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Five best, worst NFL offensive lines: Cowboys shine, Jets a mess

Which teams are fielding the league's best offensive lines, and which clubs are suffering from not being able to rely on the front five? Around The NFL's Chris Wesseling identifies the five best and five worst O-lines through Week 5 of the regular season.


Perennial All-Pro Tyron Smith was playing at a high level prior to a Week 4 ankle injury, but it's his bookend partner who has stolen the show early on. La'el Collins has joined Kansas City's Mitchell Schwartz and New Orleans' Ryan Ramczyk early this season as Pro Bowl-caliber right tackles. After missing last season with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, center Travis Frederick has returned to make the Cowboys' offense more stable.

Buccaneers edge rusher Shaquil Barrett's record-breaking sack pace came to a screeching halt last week against the Saints' tackle tandem of Ramczyk and Terron Armstead. While that duo functions as the anchor up front, rookie center Erik McCoy has also proven to be an instant sensation, upgrading the interior. New Orleans ranks second in Pro Football Focus' pass protection ratings, helping the offense stay afloat as Teddy Bridgewater stands in for face-of-the-franchise Drew Brees.

Ranked first in pass protection and sixth in run-blocking by PFF, the line is the heart of a Ravens offense that may be as explosive as any in franchise history. Their streak of nine straight regular-season games with at least 100 more rushing yards than the opponent was stopped in Week 3, when they still gashed Kansas City's defense for 203 yards on the grounds. The pass blocking has been almost as impressive, leaving Lamar Jackson enough time to run into a series of figure-eight sacks in the past couple of weeks. While it all starts with seven-time Pro Bowl selection Marshal Yanda at guard, the tackle tag-team of Ronnie Stanley and Orlando Brown might just rival Armstead and Ramczyk as the best in the business.

Coach Kyle Shanahan isn't shy about acknowledging that everything in his boot-action offense is predicated on a strong running attack, keyed by the center. After a disappointing 2018 season marred by injuries, Weston Richburg has been a revelation in the pivot this year, opening gaps for the underrated backfield trio of Matt Breida, Tevin Coleman and Raheem Mostert. Rookie Justin Skule has held down the fort admiralty at left tackle in the absence of Pro Bowler Joe Staley, who fractured his fibula in Week 2. It will be interesting to see how this line holds up against stouter defensive fronts, such as the one led by Aaron Donald down the California coast on Sunday.

PFF rates Indy's offensive line as the premier run-blocking unit in the league. Veteran Anthony Castonzo has been one of the most reliable blind-side pass protectors, while second-year stud Quenton Nelson is putting on a weekly clinic as the most powerful finisher in the run game. Right guard Mark Glowinski has been the lone weak spot after earning a contract extension as a surprising breakout starter in 2018. The five starters have shown enviable cohesion, playing every snap through five weeks.


Former MVP Matt Ryan is a legitimate franchise QB at the top of his craft. This football season would be percentage-points more enjoyable if his offense was bolstered by a decent ground attack and/or capable line play. History tells us NFL teams can't count on rookies to pull their weight as blockers, and the Falcons have learned that the hard way. First-round guard Chris Lindstrom suffered a fractured foot in the season opener, while fellow first-rounder Kaleb McGary has been a frequent liability at right tackle. Ryan might have a chance for consistency if he can get even modest improvement from the underwhelming guard trio of James Carpenter, Jamon Brown and Wes Schweitzer.

It's not for lack of effort that the Bengals are bungling their blocking responsibilities. They invested heavily in the line with first-round picks in 2018 ( Billy Price, center) and 2019 ( Jonah Williams, left tackle) in addition to trading for former Bills Pro Bowler Cordy Glenn prior to last season. Those trees have borne precious little fruit, as Williams went down with an offseason shoulder surgery before his career even started. Price was unable to beat out Trey Hopkins for the starting pivot position, Glenn has been sidelined by a concussion and rookie guard Michael Jordan has failed to live up to his legendary name. This is simply a talent issue in the Queen City.

Throughout his career, Marcus Mariota has turned pressure into sacks at a higher rate than any other quarterback. It's hard to blame the quarterback, however, for the plague of third-down sacks that has sabotaged Mariota's attack this year. Perhaps the best player on Tennessee's offense, left tackle Taylor Lewan, experienced one of the worst afternoons of his career last week, coming off of a four-game suspension. Lewan was expected to be a salve for the team's blocking pains, but the interior keeps getting exposed every week, with free-agent acquisition Rodger Saffold struggling and the right-guard tandem of rookie Nate Davis and career backup Jamil Douglas an unmitigated nightmare.

Only one offense ( Redskins, Week 17) was held under 2.5 yards per play in a game last season. The Jets have already accomplished that ignominious feat twice this year, in back-to-back weeks. While the obvious problem has been Sam Darnold's absence, past-prime veteran acquisitions Kelechi Osemele and Ryan Kalil have faceplanted on their new team. Coach Adam Gase is hoping for better results after turning to former Ravens guard Alex Lewis in place of the injured Osemele and promoting rookie Chuma Edoga to starting right tackle.

How dire are the straits in Miami? Jettisoned by the Colts at final cuts, journeyman J'Marcus Webb was immediately installed as the Dolphins' starting right tackle. When stud left tackle Laremy Tunsil was traded to Houston and replacement Jesse Davis went down with an arm injury, Webb was planted on Josh Rosen's blind side with predictably poor results. If we strain hard enough, we might claim rookie Michael Deiter as the lone bright spot up front. In that case, we'd have to ignore his disastrous pinch-hitting appearance at left tackle versus the Cowboys in Week 3. It's impossible to evaluate Rosen fairly considering he's with this motley crew after spending his rookie season ducking pass rushers behind a line filled with street free agents in Arizona.

Follow Chris Wesseling on Twitter @ChrisWesseling.

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