As the season progresses, depth will continue to affect our NFL OL rankings almost as much as talent. Injuries are inevitable, and teams that have the bodies to make up for health questions up front will have a distinct advantage. Here’s how NFL offensive lines are shaping up after four weeks of action.
NFL OL Rankings Rundown | Week 5
Let’s go around the league and delve into the most notable offensive line situations in the NFL. We’ll start in Kansas City, where the Chiefs’ OL is fresh off its best performance of the year.
Chiefs Dominate on Sunday Night, Rams Disintegrate on Monday Night
Week 4’s prime-time games offered a stark contrast between one offensive line that’s thriving at full strength and another that’s falling apart before our eyes.
On Sunday night, the Chiefs’ OL made up for their lackluster showing against the Buccaneers’ front in Super Bowl 55. Kansas City’s interior — left guard Joe Thuney, center Creed Humphrey, and right guard Trey Smith — was incredible as the Chiefs racked up 189 yards on the ground. It was the most rushing yards Tampa Bay had allowed since the 2018 season.
A day later, the Rams’ offensive line got annihilated by the 49ers’ fearsome front seven. Los Angeles gave up seven sacks, including two each to Nick Bosa and Samson Ebukam, en route to a 24-9 loss. As if that weren’t bad enough, the Rams also suffered yet another OL injury.
Coleman Shelton, who had already shifted from right guard to center to account for injured starter Brian Allen, went down with a high-ankle sprain. He’ll be sidelined 4-6 weeks, leaving Jeremiah Kolone, who had never played an NFL offensive snap before Monday night, to step in at the pivot.
The Rams are now playing third-stringers at center and right guard, plus a backup at left guard — and they have to face Micah Parsons and the Cowboys in Week 5.
The 49ers got the win over the Rams on MNF, cementing a four-way NFC West tie in the NFL standings. But their OL isn’t solidified, either.
Already without Trent Williams, San Francisco lost replacement Colton McKivitz to an MCL sprain in the third quarter of Monday’s game, so 2021 fifth-round choice Jaylon Moore will step in at left tackle. Meanwhile, the 49ers worked in Daniel Brunskill — who had posted some success against Aaron Donald in the past — at right guard.
Jets Try Unique Solution at Left Tackle
Faced with numerous injury questions at offensive tackle, the Jets went with an out-of-the-box answer on Sunday. Right guard Alijah Vera-Tucker moved to left tackle, while Nate Herbig took over at RG. This was not a spur-of-the-moment decision, as head coach Robert Saleh told reporters.
“To be honest with everyone, it’s kind of been in the making,” Saleh said. “It’s been a few weeks in advance, he’s been working on some left tackle sets and just kind of preparing himself for this moment and it just happened.
“But he was ready to go, he’s been preparing for it, and he hasn’t been taking practice reps, but on his own time after practice, he’s been putting in a little extra time to get himself prepared for this in the event that it did happen. And it was one of those last-case, worst-case scenarios.”
New York was already without Mekhi Becton, George Fant, and Duane Brown, and rookie right tackle Max Mitchell was injured in Week 4. Mitchell will miss several weeks, forcing the Jets to turn to Connor McDermott at RT.
Meanwhile, Brown (shoulder) is eligible to return from injured reserve in Week 5, but there’s been no update on his timetable. For now, Vera-Tucker will continue to line up on Zach Wilson’s blindside.
Commanders OL Coming Apart at the Seams
The Commanders had one of the NFL’s more underrated offensive lines entering the 2022 season, but they’ve been beset by multiple issues through four games.
It’s largely been a three-pronged problem. Carson Wentz is holding onto the ball too long; some of Washington’s linemen haven’t performed up to expectations; and now, injuries are starting to set in.
With Chase Roullier and Wes Schweitzer both on injured reserve, the Commanders started third-string center Nick Martin against the Cowboys. They also benched right guard Trai Turner after 11 snaps and will move forward with 2020 fourth-rounder Saahdiq Charles as the starter.
At tackle, RT Sam Cosmi could miss multiple games after injuring his hand in Week 4, as Ben Standig of The Athletic reported. If Cosmi can’t play against the Titans on Sunday, Washington would start three offensive linemen who weren’t in the lineup in Week 1.
Chargers Rookie LT Jamaree Salyer Debuts
Instead of continuing to roll with Storm Norton at left tackle after losing Rashawn Slater to a biceps injury, the Chargers inserted sixth-round rookie Jamaree Salyer into the lineup against the Texans in Week 4. It’s never easy to replace an All-Pro, but Los Angeles has to be pleased with Salyer’s outing on Sunday.
Salyer posted a 97% pass-block win rate in his first career start, which was the eighth-best mark among tackles last week, according to Seth Walder of ESPN. The former Georgia Bulldog didn’t give up a single pressure on 41 pass-blocking snaps, per PFF.
If Salyer were a skill-position player, we’d probably be talking about a new entrant in the Offensive Rookie of the Year race. Playing left tackle at the NFL level is an incredibly difficult task, but Salyer looked like a multi-year veteran in his pro debut. Watch how calmly he exchanges blocking assignments with left guard Matt Feiler after the Texans attempted a defensive line stunt:
Later in the first quarter, Houston lined up six defenders along the line of scrimmage on a Chargers 3rd-and-6. Edge rusher Ogbonnia Okoronkwo tried to beat Salyer with an inside move, but the rookie put him on the ground:
Slater could potentially return late in the regular season or for the playoffs, as Ian Rapoport of NFL Media recently reported. Salyer will hold down the fort until then, and he will give the Chargers options moving forward. He’ll pick up valuable LT reps this year, but Salyer could be a long-term starter for LA at either left guard or right tackle.
NFL OL Quick Hits | Week 5
- David Bakhtiari was supposed to rotate with Yosh Nijman at left tackle for the Packers on Sunday, but Bakhtiari ultimately ceded just one series to his backup. As such, Green Bay is considering moving Nijman — who has consistently played well in Bakhtiari’s stead — to right tackle while shifting Elgton Jenkins inside to right guard.
- Ankle injuries have limited Ravens LT Ronnie Stanley to just one game since October 2020, but he’s trending towards being available when Baltimore faces Cincinnati in Week 6. Although rookie Daniel Faalele held his own at left tackle over the past two games, Stanley’s return would be a welcome sight for the Ravens.
- Bears head coach Matt Eberflus said left guard Cody Whitehair will miss time with a knee injury, but he still expects the veteran to play again this season. For now, Chicago will deploy Lucas Patrick at left guard, Sam Mustipher at center, and Teven Jenkins at right guard.
- Playing for the first time since suffering an ankle sprain in Week 1, Connor McGovern saw about two-thirds of the Cowboys’ left guard snaps against the Commanders. Jason Peters rotated in to handle the remainder.
- Eagles left tackle Jordan Mailata (shoulder) and guard Isaac Seumalo (ankle) should be available to play in Week 5 after suffering injuries against the Jaguars.
- 4for4’s Sam Hoppen presented an excellent graphic showing offensive line continuity through four weeks. Improbably, the Raiders have already used 12 different combinations up front.
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
OL Rankings: Tier 2
Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Denver Broncos, Baltimore Ravens, Green Bay Packers, New Orleans Saints, Dallas Cowboys, Atlanta Falcons, Cincinnati Bengals, Minnesota Vikings, Arizona Cardinals
OL Rankings: Tier 3
Washington Commanders, Buffalo Bills, Houston Texans, Miami Dolphins, Los Angeles Chargers, Jacksonville Jaguars, Indianapolis Colts, Seattle Seahawks, San Francisco 49ers
OL Rankings: Tier 4
Los Angeles Rams, Carolina Panthers, Tennessee Titans, Chicago Bears, New York Jets, Las Vegas Raiders, New York Giants, Pittsburgh Steelers