially make the greatest difference between a win and a loss.
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Old 04-05-2008, 07:01 AM   #2
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Re: Offensive Line for Dummies

Just reading this article makes me think about how many years samuels has left and what we are going to do when he leaves. Samuels has been great for us.
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Old 04-05-2008, 10:09 AM   #3
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Re: Offensive Line for Dummies

I think this guy is my favorite SI writer now. His articles are always well written and with an insider's point of view. They are also free of any hint of self-love like some of the other writers. In regards to linemen, I completely agree with him about the outrageous price tags associated with some of them.
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Old 04-05-2008, 05:37 PM   #4
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Re: Offensive Line for Dummies

This thread does not deserve any comment.

If there is no mention about the OL, then it is doing just fine!







However, have two starters go out early in 2007, and see how much the OL was mentioned!

I'm for drafting an OL early, like on or before the 3rd rd. Potential starters only please!
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Old 04-05-2008, 06:17 PM   #5
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Re: Offensive Line for Dummies

Looks like Smootsmack was on to something with Tony Hills. Personally I was under the impression that he wasn't a good run blocker due to lack of a mean streak but after reading multiple scouting reports it looks like I was wrong. Anyway look for this guy to go with one of our 3rd round picks. Right now he's projected to go in the 4th round. The good news for us is that theres a good chance that out of Hills, McGlynn, and Schuening at least one or two will probably end up falling to us at 3-21.

It's also important to note that a big factor in Hill's passing the Texans in the third is if the Texans take Albert 18th overall. Apparently the Texans, Bears, and Redskins have the most interest in vying for Hill's services.
Q&A : Texas OT Tony Hills -Redskins Discussed


OT Tony Hill (AP Photo/Harry Cabluck)

By Ed Thompson
Senior NFL Analyst
Date: Mar 27, 2008

The Redskins appear to be interested in OT Tony Hills, as they have talked to him more than once. See what all he had to say in this exclusive interview.

Tony Hills
OT | (6'5", 309, 5.25) | TEXAS

Scouts Grade: 71 (Note: Dockery graded out at 68 when he came out)

Flags: (I: INJURY) Coming off injury that may affect playView by: Player | NCAA School | Position | NFL Team | Flag | All Ranked Players | NFL Draft History You are signed into Insider and have access to the exclusive draft content below.
Strengths: Possesses outstanding height and wingspan. Continues to add bulk to frame and still has room left to get bigger. He displays good feet and balance. A natural knee-bender with good mirror-and-slide skills in pass pro. He's big enough to engulf smaller defenders at the point of attack. Has quick hands and does a good job of keeping pass rushers in front of him. Very impressive mobility when asked to pull or block downfield on runs and screens. Fires out quickly in the run game and takes solid angles.

Weaknesses: Needs to do a better job of sustaining once locked on. Seems to lack a mean streak and must become more physical in order to elevate his game to the next level. Hands are quick but he lacks explosive power behind his punch. Rarely jars defenders with his punch. Must continue to improve overall strength. He will struggle at times versus powerful bull rushers that stand him up and get him off-balance. Sustained a potentially career-ending knee injury during senior season in high school and a broken left fibula ended his 2007 season in mid-November so durability is clearly a concern.

Overall: Hills signed with Texas in 2003 and redshirted the year. He was moved from tight end to offensive tackle, and in his first three seasons (2004-06) appeared in 31 games, including starts at left tackle in all 13 games his junior year. He started the Longhorns' first 11 games of 2007, but suffered a fractured left fibula that cost him the last two games. Hills was forced to redshirt and sit out the '03 season after reconstructive surgery on his left knee, following a career-threatening injury (nerve damage). Hills is coming off a season-ending leg injury and he needs to get stronger at the point of attack. However, he's still a good value early on Day 2 of the draft. The reason is he is quick, he moves very well for his size and he has the frame to bulk up without losing much if any of that agility.

NFL Events: Draft Player Profiles - Tony Hills
" He lacks the loose hips and strength to shock and jolt vs. the bull rush, but does a good job of widening the rush lanes, thanks to good hand placement and long arms"

"Like the player he replaced in the Texas starting lineup, Hills is very effective blocking in-line, and if he can show more urgency on the pulls and traps he might be a better fit at guard than at tackle. "
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Old 04-05-2008, 07:31 PM   #6
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Re: Offensive Line for Dummies

Interesting, Hills sounds like Dockery 2.0.
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Old 04-05-2008, 10:05 PM   #7
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Re: Offensive Line for Dummies

great article.
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Old 04-06-2008, 07:02 AM   #8
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Re: Offensive Line for Dummies

im a big fan of going after O-line players early
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Old 04-07-2008, 12:30 AM   #9
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Re: Offensive Line for Dummies

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dirtbag359 View Post
Looks like Smootsmack was on to something with Tony Hills. Personally I was under the impression that he wasn't a good run blocker due to lack of a mean streak but after reading multiple scouting reports it looks like I was wrong. Anyway look for this guy to go with one of our 3rd round picks. Right now he's projected to go in the 4th round. The good news for us is that theres a good chance that out of Hills, McGlynn, and Schuening at least one or two will probably end up falling to us at 3-21.

It's also important to note that a big factor in Hill's passing the Texans in the third is if the Texans take Albert 18th overall. Apparently the Texans, Bears, and Redskins have the most interest in vying for Hill's services.
Q&A : Texas OT Tony Hills -Redskins Discussed


OT Tony Hill (AP Photo/Harry Cabluck)

By Ed Thompson
Senior NFL Analyst
Date: Mar 27, 2008

The Redskins appear to be interested in OT Tony Hills, as they have talked to him more than once. See what all he had to say in this exclusive interview.

Tony Hills
OT | (6'5", 309, 5.25) | TEXAS

Scouts Grade: 71 (Note: Dockery graded out at 68 when he came out)

Flags: (I: INJURY) Coming off injury that may affect playView by: Player | NCAA School | Position | NFL Team | Flag | All Ranked Players | NFL Draft History You are signed into Insider and have access to the exclusive draft content below.
Strengths: Possesses outstanding height and wingspan. Continues to add bulk to frame and still has room left to get bigger. He displays good feet and balance. A natural knee-bender with good mirror-and-slide skills in pass pro. He's big enough to engulf smaller defenders at the point of attack. Has quick hands and does a good job of keeping pass rushers in front of him. Very impressive mobility when asked to pull or block downfield on runs and screens. Fires out quickly in the run game and takes solid angles.

Weaknesses: Needs to do a better job of sustaining once locked on. Seems to lack a mean streak and must become more physical in order to elevate his game to the next level. Hands are quick but he lacks explosive power behind his punch. Rarely jars defenders with his punch. Must continue to improve overall strength. He will struggle at times versus powerful bull rushers that stand him up and get him off-balance. Sustained a potentially career-ending knee injury during senior season in high school and a broken left fibula ended his 2007 season in mid-November so durability is clearly a concern.

Overall: Hills signed with Texas in 2003 and redshirted the year. He was moved from tight end to offensive tackle, and in his first three seasons (2004-06) appeared in 31 games, including starts at left tackle in all 13 games his junior year. He started the Longhorns' first 11 games of 2007, but suffered a fractured left fibula that cost him the last two games. Hills was forced to redshirt and sit out the '03 season after reconstructive surgery on his left knee, following a career-threatening injury (nerve damage). Hills is coming off a season-ending leg injury and he needs to get stronger at the point of attack. However, he's still a good value early on Day 2 of the draft. The reason is he is quick, he moves very well for his size and he has the frame to bulk up without losing much if any of that agility.

NFL Events: Draft Player Profiles - Tony Hills
" He lacks the loose hips and strength to shock and jolt vs. the bull rush, but does a good job of widening the rush lanes, thanks to good hand placement and long arms"

"Like the player he replaced in the Texas starting lineup, Hills is very effective blocking in-line, and if he can show more urgency on the pulls and traps he might be a better fit at guard than at tackle. "
Here's another name to think about, Chad Rinehart
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Old 04-07-2008, 12:54 AM   #10
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Re: Offensive Line for Dummies

Quote:
Originally Posted by SmootSmack View Post
Here's another name to think about, Chad Rinehart
Looks good. Versitle Guard/Tackle prospect with the ability to open lanes in the running game. Also looks like he has great size at 6'5 320. I'm a little worried about his grade, as I would like to take someone with our 3rd round pick like Tony Hills who grades out at 71, but this guy still looks good and if I remember right Montgomery graded out at 39.

However if you don't mind my asking how did you come across this guy? Is this like Hills where you knew the Skins were looking at him or is he one of your personal favorites? I've been looking at him to but as far as Rineharts been concerned I've gone back and fourth especially when thinking about a few of the other guys that could fall to us. Ironically though I bet that the team would take Rinehart over Schuening if thats what it came down to, mainly due to the versitility.

Chad Rinehart
OG | (6'5", 320, 5.49) | NORTHERN IOWA

Scouts Grade: 57View by: Player | NCAA School | Position | NFL Team | Flag | All Ranked Players | NFL Draft History You are signed into Insider and have access to the exclusive draft content below.
Strengths: Has above-average initial quickness for a guard and can get into position when technique is sound. Plays with a mean streak, delivers a violent punch and can jar defenders at the point of contact. Works from the snap until the whistle and can sustain blocks once locked on. Has adequate lower body strength and flashes the ability to drive defenders. Takes sound angles to downfield blocks and can get into position at the second level. Keeps head up and generally does a good job of sliding off combo blocks to pick up linebackers. Shows good awareness in pass protection and can adjust to line stunts and blitzes. Though bends at the waist rather than the knees, has good size and can hold ground against bull rushers. Lined up at tackle in college and is somewhat versatile. While missed three games after undergoing an appendectomy in 2004 started the last 39 games of his collegiate career and is durable.

Weaknesses: Doesn't always get hands inside the defender's frame and slides off too many blocks. Takes too many false steps and has some problems preventing penetration despite quickness as a result. Plays too high and is going to have problems driving two-gap defensive tackles off the ball. Quicker than fast and while can effectively trap is going to have problems turning the corner when asked to pull. Takes to long to get set, can struggle to slide with defenders and would likely struggle if left on an island at tackle in the NFL so should move to guard. Played at a small school and there is some concern about ability to adjust to the speed at the NFL game level.

Overall: Rinehart redshirted his first season at Northern Iowa (2003). He started the first five games of his freshman season (2004) and played as a reserve in the Panthers' final three. He played a total of 47 games (44 starts) at left tackle in his four seasons ('04-'07), starting in a consecutive 39 games to close out his career. He was named a first-team All-America selection in 2007. Rinehart missed three games in '04 after undergoing laparoscopic appendectomy. Rinehart is a small-school prospect that dominated at the Division I-AA level and has the skill set to develop into an effective starting NFL guard. However, there are still concerns about his ability to make the substantial jump to the NFL and he needs to improve his footwork as well as his hand placement so he projects as a late fourth round pick or early fifth round pick.

* Player biographies are provided by Scouts Inc.

"has the skill set to develop into an effective starting NFL guard."
Just so you guys know they usually don't mention this when it comes to guys with the same grade as Rinehart. Most of the time they designate late round Guards as 'a guy that can be a solid backup.'
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Old 04-07-2008, 01:05 AM   #11
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Re: Offensive Line for Dummies

I didn't really know the Redskins were looking at Hills, just suspected they might. Same with Rinehart.

The only OL's that I know the Redskins have expressed some interest in are Nicks and Cherilus.
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Old 04-07-2008, 01:12 AM   #12
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Re: Offensive Line for Dummies

Quote:
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I didn't really know the Redskins were looking at Hills, just suspected they might. Same with Rinehart.

The only OL's that I know the Redskins have expressed some interest in are Nicks and Cherilus.
Alright, because during this whole offseason I'll see you mention prospects on a whim and then BAM...."Redskins meet with (guy Smootsmack mention)." Kind of sad, I use to count on JLC for that type of info.

Also should I add Nicks and Cherilus to the "Confirmed Pre-Draft Visits" thread?
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Old 04-07-2008, 01:19 AM   #13
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Re: Offensive Line for Dummies

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Originally Posted by Dirtbag359 View Post
Alright, because during this whole offseason I'll see you mention prospects on a whim and then BAM...."Redskins meet with (guy Smootsmack mention)." Kind of sad, I use to count on JLC for that type of info.

Also should I add Nicks and Cherilus to the "Confirmed Pre-Draft Visits" thread?
Hahaha, well I wouldnt add Nicks and Cherilus to the thread quite yet. This info is a couple of months old. They may not be interested anymore.
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Old 04-07-2008, 02:46 AM   #14
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Re: Offensive Line for Dummies

Tuck is a phenomenal sportswriter. I'm glad we cut him...because this stuff is his true calling.
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Old 04-07-2008, 02:49 AM   #15
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Re: Offensive Line for Dummies

This article, is by far the best I've ever read regarding the offensive line:

SI.com - Writers - Ross Tucker: Differences small between elite, average lineman - Wednesday March 26, 2008 11:20AM
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