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Nfc South Offensive Line Rankings

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5. Carolina Panthers

LT: Jordan Gross*

LG: Amini Silatolu

C: Ryan Kalil*

RG: Geoff Hangartner*

RT: Jeff Otah

Top reserves: T/G Byron Bell*, OT Lee Ziemba, G/C Mike Pollak, T/G Garry Williams, T/G Bruce Campbell.

Overview: Cam Newton's record-shattering rookie year might lead to you think otherwise, but Carolina's 2011 line strength was run blocking. The Panthers' 5.41 yards-per-rushing attempt average not only led the league, but was the second highest clip posted by any team in the last five years and third highest since 1997. Newton's running ability helped, but DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart both averaged well over five yards per tote. Carolina's front five got nastier with Silatolu's addition, and he could eventually flip positions with Hangartner to give the Panthers the meanest strong side of the line in the league. Carolina can take another step forward as a pass-blocking team if the light flips on in Otah's contract year. A dominant talent, Otah has appeared in just four games over the past two seasons. He says he's 100 percent healthy now.

10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

LT: Donald Penn*

LG: Carl Nicks

C: Jeremy Zuttah*

RG: Davin Joseph*

RT: Jeremy Trueblood*

Top reserves: G/C Ted Larsen, OT Demar Dotson, G/T Derek Hardman, OT Jamon Meredith, G/T Desmond Wynn.

Overview: Meet the NFL's most expensive O-Line. Over the past three years, the Bucs have devoted an unprecedented $168 million in combined contracts to their five starters, including this offseason's Nicks ($47.5M) and Zuttah ($16.3M) deals. So far, the group has been overpaid. Nicks is the lone truly elite lineman, and he's yet to play a down for Tampa. There are reasons to believe this unit is destined for a big leap, though. New coach Greg Schiano is installing a run-heavy attack, and that philosophy plays to the strengths of this power-blocking group. Nicks' presence allows Zuttah to kick from left guard to center, turning last year's biggest negative into a positive. The addition of a running back with power and wiggle in first-round pick Doug Martin will naturally make the blocking look better. Though not quite as good as its price tag suggests, Tampa's offensive line was still a top 15 or 18 unit in 2011. It should be top ten in 2012.

12. New Orleans Saints

LT: Jermon Bushrod*

LG: Ben Grubbs

C: Brian De La Puente*

RG: Jahri Evans*

RT: Zach Strief*

Top reserves: OT Charles Brown, C/G Matt Tennant, G/C Eric Olsen, OG Andrew Tiller, OT Marcel Jones.

Overview: The Saints are one of the league's great teams that gets away without elite left tackle play. Bushrod is just a league-average starter, but Football Outsiders still ranked New Orleans' offensive line third in the NFL in 2011 pass blocking and Pro Football Focus had it seventh. While Carl Nicks-to-Grubbs is a clear downgrade at weak-side guard -- particularly in run blocking -- throwing the football is the Saints' foundation, and they'll continue winging it endlessly in 2012. New Orleans ranks relatively low here because Evans is the lone returning starter with an elite body of work, but offensive line play won't be a stumbling block for the Saints this season.

28. Atlanta Falcons

LT: Sam Baker

LG: Justin Blalock*

C: Todd McClure*

RG: Peter Konz

RT: Tyson Clabo*

Top reserves: OT Will Svitek*, G/C Joe Hawley*, OG Mike Johnson, G/T Garrett Reynolds, OG Vince Manuwai, OT Lamar Holmes.

Overview: Line play was Atlanta's Achilles' heel last year, on both sides of the ball. Needs drafter GM Thomas Dimitroff devoted his first two picks to offensive linemen, his third to a lane-clearing lead blocker, and fourth to a defensive end. While Konz may shore up right guard, some of last year's problems remain. In addition to battling a chronic back injury, Baker has struggled mightily to protect Matt Ryan, and 2011 late-season replacement Svitek wasn't a whole lot better. McClure has a bad knee and turned 35 in February. Blalock and Clabo are strong starters, and the Falcons don't lack for experienced depth, but this is no better than a below-average line.


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Sounds about right for us and it shows. Our run game suffered bad last year from previous productive years and Ryan had next to no time to pass before being pressured. Its also fair to say thats why we drafted the way we did.

Edited by danight
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