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Cross Block: Grading the NFC West Lines

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A run down of the NFC West offensive lines.

NFL: Washington Redskins at Arizona Cardinals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

If you wish to keep up with the series, here is last weeks ranking.

Last week we saw 199 votes. We usually have a close race between the top two, but not this time. The Seattle Seahawks ran away with the voting, totaling 151 votes. San Francisco came in second with only 17 votes, Arizona third with 16, and the Rams last with 15.

This was the hardest ranking to compile thus far. Multiple factors had to be taken into account. Blocking schemes had to be taken into account, as well as run blocking and quarterback pressures. Instead of finishing my research by Friday, I was up well into the morning on Monday finishing it.

With so many players on each teams line, I will focus on the guys who have a shot to make an impact. The starters or the guys competing for jobs. In an attempt to make it less “wordy” I will attach a table with each teams players, overall, pass, and run grades, as well as their snap counts.

Without further ado... Let us Rank!

Seattle Seahawks: Fourth

Seahawks

Name Position Overall Grade Pass Grade Run Grade Snaps
Name Position Overall Grade Pass Grade Run Grade Snaps
Justin Britt C 83.9 77.8 80.8 1121
Joey Hunt C 69.3 64.7 63 66
Luke Joeckel G/T 68.3 82 40.4 221
Oday Aboushi G/T 55.5 37.2 83.6 358
Mark Glowinski G 53.6 66.1 47 1186
Rees Odhiambo G/T 46.6 44.4 45.7 75
Germain Ifedi G/T 35.9 47.1 30.1 926
Will Pericak C/G - - - -
Jordan Roos G - - - -
Ethan Pocic G/T - - - -
Robert Myers T - - - -
Justin Senior T - - - -

The Seahawks fielded PFF’s highest-graded 2016 NFC West lineman in Justin Britt. But that was not enough to crown them as the best line in the NFC West. Behind Britt is a number of guys who were among the league's worst at their positions.

The Seahawks had 720 pass snaps in 2016. They surrendered 111 QB hits and 42 sacks. Of those 720 snaps, the Seahawks allowed 221 pressures, good for 30.69% of all drop backs. The Seahawks also handed the ball off 403 times, averaging 99.4 yards per game.

The Seahawks addressed their offensive line by drafting Ethan Pocic number 58 overall. Pocic was a starting center in college at LSU, but many expected him to make the transition to guard at the NFL level. ESPN’s Sheil Kapadia believes that Pocic will be given every opportunity to start at either right guard or tackle as a rookie.

The Seahawks signed Robert Myers to a reserves/future deal in January. The Seattle Times believed the Seahawks would give Myers a chance to play right tackle, but still believed he would not make the final roster.

Justin Britt was a liability at guard in 2015. So much so that the Seahawks moved him to center during their OTA’s in 2016. Britt was able to beat out Joey Hunt, a player who was expected to be their 2016 center early in the process. Britt did admirably, being the only Seahawk who graded out positively last season.

The team took a flier on 2013 bust Luke Joeckel. For a team in the midst of rebuilding their offensive front, Joeckel made a lot of sense. After sustaining an ACL, MCL, and Meniscus injury in Jacksonville’s week 4 game, Joeckel needed someone to take a chance. The team has worked him at both left guard and tackle in the hopes of finding the position right for him.

Mark Glowinski moved from right to left guard last offseason. He was the team's third graded pass blocker but struggled mightily as a run blocker. Glowinski has worked on the right side of the line this offseason, with Luke Joeckel being the projected starter on the left.

Rees Odhiambo has worked as the team's starting left guard with Joeckel still recovering, but should be the team's backup come the final roster.

Germain Ifedi is the starting right tackle on paper. He could be pushed by Pocic, but it is unlikely since Pocic worked with the second team most of OTA’s. Ifedi played 926 snaps last season and graded out as the Seahawks second worst lineman.

Their worst was George Fant. Fant graded out as the team's worst overall, worst pass blocker, and run blocker. The Seahawks still have faith in Fant, as he is still their starting left tackle as we near training camp.

Los Angeles Rams: Third

Rams

Name Position Overall Grade Run Grade Pass Grade Snaps
Name Position Overall Grade Run Grade Pass Grade Snaps
Jake Eldrenkamp C - - - -
Michael Dunn OL - - - -
Alex Kozan OL - - - -
Darrell Williams T - - - -
Andrew Whitworth T 91.3 81.3 92.5 1064
Rodger Saffold G 80.7 78.6 80.7 916
Rob Havenstein OL 77.9 74.3 78.1 943
John Sullivan C 76.6 69.2 72.8 98
Cody Wichman G 67.6 54.6 74.5 594
Pace Murphy T 66.7 71.6 52.6 15
Jamon Brown G 63.6 72.4 47.4 395
Andrew Donnal T 59.9 61.3 62.4 297
Austin Blythe C 36.7 41.4 41.3 89

It pains me to put the Rams here. They went out and immediately upgraded their line with the addition of Andrew Whitworth. While there maybe some age-related drops in production, Whitworth is still one of the best tackles in the NFL.

The reason I put the Rams here is simple. They allowed the most sacks in the West. Their 49 sacks allowed was second in the NFL, only behind Cleveland’s 66. On 375 rush attempts, the Rams only averaged 78.2 yards per game. Again, second worst in the NFL, only behind Minnesota.

The unit allowed 95 hits to go with their 49 sacks. On 619 pass snaps, they allowed 171 pressures, 27.62% of their pass protections.

What elevates them above Seattle is they upgraded the line with a known commodity. Where Seattle added potential, the Rams added a guy who’s consistently been among the best.

Andrew Whitworth was PFF’s second graded tackle in 2016. The former Bengals tackle will be a day one starter on a line that has the talent but will need someone to help develop it.

Rodger Saffold will shift inside to left guard, solidifying Jared Goff’s blind side. Saffold is oft-injured so there is some concern there.

At center, John Sullivan is the penciled in starter. But there are two players who have drawn the attention of coaches and could make it a legitimate battle in August. Former Colt Austin Blythe has drawn acknowledgment from his coaches for his development. Blythe played 89 snaps in 2016, earning a 36.7 grade from PFF.

Jake Eldrenkamp has too received praise from coaches. After playing center and guard for his two-year career at Washington, Eldrenkamp moved to the middle of the offensive line. In fact, Turf Show Times like his chances.

On the right side, Andrew Donnal, Cody Wichmann, and Rob Havenstein make sense at guard. None have been called the starter yet. Havenstein shifted inside from tackle.

Jamon Brown figures to start at right tackle. If he can’t figure it out, it could push Havenstein back to tackle.

San Francisco 49ers: Second

49ers

Name Position Overall Grade Run Grade Pass Grade Snaps
Name Position Overall Grade Run Grade Pass Grade Snaps
John Flynn OL - - - -
Andrew Lauderdale OL - - - -
Richard Levy OL - - - -
Erick Magnuson OL - - - -
Norman Price OL - - - -
Darrell Williams JR OL - - - -
Jeremy Zuttah OL 82.7 75.8 80.8 1035
Joe Staley T 81.4 82.5 77.1 942
Daniel Kilgore C 72.8 76.6 59.6 794
Tim Burnes C 71.4 61.3 70 1004
Brandon Fusco OL 52.8 56.6 48.4 834
Joshua Garnett G 42.4 42.4 40.4 716
Zane Beadles G 40.2 47.3 43.8 1035
Gary Gilliam OL 38 37.6 40.2 934
John Theus OL 28.4 30.9 31.6 88

The 49ers finish second on this list. They sit this high up because the line is being built to do what they do best... Run.

Zuttah is 31. He’s nearing the end of his career. But he fits perfectly in San Francisco as a team dedicated to the run. In 2016, the 49ers ran the ball 456 times, averaging 126.2 yards per game, best for fourth in the league. With the guys the 49ers are expected to hit the field as their quarterbacks, this team could be looking to be a run dominant unit.

Jeremy Zuttah was the 13th ranked center in 2016 by PFF. His 80.2 pass blocking grade leads his team. His 75.8 run blocking grade was good for 15th in the NFL. Getting him for only 12 draft places in the sixth round could turn out to be a big pickup for San Francisco.

Another aging veteran is Joe Staley. Staley missed three games in 2016, the first time since 2009 he missed an extended period of time. Staley ranked 25th out of 78 eligible tackles. His 82.5 run blocking grade was good for PFF’s 12th ranking. He’s nearing the end of his career, but if the hamstring issues are behind him, the 49ers could get a few good season of out him.

Daniel Kilgore has been ousted as the teams starting center. Since taking over starting duties in 2014, Kilgore missed 23 games. With Zuttah’s reliability, and his play as a pro bowl caliber center, Kilgore will be relegated to backup duties.

Brandon Fusco was signed shortly after the draft. At 28, he spent 2011-2016 in Minnesota, only managing to play a full 16 game schedule twice. Fusco should compete for a starting job.

Joshua Garnett figures to be in the mix for the right guard spot. Fucso and Gary Gilliam appear to be his only competition.

Zane Beadles will keep going as the team's starting left guard. Beadles was their third worst lineman in 2016, the worst graded center by PFF, and would have been #72/72 if they had graded as a guard.

None of their rookies seem to be in any position to compete right away. The 49ers ignored drafting an offensive lineman in the draft, instead opting to build their defense.

Arizona Cardinals: First

Cardinals

Name Position Overall Run Pass Snaps
Name Position Overall Run Pass Snaps
Lucas Crowley C - - - -
Daniel Munyer C/G - - - -
Dorian Johnson G - - - -
Kaleb Johnson G - - - -
Will Holden T - - - -
Jonathan McLaughlin T - - - -
AQ Shipley C 82.4 76.5 79.7 1148
Jared Veldheer T 80.5 77.4 80.7 578
Mike Iupati G 77 79.7 75.1 1035
DJ Humphries T 70.3 78.6 47.7 922
Cole Toner G 68.3 71.5 66.7 10
Price Givens T 67.9 62.4 69.8 6
Tony Bergstrom C/G 60 60 60 2
Evan Boehm C/G 55.8 49.9 69.5 122
John Wetzel G 40.5 48.5 38 647
John Ulrick T 32.6 56.4 28.1 212

The Cardinals finish in the top spot because they have the best balance of aging veterans, and potential good youth.

Statistically, the Cardinals had 740 dropbacks. The surrendered 41 sacks, fewest in the West, and 127 hits, most in the West. they allowed 201 pressures on the 740 dropbacks, good for a defender being in Palmers face 27.16% of the time. While they did well in the run game (399 rushes 108.2 YPG), the Cardinals face some questions in 2017.

The biggest question is how their swapped tackles will perform. Jared Veldheer has been moved from his left tackle role, to now the right side. The teams 2015 first round selection in DJ Humphries will now take the reigns on the left side. DJ only played three games on the left side, but that small sample size has given a lot of Cardinal fans hope.

With Veldheer getting older, it makes sense to move him to the right side.

At left guard is Mike Iupati. Iupati had a down year by many standards but remains one of the better options on the line. At age 30, he’s starting to see the end of his career. The team will look for him to have a bounce-back season in 2017.

AQ Shipley was re-signed by the team on a two-year deal. Shipley was the team's best-graded lineman in 2016. He found a home at age 30, and the Cardinals rewarded him.

The right guard spot is where it gets interesting. Currently manned by Evan Boehm, a lot of Cardinals fans believe that maybe fourth round selection Dorian Johnson has a chance. Johnson slid in the draft due to health concerns but was viewed by many to be a day two selection.

Will Holden is a fifth-round selection who some have whispered could surpass Jared Veldheer on the depth chart. Unlikely, but the thoughts are there.

So what say you? Did we hit this on the nail? Or did I miss another chance to get it right? Discuss and vote in the poll below!

Poll

Who has the best offensive line in the NFC West?

This poll is closed

  • 74%
    Arizona Cardinals
    (289 votes)
  • 10%
    Los Angeles Rams
    (40 votes)
  • 7%
    San Francisco 49ers
    (30 votes)
  • 7%
    Seattle Seahawks
    (31 votes)
390 votes total Vote Now

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