2012 Offensive Line RankingsMonday, May 07, 2012
Casual NFL observers don't do intense offensive line watching. They see the quarterback drop back from center, then hand the ball off to a back or throw it to a receiver. The O-Line is criticized if no running lane opens or the passer is sacked. It sometimes gets credit if the offense sustains a long stretch of undisrupted plays.
I watch 9-12 games each week during the regular season, and for these rankings fell back on my 2011 notes while using the great research of Football Outsiders and Pro Football Focus as guidelines. I think it's also important to understand the impact of blocking schemes, rookie expectations, and free agency additions, so I tried to touch on all of that. Please keep in mind that we are attempting to project here, not making grades based strictly on yesteryear performance.
* = returning starter
2. New England Patriots
LT: Nate Solder*
LG: Logan Mankins*
C: Dan Connolly*
RG: Brian Waters*
RT: Sebastian Vollmer
Top reserves: C Dan Koppen, OG Robert Gallery, T/G Marcus Cannon, G/C Ryan Wendell, C/G Nick McDonald, G/T Donald Thomas.
Overview: In 2012, the Patriots will combat transition and adversity with sheer talent. Longtime left tackle Matt Light has retired, and Waters may do the same. Mankins tore his ACL in the playoffs, though he's tentatively due back for Week 1. New blindside starter Solder played over 1,000 snaps as a first-round rookie, holding up well. Vollmer, a top-60 pick in the 2009 draft, has flashed Pro Bowl ability when healthy. Cannon is a wildcard with terrific feet for a mammoth, 360-pound man. While New England's line boasts little continuity with plenty of question marks, this remains a top-five group in terms of skill level, and the bench is crawling with capable starters.