The Offensive State of the Offensive Line in Today’s NFL

The NFL is increasingly becoming a passing league; this is not news. More and more the quarterback is the team’s undisputed MVP; as that position goes, so goes the fortunes of the entire team. Anyone who disputes this need to simply see Manning, Peyton (and the 2011 Indianapolis Colts).

What many of these teams are failing to consider is the development of a cohesive offensive line unit. Not only do you need five solid starters at the position, but you need five solid starters whose talents dove-tail and form a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts (and this doesn’t even consider the inevitable use of the backups on the bench). Meaning: if you have a couple of huge, 6-5, 350 lb road grading linemen, you can’t pair them with three undersized but more athletic linemen. Their talents simply won’t work well together, and opposing defensive coordinators will simply pick apart at the weaknesses.

Anymore, it seems that coaches and scouts fall in love with so and so at quarterback, a running back who ran off thousands of yards in college and receivers who make acrobatic catches. But in this era of free agency and lack of continuity teams prefer to spend their money on individual players rather than keeping units together.

But the alarming lack of understanding is this: the best cornerback in the league can only cover any given receiver for about four seconds. Therefore: keep your quarterback on his feet for five seconds, and your pass is likely to be completed. However, if your quarterback only has two seconds to make his reads before he’s flushed from the pocket, your chances decrease dramatically.

Some quarterbacks, like Philadelphia’s Mike Vick, can scramble and buy another second or two to throw, and some think this is an easier way to avoid offensive line problems. But the problem is if your quarterback is flushed to one side, it’s virtually impossible to throw to the opposite side of the field, so the space available for receivers is cut in half. Moreover, with the quarterback in motion, it also throws off the timing of the routes and breaks of the receivers in their routes, and also reduces the scrambling quarterback’s concentration.

Want to know why Mike Vick threw four interceptions this week? Philly’s offensive line is one of the worst in the NFL in pass protection. Remember how Mike Vick was complaining about being on his back every play a couple of weeks ago? Had nothing to do with potential penalties…had everything to do with a need for better blocking.

Though every rule has exceptions, teams looking to build for the future would be wise to invest in building the line first, then worrying about the skill players around it. Trouble is, in this day of the 24 hour news cycle and complete impatience, can anyone keep their job long enough to reap the rewards?