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Tribal Warfare
04-11-2008, 11:58 AM
http://www.kcchiefs.com/news/2008/04/09/building_an_offensive_linepart_2/


Building An Offensive Line-Part 2

Apr 09, 2008, 1:48:54 AM by Bob Gretz (http://www.kcchiefs.com/news/bob_gretz/) - FAQ (http://www.kcchiefs.com/news/2004/01/19/bob_gretz_faq/)


The most important task immediately ahead for the Chiefs is rebuilding their offensive line. That group’s poor performance last year was the major reason the team slumped to a disastrous 4-12 season. The ability of the franchise to bounce back into the role of AFC contender depends on what happens with the big guys upfront.
How best to make that improvement? The Chiefs have made it plain they it will come through the NFL Draft, as they’ve not spent any money in the free agency market on blockers. But is that the best way to go with this vital unit when there are so many holes to fill at one time?
Over a 10-day period, we are taking an in-depth look at the 12 best offensive lines in the league last year, where the personnel came from and how each team put the group together.
We are running through the O-Lines in alphabetical order, three at a time:
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2007 Offensive Overview: The Colts were their usual productive-self on offense last year, finishing fifth in yards per game (358.7), sixth in passing yards per game (252.1) and 18th in running yards (106.6). They were third in scoring (450). Indy backs averaged 3.8 yards per carry and the pass protection was eighth, giving up a sack every 25 passing plays. The Colts finished 13-3, won the AFC South and made the playoffs.
Left Tackle: Tony Ugoh was the Colts 2nd-round pick (42nd) in the ‘07 Draft and he stepped right into the starting lineup, opening the first six games before an injury knocked him out of action for five weeks. Ugoh came back to finish the season. At the University of Arkansas, Ugoh started 35 games over four seasons. He will be 25 years old in November.
Left Guard: Ryan Lilja joined the Colts off the waiver wire from the Chiefs in 2004 after coming into the NFL as a college free agent from Kansas State. He became a starter late in his rookie season and has been there since, with the exception of missing time early in ‘06 with a knee injury. Lilja will be 27 years old in October and he recently signed a new contract with the Colts.
Center: Jeff Saturday entered the NFL as a college free agent with Baltimore in 1998 out of the University of North Carolina where he was a three-year starter. He was waived before even making it to the Ravens training camp and sat out that entire season. Saturday signed with the Colts in ‘99, taking over the starting job the next year and he’s been there since, starting 112 of 121 games, including every game in ‘07. He was selected for the Pro Bowl. He will turn 33 years of age in June.
Right Guard: Jake Scott was a 5th-round choice (141st) of the Colts in ‘04 out of the University of Idaho, where he started for four years. His first start came later that year at Arrowhead against the Chiefs and he remained in the starting lineup through the ‘07 season. Scott signed as an unrestricted free agent with Tennessee in March. He’ll turn 27 years of age this month. His likely replacement is Dylan Gandy, entering his fourth season with the Colts. Gandy was a 4th-round choice (129th) by the Colts in ‘05. He turned 26 years of age last month.
Right Tackle: Ryan Diem joined the Colts out of the 4th-round (118th) in the ‘01 Draft out of Northern Illinois, where he started his final 35 games. He began his career at right guard but became the team’s starting right tackle in ‘02 and with the exception of several injuries he’s held the position since. Diem will turn 29 in July. When he went down during the ‘07 season, Charlie Johnson replaced him. Johnson is a 6th-round choice (199th) from’06 by Indy. He’ll play the coming season at 24 years of age.
Line Overview: As they’ve done throughout their roster, the Colts have built their own blocking unit. All the contributors but Lilja and Saturday are Indy draft choices and those two guys never played a regular season game for another team. This year, both guards became unrestricted free agents. They retained Lilja and Scott left. One of the keys to this group is their coach, Howard Mudd, who will coach his 11th season with the Colts in ‘08 and his 35th consecutive year of coaching the offensive line in the NFL. That type of continuity goes a long way towards production of the entire unit. In the last five drafts, the Colts have selected eight blockers, but only one was higher than a fourth round pick.
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2007 Offensive Overview: The Jaguars had a big breakout season on offense in ‘07, finishing seventh in yards per game (357.4), second in rushing yards (149.4) and 17th in passing yards (208). Jacksonville finished sixth in scoring (411), with Jaguars backs averaging 4.6 yards per carry and the pass protection was 18th, with a sack every 16 pass plays. Jacksonville finished 11-5 and made the playoffs.
Left Tackle: Khalif Barnes joined the Jaguars as a 2nd-round choice (52nd) in ‘05 and almost immediately moved into the left tackle spot. Barnes has opened 41 games there. He will turn 26 years of age this month.
Left Guard: Vince Manuwai was Jacksonville’s 3rd-round choice (72nd) in ‘03 and over the last five seasons he’s started 77 of 79 games. He was a three-year starter the University of Hawaii. Manuwai will be 28 years old in July.
Center: Brad Meester came into the league as the Jags’ 2nd-round choice (60th) in ‘00 out of the University of Northern Iowa. Meester began his career at left guard and played there for three years before moving to center. He’s started 119 games for Jacksonville. In college, he was a four-year starter. Meester recently turned 31 years of age.
Right Guard: Maurice Williams lost his job as right tackle last year, but moved inside when Chris Naeole suffered a leg injury and was lost for the season. Naeole has since been released and Williams re-signed with the Jags. He joined the team as their 2nd-round choice (43rd) in ‘01 and has now started 95 games in seven seasons. Williams is 29 years old.
Right Tackle: Tony Pashos joined the Jaguars as an unrestricted free agent in ‘07 from Baltimore. He came into the NFL as a 5th-round choice (173rd) in the ‘03 Draft. Pashos got into the starting lineup in ‘05 with the Ravens at right tackle and played there for two years. Last season, he opened 15 games for the Jags. At the University of Illinois he started 47 games at right tackle. Pashos will be 28 years old in August.
Line Overview: the Jaguars have done a good job finding blockers in the draft, even though they haven’t used a lot of choices lately on the offensive line. They’ve had just five choices in the last five years and only one was above the fifth round. Only Meester at center is over 30, so this group should be together for a few more years.
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2007 Offensive Overview: The Vikings had the league’s best running game last year (164.6 yards per game) thanks to rookie runner Adrian Peterson. Overall, Minnesota’s offense was 13th (336.2) due to a poor passing game (171.6) that ranked 28th among the 32 teams. They were 15th in scoring with 365 points. Peterson and Vikings runners averaged 5.3 yards per carry and the pass protection finished 26th in the league, giving up a sack every 12.4 passing plays. Minnesota finished 8-8 and missed the playoffs.
Left Tackle: Bryant McKinnie will always be remembered around Kansas City as the guy the Vikings drafted in the 1st-round of the ‘02 Draft after the Chiefs traded up to the eight spot and selected Ryan Sims. Going at the ninth spot, McKinnie missed the first eight games of his rookie season in a contract dispute. Once he signed, he moved into the starting job at left tackle and has been there ever since, opening 87 games. He will turn 29 in September.
Left Guard: Steve Hutchinson joined the Vikings as a restricted free agent from Seattle in ‘06. He was originally a 1st-round choice (17th) of the Seahawks in the ‘01 Draft. Hutchinson was an immediate starter in Seattle and remained there until signing an offer sheet with the Vikings. He replaced Chris Liwienski, who was waived on the final cutdown of the ‘06 pre-season. Overall, he’s started 90 games in his career and has been selected for five Pro Bowls in season seasons. Hutchinson will be 31 years old in November.
Center: Matt Birk came to the Vikings as the team’s 6th-round choice (173rd) in ‘98 out of Harvard University. He spent two seasons as a backup before stepping into the starting lineup for the’00 season and he’s been there since. Birk now has 107 starts and has earned five trips to the Pro Bowl. He will be 32 years old in July.
Right Guard: Anthony Herrera signed with the Vikings as an undrafted rookie out of the University of Tennessee in ‘04. He started six games the next year, but found himself sidelined in ‘06. Herrera got back into the starting group for12 games last year, when he replaced Artis Hicks. He’ll be 28 years old in June.
Right Tackle: Ryan Cook was selected in the 2nd-round (51st) of the ‘06 Draft by the Vikings. He came out of the University of New Mexico, where he started 44 straight games for the Lobos. As a rookie, he started three games and then opened all 16 games last year. He replaced Marcus Johnson, a 2nd-round choice (49th) in ‘05. Cook will be 25 years old in May. Johnson will be 27 in December.
Line Overview: Built largely through the draft, the group’s best player came in free agency with the addition of Hutchinson. This group obviously was able to open holes for Peterson, although they struggled in pass protection. Part of that was not their fault, given the inexperience of starting quarterback Tarvaris Jackson. In the last five drafts, the Vikings have selected just three blockers, but two came in the 2nd-round.
Coming on Friday: we’ll look at Super Bowl teams New England and the New York Giants, along with New Orleans.

Pitt Gorilla
04-11-2008, 12:06 PM
It appears that the key is drafting well. Good luck with all that, Carl.

DJJasonp
04-11-2008, 12:10 PM
I'm still waiting for this story:

Gretz: How to Build a Meaningless Career in Journalism