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Thread: Offensive linemen aren't as good as they used to be ..

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    Offensive linemen aren't as good as they used to be ..

    By Dan Pompeii

    As I went through my tour of training camps, it struck me how one theme was constant wherever I went: offensive line play is a concern. Every team had some sort of issue up front on offense. I don’t believe there is a coaching staff in the league that is completely comfortable with its offensive line.

    There is no question line play has deteriorated in recent years. Neither individual linemen nor offensive line units are what they used to be. So I started to ask people what they thought the reasons were. Here are some of the theories I heard.

    Where have you gone Tony Boselli?
    *As athletes, offensive linemen have not kept pace with pass rushers.

    “Offensive line play probably is not as good as it used to be because, more than ever, all the best athletes play defense,” Giants general manager Jerry Reese told me. “You see it at the combine. The height, weight, speed difference between the lines is pretty dramatic.”

    The Giants have a pass rusher in Jason Pierre-Paul who can do 23 consecutive backflips. I can name some guards who look like they would struggle to do a single forward somersault. The Bears have an interior pass rusher in Henry Melton who was athletic enough to play running back at Texas, and an outside pass rusher in Julius Peppers who was athletic enough to play forward on the North Carolina basketball team.

    Meanwhile, the offensive linemen are the least talented players on the field, and among the lowest paid on average. The best offensive linemen in the league today (Joe Thomas, Jake Long) don’t compare athletically with the best offensive linemen in the league a dozen years ago (Boselli, Jonathan Ogden, Orlando Pace, Willie Roaf). The Pro Bowl alternate tackles last year in the NFC were Tyson Clabo and Donald Penn.

    The dominating left tackle does not exist anymore. “Where are those guys?” Reese said. “You don’t see them. People talk about how you have to have a great offensive tackle. If you have one, great. But who has one? David Diehl is a terrific one, and I’ll take him any day but he’s not at the Tony Boselli level.”

    And it doesn’t look like it will be getting better anytime soon. Among the offensive linemen who played in the 2011 Pro Bowl but won’t be playing this year are Kris Dielman, Brian Waters, Matt Light, Jason Peters and Chad Clifton.

    Said Redskins coach Mike Shanahan, “Everybody says we don’t have a good right tackle. I say show me who does?”

    *There is nowhere near the continuity on offensive lines that there used to be.

    Free agency—and the fact that teams have devalued linemen, especially guards--makes almost every team do an annual offensive line shuffle.

    This year, only two teams—the Falcons and Lions--are expected to open the season with the same five starters in the same five spots that they played with last year. And in Detroit many believe it’s just a matter of time before first round pick Riley Reiff replaces incumbent Gosder Cherilus at right tackle.

    What’s more, nine teams have new offensive line coaches. They are the Bears, Bucs, Chiefs, Colts, Cowboys, Dolphins, Falcons, Jets and Rams.

    Diehl knows about a lack of continuity on a line. When the Giants moved him to right tackle this year, it was the fifth time in his career he moved. He has played every position on the line except center.

    “People forget playing together for a long period of time is what makes you the best as possible,” Diehl said. “Now with someone getting hurt, or free agency, you don’t see a group together very long. When we had our best years here, it was when the five of us played together during that one long stretch. That’s what you have to have to have an effective offensive line. You have to have a lot of game experience together because there is so much continuity, fitting next to each other, being on the same page, being able to communicate when you can’t hear because of the noise.”

    *The new collective bargaining agreement that limits offseason and training camp practice time may hurt the play of offensive lines more than any other group.

    “It’s harder for offensive linemen to play well together with fewer reps,” Bears general manager Phil Emery said. “They need live pass situations. It hurts their pad level, their feel for leverage, their development and their ability to work together.”

    *Many of the offensive linemen who are coming into the league have not played in pro style offenses and have a lot to learn.

    Offensive line play has been a victim of the spread revolution. “They come to the NFL without knowing how to run block,” one NFC head coach said. “The way they are running offenses in college, some position has to suffer, and it is the offensive line.”

    In fact, one of the reasons so many teams are turning to the spread is to hide line limitations of offensive linemen. Get rid of the ball quickly, and you don’t have to worry about blockers who can’t handle superior pass rushers.

    *NFL coaches haven’t all caught up with the fact that they can’t neutralize pass rushes the way they used to. Some of them still expect their left tackles to take on great pass rushes as if this were 1998, and they don’t give them enough help.

    There are more opportunities for sacks, holdings and false starts than ever before. NFL teams threw 17,410 times last year—more than ever.

    “You can’t run a certain offense if you don’t have the players,” Shanahan said. “Some coaches want to run their offense no matter what. Sometimes you have to figure out how to win 17-14.”

    If there is truth in this article, whatever happened to Jason Smith? Wasn't he extremely athletically gifted? Did the repeated concussions cause him to play scared?

    I recorded the combine and watched significant portions of it for the first time ever this year, and it seemed true that the defensive guys appeared more nimble and quicker than the O-line guys. If Pompeii is correct in his theory, the trend of keeping only 2 quarterbacks may prove inadvisable .. Thoughts?


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    Re: Offensive linemen aren't as good as they used to be ..

    my thoughts: there were better wideouts twelve years ago and less injuries to O-linemen. with the injuries i think that hasn`t helped obviously but is in part due to O-linemen getting bigger to try and outmatch the D-linemen which they usually do from a physical strength standpoint. it comes at the cost of speed and footwork.
    If Goodell really cared about players long term health and not only the health problems the NFL could have to pay out for in the future like for example brain damage. he should put size restrictions on the linemen,both O and D. players are not taller than they used to be but they are thicker and in most cases fatter. look at the 80`s O-linemen back then would be seen as too light to play D-line now..some of those guys weren`t that much heavier than todays LB`s.

    i don`t think D-linemen or outside LB pass rushers are better than they were back then. there are some great players at those positions but in the case of D-linemen i wouldn't say the current crop rank as the golden era. and for outside LB pass rushers the late 80`s and early 90`s was the golden era with Taylor,Greene and Thomas.
    one has to also consider two other big factors into why O-lnemen don't look as good as they did before.
    the fact there was better wideouts 12 years ago,but there is more passes per game played now. there are more rushes to contend with than there was back 12 years ago.
    i do agree that they aren't as good as they were 12 years ago..i`m just saying there`s quite alot of factors into why and it is a more difficult job to be a lineman today even tho i don`t think the pass rushers are better than they have been in the past.

    they need to get better but i`m not sure they can get much better under the current circumstances.
    Last edited by Ramblin` Ram; -09-02-2012 at 03:49 PM.

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    Re: Offensive linemen aren't as good as they used to be ..

    Nice find Maui very interesting read to say the least.

    Meanwhile, the offensive linemen are the least talented players on the field, and among the lowest paid on average.
    Correct me if I'm wrong but did we not have a lot of our cap space tied up in Smith, Brown and Bell.

    Rams COO Demoff "only two types of players in NFL, overpaid and underpaid"


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    Re: Offensive linemen aren't as good as they used to be ..

    I've been a Rams fan since I was a kid in the late 70's. The Rams ALWAYS had great offensive lines and I remember some unbelievable players. Over the years we've had guys ranging from perennial all-pros to guys who were just good, solid lineman for a number of years. Jackie Slater, Dennis Harrah, Kent Hill, Doug Smith, Doug France, Tom Newberry, Bill Bain, Rich Saul and Tom Mack are among the guys who were mainstays on the line over the last 30-35 years. Then in our GSOT days, we had Orlando Pace solid pros like Andy McCollum, Adam Timmerman and Tom Nutten. We've got to start identifying and developing guys like this again! You truly do build a good football team from the lines out.
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    Re: Offensive linemen aren't as good as they used to be ..

    Quote Originally Posted by NJ Ramsfan1 View Post
    I've been a Rams fan since I was a kid in the late 70's. The Rams ALWAYS had great offensive lines and I remember some unbelievable players. Over the years we've had guys ranging from perennial all-pros to guys who were just good, solid lineman for a number of years. Jackie Slater, Dennis Harrah, Kent Hill, Doug Smith, Doug France, Tom Newberry, Bill Bain, Rich Saul and Tom Mack are among the guys who were mainstays on the line over the last 30-35 years. Then in our GSOT days, we had Orlando Pace solid pros like Andy McCollum, Adam Timmerman and Tom Nutten. We've got to start identifying and developing guys like this again! You truly do build a good football team from the lines out.
    Great point NJ rams fan. Let's not forget the great Rams lines of the 1960's and early 1970's, which included 10 plus year mainstays like Captain Joe Scibelli and Charlie Cowan. Center Ken Iman was an excellent player, albeit over a shorter Rams career than the other two. We also got the tail end of the career of the Boomer, Bob Brown, who made all pro for us before he retired. In the era you referred to, please dont leave out Big Irv Pankey, a stud in his own right, while playing in Big Jackie's shadow.

    The Rams history on the offensive line is very rich indeed. One of the meanest and most dominant Rams of all time was the great Riley Matheson, known as the Rattlesnake. A guard in the 1940's, he was a dominant player in his era, as was tackle Eberle Schulz for the Cleveland Rams. The Rattlesnake was really the Dennis Hercules Harrah of his era, feared and respected by all opponents. Leon Mclaughlin was an excellent center for the Rams in the 1950's and Duane Putnam was a superstar guard for us for many years in the 1950's.There are many more of course, these are just a few.

    O how we yearn for the great offensive linemen of the past for the Rams.

    Ramming speed to all

    general counsel
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    Re: Offensive linemen aren't as good as they used to be ..

    my fandom only goes back 29 years but i recall the ones you`ve mentioned from playing during that time. i`ve always liked O-linemen i think it`s because they are the unsung heroes of football.

    there`s lots of Linemen i thought could have become good players who just didn`t make it..i recall having high hopes for Mike Schad when we drafted him,Scott Tercero(sic?),Kevin Robbins,the outlaw Jesse James, Roy Schuening and John Greco.

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    Re: Offensive linemen aren't as good as they used to be ..

    with the 80`s guys i think they were great run blockers but not so great at pass blocking..mind,if they were as good at the pass blocking as the run they would have all gone to Canton by now..

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    Re: Offensive linemen aren't as good as they used to be ..

    Quote Originally Posted by Ramblin` Ram View Post
    with the 80`s guys i think they were great run blockers but not so great at pass blocking..mind,if they were as good at the pass blocking as the run they would have all gone to Canton by now..
    I think you're probably right, Ramblin' Ram, but keep in mind until Jim Everett came aboard we had a string of HORRENDOUS QB's- Jeff Kemp, Dieter Brock, etc, who hardly helped matters. The linemen instead played to our strength on offense, which of course was Eric Dickerson, who was flat out awesome.

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    Re: Offensive linemen aren't as good as they used to be ..

    Quote Originally Posted by NJ Ramsfan1 View Post
    I think you're probably right, Ramblin' Ram, but keep in mind until Jim Everett came aboard we had a string of HORRENDOUS QB's- Jeff Kemp, Dieter Brock, etc, who hardly helped matters. The linemen instead played to our strength on offense, which of course was Eric Dickerson, who was flat out awesome.
    absolutely as soon as i saw ED play i knew i was a Rams fan. although what i think was impressive is that when other RB`s came in they still moved the chains on the ground. there was some truly great pass rushers in the 80`s and early 90`s so i don`t blame the o-line of that time for sometimes struggling against the pass rush. as run blocking O-lines go i can only think of Denver and KC who have had lines like that during my years.
    i have read that the 60`s Packers line was the best O-line. and that Deacon Jones was the only guy who could get past Forrest Gregg.
    Last edited by Ramblin` Ram; -09-02-2012 at 08:15 PM. Reason: spelling

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    Re: Offensive linemen aren't as good as they used to be ..

    I think the continuity thing is probably the most significant; you can sack a QB on a great individual effort but it takes a coordinated effort to prevent it.

    I think DLers have become significantly larger & so have LBs but they're in an athletic sweet spot where athleticism & size mesh perfectly. The size of current Olers is an example of the law of diminishing returns; there are very few men & probably always will be very few in that 300lbs+ range who still have the athletic ability to function at a high level & those who don't, try to compensate by carrying belly weight that's just back & leg straining ballast. More passing means even more strain which means more injuries, shorter careers & even less continuity.. I doubt any OLer will beat Slater's record.

    They had that silly all time great teams from different eras game on nfldot com this off season. One match-up was a mid 70s Raider squad vs the '99 GSOT. The vote went to The Raiders but it was absurd when you looked at the lines; Pace & co would have swatted the Raiders DL like flies & that was a darned good line.And vice versa for The rams DL who would have mauled the Raiders' relatively tiny OL. Throw in modern conditioning,the sophistication of Martz's passing offense, & the 4th quarter would have deteriorated into a dwarf-tossing farce,imo.
    Last edited by Azul e Oro; -09-03-2012 at 04:35 AM.
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    Re: Offensive linemen aren't as good as they used to be ..

    Wish we still had our O line, Pace, Timmerman, Mccolum, nutten, and I would even be happy with Kyle Turley at this point.

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    Re: Offensive linemen aren't as good as they used to be ..

    The hardest part of the game is pass blocking for an o-lineman. The NFL game has changed in that it's not a run to open up the passing game league anymore. In a lot of cases it's the exact opposite.
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    Re: Offensive linemen aren't as good as they used to be ..

    I think the league trend to pass more often has more emphasis on pass blocking and given DLineman an advantage on Lineman. The DLineman are more fresh to rush the passer when they do not have to chase the running back up and down the field.

    Just me thoughts.

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    Re: Offensive linemen aren't as good as they used to be ..

    I'm surprised that they're saying offensive linemen are underpaid. The franchise tag value for offensive line this year was $9.4 million compared to $10.6 million for defensive end and $7.9 million for defensive tackle. Quarterbacks and cornerbacks are the only other positions that make more.

    I tend to agree with what Azul is saying here--it's the old "Planet Theory"--that the archetype required to play the position is just rarer than a lot of the other positions. In general, you're looking for a guy who is over 6' tall, over 300 lbs, athletic enough to run a 40 in under 5.25 seconds, strong enough to compete in strongman competitions, with good balance and above average intelligence. The defensive linemen are generally more athletically gifted in no small part because we expect the defensive ends to be fast and not necessarily carry as much bulk (JPP is 278, but you've got guys down around 260).

    I also think laram0 is on target with the point that it's a pass-heavy league now, and pass protection is the hardest thing a lineman does. So, while Orlando Pace and Walter Jones were exceptional at it, much of the rest of the last generation of linemen might not have looked so good if teams were passing as much then as they are now.

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    Re: Offensive linemen aren't as good as they used to be ..

    I think in general the defensive systems have out-schemed the offenses when it comes to OL vs. DL. That obviously doesn't mean that defenses are dominating offenses, but it does mean that the change has meant that the defensive lineman and LB's are far more active than they used to be before the West coast Offense became prominent and mobility/athleticism as well as brute strength is demanded.

    You would think that the era of only 5 or 7 drop-back passing would have been easier for DE's or OLB's to record tons of sacks, but now with the WCO so prevalent and more mobile QB's, you still have pass rushers dominating the game and having tremendous seasons. Why is that? Because the offensive scheme has been still stymied AT TIMES by better defensive schemes. As everyone knows, it's easier to "destroy" than "create" and the D vs. O utilizes the same concept. The O comes up with all kinds of looks, formations and schemes while the D counter-acts that by trying to wreck it.

    While the NFL has a lot of prolific passing teams that look unstoppable(and are) at times, a team like the NYG comes along and stops the train dead in its tracks.

    It's like a Cold War arms-race where each side improves themselves and at times one will have more weapons than the other, but it doesn't last that way forever. The quality of OL will improve as colleges move away from the gimmicky "spread offense" because college football trends the way the NFL does, and right now, the NFL pukes on players from spread offenses and downgrades them. This creates the ripple effect where the most elite prospects go somewhere else than teams that embrace the spread offense. It's all self-correcting.
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