With the preseason winding down, a look at the league's offensive lines. The big news came yesterday, in Dallas, but there are plenty of other developments around the league that cast doubt upon expectations, both for good lines and bad.
Oft-injured, but also 2-time All-Pro left tackle Tyron Smith suffered what was initially reported as a torn hamstring (and then a fractured knee and then a hamstring fully torn off his knee) for Dallas on Wednesday, which will likely knock him out for the entire season. The guess is that first-rounder Tyler Smith, who had been working at left guard (with the idea he'd eventually replace Tyron), will start at tackle, with backup guard Connor McGovern (who did made several starts a year ago) taking over. But a major downgrade for the line, which we already had concerns about.
Green Bay is a tricky case. Potentially, the Packers have an All-Pro in David Bakhtiari and an All-Pro candidate in Elgton Jenkins. But Bakhtiari is still working his way back from a torn ACL; he's off the PUP list, at least, but that doesn't ensure he'll be fully healthy and starting in Week 1. So we're including him, but lowering his grade (on the idea they may have to get by with a lesser player at left tackle for part of the season). Jenkins is similar; coming off a torn ACL (suffered last year), working his way back. He's off the PUP list, as well, but looks a little less likely to be ready to go for Week 1. He should start at right tackle, and we're assuming that's the case, but his grade, too, is lowered by the thought he might need to miss time. Could be a top-5 line when those guys are healthy, but won't necessarily be that good early on.
The Ravens have a similar concern with left tackle Ronnie Stanley, coming off an ankle injury. He hasn't been practicing, so the PUP list (costing him the first four games) is still an option. We're penciling him in, but as with the Packers players downgrading him slightly on the thought he might need to miss time.
It's been a rough offseason for the Bucs' offensive line. Some losses were expected, and long enough ago that they could plan for them -- Ali Marpet retiring, Alex Cappa leaving in free agency. But then Aaron Stinnie, a possible replacement for Marpet, got hurt, and so did center Ryan Jensen (they're both out for the year). They'll be starting a rookie (a second-rounder, at least) at left guard, and an unproven backup at center. At least Tristan Wirfs oblique injury picked up last week isn't considered serious, and he should be fine for Week 1. But the line is a lot thinner, and more iffy right now.
Another key injury: Browns center Nick Harris (knee). He's out for the year, so the team is rolling with veteran Ethan Pocic. It's a big loss, and knocks the Browns from a lofty spot in our rankings to more of an above-average group.
Eagles center Jason Kelce underwent elbow surgery earlier this month. It's not clear whether he'll be ready for the start of the season. We're leaving him in the starting lineup, but that will need to be confirmed. Second-rounder Cam Jurgens appears to be next in line if Kelce misses games.
It's not certain if the Saints starter at left tackle will be James Hurst (who's been hurt) or first-rounder Trevor Penning (who's been making headlines for getting in practice fights). We're putting Penning there because that's certainly the ideal scenario, but if Hurst is healthy and better, it will be him, with Penning a backup. As of yesterday, Hurst was still watching practice
If the Raiders release Alex Leatherwood, last year's first-round pick, there will be much hoopla and gnashing of teeth. But Leatherwood definitely wasn't starting at tackle and his best-case scenario (if he's kept) is starting at guard, or backing up one of the tackle spots. So the line doesn't move much without him, since we'd already moved on. Maybe he surfaces somewhere else as a credible guard (it happens), but odds are against it for now. Brandon Parker or late-round rookie Thayer Munford; that's your right tackle starter in Vegas.
For now, we've got Isaiah Wynn penciled in as New England's right tackle. The Patriots have reportedly considered shopping him and going with Yodny Cajuste instead. Some moving parts here, and it's typically hard to know what fact and fiction are with Patriots personnel decisions. But New England will probably have a borderline top-10 line, as usual.
Panthers center Bradley Bozeman has an ankle injury that might cost him regular-season games. The backup would be Pat Elflein, a downgrade, but a serviceable player. Not certain that Bozeman will miss time; it's something we'll keep track of when the season begins.
The Cardinals swung a trade with Buffalo to bring in Cody Ford for a looksee. They gave up a fifth-round pick, which suggests he's sticking around. We're guessing he'll start at right guard, which was the line's biggest hole. It's an upgrade for their offense (Ford is best at run-blocking).
Seattle guard Damian Lewis left the last preseason game with a leg injury that looked pretty bad. The updates we have so far are that he avoided a major issue, so we're leaving him in the lineup for now. But optimistic updates don't always turn out that way, especially when Pete Carroll is involved. That one will need to be monitored.
Current offensive line rankings are shown below; colorful table of projected starters will be posted at our Facebook page today.
|OFFENSIVE LINE RANKINGS|