Notable Additions: T. Spencer Brown (3rd Round Pick)
Notable Losses: G. Brian Winters (Free Agency)
Projected Starters: LT. Dion Dawkins LG. Jon Feliciano C. Mitch Morse RG. Cody Ford RT. Darly Williams
Last Year: 2020 PFF Grades - Dawkins (80.6), Feliciano (64.3), Morse (63.3), Ford (53.8), Williams (79.2)
Last season, Josh Allen’s improved play garnered most of the headlines but an underrated factor in the Bills 13-3 season was their improved offensive line play. They were ranked as the 21st best offensive line after the 2019 season by PFF. However, in their 2020 rankings the Bills O-line took the 10th spot. One key reason for their improvement was the signing of Darryl Williams. He was on a low-risk one-year prove it deal and he proved it so much the Bills rewarded him with a three-year extension. Williams and Dawkins formed one of the better tackle duos in the NFL in 2020 and when combined with solid pass protection at the center position from Morse, it explains why the Bills were in the top half of the league in pressure rate at 21.5%. They were not as good run blocking however, as the Bills finished 30th in average YBC at 1.9.
The Bills are projected to have the same starting five heading into the 2021 season as they had at the beginning of last year. They are hoping for better health this year in the interior as none of their guards started more than nine games last season. The guard position is the weakness on this Bills O-line. Feliciano is solid as a run blocker but weak in pass protection and Ford was one of the worst starting guards in the NFL last season. Ford was a second-round pick in the 2019 draft of Buffalo and has struggled in his first two years. He will need to show improvement early in 2021 or risk losing the starting job. If Dawkins and Williams continue to play well at the tackle positions and Morse continues to be a plus pass blocking in the middle, the Bills passing game should be able to pick up where it left off last season. However, if the Bills want to go further in the postseason, they need to become less reliant on the passing game and improve their run blocking, specifically in the interior, to be a more balanced offense.
Notable Additions: G. Liam Eichenberg (2nd Round Pick)
Notable Losses: C. Ted Karras (Free Agency), G. Ereck Flowers (Free Agency)
Projected Starters: LT. Austin Jackson LG. Liam Eichenberg C. Michael Deiter RG. Robert Hunt RT. Jesse Davis
Last Year: 2020 PFF Grades - Jackson (52.3), Eichenberg (N/A), Deiter (46.1), Hunt (65.8), Davis (62.6)
Last season, the Dolphins had one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL. It was young as three of the five starters were rookies. Miami was one of the worst running teams in the league as they were one of only four teams to average less than four yards per carry. They were better passing it finishing 20th in passing yards and in the top 10 in pressure rate at only 18.5%. However, Miami’s offensive passing game was very vanilla when Tua was in. He was often asked to throw it quickly and not make long progressions or take deep drop backs. It was not hard to tell watching the tape that this offensive line was not built to hold up for long against good pass rushes. Jackson and Kindley both struggled as rookies. Hunt, who was the team’s 2nd round pick a year ago, may have been the best player on the line last season and shows a lot of promise. Karras and Flowers were decent and provided a veteran presence.
The Dolphins O-Line will look different this season with at least two new starters due to free agency losses. Rookie guard Eichenberg is projected to replace Flowers at LG. He was one of the best guard prospects in the draft and could be a big boost to this line. Deiter is projected to be back in the lineup and replace Karras at C. He started back when he was a rookie in 2019 but a bad first year led the Dolphins to sign Karras last season to replace him. Unless he has improved, Deiter is a significant downgrade. Jesse Davis is back at RT. He is a below average tackle who was an undrafted free agent and is as good as he will ever be at this point in his career. Jackson and Davis will also be returning to the starting lineup and there is reason for optimism with these two. Davis looked better at guard than tackle a year ago and appears to have found a permanent home starting there. The question is can Austin Jackson live up to his first-round billing and take a step forward in year 2? If not, the bust label will start to be mentioned around his name. Overall, given the youth in this group there is a lot of room for improvement and that should create optimism for Dolphins fans.
New England Patriots
Notable Additions: T. Trent Brown (trade) C. Ted Karras (Free Agency)
Notable Losses: G. Joe Thuney (Free Agency)
Projected Starters: LT. Isaiah Wynn LG. Michael Onwenu C. David Andrews RG. Shaquille Mason RT. Trent Brown
Last Year: 2020 PFF Grades - Wynn (82.6), Onwenu (84.3), Andrews (67.7), Mason (85.4), Brown (68.9)
In 2020, The Patriots had one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. Despite having the worst group of skill players in the league, one of the worst starting QBs, and every opposing coaching staff knowing they would have to run the Patriots were still able to finish fourth in rushing as a team, ninth in YPC with 4.7, and sixth in YBC with 2.8. For them to be so successful running the ball under those circumstances means their offensive line was playing great. They did not pass block quite to the level they run blocked. The Pats finished 23rd in pressure rate but did not give up a lot of sacks and were tied for first in pocket time allowed. Four of the Pats starting five played at a good or great level. Even Andrews, who some might say was the weak link, played at an above average level.
Most first round rookie starting QBs play on bad teams with bad O-lines. That will not be the case for Mac Jones as he should be well protected behind an offensive line that projects to be one of the top groups again in 2021. The only significant loss was Joe Thuney who walked in free agency. However, Onwenu was one of the biggest surprises of the 2020 season as a sixth-round pick who played well. Though he played many of his snaps at RT a year ago, he also saw some time at guard and played well. He is slated to replace Thuney at LG. The Pats traded for Brown who will take over at RT. Brown didn’t play as well for the Raiders as he did his last season with the Pats but a return to New England could result in improved performance. He is still a huge mobile man at 6’8 380 pounds and when he is right, he can impact the game as both a run and pass blocker. Wynn, Andrews, and Mason are all back at their positions. Wynn is quietly one of the best tackles in the league despite being undersized at 6’2. He more than compensates with quick feet and good hands. Shaq Mason is also undersized at only 6‘1 and one of the best in the league. He is an elite run blocker that moves people out of the way and will continue to help spearhead the Pats effective running game regardless of who is at RB.
New York Jets
Notable Additions: G. Alijah Vera-Tucker (1st Round Pick), T. Morgan Moses (Free Agency)
Notable Losses: G. Alex Lewis (Retirement)
Projected Starters: LT. Mekhi Beckton LG. Alijah Vera-Tucker C. Connor McGovern RG. Greg Van Roten RT. Morgan Moses
Last Year: 2020 PFF Grades - Beckton (74.4), Vera-Tucker (N/A), McGovern (62.6), Van Roten (63.0), Moses (79.9)
Last season, Beckton showed why he was deserving of being a 1st round pick by being the best offensive lineman on the Jets. Unfortunately, he was the only guy that really flashed. As a unit, they were bad last year. The Jets finished 23rd in rush offense, 31st in pass offense, and were last in overall yards per game. While it is true that terrible QB play and a lack of talent at the skill positions greatly contributed to those numbers, this offensive line certainly did their part to contribute as well. The pressure stats show that the Jets simply did not thrive in pass pro as the team finished 29th in pressure rate. The biggest culprits in allowing pressure were McGovern, Fant, and Pat Elflein whenever he was forced to play. The Jets were better run blocking last season but not much better. Their 23rd finish was more a product of them attempting to keep from having to throw the ball than them being an effective rushing team. The Jets averaged 4.1 YPC and only 2.1 YBC which was 28th in the league. While Van Roten was respectable in pass pro last season, he and Fant were the weakest links in the run game.
The Jets offensive line could look similar to last season. RT is the biggest question mark right now. Despite everyone assuming once the Jets acquired Moses that the job was his, rumblings out of camp suggest that he and Fant were competing for the job and the team has yet to officially announce who won the spot. I’ll assume Moses until an announcement is made but reports out of camp is that Fant has looked better and outplayed Moses. Their 1st round pick Vera-Tucker is expected to start at LG. He got rave reviews out of college and was one of the best players available in the draft regardless of position. He should provide an immediate spark like Beckton did last season. Speaking of Beckton, he has tools one simply cannot teach and with more experience and improved technique that will come with age he should only get better. I expect him to take another step towards becoming a pro-bowl caliber tackle this season. McGovern is a league average one-dimensional player who is useful as a run blocker but really struggles in pass pro. Centers are not often matched up with an opposing defender when there is no blitz so expect a lot of A gap blitzing from opposing teams to try and expose the Jets weak link which could be bad news for rookie QB Zach Wilson. Van Rotten is back at RG. He was the only other reliable lineman besides Beckton in pass pro last year and they will need him to be again this season to keep their rookie QB upright. This is another offensive line with the potential to make a leap depending on how good their young high draft picks play this year.