Dallas, Cleveland field top offensive lines heading into 2008

Dallas Cowboys

Starters: Flozell Adams (LT), Montrae Holland (LG), Andre Gurode (C), Leonard Davis (RG), Marc Colombo (RT)

Health: Fair

Latest update: The Cowboys acquired RG Montrae Holland from the Broncos for a future draft pick. The move was made after starting LG Kyle Kosier went down with a sprained foot last week. He is expected to miss at least the first month of the season. Holland started all 16 games for the Broncos last season, but he was put into a conditioning program after he showed up to camp out of shape. Holland has worked his way back into playing shape in the past few weeks and is penciled in as the starter at left guard.

2008 preview: The Cowboys' offensive line is a top-five unit that blocks for a top-five offense. That is one of the reasons why you want to have as many Cowboys on your fantasy roster as possible. The Cowboys lost RB Julius Jones, but the team drafted Felix Jones to help stud RB Marion Barber carry the load in the running game. The line should be better than last season in opening up holes. With no major injuries and essentially all the pieces back from last season, the Cowboys' line comes into 2008 ranked as one of the best units in the NFL.

Be aware of: The Cowboys' biggest acquisition this offseason may have been the hiring of new offensive line coach, Hudson Houck. Houck is widely known as an offensive line guru and has a tremendous track record of turning horrible offensive lines into great ones. Houck inherits a line that was very good in 2007, and with his guidance, the Dallas offensive line will definitely be one of the best units in the league this season.

Preseason Power Ranking: 1

CLEVELAND BROWNS

Starters: Joe Thomas (LT), Eric Steinbach (LG), Hank Fraley (C), Rex Hadnot (RG), Kevin Shaffer (RT)

Health: Fair

2008 preview: The Browns' offensive line comes into 2008 returning four of five starters, with the only change being that of Ryan Tucker (who may be starting once he returns from offseason hip surgery). We can't stress enough how valuable it is when an offensive line returns most of its vital parts. The Browns' line really came together last season and heads into 2008 as a top tier unit. The Browns' offense lost no one of note, and the unit is for the most part healthy, with the exception of RG Ryan Tucker. LT Joe Thomas had a great rookie season and is already one of the top tackles in the NFL.

Be aware of: The Browns are expected to make the playoffs this season, and all the pieces appear to be in place for that to happen. The Browns' offensive line will continue to build on its' 2007 success and is a strong reason as to why you want to have the Cleveland offensive skill position players on your fantasy team. There are no major coaching or player changes, so chemistry should not be an issue.

Preseason Power Ranking: 2

NEW YORK GIANTS

Starters: David Diehl (LT), Rich Seubert (LG), Shaun O'Hara (C), Chris Snee (RG), Kareem McKenzie (RT)

Health: Good

Latest update: Backup RT Shane Olivea was placed on IR with a back injury, and backup LT Guy Whimper was also placed on IR with a broken foot.

2008 preview: The Giants' offensive line comes into 2008 as one of the most stable and reliable units in the league. The core of this group has been together for several years, so chemistry and communication are major strengths. There aren't any superstars on the line, but no weak links, either. The line excels in run blocking (the Giants plan on using a RBBC), so overall team success in the running game will be there. However, individual success will be inconsistent.

Personnel moves: There were no major losses for the Giants' line, but the team did acquire RT Shane Olivea, who is out for the season.

Be aware of: The Giants' offensive line probably has the fewest issues of any line in the league coming into 2008. No coaching changes, no major personnel changes and no major injury issues. There are plenty of other positions that get the attention in New York, but the reality is the offensive line is the unsung hero of the offense and one of the best units in the league. Other than a "Super Bowl hangover," there appears to be no reason why the line would regress this season, so draft your Giants with knowledge that the line will be a strength for the position players.

Preseason Power Ranking: 3

SAN DIEGO CHARGERS

Starters: Marcus McNeill (LT), Kris Dielman (LG), Nick Hardwick (C), Mike Goff (RG), Jeromey Clary (RT)

Health: Fair

Latest update: LT Marcus McNeill, who's been out for the past three weeks after suffering a neck stinger, is hoping to be ready for Week 1. McNeill underwent an MRI on Monday. If he is unable to go, veteran L.J. Shelton is likely to fill in and is somewhat of a talent downgrade.

2008 preview: The Chargers return four of their five starting offensive lineman in 2008, so the chemistry issues should be minimal. The biggest concern will be the status of starting center Nick Hardwick's foot injury. Hardwick, who played the second half of last season with a badly sprained foot, had surgery this past March and is expected to return sometime in October. Given that a center generally calls out blocking schemes, Hardwick will be sorely missed.

Be aware of: The Chargers' offensive line was a top-five unit for the second half of last season. However, the loss of a starting tackle and center will affect the chemistry of the line. The only real positive is that the Bolts re-tooled with veteran linemen, so hopefully there will be minimal effects in that department. Also, look for the Chargers' offense to struggle out of the gate, as their offensive weapons get little playing time in the preseason. Another issue to monitor is TE Antonio Gates' toe injury. If he can't go, look for the Chargers to go with a run-heavy gameplan, at least early in the season.

Preseason Power Ranking: 4

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

Starters: Matt Light (LT), Logan Mankins (LG), Dan Koppen (C), Billy Yates (RG), Nick Kaczur (RT)

Health: Fair

Latest update: The Patriots made two major moves on Aug. 26, placing starting RG Stephen Neal on the PUP list, and also placing backup RT Ryan O'Callaghan on IR, ending his season. Neal, who is trying to return from a knee injury suffered in last year's Super Bowl, is eligible to return after Week 6 of the regular season. With these two moves, the Patriots' offensive line should be downgraded, losing a very good starter and a key backup.

2008 preview: You can pretty much throw out the trend of the "Super Bowl loser missing the playoffs the following season," because that's just not going to happen with the New England Patriots in 2008. The team had minimal personnel losses and the line returns intact, although, not without a few question marks. The Patriots' line, just as the team in general, has the approach that the "whole is greater than the individual parts." If the unit can get through some potential issues -- health and legal wise -- the offensive line should continue to be a dominant unit that will continue to play at an extremely high level in 2008.

Personnel moves: The Patriots' offensive line had no notable losses, however, did add veteran LT Oliver Ross and RT Anthony Clement (who may have been signed for his knowledge of the Jets' offense more than anything).

Be aware of: Yes, the Patriots' offensive line has some issues it is dealing with, and one or more of the starters could miss some playing time. But the Patriots are historic in their ability to put a new body into any position when the starter goes down, and continue to be successful. Another thing to be aware of is that this is the fourth year this unit has been together, so the chemistry is definitely there. No starting lineman is over 31, so age is not a factor this season. The Pats have very capable reserves on the offensive line, so even if Kaczur or Neal misses extended time, the line will be fine. Look for the Patriots' offense to continue as is, with the passing game leading the way.

Preseason Power Ranking: 5

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

Starters: Khalif Barnes (LT), Vince Manuwai (LG), Dennis Norman (C), Maurice Williams (RG), Tony Pashos (RT)

Health: Fair

Latest update: LT Khalif Barnes was being pushed by backup LT Richard Collier for the starting spot, but Collier was involved in an off-the-field incident Monday that has his status in serious doubt.

2008 preview: The Jags enter 2008 as a top-10 unit, hoping to continue the success they had in 2007. The Jags' offense is run heavy, and the offensive philosophy has not changed. The unit is based on huge lineman with a "road grader" attitude, and the Jags rarely modify their gameplan, no matter the opponent. The unit enters 2008 with no major health issues, and returns four of the five starters from last season. The new starter at RG is Maurice Williams. He was with the team last season, so chemistry issues should be minimal.

Be aware of: The Jags' offensive line will settle in with David Garrard at quarterback from Day 1, unlike last season, so expect the offense to be in sync from the get go. The talent on the line will directly translate to the performance that can be expected from the tandem of Maurice Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor in the running game. There are no indications this unit will fall short of expectations in 2008.

Preseason Power Ranking: 6

MINNESOTA VIKINGS

Starters: Bryant McKinnie (LT), Steve Hutchinson (LG), Matt Birk (C), Anthony Herrera (RG), Ryan Cook (RT)

Health: Good

Latest update: As expected, LT Bryant McKinnie was suspended four games by the NFL for violation of the Player Conduct Policy. McKinnie will no doubt appeal the suspension (like Broncos WR Brandon Marshall last week), so it is possible McKinnie will miss less than four games. However, that has yet to be determined. As long as McKinnie is out, the Vikings' offensive line must be downgraded significantly.

2008 preview: Amidst the Brett Favre talk, the Vikings appear to be the "sexy pick" this season by all the experts. The team has made some huge offseason acquisitions, none of which directly impacted the offensive line. The left side of the Vikings' offensive line is considered to be one of the best in football, McKinnie's supsension aside. However, the right side comes into 2008 with question marks. Of course, having superstar RB Adrian Peterson running behind any line will help make the unit look good.

Be aware of: The Vikings' offensive line is a very good unit, even with the question marks on the right side of the line, and the Vikings will once again be one of the top rushing offenses in the NFL. Of course, the offensive philosophy, personnel and talent also factor into the offensive line's run-blocking success. Starting QB Tarvaris Jackson is an athletic quarterback and pass-protecting an athletic quarterback can lead to increased sack numbers.

Preseason Power Ranking: 7

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

Starters: Tony Ugoh (LT), Ryan Lilja (LG), Jeff Saturday (C), Charlie Johnson (RG), Ryan Diem (RT)

Health: Fair

Latest update: The Colts' offensive line suffered a major blow when C Jeff Saturday suffered a knee injury in last Sunday's preseason game against Buffalo. He is expected to miss at least six weeks. Making the loss even more damaging is that with QB Peyton Manning's multiple audibles at the line of scrimmage, Saturday is responsible for shoring up the coverage schemes. The Colts' backup at center is rookie Steve Justice, who may be the short-term answer, but the coaching staff has not yet decided if Justice will fill in or if there will be a major positional move by a veteran. The Colts' line must be downgraded significantly with Saturday out of the lineup.

2008 preview: The main issue for the Colts has little to do with the line, rather their superstar quarterback and the status of his knee. The line returns four of the five starters from last year -- the lone new starter is Charlie Johnson, who essentially filled in everywhere in 2007. With the Colts' line, you know what you are getting -- a great unit that is one of the best in the NFL.

Be aware of: The Colts' line has been known as a great pass-protecting unit, although a lot of the credit must go to Manning's quick release. The line will be under added pressure to protect Manning, though, after he recently underwent "minor" knee surgery. The Colts' offensive line is talented, and one of the telling points as to why the position players put up such great fantasy numbers on a weekly basis.

Preseason Power Ranking: 8

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

Starters: Jammal Brown (LT), Jamar Nesbit (LG), Jonathan Goodwin (C), Jahri Evans (RG), Jon Stinchcomb (RT)

Health: Good

2008 preview: The Saints' offensive line comes into 2008 with many positives and few question marks. The line returns four of five starters from last season (the new starter was a backup on the team last season),there are no major injury or personnel issues and the coaching staff remains intact. The Saints' line struggled badly in run-blocking last season, but that can also be attributed to injuries, instability in the backfield and overall poor play by the offense to start the season. The Saints are dead set on not having a repeat of the first month of last season, when they opened 0-4, so look for the offense to be sharp from the get go.

Be aware of: Aside from losing its starting center, the Saints' line has minimal other issues, so continuity and chemistry will be strengths of the unit. The Saints' offensive philosophy has not changed, and the offense will continue to throw a ton. The line excels in pass protection, and although it's unlikely the unit will lead the league in fewest sacks allowed in 2008, there is no reason to expect a major drop-off in performance. Run blocking should be better this season, if the Saints can get the backfield situation figured out. If RB Reggie Bush assumes more of a traditional running back role, it will only help the line perform in run blocking.

Preseason Power Ranking: 9

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

Starters: William "Tra" Thomas (LT), Todd Herremans (LG), Jamaal Jackson (C), Shawn Andrews (RG), Jon Runyan (RT)

Health: Good

2008 preview: How can a line as talented as the Eagles' have had so many problems with pass protection last season? Injuries and inconsistency at the quarterback position are partly to blame, but essentially, the line just under performed. LG Todd Herremans and C Jamaal Jackson had disappointing seasons, but should rebound in 2008. This season, the line returns all five starters and the primary backups, so everyone is healthy and there were no major coaching or offensive philosophy changes. Look for the line to be vastly improved in pass protection this season, as long as the unit can remain healthy. With talent in the backfield, the line will continue to perform well in run blocking. The only real potential issue is whether or not Donovan McNabb can stay healthy, or if second-year backup Kevin Kolb gets inserted at some point. If Kolb is put in, expect some bumpiness, at least initially.

Be aware of: Talent wise, the Eagles' offensive line is one of the best in the NFL. Runyan and Thomas are getting up there in age, but the backups are very capable, especially Max Jean-Giles and Winston Justice. If the unit can remain somewhat healthy expect improvement this season. RB Brian Westbrook had an excellent 2007, and with a healthier line blocking in front of him, he is all set to have another great season in 2008. The NFC East will be a dogfight on a weekly basis, so the line will have its hands full with the tough weekly divisional matchups.

Preseason Power Ranking: 10

Corey Bertram is a fantasy writer for Rotowire.com. For more information, please visit Rotowire.com

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