Every NFL offseason starts with the question, “Who’s your quarterback?” If you don’t have a top tier QB, you probably aren’t playing in January. So why doesn’t it work that way for offensive lines? The truth is no matter how you slice and dice the statistics, it’s tough to predict the outcome of wins and losses based on the offensive line.
Last year, the best offensive line in the NFL had the worst record in its division – the Dallas Cowboys. Clearly, that was a quarterback issue more than a line issue. It’s also why the Cowboys are projected in Las Vegas to win the NFC East this year.
The Cowboys are ranked by many as having the number one running and pass blocking line. Hard to argue. They’ve invested top picks in the offensive line and are expected back in the playoffs again.
For the same reason, here’s a sleeper pick to make the playoffs this year – the Tennessee Titans. Granted they were 3-13 last year but look at what they’ve done. With the eighth overall pick, they added Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State. Then, in the sixth round they picked Sebastian Tretola, G, Arkansas. In addition, they added center Ben Jones.
But here’s why I’m also high on the Titans. Behind a revamped, tough offensive line will be an up and coming quarterback in Marcus Mariota and a bruising running back in Derrick Henry. Not to mention the fact that Demarco Murray is there too. Will the Titans be in the Super Bowl? Probably not. Will the Titans be better than last year’s three win season? Probably so. The reason, a better offensive line.
The other team that should see an improvement in its win total is the New Orleans Saints. Last year they were 7-9 despite having the league’s best passing numbers. They were also ranked third in the NFL on 3rd downs. This year, they are getting an in-shape Andrus Peat on the line, the 12th overall pick in 2015.
The Seahawks aren’t that far away. They finished 10-6 last year. While they did lose Marshawn Lynch, they added a couple pieces to the offensive line that should minimize the loss in the backfield.
Germain Ifedi, OT, Texas A&M will likely play right tackle and at 335 lbs. fits the physical play the Seahawks will want. Rees Odhiambo, OG, Bowie State, could easily develop as another guard to keep Russell Wilson from having to constantly escape pressure.
So, while the offensive line doesn’t absolutely predict the finish a team will have in the upcoming season, it is a first step. The Cowboys and Seahawks have already made those steps. Teams like the Titans and Saints are primed and ready looking to follow their lead.