It seems as though every offensive line in the league sucks this year.
The first point of criticism regarding a large chunk of so-called good teams has been the o-line. Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Indy, Chicago, Dallas, Philly, the Giants and Detroit are all playoff-caliber squads being weighed down by allegedly terrible lines. But maybe there’s more to the story.
I mean, if all but a handful (Jets, Browns, Bengals, Dolphins, Chargers) of lines are struggling, don’t we have to change the criteria for what makes a good, average and bad line? The problems being experienced in Pittsburgh and Atlanta and Philadelphia and Chicago aren’t anomalies, so maybe there’s a trend here.
And this seems easy, but maybe it can be tied to the lockout.
Offensive lines require practice time to establish cohesion. Players at other positions had the ability to workout during the work stoppage and were able to get back up to speed more quickly in abbreviated training camps. Linemen have to practice as a unit to make five moving parts work as one.
And although it’s tough to know for sure if the chicken or the egg came first, it’s worth noting that teams are throwing significantly more often than ever before early on in 2011. Some startling statistics:
- Teams are passing on 59 percent of plays this year. In NFL history, that number has never been higher than 57 percent over the course of a season.
- The league-wide yards-per-carry average thus far this season is 4.0 — lower than it’s been since 2005.
- And, unsurprisingly, sacks are up. Quarterbacks are getting taken down on 6.4 percent of drop-backs early on this season, a number that hasn’t been that high since 2006.
Yesterday on his ESPN podcast, former NFL offensive lineman Ross Tucker suggested that the trend toward more passing has unfairly made tackles look bad.
“At the NFL level,” said Tucker, “maybe you’re not meant to pass block 40 or 50 times a game.”
It’s become such a passing game that edge rushers are looking very good and pass blockers are looking very bad. That might also be a reason why it seems as though there are only a few very good left tackles in this league, while there’s a slew of “great” guards and centers.
It’s all relative.
This is something to watch. As lines develop more chemistry, will the pass-heavy numbers begin to fade? Or will lines only begin to develop chemistry as said numbers begin to fade naturally?