When an offense performs poorly, it’s usually the quarterback or the other skill players who take the blame. But the offensive line’s performance is key to a team’s success, and we saw catastrophic results of bad line play around the league in Week 1.
We also saw the opposite of that this week too, with improved lines for the Minnesota Vikings and Los Angeles Rams helping to propel Sam Bradford and Jared Goff’s quarterback ratings to No. 2 and No. 3 in the league in Week 1.
Goff looked like a new man when he wasn’t constantly under duress. The addition of Andrew Whitworth in free agency brought some much-needed stability to the Rams’ line. Goff was only sacked once and rarely pressured, and he threw for 306 yards and one touchdown in the Rams’ rout of the Colts on Sunday.
And Bradford, who took 38 sacks last season, was sacked just once and only pressured on six of his dropbacks on Monday night against the New Orleans Saints. He completed a ridiculous 84.4 percent of his passes for 346 yards, three touchdowns, and no picks. Minnesota’s line was consistent all night, which is something Bradford didn’t have the benefit of last season.
Other teams weren’t so fortunate. We saw that side of things from the Seahawks on Sunday, as they allowed three sacks and four quarterback hits. Russell Wilson was under pressure all day:
Wilson couldn’t get settled, and he finished with just 158 passing yards. The Seahawks lost 17-9. They weren’t the only team that struggled because of line play.
The Texans don’t want to pay their starting left tackle, Duane Brown, and he’s holding out. But the line’s performance in Houston’s 29-7 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars revealed just how much they need him. The Texans gave up 10 sacks and 11 quarterback hits against Jacksonville, and as a result the offense was abysmal.
The Texans were already down a right tackle to start the season after Derek Newton tore both patellar tendons last October. Kendall Lamm has been a backup in Houston after joining the Texans as an undrafted free agent following the 2015 draft. He was hoping to earn the starting spot at right tackle, but Brown’s holdout made it necessary for Lamm to switch to the left side. He had such a rough day against the Jaguars that he was benched:
what's the point of even having a left tackle? a traffic cone is a lot cheaper and might be an upgrade pic.twitter.com/gCYVTyrzLL— charles mcdonald (@FourVerts) September 11, 2017
That left Breno Giacomini to man the right side. Giacomini actually had a couple of solid seasons with the Seattle Seahawks back in 2013 and 2014. He started each game — including two postseason games — for Seattle in 2013. In 2014, he missed seven games due to injury but started the other nine regular season and postseason contests, including Super Bowl XLIX. But in his new role in Houston, it’s not going well for him, either:
first of 10 sacks on the day for the jaguars. right tackle gave next to nothing on that pass set pic.twitter.com/igclIZaxXz— charles mcdonald (@FourVerts) September 11, 2017
When both tackles aren’t able to hold their own, the guards have to try to compensate, which makes things harder for the center. It’s felt across the entire line.
New York’s offensive line has big issues, and they were all on display against the Cowboys on Sunday night. Right tackle Bobby Hart — who was playing through an ankle injury, according to head coach Ben McAdoo — and right guard John Jerry were primarily to blame, though left tackle Ereck Flowers struggled, too.
The line looked rough from the very start. It gave up a sack during the Giants’ opening possession — while players were doing their own Sunday Night Football intros:
Center Weston Richburg and left guard Justin Pugh both had decent performances, but it’s impossible for two guys to compensate for sub-par play from the other three players on the line.
The Bengals let left tackle Andrew Whitworth walk in free agency. They replaced him with Cedric Ogbuehi, who is an obvious downgrade. Right guard Kevin Zeitler signed with the Browns when they made him the highest-paid guard in NFL history, and the line is a work in progress.
It was disastrous for Cincinnati when the Bengals got shut out by the Ravens in Week 1. Andy Dalton took five sacks and completed just 51.6 percent of his passes for 170 yards and four interceptions with no touchdowns.
The Ravens held the Bengals to just 77 rushing yards, and not having adequate blocking to establish some balance didn’t do Dalton any favors, either.
Chemistry is fundamentally important to an offensive line’s success, and all of the teams that struggled saw some changes this offseason. Teams are also still shaking off some rust in Week 1, and there’s a chance these lines will jell and improve as the season goes on. But if they don’t, it’ll be a long year for all of these teams.