NFL Top 4: Offensive lines holding their teams back
For most teams, upgrading the offensive line is a high priority in the offseason. Yet, no matter how much retooling takes place, some clubs simply can't improve their fortunes enough to prevent opposing defenses from exposing them.
Here are four teams that could struggle on the o-line this coming season:
Jacksonville Jaguars (+3 vs. Kansas City; O/U: 41)
The Jaguars are expected to get better play from their offensive line this season - largely because it's hard to envision this unit being much worse. Jacksonville's banged-up, inexperienced o-line surrendered 50 sacks a season ago, and while adding first-rounder Luke Joeckel and seeing steady improvement from left tackle Eugene Monroe, the group still lacks the skill set to compete with the majority of opposing defensive lines. Expect a long season for Maurice Jones-Drew, Blaine Gabbert and the rest of the Jaguars' skill players.
Arizona Cardinals (+ 4.5 at St. Louis; O/U: 41)
The selection of standout left guard Jonathan Cooper in last spring's NFL draft was supposed to bolster a shaky Cardinals offensive line that had all sorts of problems protecting its quarterbacks and opening holes for the running game. But Cooper broke his leg earlier in the preseason, leaving Arizona with a gaping hole in its interior as it looks to improve upon last year's league-worst offense. Cooper will return later in the season, but the Cardinals will likely struggle until then with their linemen going through another year of growing pains.
San Diego Chargers (+3 vs. Houston; O/U: 44)
Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers has taken the brunt of the criticism for his team's recent offensive woes, but he's certainly not alone in the blame department. The Chargers had one of the lowest yards-per-carry in the league last season, though that may have been remedied by offseason upgrades at both tackle positions, and the pass protection was abysmal all season long, allowing the fourth-most sacks. Add in the implementation of a new offensive system and the Chargers may be hard-pressed to score many points in the early going.
Oakland Raiders (+9.5 at Indianapolis; O/U: 47)
The Raiders limiting opponents to just 27 sacks in 2012 was about the only bit of good o-line news all season. Oakland ranked 27th in yards-per-catch average as its receiving corps failed to find any openings against opposing defenses. The switch from a zone to a power-blocking scheme should make things easier for starting running back Darren McFadden, but adjusting to a new philosophy will take time, and should lead to some early breakdowns that will make life miserable for whichever quarterback claims the starting role.