December 29, 02012
As the NFL continues to develop into an offense-driven league, I truly believe that struggling teams must start putting emphasis on their Offensive Line.
ICONLovie Smith and the Bears continue to have issues along the O-Line.
In this day and age of elite pass rushers and linebackers with 4.4 speed, protecting the QB has become more important than at any time in league history.
With Black Monday rapidly approaching for NFL coaches on the Hot Seat, I think it is interesting that several have a common problem: Terrible O-Line play.
Honestly, I don’t know that Ken Whisenhunt has ever really done a good job of handling the QB position in Arizona…there was a time when he had Matt Leinart starting in front of Kurt Warner. It’s been ugly since Warner retired, and now Brian Hoyer is the 4th starter for the Cards this season. Perhaps Kolb and Skelton and Lindley are mediocre Quarterbacks, or perhaps they are very talented. It’s hard to get a realistic picture of their abilities when they are running for their lives.
The Cardinals have allowed a league-leading 56 sacks through 15 games. When your quarterback is going down four times per game, every game, then you run the risk of having your signal caller injured or being forced into making costly mistakes. Until the Cardinals fix their offensive line, it won’t matter who’s under center.
I never thought that I’d hear Lovie Smith’s name as a guy on the Hot Seat, but that is certainly the case in Chicago as the Bears are in a late-season tailspin. Bears fans are knowledgeable and I think are coming to the realization that as Jay Cutler goes, so do the Bears.
But the key to Cutler’s success is his ability to stand upright. When the Bears O-line no-shows (which they tend to do in key games), the wheels fall off for Cutler and the offense. When he is protected, he can dissect any defense in the NFL. In 2011, Chicago gave up 49 sacks. Through 15 games this season, they’ve allowed 42. Those numbers are just unacceptable for a unit that has been a glaring weakness for the past several years.
Everyone on the planet is probably sick of hearing about Rex Ryan and Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow and the under-achieving Jets. The problems in New York are very simple to me though. In addition to having no legit All-Pro caliber receivers or Tightends, they have a very poor offensive line. They’ve allowed 46 sacks this year, including 11 in an embarrassing loss last week. While the focus has been on the QB position, the most glaring reason for the Jets offensive woes is with what happens up front during pass protection.
We can throw in the San Diego Chargers and Philadelphia Eagles as two teams that have seen their Quarterbacks battered this season (both with 47 sacks allowed), and Norv Turner and Andy Reid will be coaching their last games in those two cities on Sunday.
Whether the responsibility of improving the productivity of the offensive line units rests on the shoulders of the GM’s or the Head Coach or both, the fate of the leadership in Arizona, New York, Chicago, San Diego, and Philadelphia may ultimately come down to what happened up front. Moving forward, I think each of those franchises would be wise to invest significant resources into improving their O-line play.
Follow Warren on Twitter: @mpifradio