Notable Additions: C. Rodney Hudson (Trade)
Notable Losses: C. Mason Cole (Trade)
Projected Starters: LT. D.J. Humphries LG. Justin Pugh C. Rodney Hudson RG. Justin Murray RT. Kelvin Beachum
Last Year: 2020 PFF Grades – Humphries (88.3), Pugh (64.8), Hudson (73.6), Murray (56.7), Beachum (69)
The Cardinals continued to improve upfront in 2020 as they have come a long way since they were a historically bad group that got Josh Rosen and head coach Steve Wilks sent packing after only one season. Arizona was an elite pass-blocking unit last season finishing second in pressure rate (14.4%), and allowing the 11th fewest sacks (29). The biggest reason for their success was the emergence of Humphries in pass pro as he had by far his best season pass blocking, only allowing three sacks and 23 pressures. He was also an elite run blocker. Beachum was very good in pass pro on the other side as well as he too only allowed three sacks and gave up 25 pressures. However, like most of his career, he struggled as a run blocker. Pugh was good at LG, especially in pass pro only allowing one sack and 15 pressures. The struggles for the Cardinals line came at C and RG. Cole was a below-average run blocker and a flat-out liability in pass pro. Sweezy and Murray both saw time at RG. Sweezy proved his best days were long gone as he failed to be effective in pass pro or as a run blocker. When Murray was in, he was a good pass blocker, but he was also one of the worst run blockers in the NFL regardless of position.
Expect the Cardinals to be one of the better O-lines in the NFL again in 2021. They upgraded their weakest position at C after trading for Hudson who has been playing at a high level for years. Hudson is no longer in his prime, but he can still pass block at a high level. The other four starters are all returning, and Humphries is the star of the group. Whether or not his 2020 campaign was fluky or not will be determined this season. If Humphries is now a consistently good pass blocker on top of his strong run blocking, expect him to be in the pro-bowl and all-pro conversation. Pugh is locked in at LG and should continue to be a solid starter. Beachum is back at RT to protect the QB at a high level while Arizona tries to work around him as a run blocker. They will be doing the same with RG Murray, who is the weakest link of this group. Overall, they have a mostly one-sided pass blocking line, but Kyler’s legs will help enhance the run game. The main thing with this group is that they should once again be an elite pass-blocking group, which plays right into what head coach Cliff Kingsburry wants to do.
Los Angeles Rams
Notable Additions: N/A
Notable Losses: C. Austin Blythe (Free Agency)
Projected Starters: LT. Andrew Whitworth LG. David Edwards C. Brian Allen RG. Austin Corbett RT. Rob Havenstein
Last Year: 2020 PFF Grades – Whitworth (88.7), Edwards (70.3), Allen (N/A), Corbett (70.9), Havenstein (80.2)
The Rams went from being one of the worst O-lines in the NFL in 2019 to one of the best in 2020. What is most intriguing about the Rams is that they opted not to make any changes to the line and brought back the same group. Perhaps the Rams coaching staff knew that a lot of their guys were playing hurt and had faith they would bounce back in 2020. Whatever the reason, it was the right call because this unit resembled the 2018 group that help get the Rams to the Super Bowl. Whitworth was the superstar of the group and that came as a surprise as many speculated that he was almost done given his advanced age and 2019 performance. However, he was one of the best tackles in the NFL in 2020 resembling the player he was in the past as he was on his way to perhaps another all-pro season before going down with an injury. The biggest revelation for the Rams however was the play of third-year reserve Joseph Noteboom who did a good job filling in at LT. He cannot run block, but he held his own in pass pro which is the number one job of an LT in today’s game. Havenstein was the Rams second-best guy up front, and he was very good from start to finish. He is a forceful run blocker who also adds above-average pass pro. The Rams also benefited from quality guard play. Neither Corbett or Edwards set the world on fire, but both did a serviceable job in pass pro and were pluses in the run game. Blythe was also a good run blocker but he was by far their worst pass blocker which caused him the be the weak link of the bunch. LA finished 11th in pressure rate (20%) and allowed the seventh-fewest sacks (25). They were also 11th in YBC (2.6), 10th in rushing YPG (126.1), and tied for 14th in YPC (4.3).
The Rams are expected to have one of the better offensive lines in the NFL again in 2021. A lot is dependent on the 39-year-old LT Andrew Whitworth. Will he be able to maintain his high level of play from a year ago for at least one more season despite his age? If he can, the Rams will have one of the best tackle duos in the NFL with RT Havenstein in his prime and playing well. The Rams also have very solid guards. Neither are elite, but Edward and Corbett both played at an above-average level a year ago, and there is still room to grow for both as Edwards is only 24 and Corbett is 26. The question mark on the Rams line is at the center position, where losing Blythe could cause problems on the interior. Allen, the Rams fourth-round pick in 2018, is slated to start. However, he did not play at all in 2020, and in 2019 he struggled after filling in for John Sullivan. With only one potential weak link at center, expect the Rams to be fine upfront unless father time comes for Whitworth.
San Francisco 49ers
Notable Additions: C. Alex Mack (Free Agency)
Notable Losses: C. Ben Garland (Released)
Projected Starters: LT. Trent Williams, LG. Laken Tomlinson C. Alex Mack RG. Daniel Brunskill RT. Mike McGlinchey
Last Year: 2020 PFF Grades – Williams (91.9), Tomlinson (78.8), Mack (65.9), Brunskill (61.7), McGlinchey (79.6)
The 49ers had one of the better O-lines in 2020. The star of the show was Trent Williams who showed no signs of rust after not playing in 2019. He was the best offensive lineman in 2020 regardless of position as he was great in both the run game and pass pro. McGlinchey also had a good year as he was unreal as a run blocker, but he had a down year in pass pro. As good as McGlinchey was a case can be made Tomlinson was the second-best of this group. He too had a great year run blocking but struggled in pass pro. There was some drop-off after those three. Brunskill was forced to split time between RG and C, and though he was serviceable as a run blocker, he struggled in pass pro regardless of where he lined up. Ben Garland was effective for the five games he played in, but Grasu struggled when it was his turn to get snaps at C. The overall stats will not show it, but the 49ers were one of the best run-blocking teams in the NFL. Unfortunately, due to injury, the 49ers lacked the skill players to take advantage. They finished 15th in rushing YPG (118.1), tied for 14th in YPC (4.3), and tied for 15th in YBC (2.5). Their weakness was pass pro. They finished 25th in pressure rate (27.1%) and allowed the 12th most sacks (39).
Expect more of the same from the 49ers in 2021, dominant run blocking mixed with suspect pass blocking. The exception to that would be Williams, who everyone should expect another dominant season from in both phases. McGlinchey is never going to be Bahktiari in pass pro, but he can be better than he was last year. If McGlinchey returns to form in pass pro, the 49ers tackle tandem can be right there with the Saints duo. Tomlinson is a really good guard and will be San Francisco’s top interior guy, but they need better pass pro from all their interior guys in 2021. Brunskill is their worst pass protector, but in limited action in 2019, he was better so there is hope he could be better in 2021. Mack is the 49ers new addition, but unfortunately, he is more of the same for the 49ers as he is another one-dimensional run blocker. At their best, the 49ers offense is a run-first attack that utilizes play action and quick passes to compliment and that will fit the strength of what this group does best.
Notable Additions: G. Gabe Jackson (Trade)
Notable Losses: G. Mike Iupati (Retirement)
Projected Starters: LT. Duane Brown, LG. Damien Lewis, C. Ethan Pocic, RG. Gabe Jackson, RT. Brandon Shell
Last Year: 2020 PFF Grades – Brown (87.3), Lewis (70.2), (62.4), Jackson (63.7), Shell (72.7)
The Seahawks were a middle of the pack O-line in 2020. They got better pass pro than previous years at the tackle spots but overall, Wilson was still under fire at a high rate. Seattle allowed the fifth-most sacks (48) and finished 26th in pressure rate (26.4%). They were very good run blocking, finishing tied for second in YBC (3.1), tied for fifth in YPC (4.8), and 12th in rushing YPG (123.2). Brown was the standout on this unit as he had another pro-bowl caliber year adding on to what has been a stellar career. People had concerns about Shell coming over from the Jets giving his past struggles, but he had the best season of his career and was good in pass pro all season. The interior of the Seahawks O-line did not quite play as well. Lewis looks like a great pick just off his run blocking alone, but he looked like a rookie in pass pro as he was their worst pass protector. Pocic was not great, but he was a serviceable center in his first full season as a starter. The LG position suffered due to Iupati being in and out of the lineup. Iupati was their best interior player when he played but Simmons ended up playing the most snaps at LG in 2020 and was bad in both phases.
The Seahawks O-line is good enough for the Seahawks to have one of the top offenses in the NFL given the talent of their skill players and future hall of fame QB. The expectation going in for them should be that they will be a middle of the pack group again but the potential for Lewis to take another step at LG and newcomer Jackson solidifying the other guard spot could put this unit in the top 10 of lines in 2021. Pocic looks like he will be the weak link of the group but if he can just have another serviceable season that will be fine for Seattle. Brown has been amazing for most of his long career, but at 36 his play could fall off at any time. Shell was good last year, and Seattle is hopeful he can continue that level of play. However, given his history with the Jets, it is also possible he was a one-year wonder. All in all, if Lewis does take a step and the other four can just play to the level they did in 2020, the Seahawks should have a really good group.