If you had to rank which positions were the most valuable for a football team where would you go? QB? Shutdown Corner? A Versatile LB? When I think about the most important positions in football it starts with the Left Tackle. The offensive line is one of the most important pieces to any football team. They can make or break the success of any offense.
There is an obvious correlation to a teams record and the talent on the offensive line. For instance, both the Dolphins and the Jets rank in the bottom 5 when protecting the QB. They also rank in the bottom of run blocking according to pff.com and are both 0-3. While the Broncos and the Cardinals also rank at the bottom of run blocking and neither have won a game.
There is one key exception through the first three weeks of the season and that belongs to the Rams. Despite being 3-0 the Rams currently rank 31st in run blocking and 30th in pass blocking. However, a lot of that has to do with their 4th rank pass defense and their 8th ranked run defense.
Ultimately, how an offensive line blocks for the ball-carriers behind them is key. If the QB can’t get enough time to survey the field he won’t be able to find the right open receiver. He may feel the pressure, he may get hit, he may hurry his throw which will turn into turnovers. And conversely, if the running back can’t find open holes the team can’t sustain drives, which leaves their defense on the field too long.
Week 4 Injury Report:
Marshall Newhouse; T New England Patriots: Newhouse hasn’t been able to practice all week due to an illness. The Pats might take a hit if he can’t go but the likelihood is he’ll be ready. Newhouse is currently the 31st best tackle in pass-blocking according to pff.com. If he can’t play it could be a big as the Pats take 3-0 Buffalo.
Jon Feliciano; G Buffalo Bills: On the other side of the field in the Pats vs. Bills is Feliciano who is currently reeling from a neck injury. Positive signs show Feliciano has practiced fully on Friday so he is likely to play. Feliciano is a top 20 guard in pass blocking so far this season and ranked 27th when blocking on run plays. If Feliciano can’t go Josh Allen and company may have a tough time against the leagues best defense.
Eric Fisher; T Kansas City Chiefs: Fisher had successful hernia surgery this week and is likely to miss the next month or so. Cameron Erving is his replacement. Erving isn’t very good so there is certainly a weakness the 22nd ranked pass rush of the Lions can exploit. Erving didn’t give up a sack last week but he did allow a pressure and a hurried throw.
Chase Roullier; C Washington Redskins: Roullier hurt his knee during last Monday’s matchup vs. the Bears but was able to return. Roullier has already been ruled out which could be more caution than anything. Roullier has been a much better run blocker than he has a pass blocker so far this year. So the news could have a pretty large effect on Adrian Peterson and the skins run game.
Chris Hubbard; T Cleveland Browns: Hubbard missed the game against the Rams and it caused significant issues for Baker and the Browns offense. The Browns take on a tough divisional opponent, so he’ll likely play. However, there may be reason to keep him out and continue healing.
Trai Turner; G Carolina Panthers: Trai Turner hurt his ankle in the Week 3 win vs. the Cardinals and is already listed as OUT for Week 4. Turner has been a much more consistent pass blocker throughout his career than as a run blocker. So this may take a hit for the Kyle Allen resurgence.
Demar Dotson; T Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Dotson is currently listed as questionable with a good chance to miss the game due to a calf injury. Despite having a PFF rating nearly identical he ranks much better at run-blocking than he does in passing situations. Ronald Jones broke out last week gaining 122 all-purpose yards so this may knock him back down a bit.
Josh Kline; G Minnesota Vikings: Kline has been one of the best pass-blocking guards so far this year ranking 19th according to PFF.com A concussion in their week 3 contest vs. Oakland has now sidelined him for this tough divisional road game. Dakota Dozier will likely start in his place. Dozier ranks 29th with a 64.2 run-blocking rating but isn’t very good when pass-blocking.
Kyle Long; G Chicago Bears: Long practiced fully on Wednesday but seemed to have suffered a setback and didn’t practice on Thursday or Friday. He is likely to make it happen as he was questionable last week too but still played. But with the shortened week and the lack of practicing there could be some questions here.
Ja’Wuan James; T Denver Broncos: James is out again but is pointing in the right direction to return soon. The Broncos offensive line is hurting here as backup Elijah Wilkerson has been one of the worst-rated tackles so far this year.
Top Offensive Line Options for Week 4:
Indianapolis Colts: The Colts offensive line has played really well through the first three weeks. Currently ranking at the 7th best run-blocking unit and the 16th best pass-blocking unit. The Colts will take on a Raiders team that just can’t seem to get out of their own way. The Raiders have only put pressure on the QB 9% of the time and have only produced a sack on 12% of those places. The Raiders have also been poor at getting the opposing offense off the field. They have averaged about 3 rushes per game inside their own 5-yard line and are giving up a rushing touchdown on 36% of those plays. Pro Football Focus gives the Colts a 33% advantage in passing situations and 34% when run-blocking this week.
New York Giants: The Giants haven’t been on many positive lists so far this year. After bad losses to the Cowboys and Bills during weeks 1 and 2, they were on pace to get another blow out loss last week. Things changed shortly after halftime, although, primarily due to Danny Dimes and less to do with their offensive line. However, against a Redskins defense that currently ranks 28th in pass-rush, the Giants have the advantage. PFF.com gives the Giants a 32% advantage when pass-blocking this week and a 10% advantage when blocking on running plays.
New England Patriots: A clash of two 3-0 AFC East teams will go down this weekend in Buffalo when the Pats take on the Bills. Although both teams have played very easy schedules it’s still the Patriots and PFF gives them the advantage. The Pats are averaging over 3 carries per game inside the 5-yard line and have scored on 44% of those plays. On the flip side, the Bills have given up 3 carries per game inside the 5 and have allowed the opposing team to score 48% of the time. The Pats rate with a higher advantage when running the ball this week than when passing. But when your Tom Brady does that even matter?
Pittsburgh Steelers: PFF doesn’t grade the Steelers very high in this contest, even though they are rated with an advantage. However, it is how well they have played that gets them the nod this week. The Steelers offensive line has given up a pressure on just 4% of dropbacks and has only given up a sack on 11% of those pressures. The Bengals, on the other hand, have produced pressure on the QB on 14% of their plays, but have only turned that into a sack 12% of the time. The Bengals has given up about 3 carries per game inside the 5-yard line and are giving up a score on nearly half of those opportunities.