I am often found preaching on my WCG electronic soapbox about the dire condition of our offensive line. Throughout the comments section of various threads, many of said that our line is fine. If you consider last in the league fine, this post is not for you.
Football Outsiders ranks our pass blocking at 31st in the league. Mike Tice might brag about out run blocking, but Football Outsiders ranks it 24th in the league. The only two offensive lines competing with us for the worst in the league overall are Kansas City and St. Louis. ProFootballFocus has us ranked dead last in the league after we found a way to drop from 31st last year. PFF gave our lineman the following ratingsJ’Marcus Webb: -24.7
Chris Williams: -9.6
Gabe Carimi: -0.3 (100 snaps)
Edwin Williams +0.5
Lance Louis: As a guard Louis had a -2.1 grade and as a tackle he was -35.6.
Chris Spencer: -12.4
Roberto Garza: PFF had Garza rated as the 2nd worst center in football.
As we can see from the rankings, Carimi and Edwin Williams had neutral grades in limited action, but Williams did also have a +4.5 last year. Coming from our lines poor performance in 2010, I believed we needed to bring in 3 offensive lineman; we brought in one. Carimi only saw limited action and is obviously in the plans moving forward. Edwin, while promising, has not been able to imbue confidence in the coaching staff. If he cannot find his way to the starting lineup with the worst offensive line in football, I do not see the coaching staff placing him in the starting lineup moving forward.
Former Madden en Español cover boy Roberto Garza will soon be 33 and is past his prime. As the second worst center in football, I don’t think he should be brought back. I know some are a fan of his veteran leadership, but if we are going to improve the line into the future, our elder statesman needs to go. Additionally, if continuity is important for an offensive line, it is better to find a replacement who can be around for a number of years while our lines develop instead of having a player near the end of his career develop in a new position.
I wasn’t a fan of Chris Spencer in Seattle and wasn’t a fan of him here. He allowed 28 QB pressures, 3rd worst in the league, I would want to let him go, and if JA was still around, there would be no chance of that. However, with Emery, we can hope he sees his way out the door.
J’Marcus Webb, Lance Louis, and Chris Williams are functionally the same player. They are relatively young players, who have played very poorly, have potential, and starting experience. The only thing really setting them apart is that Webb is the youngest and Chris Williams has missed all or part of 3 seasons due to injury. To their fans, I say pick one. If they are going to develop they need someone to develop next to. Playing all three together is getting Cutler killed and hindering their development.
I think with his injury history and best cap benefits, Chris Williams should be let go. I think with his experience and age Webb should be developed as a swing tackle and possible returned to the starting lineup in a couple of years when he has found his feet. Lance Louis is cheap and can compete for a starting position in camp.
To improve our line and still afford other top tier free agents like Mario Williams and Vincent Jackson, we need to ignore Ben Grubbs and Carl Nicks look at the second tier offensive line free agents. In this pursuit, I think that there are three free agents that could solve our offensive line woes. I don’t believe they will give us the best line in the league, but they will improve our line somewhere closer to average.
Anthony Collins is In the last two seasons has played 239 snaps in pass protection and allowed only three quarterback pressures. He is only 26 years old, so he still has time to develop and unlike our current roster, he finished last year with a +4.3 rating. His experience at both LT and RT won't transform our line, but he will improve it. PFF had this to say about Collins:
That Collins ranks fourth among free agency tackles shows the depth, or lack thereof, in this tackle class. That is not to say that Collins isn’t a capable player, but with only five starts in the last two seasons, one of which saw him play only 14 snaps, his body of work is somewhat lacking. However Collins’ quality of play in those starts has been extremely impressive and, but for a No. 5 overall pick sitting above him on the depth chart demanding time to bed in, might have seen him earn more playing time. In his only extended stretch as a starter, 13 straight starts from Week 12 2008 to Week 9 2009, Collins proved to be an adequate starter and a team looking to fill a gap for the short term could get a pleasant surprise in Collins who with four years of experience at age 26 this season has plenty of tread left on his tires.
Mike Brisiel, G
Mike Brisiel has battled injuries in an up and down career. At 29, he had a disappointing 2011 after a promising 2010. His career volatility, especially coming off a down year, should drive down his price down. At 6'5" 300lbs he fits Tice's mold as a giant guard. He should be a sold body to compete with Edwin and Louis for a starting guard position.Battle Red Blog described Brisiel as
A key cog in the line and a good guard to boot, the feisty veteran should get attention. However, Brisiel’s been plagued with injuries. Hopefully, that’ll keep interest and cost low, but it wouldn’t be the end of the world if Brisiel ended up elsewhere.
PFF had this to say about his 2010 season
The other guard, Mike Brisiel, had to rotate at times with Antoine Caldwell and missed some action as well. It didn’t slow him down, and before his season ending injury against Baltimore, he was playing the best football of his career. Despite playing just 510 snaps, he ended up with the sixth highest rating of all right guards in the league.
A promising 27 year old, he needs to work on his on-field discipline, but is a hard nosed grinder whose strength is run blocking. He could help us running off the bus and Mike Tice should be able to help reign in his dicipline issues. PF described him as:
Satele is part of an apparently dying breed, a run-blocking center. He was one of only eight centers who graded above +5.0 as a run blocker in 2011 and was a capable pass protector, grading -0.5 for the season. However, no center was penalized more last season than Satele who was flagged eight times, with four of those coming on holding penalties and one flag for illegal use of the hands, his discipline fitting right in with the ever-renegade Raiders. If Satele chooses to move to pastures, new a team would need to work on his discipline, but his work from whistle-to-whistle would be of value to a team that runs a traditional, under-center, run-heavy offense.
Silver & Black Pride described him as
. . . a tough, hard-nosed competitor who has worked hard to bring his game to another level. The Raiders line was solid last year with him manning the center position and it would be again if he were to return.
None of these three players is perfect. Collins has limited playing experience, Brisiel has been inconsistent, and Satele needs to refine his technique on the field. Because of their flaws the market isn't going to be overwhelming for any of them. However, they are all improvements over our current roster.
In three years Webb might be in the same position as Collins, but today Collins is a better player and young enough to be a staple at the tackle position for years to come. Brisiel is a solid player who helped anchor the Houston Texans line the last couple of years and would make a solid competitor to start in our offense. Satele is a grinder whose run blocking will continue to open holes for Forte and whose pass blocking is still an improvement over Garza and Spencer. Best of all, since none of these guys is a top of the line free agent, they can all be picked up without pushing us off of our pursuit of a major free agent.