Notable Additions: T. Bobby Massie
Notable Losses: T. Demar Dotson (Released)
Projected Starters: LT. Garett Bolles LG. Dalton Risner C. Lloyd Cushenberry III RG. Graham Glasgow RT. Bobby Massie
Last Year: 2020 PFF Grades – Bolles (90.6), Risner (61.3), Cushenberry (40.5), Glasgow (68.5), Massie (72.6)
As a unit, the Broncos line struggled last season. However, during their struggles Bolles emerged as a superstar as he had one of the best seasons in the NFL regardless of position in 2020. Bolles had firmly established himself as a good player going into the season after consistently playing well in his first three years. However, I do not believe the Broncos saw him making the jump to elite status as he was dominant as a run blocker and crushing it in pass pro not allowing a single sack and only 13 pressures. For those unfamiliar with LT play, that production is hall of fame good if you can put together a run of seasons like that. Glasgow was the only other reliable player for the entire season in the group. He is a solid starter that typically provides decent play in both phases. After that there was a lot of inconsistency, injuries, or bad play. Juwan James opted out due to covid 19 and created a problem at RT. Elijah Wilkinson got the nod in week one and would ultimately play the most snaps at RT and he simply was not very good. Dotson got to play in eight games at RT and did the best of anyone, but he missed time throughout the year due to injury. Risner was in his second season and has showed some flashes of being able to play but overall, he was a below average player. Cushenberry was the Broncos biggest problem as he may have been the worst C in the NFL. He was horrible in the run game and allowed 4 sacks and 29 pressures. As a team the Broncos finished 27th in pressure rate (27.4) and 14th in sacks (32). They faired better in the run game finishing 12th in YPG (119.9), tied for 14th in YPC (4.3), and tied for 11th in YBC (2.6).
The Broncos are bringing back four starters from last season. The newcomer is RT Bobby Massie who had a respectable year for the Bears a year ago. He will be a significant upgrade over Wilkinson for sure and should help the Broncos improve their pressure numbers. Bolles figures to be their best player up front again at LT but one has to question if he can play at the level he did in 2020 again given his first three years. Bolles was pass protecting near Bakhtiari and Armstead levels last season and if he can keep it up the four-year $68 million extension he got will be a bargain. Even if there is slight drop off, he will still be one of the best tackles in the league. Expect Glasgow to continue to be a reliable starter at RG. Denver will be looking for Risner to make the year three jump in 2021 and if he can that will go along way to improving this line ascend. It is a big year for Cushenberry. He had to have shown significant improvement during the offseason and in camp to justify still being in the starting lineup. Everyone expects most rookies to struggle but his 2020 season was a year to forget and if he is not better early one would expect the Broncos to make a change. They picked Quinn Meinerz in the third round of the 2021 draft and if Cushenberry struggles he might be called to take over. The Broncos should be feeling optimistic about their line being improved in 2021 with Massie at RT, potential improved center play, and the potential of Risner to make a jump. But if everyone plays like they did last year, this is a bottom third of the league group.
Kansas City Chiefs
Notable Additions: T. Orlando Brown Jr. (Trade), Joe Thuney (Free Agency), C. Creed Humphrey (2nd Round Pick), G. Trey Smith (6th Round Pick)
Notable Losses: T. Eric Fisher (Free Agency), T. Mitchell Schwartz (Released), C. Austin Reiter (Released), G. Kelechi Osemele (Released)
Projected Starters: LT. Orlando Brown Jr. LG. Joe Thuney C. Creed Humphrey RG. Laurent Duvernay-Tardif/Kyle Long/Trey Smith RT. Lucas Niang/Mike Remmers
Last Year: 2020 PFF Grades – Brown (76.5), Thuney (74.2), Humphrey (N/A), Duvernay-Tardif (N/A), Long (N/A), Smith (N/A), Niang (N/A), Remmers (70.1)
The Chiefs O-line was very good in 2020 and had Schwartz not missed significant time it could have been in the great conversation. When Schwartz was out there, he and Fisher formed an elite tackle duo that only the pair in New Orleans can rival. Unfortunately, Schwartz was lost for the year after week 6. Things were not all bad after he left thanks to Remmers filling in admirably. He has a case for best backup tackle performance of 2020 as he stepped in and allowed no sacks and 19 pressures filling in the rest of the season at RT. Fisher had another good season and deserved the pro-bowl nod thanks to his play in pass pro only allowing 3 sacks and 34 pressures. Reiter had a really good year at C as he was one of the best pass blockers at the position allowing no sacks and only 7 pressures all season. The guard position is where the Chiefs had some struggles. Osemele got the week one start and was giving Kansas City solid play at LG but was lost for the season after five weeks. Nick Allegretti took over at LG the rest of the way and provided some punch to the run game, but he had his struggles in pass pro. Andrew Wylie played much of the season at RG and was by far the Chiefs worst and only poor performer who played consistently up front for them in 2020. All the numbers say the Chiefs played well last season, albeit some of their offensive stats must simply be credited to them having the best QB in the league with an elite group of skill players. They were the leagues best passing attack and finished fifth in sacks allowed (24) and 17th in pressure rate (21.8%). While the Chiefs were seen as a high-flying passing attack, they could also run it. They finished 16th in rushing YPG (112.4), tied for 11th in YPC (4.5), and tied for seventh in YBC (2.7).
The Chiefs had a complete makeover up front. You rarely see a team that played as well as they did up front make so much change but injuries and a poor showing in the biggest game of the year made the Chiefs hyper aggressive this past offseason. They will have a new LT after trading for Brown from the Ravens. Fisher is a really good player, but Brown is better, younger, and still has room to get better. He has proven his doubters wrong and shown the mobility at 6’8, 345 scouts did not think he was capable of coming out of college to become one of the better pass blocking tackles in the league. Kansas City has another newcomer at LG as they signed Thuney in free agency. He comes over from the Patriots as a decorated veteran who is one of the best guards in the league. They now have one of the best left side duos in the league. Reiter was another player that played well for the Chiefs last season they opted to let go and coming into the camp the expectation was that Humphrey and Austin Blythe, who they signed in free agency, would compete for the starting job. However, Blythe has had to miss time due to hernia surgery and that has opened the door for the top center prospect in the 2021 draft. It would not be a surprise if Humphrey takes full advantage and never relinquishes the position. The right side of the line is a lot less clear than the left side. Duvernay-Tardif, who opted out of last season due to Covid 19, and Long, who came out of retirement, were expected to battle for this position. However, both have been out with injury and that has opened the door for Trey Smith, their sixth-round pick in the 2021 draft, to play and he has played well in camp and the preseason. Smith had a third-round grade according to most scouting reports but fell in the draft due to a blood clot condition. If the Chiefs are rolling by the time Long or Duvernay-Tardif are ready to play they might have to just sit and watch. Remmers was supposed to be the guy at RT after playing well in relief of Schwartz last year but Niang, a third-round pick of the Chiefs in 2020 that opted out due to Covid 19, got to play with the first team while Remmers dealt with back spasms and apparently has been playing well. Niang and Smith are currently listed as the starters for week one but do not be surprised if we see the veteran players behind them take over once they get healthy if either of them struggle.
Las Vegas Raiders
Notable Additions: T. Alex Leatherwood (1st Round Pick), C. Nick Martin (Free Agency)
Notable Losses: C. Rodney Hudson (Trade), G. Gabe Jackson (Trade), T. Trent Brown (Trade)
Projected Starters: LT. Kolton Miller LG. Richie Incognito C. Andre James RG. Denzelle Good RT. Alex Leatherwood
Last Year: 2020 PFF Grades – Miller (73), Incognito (81.4), James (60), Good (56.7), Leatherwood (N/A)
Going into 2020, the Raiders had one of the better O-lines on paper. They got off to a good start and then injuries took a toll and left this line looking mediocre at various points during the season. The first to fall was Brown who only played three snaps in week one and was in and out of the lineup all season only playing a total of five games. Incognito also went down, only playing one full game before going down early in week 2. Good filled in most of the year at LG after Incognito was lost and he was not very good allowing 29 total pressures. John Simpson also played some LG, and he was the worst in pass pro of any Raider last season. Sam Young and Brandon Parker got snaps at RT throughout the year when Brown was out, and neither were good. The other three starters did manage to play most of the season and two of the three played well. Miller was the Raiders best player up front in 2020. He showed flashes of being a good player in his second year in 2019 after a rough rookie season and he finally put it together and was one of the better tackles in the NFL in 2020 thanks to his much-improved play in pass pro. Hudson days of being an elite C are over, but he still played well and remains one of the best pass blocking centers in the NFL. Jackson’s play has dipped the past two seasons primarily due to his decline as a run blocker but he is still playing well in pass pro. The Raiders were one of the better pass blocking teams in the NFL thanks to their three starters that did stay healthy most of the season. They finished 9th in pressure rate (19.6%) and allowed the 10th fewest sacks (28). They were not as good rushing as they finished 20th in YBC (2.4), tied for 19th in YPC (4.2), and 14th in rushing YPG (119.8).
The Raiders O-line looked good on paper in 2020 but in 2021 it looks like a potential disaster. One would think the left side would at least be fine but there are some concerns. Miller was really good last year but he struggled in pass pro in 2019 and 2018 so has he truly turned the corner? Incognito has been playing at a high level since 2008 but at 38 years old this could be the year he falls off. The rest of line is a question mark. We have seen Good play before, having to fill in for injured players in the past. He has been a liability in pass pro but can be serviceable in the run game. James only real action came in 2019 filling in at Center for 115 snaps and he was a disaster. Yet the Raiders must know something about him the rest of us do not, because they awarded him a three-year $12 million contract and plan to start him. If it does not pan out and he struggles expect Martin to take over. Leatherwood was the Raiders first round pick in 2021 and some thought that was a reach. If Leatherwood was a reach, he could struggle being thrust into a starting role at one of the toughest positions to play in the NFL. With so many unknowns there is a chance the Raiders good have a decent O-line in 2021, but odds are they finish as one of the worst units in the league.
Los Angeles Chargers
Notable Additions: C. Corey Linsley (Free Agency), T. Rashawn Slater (1st Round Pick), G. Matt Feiler (Free Agency), G. Oday Aboushi (Free Agency)
Notable Losses: T. Sam Tevi (Free Agency), G. Forrest Lamp (Free Agency), C. Dan Feeney (Free Agency), G. Trai Turner (Free Agency)
Projected Starters: LT. Rashawn Slater LG. Matt Feiler C. Corey Linsley RG. Oday Aboushi RT. Byran Bulaga
Last Year: 2020 PFF Grades – Slater (N/A), Feiler (65), Linsley (89.9), Aboushi (66.6), Bulaga (61.6)
The Chargers were the worst O-line in the NFL in 2020. Their big offseason additions last year, Bulaga and Turner, did not pan out. Bulaga and Turner both got injured and had to either miss games or play hurt when they were out there. The other three starters all played the majority of the year, and they were all among the worst at their positions. Tevi was the worst run blocking starting LT in the league and did not fair a lot better in pass pro. Lamp also gave the Chargers nothing in the run game and allowed constant pressure in the interior. Finney was only slightly better than the worst center Cushenberry as he tied for first in most pressures allowed from the C position. The Chargers somehow finished 15th in sacks (34) despite finishing 30th in pressure rate (28.5%). The Chargers also struggled to run the ball as LA finished tied for 21st in YBC (2.2), 30th in YPC (3.8), and 18th in YPG (111.5).
The Chargers should be in the running for most improved O-line in 2021. With a potential franchise QB on board the Chargers knew they had to be aggressive in getting better up front and they did. They let four of their five starters from a year ago walk and replaced them with potential upgrades at every position. The one returning starter is Bulaga at RT who if healthy is one of the better pass blocking tackles in the NFL. Slater, LA’s first round pick, will get the nod at LT. Though many felt Penai Sewell was the best tackle prospect in the 2021 draft, Slater had supporters for that claim as well and last year’s crop of rookie tackles showed that first year players can have an immediate impact. Linsely was the team’s big free agent acquisition and should continue to be a force in the interior and especially improve the Chargers run game. The Chargers will be weakest at guard but should still be better than last year. Feiler really struggled in the run game, but he is still solid in pass pro which was the Chargers priority this offseason. Aboushi was forced into action off the bench for a large portion last season for the Lions, primarily at RG, and held his own. He projects as serviceable starter which is just fine for a team’s fifth best lineman. Look for the Chargers to be in the playoff mix if this O-line can live up to the expectations of all their offseason moves.