I thought it was interesting to watch the Packers and the Bears on Thursday Night Football, to see the difficulties both teams are having with their offensive lines.
The Packers have major issues at left tackle with Marshall Newhouse now starting. He’s had a great deal of difficulty in the first two games. His backup, Derek Sherrod, is out with a leg injury. So a rookie by the name of Don Barklay is the number one backup at both tackle positions in Green Bay. Clearly, the Packers have problems to deal with after giving up five sacks to the Bears on the heels of giving up three to San Francisco.
The Bears are starting a line of J’Marcus Webb, who protected Keith Null and practiced against Eugene Sims at West Texas A&M, at left tackle…Seahawks castoff Chris Spencer at left guard…then Roberto Garza at center, Lance Louis at right guard, and Gabe Carimi at right tackle. None of those players are Pro Bowl types, and they showed vs. the Packers that, as a unit, they need lots of work. Jay Cutler was sacked seven times, and the Bears had just 96 yards on the ground.
That’s just a snapshot of offensive line problems throughout the league. On Sunday night, Ben Roethlisberger was sacked five times, and the Steelers ran for just 75 yards against Denver. Starting left tackle Max Starks has spent periods between being a Steeler and being out of football the last couple of years. Left guard Willie Colon used to be a right tackle. The Steelers tried to replace right guard Ramon Foster with first round draft choice David DeCastro, who landed on injured reserve. The usually contending Steelers have major questions on the offensive line.
The Super Bowl Champion Giants are starting another former Seahawk, Sean Locklear, who struggled at right tackle, at left tackle. Waiver wire pickup Kevin Boothe is their left guard. Eli Manning was sacked three times and hit numerous others in the Giants opener. Their opening opponent, Dallas is playing Tyron Smith, who has NEVER played left tackle, at left tackle. They have serious problems at guard, with two new players there, and Doug Free is having difficulty adjusting to the left side. Tony Romo was sacked twice and was on the run for much of the Cowboys’ opener.
Philadelphia lost left tackle Jason Peters to an Achilles injury during the off-season, and signed Demetress Bell away from Buffalo. Bell was beat out by King Dunlap, who was a mediocre right tackle. Evan Mathis, who couldn’t cut it with Indianapolis, is Philly’s starting left guard. The result? Michael Vick was harassed into four interceptions against Cleveland.
The Ravens just benched their left tackle, Bryant McKinnie, to put disappointing former first rounder Michael Oher at that position, and start rookie Kelechi Osemele on the right side. The Jets are starting an undrafted rookie at right tackle after Wayne Hunter couldn’t cut it at right tackle there. The Patriots have a first year starter at center because Pro Bowl guard Brian Waters didn’t come back to them, and nominal replacement Robert Gallery retired. So St. Louisan Dan Connolly moved from center to guard, and Ryan Wendell took over at center.
The Saints are concerned about their tackles, Jermon Bushrod and Zach Streif. The Bucs lost their best offensive lineman, Davin Joseph, to a season ending knee injury, and Atlanta has concerns about their tackles, Sam Baker and Garrett Reynolds, who did play well in their opener against Kansas City.
It’s somewhat remarkable that the only great, healthy offensive line in the entire NFL belongs to the San Francisco 49ers. Joe Staley, Mike Iupati, Jonathon Goodwin, Alex Boone and Anthony Davis are all above average blockers, and there haven’t been any injury issues for the 49ers to deal with. While Alex Smith was sacked four times by Green Bay, he was at fault for at least a couple of those. And, the 49ers ran for 186 yards in their opener.
I point this out because, as we focus on the Rams, they aren’t much different than the rest of the league. Sure, we wish Jason Smith would have worked out, and that Scott Wells was healthy and Rodger Saffold was a lock to be great. Actually, the only Rams offensive lineman that isn’t a major question right now is right guard Harvey Dahl. But Paul Boudreau has a history of building quality units among his offensive lines.
With their injuries and their talent level, the Rams’ offensive line certainly leaves something to be desired. But they aren’t alone. This is a league of question marks up front. The Rams can join the club.