The battle between offensive linemen and defensive linemen can be pretty intense. Arguably its the most important distinction between winning and losing. A team with a solid pass rush vs. a team with poor pass blocking can absolutely influence the outcome of the game, if not completely determine the winner before the game even starts. Obviously, there is no immediate formula to it, but if you can’t block the guys coming after the QB you are likely to be in trouble. In this OL vs. DL article, we will take a look at the top matchups to watch for. We will also discuss which players may benefit greatly from this.
Earlier this week, you learned from TFA’s own Nick Cantatore about the optimal receiver vs. cornerback matchups. So let’s take a look at the war in the trenches to get more actionable insights.
Philadelphia Eagles vs. Washington Redskins
Jason Kelce, 2nd best pass-blocking center, best run-blocking center.
Lane Johnson, 30th best pass-blocking tackle, 9th best run-blocking tackle
Jason Peters, 38th best pass-blocking tackle, 45th best run-blocking tackle
Brandon Brooks, 7th best pass-blocking guard, 19th best run-blocking guard
The Philadelphia Eagles offensive line is stacked. With four players ranked within the top 45 at their respective positions and three ranked inside the top 10, there is no wonder why the Eagles offense produces so well. In week 1, the Eagles get a very favorable matchup when they take on their divisional rival Washington. During two games last year, the Eagles allowed a total of 10 QB pressures to the redskins, with only Brandon Brooks giving up a sack. Carson Wentz and Nick Foles combined for 527 passing yards on an 80.25 adjusted completion percentage in those games. They scored four touchdowns and threw only two interceptions. As we head into week 1, Pro Football Focus gives the Eagles a 22% advantage in pass-blocking.
The Eagles also have a favorable run-blocking matchup. PFF gives them a 29% advantage which will lead the league for the week. Philly has overhauled their entire offensive run scheme by drafting Miles Sanders and trading for Jordan Howard. In 2018, only one running back combined for more than 15 carries and 100 yards (Josh Adams) in the two contests between the teams. There isn’t any data on Sanders yet and Howard didn’t face the Redskins in 2018 for us to predict the future. However, Howard did have the most success running between the RG and RT in 2018 gaining 4.5 yards per attempt. Having two top 20 run-blockers on that side of the field certainly can’t hurt.
On the other hand, the Washington Redskins defensive line just wasn’t that good. The ‘Skins ranked in the bottom of the league last year in pressure rate at only 11%. However, despite generating a low-pressure rate they were able to convert 18% of their pressures into sacks which ranked 3rd in the league. The Redskins run a 3 – 4 base defense which will generate the most pressure on the outside with Ryan Kerrigan. Montez Sweat was added to the Redskins roster this off-season as a first-round pick. Sweat will have big shoes to fill as Preston Smith is no longer with the club. Smith was one of only a couple of players on the team who produced more than one pressure against the Eagles last year.
Players to consider: Alshon Jeffery (FD: $6,700, DK: $5,900), Nelson Agholor (FD: $5,000, DK: $3,900), DeSean Jackson (FD: $5,600, DK: $4,500), Zach Ertz (FD: $7,100, DK: $6,100), Dallas Goedert (FD: $5,000, DK: $2,900), Jordan Howard (FD: $5,800, DK: $4,200), Miles Sanders (FD: $6,000, DK: $3,900)
Players to avoid: None
Atlanta Falcons vs. Minnesota Vikings
Jake Matthews, 6th best pass-blocking tackle, 57th best run-blocking tackle
Wes Schweitzer, 48th best pass-blocking guard, 55th best run-blocking guard
Alex Mack, 10th best pass-blocking center, 3rd best run-blocking center
Pro Football Focus gives the Atlanta Falcons offensive line a nod against the Vikings defensive line in this contest. With a 25% advantage in pass-blocking, the Atlanta Falcons have the best passing matchup in the league this week. The Atlanta Falcons have two pass-blockers who are ranked in the top 10 at their respective positions. Jake Matthews is an excellent LT with an 86.1 pass-blocking rating by PFF. His run-blocking is a little undesired at 60.9 but with only two sacks given up on 27 pressures, he protects Matt Ryans blind-side very well. Alex Mack has proven to be an absolute monster in the trenches. Mack is one of only a handful of offensive linemen who rank in the top 10 in both pass and run-blocking.
The Falcons also had high pass-blocking ratings from Schweitzer and Ty Sambrailo. Although Sambrailo only player in 265 snaps, 163 of them being on passing plays PFF still gave him a 76.2 grade. The dirty birds of Atlanta project to start two rookies on the offensive line this season as RG Chris Lindstrom and RT Matt Gono expect to see their first NFL Action.
The Minnesota Vikings only have one defensive lineman with a pass rush rating above a 70. Danielle Hunter is an edge rusher that came in with a 70.9 rating according to pff.com. The only other linemen with more than 600 snaps was Linval Joseph and his pass rush rating is at 64.2. Where the Falcons may excel in the pass this weekend they may find it difficult running the ball. Four Viking defenders have a run defense rating above 70 with the aforementioned Joseph leading the pack at 78.1
Players to Consider: Julio Jones (FD: $8,500, DK: $8,000), Calvin Ridley (FD: $6,500, DK: $5,100), Austin Hooper (FD: $5,500, DK: $3,200)
Players to Avoid: Devonta Freeman (FD: $6,700, DK: $5,300)
Los Angeles Rams vs. Carolina Panthers
Andrew Whitworth is the 4th best pass-blocking tackle, 2nd best run-blocking tackle
Rob Haventsein is the 40th best pass-blocking tackle, best run-blocking tackle
Austin Blythe is the 12th best blocking guard based on PFF Rankings
Like the Eagles, the Rams have one of the most enticing matchups for fantasy production upfront. They are one of just two teams with a 20+% advantage in both pass-blocking and run-blocking this week. The Rams are in a very unique position as both of their outside blockers – Whitworth & Havenstein – rank in the top 10 at their respective position. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a team with two tackles ranked that high in the league other than LA. Although Havenstein was 40th last year in pass-blocking he was the single best run-blocker in the game. Match that with Whitworth on the left side who ranked just behind Havenstein in run-blocking and you got yourself a trusty group.
The Rams lost Rodger Saffold who is now in Tennessee but according to PFF ranks, Austin Blythe is expected to step in without much of an issue. LA is also projected to start Joseph Noteboom at guard this year. In a limited role last year, Noteboom generated an 88.8 pass-blocking rating on just 78 snaps. Although you have to take that with a grain of salt if he can keep that up this Rams line will be deadly.
The Panthers for years have been known for their defense. It seems, however, that might be changing. Although Luke Kuechly is still in town he’s the only one left. This Carolina defense doesn’t have a single player with a pass rush rating over 70. They do have a couple of defenders with a high run defense rating including Kawann Short, Gerald McCoy, and Kyle Love. However, the strength of the Rams run-blocking comes from their exterior linemen and they will likely focus on that.
Players to Consider: Todd Gurley (FD: $7,600, DK: $7,900), Brandin Cooks (FD: $7,000, DK: $6,500), Robert Woods (FD: $7,000, DK: $6,400), Cooper Kupp (FD: $6,800, DK: $5,700)
Players to Avoid: None
Indianapolis Colts vs. Los Angeles Chargers
Anthony Castonzo is the 15th best pass-blocking tackle, 30th best run-blocking tackle
Braden Smith is the 53rd best pass-blocking tackle, 25th best run-blocking tackle
Quenton Nelson is the 15th best pass-blocking guard, 9th best run-blocking guard
Mark Glowinski is the 41st best pass-blocking guard, 10th best run-blocking guard
Ryan Kelly is the 23rd best pass-blocking center, 7th best run-blocking center
The last two weeks have been harrowing for the Indianapolis Colts. Following news of a lingering injury franchise QB Andrew Luck announced his retirement from the league. The news which came in the middle of the teams third preseason game was a shock to every member of the universe. This thrust Jacoby Brissett into the lineup and with it significant changes to the way the Colts will operate in 2019. What will make things easier for them is the outstanding blocking upfront.
The collection of hogs in Indianapolis’ trenches is some of the best in the league, specifically for the run game. Brissett hasn’t been the starter for the Colts since 2017 after a trade from New England. But has had plenty of time in the Colts offensive playbook sitting behind Luck to be prepared for the upcoming season.
PFF grades this game much better for the Colts run game than their passing game though. With only a 1% advantage this game is as even as it’s going to come when Brissett drops back. However, the Colts offensive line is so good when running the ball PFF estimates a 27% advantage over the Chargers defensive line.
The Chargers defensive line is a collection of some of the leagues best pass rushers. With five players topping a 70 pass rush rating by pff it is going to be hard for anyone to pass on this team consistently. However, when it comes to stopping the run things might get a little muddy. Of the nine players with at least 100 run defense snaps, only Melvin Ingram III has as a rating above 70.
Players to Consider: Marlon Mack (FD: $6,900, DK: $5,600), Nyheim Hines (FD: $5,300, DK: $3,900)
Players to Avoid: TY Hilton (FD: $7,700, DK: $6,600), Eric Ebron (FD: $5,900, DK: $4,100)