Offensive Line of the Week: Raiders unit utterly dominates Jets

Print

In today's fantasy-obsessed football world, it's easy to overlook the contributions of one position group: offensive line. Well, NFL Network analyst and former Pro Bowl center Shaun O'Hara is here to fix that. Following each batch of games, O'Hara will revisit the O-line performances of all the teams that played and ultimately select that week's top five units, headlined by a Built Ford Tough Offensive Line of the Week.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The rankings that you see below reflect O'Hara's pecking order for Week 2 and Week 2 alone. This is NOT a running O-line Power Rankings for 2017. This is NOT a projection into the future. The goal of this weekly column is to answer one simple question: Which five offensive lines stood out above the rest in last week's action?

Without further ado, the Week 2 winner is ...

1) Oakland Raiders

The Raiders thrashed the Jets in the Black Hole, as Oakland's powerful offensive line neutralized Gang Green in the passing game and pushed New York's front around in the ground attack.

The Raiders scored 45-plus points for the first time since Week 7 of the 2010 campaign. Oakland has amassed 350-plus yards of offense in both games this season, averaging an NFL-high 35.5 points per game. Through eight quarters of play, the Raiders have eight touchdowns and zero turnovers. This kind of offensive efficiency starts with the overpowering group up front.

Oakland fielded the top-ranked run-blocking line in football last week, according to Pro Football Focus. Not surprising, considering the Raiders had three different players notch a rushing touchdown. In addition to productive afternoons from running backs Marshawn Lynch and Jalen Richard, Cordarrelle Patterson added a new dimension to the run game, taking a shotgun draw play 43 yards to the house. All in all, the Raiders piled up 180 rushing yards on just 27 carries (6.7 yards a pop).

The O-line also did a stellar job of protecting Derek Carr, keeping the franchise quarterback clean all game long. No small feat, considering the Jets possess a pair of ruthless pass rushers in Muhammad Wilkerson and Leonard Williams. Left guard Kelechi Osemele continued his assault on the NFL's best defensive linemen, manhandling Williams -- something that does not happen often to the 23-year-old defensive end.

Rodney Hudson is enjoying a phenomenal start to the season at the pivot, while right tackle Marshall Newhouse has played extremely well in his debut campaign with the Raiders. In fact, Newhouse is one of just three tackles in the entire league who have blocked at least 50 pass plays without giving up a single pressure, per PFF. This entire offensive line has allowed just four total pressures and one sack this season on 63 total pass plays.

The rest of the top five O-lines from Week 2

2) Tennessee Titans: Everyone was excited to see how this O-line would fare against a Jaguars defense that recorded a whopping 10 sacks in a Week 1 beatdown of Houston. Well, the Titans' front answered the bell in a 37-16 win for Tennessee.

The offensive line did not allow a single sack or quarterback hit. (Yes, Marcus Mariota got sacked once, but I don't attribute it to the linemen, as Mariota had scrambled out of the pocket.) According to Pro Football Focus, the Jags only managed four QB hurries. The pass protection starts with Tennessee's bookend duo of Taylor Lewan and Jack Conklin. These two former first-round picks continue to impress, comprising one of the best offensive tackle tandems in the game.

Did I mention that the Titans rushed for 179 yards? Second-year back Derrick Henry led the ground attack with 14 carries for 92 yards and a touchdown, but the most impressive aspect is that 59 of those yards came on nine fourth-quarter carries. In other words, Tennessee's "Exotic Smashmouth" gained steam as the game went along.

The one negative that kept the Titans' O-line from manning the top spot in this column: five penalties, with three on Conklin. That's one thing the unit will need to clean up going forward.

3) Washington Redskins: Washington earned its first win of the season -- 27-20 over the Rams -- behind a potent ground attack. The Redskins ran for 229 yards at a robust 5.9 per carry. And the O-line was blowing open holes for everybody, as three different backs topped 65 yards rushing (Rob Kelley, Chris Thompson and rookie Samaje Perine). Pro Football Focus had Washington ball carriers averaging a healthy 3.59 yards before contact -- the second-highest figure in the NFL last week -- and this allowed the Redskins to log a number of big gainers on the ground. But while explosive plays in the run game are always fun to watch, the ability to hold onto the ball was a huge factor in this seven-point win. Washington dominated time of possession, 36:19 to 23:41. Kirk Cousins was sacked twice, but at least one of them appeared to be no fault of the O-line's.

Morgan Moses is consistently overshadowed by his perennial Pro Bowl teammate on the opposite side of the line (LT Trent Williams), but he continues to solidify himself as one of the better right tackles in the league today.

4) Baltimore Ravens: Baltimore is determined to protect Joe Flacco. In the 24-10 win over Cleveland, the Ravens ran the ball 47 percent of the time and totaled 136 yards on the ground. Solid production. The O-line excelled in the aerial attack, too, allowing Flacco to throw a pair of touchdown passes. While the Ravens' quarterback was sacked twice, one of them occurred when Flacco could've thrown a hot route to his open running back in the flat. Also, beyond the two sacks, Flacco wasn't otherwise touched.

Austin Howard, who signed a three-year deal with Baltimore in August, has been a real bright spot this year at right tackle. And the Ravens will need him to continue playing well, as his linemate on the right side -- six-time Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda -- was just lost for the season to an ankle injury. That's another huge hit to a Ravens team that has been plagued by the injury bug of late. Tony Bergstrom, acquired by Baltimore via trade earlier this month, takes over for Yanda, but mitigating this loss will have to be a group effort, as Yanda is one of the very best offensive guards in football. Definitely something to watch going forward.

5) Pittsburgh Steelers: In a 26-9 win, the Steelers really quieted this Vikings defense that had just terrorized the Saints on the previous Monday night. Pittsburgh deployed a balanced attack in the easy win and held the ball for nine minutes longer than Minnesota. While the ground game wasn't as explosive as it can be, Le'Veon Bell's clearly still finding his rhythm after skipping the preseason.

The most impressive aspect of this O-line effort was the unit's protection of Ben Roethlisberger. The Vikes boast a number of scary playmakers in the front seven, but Pittsburgh largely held them in check. Big Ben was sacked twice, but only one of them was on the O-line. (Left tackle Alejandro Villanueva was beat by Everson Griffen on a nifty inside spin move.)

The interesting thing about this game was that Villanueva only played in 53 snaps. Apparently, he had some issues with the heat. Thus, this week's sixth man award goes to Chris Hubbard, who rotated through both tackle spots and did a fine job.

Lastly, offensive guards Ramon Foster and David DeCastro continue to play at an elite level.

Follow Shaun O'Hara on Twitter @ShaunOHara60.

Print

Headlines

The previous element was an advertisement.

NFL Shop