Week 3 NFL OL Rankings: Lions keep rolling while Buccaneers and Rams deal with injuries

    PFN's Week 3 NFL OL rankings feature notes on the Lions' dominant offensive line performance, injuries in Tampa, LA, and Washington, and a Jason Peters watch.

    Week 3 NFL OL Rankings: Lions keep rolling while Buccaneers and Rams deal with injuries

    NFL offensive lines are weak-leak systems, and injuries have forced many units around the league to tap into their depth heading into Week 3. As the season progresses, teams will continuously have to work around OL health issues and determine how to get their five best linemen on the field together. So far, it’s going better for some clubs than others. Here are our OL rankings heading into Week 3.

    NFL OL Rankings Rundown | Week 3

    Let’s go around the league and delve into the most notable offensive line situations in the NFL. We’ll start in Detroit, where the Lions were without three starters in Week 2.

    Injuries aren’t bothering the Lions

    The Lions, who are in Tier 1 of our OL rankings, faced a difficult challenge on Sunday. Not only were they going up against a stout Commanders defensive front led by Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne, but they were doing so without the entirety of their projected starting interior offensive line.

    Right guard Halapoulivaati Vaitai has been on injured reserve since early September, forcing preseason standout Logan Stenberg to fill in. Meanwhile, center Frank Ragnow missed Week 2 with a groin injury. Evan Brown, who started 12 games in Ragnow’s absence in 2021, replaced him again against Washington.

    Detroit’s most interesting decision came at left guard, where starter Jonah Jackson was out while dealing with a finger issue. Early in the week, it looked like the Lions would insert Drew Forbes into the lineup, but he only joined the roster two weeks ago. Instead, Detroit went with practice squad call-up Dan Skipper — and the results were outstanding.

    At 6’9″, Skipper is likely the tallest lineman ever to play guard. Since Pro Football Reference started collecting Combine data in 2000, only two other linemen — Kolton Miller and Dennis Roland — have measured in at 6’9″ or above, and they’re both tackles. Skipper is nominally a tackle, but the Lions felt he was the best choice at guard in Week 2.

    Skipper, who has spent time with six different teams and is on his third stint in Detroit, showed a lot of athleticism for a man of his size, and he earned plaudits from Dan Campbell following the Lions’ 36-27 win.

    Detroit ran for 191 yards and averaged eight yards per carry, while the front five gave Jared Goff enough time to throw four touchdowns and finish with the week’s seventh-best adjusted net yards per attempt.

    First-year Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson has been a revelation through two weeks, and the team’s offensive line has been a massive part of his play-calling success. And while no team wants injuries to occur, Detroit’s health question marks are allowing backups like Skipper, Sternberg, and Brown to gain valuable experience.

    When will Jason Peters start for the Cowboys?

    The Cowboys’ most important injury is at quarterback, but they’ve also been forced to reconfigure their offensive line. Rookie first-rounder Tyler Smith is playing left tackle in place of the injured Tyron Smith, while Connor McGovern’s high-ankle sprain means 2021 seventh-round choice Matt Farniok is playing left guard.

    Dallas’ OL — in Tier 2 of our OL rankings — has played better than expected through two games, given the changes they’ve had to absorb. Having said that, Farniok is the clear Achilles heel. The Nebraska alum is just 146 snaps into his career, so there’s certainly room to grow. But he’s given up 12 pressures in two weeks, four times what any other Cowboys lineman has allowed.

    40-year-old Jason Peters, currently on Dallas’ practice squad, will practice in pads for the first time this week. When he’s ready, the Cowboys could play him at left tackle and shift Tyler Smith back to guard. However, Peters also saw time at right tackle and left guard during Thursday’s practice, indicating he could be an option at several positions.

    Buccaneers, Rams, and Commanders assessing injury issues

    Significant injury problems are also hampering three other NFC teams. The Buccaneers may be down to their third-string left tackle in Week 3 after placing Josh Wells on injured reserve.

    Wells was filling in for starter Donovan Smith, who hyperextended his elbow in Week 1 and hasn’t played since. Smith isn’t practicing yet this week, and Tampa will start 2020 UDFA Brandon Walton if the veteran can’t go.

    In Los Angeles, the Rams moved Coleman Shelton to center to replace Brian Allen, who will miss several weeks with a knee injury. Tremayne Anchrum took over for Shelton at right guard, but he’s now out for the season after breaking his leg. Alaric Jackson, who played 61 snaps for Los Angeles in 2021, is now the starting RG on a rapidly deteriorating Rams offensive line.

    Finally, Commanders center Chase Roullier may need season-ending surgery after suffering a knee injury on Sunday, according to John Keim of ESPN. Washington placed Roullier, who missed nine games in 2021 due to an ankle injury, is now on IR.

    Versatile interior lineman Wes Schweitzer is expected to draw the start at center, while the Commanders also signed veteran Nick Martin (62 career starts).

    Falcons showing offensive line improvement

    The Falcons — placed in Tier 3 of our OL rankings — entered the 2022 season with what looked to be one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL. However, the unit has shown notable improvement thus far. In Week 1, Atlanta rushed for more than 200 yards against a typically stingy Saints run defense.

    Through two weeks, the Falcons rank second-best in Football Outsiders’ “stuffed” percentage, meaning Atlanta’s backs aren’t being tackled before they reach the line of scrimmage.

    Like the Giants, the Falcons aren’t playing for anything this year. But pure competence along the offensive line — especially at left guard, where veteran Elijah Wilkinson has been an upgrade over 2021 starter Jalen Mayfield — will help Marcus Mariota and the rest of the offense function, allowing the Falcons to evaluate their young receiving talent.

    If rookie quarterback Desmond Ridder eventually takes the field, he’ll do so behind a front that should be able to keep him upright.

    The Giants’ OL isn’t helping Daniel Jones

    Daniel Jones needs to get better at manipulating the pocket to his advantage, but the Giants quarterback isn’t getting a lot of assistance from his offensive line. No signal-caller has been harassed more than Jones, who’s been pressured on 49.3% of his dropbacks.

    Left tackle Andrew Thomas has continually improved since his lackluster rookie season and looks like an excellent long-term starter. On the right side, Evan Neal gets a break because he’s 133 snaps into his career.

    But the interior of New York’s line is a problem. After leaving above-average offensive lines in Indianapolis and Buffalo, respectively, free agent additions Mark Glowinski and Jon Feliciano haven’t looked the same. And Big Blue’s left guard rotation — comprised of Ben Bredeson and third-round rookie Joshua Ezeudu — isn’t getting the job done.

    If Neal and Ezeudu progress this season, we’ll call it a win for the Giants, who aren’t really competing for anything despite their 2-0 start. But as Jones completes a make-or-break campaign, he’ll have to get used to working around a subpar front five. The Giants are in Tier 4 in our OL rankings.

    NFL OL Rankings | Tiers 1-4

    Now that we’ve taken a deeper look at some of the more notable offensive line groups around the NFL, let’s lay out how they rank based on tiers.

    OL Rankings: Tier 1

    Philadelphia Eagles, Kansas City Chiefs, Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions, New England Patriots, Los Angeles Chargers, Washington Commanders

    OL Rankings: Tier 2

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Baltimore Ravens, Green Bay Packers, Buffalo Bills, New Orleans Saints, Dallas Cowboys, San Francisco 49ers, Denver Broncos

    OL Rankings: Tier 3

    Minnesota Vikings, Miami Dolphins, Atlanta Falcons, Cincinnati Bengals, Indianapolis Colts, Houston Texans, New York Jets, Tennessee Titans, Arizona Cardinals, Los Angeles Rams

    OL Rankings: Tier 4

    Carolina Panthers, Seattle Seahawks, Jacksonville Jaguars, Las Vegas Raiders, New York Giants, Pittsburgh Steelers, Chicago Bears

    Dallas Robinson is an NFL analyst for Pro Football Network. You can read all of Dallas’ work here and follow him on Twitter: @dallasdrobinson.