OLs on the way up
Posted Apr. 14 at 02:59 AM
If your team has one of the worst offensive lines in the league, here's some good news for you. A series of good moves in the space of a year or two can turn things around in a hurry. Consider:
Cleveland: Behind many draft busts at skill positions -- guys like Tim Couch and William Green -- is an offensive line that never came together to help them succeed. In the last two years the Browns have paid extra attention to their offensive line, to the point that now they have one of the more talented groups in the league. Tackle Joe Thomas, their top pick a year ago, made the Pro Bowl as a rookie, while signing guard Eric Steinbach away from Cincinnati a year ago served the dual role of helping Cleveland's running game while hurting that of their cross-state rivals. The solid play of center Hank Fraley has enabled the team to overcome the loss of LeCharles Bentley to a devastating knee injury. Another good season for this offense appears likely.
Tampa Bay: Since winning the Super Bowl after the 2002 season, the Bucs spent a lot of time throwing bad money at big-name veteran free agents. They've got it right along the offensive line, though, spending high picks on Davin Joseph, Aaron Sears and Jeremy Trueblood -- all starters -- the last two drafts. Signing center Jeff Faine away from division-rival New Orleans gives the Bucs a young, talented group up front. Now they just need left tackle Luke Petitgout to return to health, but they've got a solid core here regardless.
Baltimore: The Ravens still don't know if future Hall of Famer Jonathan Ogden will play another season, but they've been planning for his departure the past two seasons. Guard Ben Grubbs and guard/tackle Marshal Yanda, taken in the first three rounds of last year's draft, will be starters here for years to come. Two other young players, tackle Jared Gaither and Chris Chester, have promise, while another 2007 rookie, fourth-round fullback Le'Ron McClain, is a capable lead blocker. This line is a work in progress -- particularly if Ogden retires -- but some of the building blocks are there.
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