The O-Line Calamity Index: Who's in trouble up front?

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The Offensive Line Calamity Index highlights NFL teams with the most riding on offensive lines that could be their undoing. In basic terms: otherwise good teams that could be broken by O-line play.

No team can match the Seahawks in that regard, but they have company. Several teams with legitimate or at least semi-legitimate postseason aspirations can point to their offensive lines as the one thing that might ruin everything.

We start with an in-depth look at Seattle through the trained eyes of a veteran line coach who, perhaps surprisingly, sounds optimistic.


1. Seattle Seahawks

This is basically a championship team ... if the line is even average. The starting five is a younger group with new faces in new places, so any realistic assessment says this line needs weeks -- not days -- to hit stride. But who has weeks when the offense can't crack double digits on the scoreboard during a 17-9 loss at Green Bay?

"Their entire team rides or dies with that line, in terms of how far they go," an evaluator from another team said.

That was already a somewhat scary proposition before left tackle George Fant suffered a season-ending injury during preseason. Fant himself was a project, but his improvement and athleticism were promising, at least.

The Packers pressured Russell Wilson 14 times on 32 pass plays. The 44 percent pressure rate exceeded Wilson's league-high 36.5 percent rate from 2016, when he limped through portions of the season with ankle and knee injuries.

Poor pass protection is a bigger problem on the road than at home, which at least partly explains why Seattle finished 2016 with a losing record away from CenturyLink Field -- a first since Wilson was a rookie in 2012. If Seattle's loss to the Packers winds up costing them home-field advantage in the playoffs, they'll have even more riding on their line's improvement.

Howard Mudd, the all-decade lineman from the 1960s who coached the position in the NFL from 1974 until 2012 and has studied Seattle's line (among others) in his current role as a network TV consultant, said he liked this line's potential to grow -- over the course of the season, not overnight. He thinks right tackle Germain Ifedi has the talent to elevate into the top 20 percent among the NFL's 64 starting tackles once he gains experience. He thinks center Justin Britt is already among the top six or seven centers, and he thinks Rees Odhiambo, the emergency starter at left tackle, is already better than Fant was last season.

"Get them at home for a couple games where they can get some continuity and it will help," Mudd said. "You go on the road, you're using a silent count, you haven't been together but a couple weeks, it's tough."

On the other hand, the Week 1 results were worse than coach Pete Carroll said he anticipated, continuing a trend from 2016.

"They lost the one guy they really liked in Fant," an evaluator said. "So you are playing a left tackle who never started at left tackle. Green Bay has a good defensive line, but this started last year. Even when they had the guys they thought they liked, they were not playing well up front. Thank God for the quarterback being able to make plays with his feet, but that is only going to last so long."


2. New York Giants

The Giants had line concerns and no ground game when they made the playoffs last season. Why can't they do it again -- or even win the NFC East? They must be hoping Odell Beckham Jr.'s return from injury will make their offense viable following a brutal 19-3 loss at Dallas in the opener. But if the offense looks similar at home against Detroit on Monday night, the Giants will hold their elevated spot on the Calamity Index.

"Everyone said they are going to win the division, but I was like, 'How?'" a general manager said. "They have no offensive line. [Ereck] Flowers at left tackle is rough, and it's not his fault. He is a right tackle, a power guy only. That is not going to change. It will get worse from the standpoint of confidence because he is young and the media is after him there in New York."

The Giants' performance Sunday marked their seventh consecutive game without reaching 20 points. That includes their 38-13 playoff loss at Green Bay last season.

"I always felt offenses should click by about Week 4 or Week 5," an evaluator said, "so if [the Giants] still look like this at that point, not good."


3. Houston Texans

Opinions are mixed over whether the Texans are good enough overall to appear on this list, but they did win the AFC South last season, and they do have talent on defense. But with left tackle Duane Brown holding out, Houston gave up 10 sacks to Jacksonville in the opener. Ten!

The 2016 Texans gave up their 10th sack during their fifth game of the season. Former Texans starter David Carr took nine sacks in his second career game back in 2002. He never took 10. The mere fact that we're mentioning David Carr in relation to the 2017 Texans cannot be good.

"You give up 10, there is no way in the world you can fix that," a former GM said. "This is a disaster waiting to happen. They have talent on the roster and could be a solid team, but if you can't pass protect, what happens is, you try to run and they put 8-9 guys in the box like the Rams did the other day against Indy."

4. Cincinnati Bengals

The offensive line wasn't the only problem for Cincinnati on a day when quarterback Andy Dalton tossed four interceptions during a 20-0 home loss to Baltimore. Dalton's inability to function under pressure is well-established, however. That makes the Bengals' line problems a bigger deal than they would be if he were Ben Roethlisberger standing in the pocket like he's the baddest man in the bar.

"Losing Andrew Whitworth hurts them from a leadership and toughness standpoint," an evaluator said. "It's like when Seattle lost Steve Hutchinson and people said, 'Who cares? He's only a guard.' It affects the whole line. That is what Whitworth was with Cincinnati, the alpha male. He was functional as a left tackle -- not great -- but the leadership and the confidence the line had in him going into the game was big."


5. Minnesota Vikings

Quarterback Sam Bradford couldn't thank his offensive line enough for helping him shred the New Orleans defense on Monday night. Bradford beamed and gushed as though the Vikings still had Gary Zimmerman and Randall McDaniel locking down the left side. They actually have Riley Reiff and Nick Easton, with Mike Remmers at right tackle. And they beat the Saints, whose defense is hoping to be better than the historically bad units New Orleans fielded in recent seasons.

"The thing about Minnesota is, they've got size and tough guys on their line," an evaluator said. "It doesn't have to be perfect, but all five have to play together. Teams win Super Bowls without the best five guys. It just remains to be seen whether this group will be good enough against a real defense."


Two other lines to watch

Denver Broncos: An evaluator called their line functional, which would be better than it was last season. There's still some question whether the quarterback situation is good enough for Denver to contend.

Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins have the receivers to play the aggressive style Adam Gase prefers, but can Mike Pouncey and Miami's guards stay healthy enough to let Jay Cutler fire away with confidence?


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