Notable Additions: G. Kevin Zeitler (Trade), T. Alejandro Villanueva (Free Agency)
Notable Losses: T. Orlando Brown Jr. (Trade), C. Matt Skura (Free Agency)
Projected Starters: LT. Ronnie Stanley LG. Ben Powers C. Bradley Bozeman RG. Kevin Zeitler RT. Alejandro Villanueva
Last Year: 2020 PFF Grades – Stanley (79.9), Powers (59.4), Bozeman (64.3), Zeitler (65.9), Villanueva (74.6)
The Ravens best two linemen in 2019 were Stanley and Marshall Yanda. The latter retired and the former was lost early in the season after only playing six games. Given those circumstances, some drop-off in performance from this unit was to be expected. The drop was not precipitous as the Ravens were still a middle of the road O-line that was still able to maintain the league's best rushing attack finishing first in total rush yards per game (191.9), YPC (5.5), and YBC (3.4). They were far and away the best running team and though having Lamar Jackson has a whole lot to do with that, this O-line contributed as well. There is no point in getting into the Ravens pressure stats since they threw the ball fewer times than any team in the league and run an offense that is so different than any other team in the league. Most guys the Ravens played in 2020 were below average to bad in pass pro and that combined with the lack of great receiving options probably contributed to the Ravens being such a run-heavy team. With Stanley missing most of the year the standout on the Ravens O-line in 2020 was Brown who started the season at RT then moved over to LT after Stanley went down and played well at both spots. Brown was better than his season PFF grade of 76.5 would suggest. He was one of the best tackles in the NFL in 2020 and helped the Ravens weather the storm of losing Stanley. Outside of Brown, there were no standouts once Stanley was out of the picture. D.J. Fluker took over at RT once Brown moved to the left side and was ok by backup standards. He’s always serviceable as a run blocker but predictably struggled in pass pro. Skura was a reliable option at center in 2019 but his play fell off in 2020 which is most likely why he is no longer around. The loss of Yanda was felt at RG with both Powers and Tyre Phillips getting snaps there and failing to live up to Yanda’s past level of play. Bozeman held it down at LG as he was the only other lineman along with Brown to play all 16 games and was probably the second-best guy on this unit down the stretch. Bozeman is not great at anything, but he was solid as both a run blocker and in pass pro.
The Ravens O-line should be better in 2021 if Stanley stays healthy. Stanley was the best LT in the NFL in 2019 and at only 27 years old there is no reason to believe he cannot return to that level of play. Brown demanded a trade after deciding he wanted to be an LT full-time and with only one year left on his deal and Stanley firmly entrenched in the LT spot for them, the Ravens had no choice but to trade him. His replacement at RT will be Villanueva who comes over from the division-rival Steelers. He will be 33 this season so the Ravens are hoping to squeeze at least one more good season out of him. He is a younger 33 since he was a rookie at 27 and he is one of the biggest players in the NFL at 6’9 320. The guard play should be better with the addition of Zeitler via a trade with the Giants. Zeitler is coming off a down season, but he is still a savvy veteran that will help improve the Ravens interior pass pro. Powers is one of the biggest question marks within this group. He made a splash in limited playing time as a rookie but being forced into more snaps having to start seven games in 2020 may have exposed him as a backup caliber player and this could be a make-or-break year for his career as a starter. The Ravens drafted Ben Cleveland in the third round of the 2020 draft to challenge for this position and if Powers does not play well Cleveland might take over by year’s end. Bozeman played well in 2020 but that was as an LG, a position he has played his entire NFL career. He will be moved to center this year to replace Skura and though he has never played the position in the NFL Bozeman was a successful center at Alabama in college. The Ravens offensive line probably will not be elite in 2021 but with Jackson at QB and their offensive scheme, they do not have to be.
Notable Additions: T. Riley Reiff (Free Agency)
Notable Losses: T. Bobby Hart (Free Agency)
Projected Starters: LT. Jonah Williams LG. Quinton Spain C. Trey Hopkins RG. Xavier Su’a-Filo RT. Riley Reiff (71.4)
Last Year: 2020 PFF Grades – Williams (70.1), Spain (55.6), Hopkins (63.8), Su’a-Filo (59.1), Reiff (71.4)
It was a rough year for the Bengals O-line in 2020, just ask Joe Burrow who got hurt because of it. They were not quite as bad as the Giants and Chargers, but they were not far off. Cincy allowed 48 sacks which tied for the fifth-most in 2020. They were also one of the worst teams in pocket time and 20th in pressure rate. The Bengals were the fourth worse offense in total yards (319.8) and were one of the few teams to be ranked near the bottom in both rushing and passing. They were challenged due to a slew of injuries and a lack of talent even before starters began to go down. Williams was the one bright spot on this O-line in 2020. After missing his entire rookie season due to injury, the 11th pick of the 2019 draft played good doing his best work in pass pro. Bobby Hart was an ok run blocker at RT but struggled in pass pro. Hopkins was the healthiest of all the starters playing 15 games which were the most of any player on the Bengals O-line. He was the second-best player in the group throughout the year and did a decent job in both phases. The guard positions are where Cincinnati struggled last season. They had four guards play over 200 snaps and none of them were good. All their guards were either very one-dimensional only being serviceable as a run blocker or pass blocker.
The Bengals made a good free agency signing in Reiff and now have a respectable pair of tackles in him and Williams. Neither are good run blockers, but both had good seasons in pass pro last season and that is the key after losing Burrow to injury last season. Technically, last season was Williams first season so I would expect him to make a jump this season, but he needs to stay healthy. He missed his entire rookie year and only started in 10 games in 2020. Hopkins will be back at C, and he has consistently been a serviceable low-end starter for a few years now. The biggest improvement on the Bengals O-line must come at guard. They drafted Jackson Carman in the second round and D’Ante Smith in the fourth and either could get a chance to play if the Bengals don’t get better guard play early. Spain’s best days appear to be behind him as he has not been a good player since 2018 and Su’a-Filo is really a backup level player who had two ok seasons years ago with the Texans. The Bengals need at least one of those draft picks to pan out and take over one of those starting spots by year’s end. Even with improved tackle play this group has a ceiling of middle of the pack and is more likely to be one of the worse units again in 2021.
Notable Additions: N/A
Notable Losses: N/A
Projected Starters: LT. Jedrick Wills Jr. LG. Joel Bitonio C. JC Tretter RG. Wyatt Teller RT. Jack Conklin
Last Year: 2020 PFF Grades – Wills Jr. (61.5), Bitonio (84.6), Tretter (77.1), Teller (92.9), Conklin (84.3)
The Browns were essentially unanimously considered the best offensive line in the NFL in 2020. Conklin was first-team All-Pro and Bitonio and Teller were second-team All-pro. Three players from one O-line being all-pro is about as good as it gets. Tretter was not bad either finishing with a top-five pff grade at his position and was a standout center in pass pro. Wills Jr. may have been the worst in this group, but he showed flashes of potential greatness and was one of the better rookies in the NFL and his season PFF grade did not do his rookie year justice. He is already well on his way to being a top-notch pass-blocking tackle. The Browns were a run-first team, and despite teams knowing that going in, they were unable to stop them. They finished third in rushing YPG (148.4) and fifth in YPC (4.8) but were only middle of the pack in YBC which, maybe a credit to the NFL's best RB tandem in Chubb and Hunt. The Browns were also a very effective pass blocking team finishing as the top-ranked team in pocket time (2.6), and top 10 in sacks allowed (26), and pressure rate (19.2%).
The Browns return all five starters from last season and all five of them are 30 or younger so it is expected they should continue their level of dominance from last season. Given that Wills was the worst of the five last season and should only get better in year two it is reasonable that the Browns O-line could be a little better in 2021. They are set at all five positions with the best group being at guard. Both Bitonio and Teller had great seasons in 2020. Bitonio is a more complete player at the moment as he excels as both a run blocker and pass blocker, but Teller is elite in pass pro and serviceable in the run game with room to improve. The Browns could have one of the best tackle duos in the NFL as well. Conklin is coming off the best year of his career and Wills Jr. should take it up another level in year two. Wills Jr. needs to get better as a run blocker but even if he does not it is easy to scheme around an LT that is not a great run blocker. He can protect Baker’s blindside and that is his main job. Tretter has been good for years going back to his GB days and will look to maintain his consistent play in the middle as he continues to be one of the best pass-blocking centers in the NFL. Barring injury or unexpected decline in play, there is no reason the Browns should not be near the top of NFL O-lines again in 2021.
Notable Additions: G. Trai Turner (Free Agency), T. Joe Haeg (Free Agency)
Notable Losses: T. Alejandro Villanueva (Free Agency), G. David DeCastro (released), C. Maurkice Pouncey (retired), G. Matt Feiler (Free Agency)
Projected Starters: LT. Chukwuma Okorafor LG. Kevin Dotson C. JC Hassenauer RG. Trai Turner RT. Joe Haeg
Last Year: 2020 PFF Grades – Okorafor (57.5), Dotson (66.2), Hassenauer (57.7), Turner (34.8), Haeg (56.6)
The Steelers O-line was very weird in 2020. On one hand, they were good in pass pro. Not as good as the stats suggest due to their overreliance on a quick passing game and Ben getting rid of the ball in a league-best 2.17 seconds, but still they were legitimately a good pass blocking team. However, they were the worst run-blocking team in the NFL. Only one offensive lineman was able to run block last season and that was Villanueva who was the team’s best overall lineman last year as well. He has been one of the better pass-blocking tackles in the league since fully taking over as the starter in 2016. By no means was he a great run blocker last year but he was significantly better than almost everyone else in this group. Okorafor was a third-round pick in 2018 and was given his first opportunity to start last season. He did some good things in pass pro and shows potential to be a solid player in that aspect but he was one of the worst run-blocking tackles in the NFL. The biggest problem with the Steelers run game last year is that not one of their three interior guys was good run blockers. Pouncey was never a great run-blocker during his best days, but he really struggled the past two seasons. Decastro was a great player in his prime and even last year on the decline was still good in pass pro. However, he was a disaster as a run blocker which is most likely why the Steelers cut him. Feiler was not much better in the run game but, like the rest of the gang, was decent in pass pro.
Some people are still high on the Steelers, but I am not one of those people. The Steelers project to be a candidate for worst O-line in the NFL in 2021 and, with an old declining QB, that is a recipe for disaster. The Steelers lost four starters and during the offseason, if someone told me that was the case I would not have been against that. However, they did not draft an offensive lineman until the third round and made no significant signings in free agency on the O-line. Turner was a disaster in LA, Haeg was a backup in Tampa, and those are the so-called key additions to this O-line. Turner is slated to start at RG coming off one of the worst seasons of any starting guard in 2020. Heag could be an upgrade as a run blocker to this line, but he leaves a lot to be desired in pass pro. Hassenauer was the backup C last year who has gotten promoted due to Pouncey’s retirement. In one of Pouncey’s worst seasons, he was still better. Hassenauer is an undersized player who was undrafted in 2018. He will not hurt them in pass pro, but centers need to be able to run block and he struggled like the rest of his teammates in that aspect last year. Dotson is the projected starter at LG, and he too was a backup on this team last year who got to play some and got promoted this season. Dotson stood out as a pass-blocker in limited opportunities and earned an elite 87.2 pass-blocking grade from PFF, albeit in a small sample size. I would not expect him to produce like that over 16 games, but he has a chance to be a solid starter if he can improve as a run blocker as he too struggled in that aspect. This was a very confusing offseason for Pittsburgh from the outside looking in as I expected them to be one of the most aggressive teams in the NFL attempting to improve on the O-line and they were not. Their cap situation played a role in their approach, but they still could have done more. Either they know something in Pittsburgh we do not, or it will be a long season upfront for the Steelers.