In these reviews I will be going over how each position group did individually, then compare them against the rest of the NFC North teams to see how the upcoming season might go for the group. This time I’ll be covering the offensive line groups in the NFC North.
Out of every team in the NFC North, the bears gave up the least pressures (152), that alone means they had a decent season when comparing them to the other groups. As a unit they were also the most durable, only having 13 different combinations used throughout the year. For offensive line, this is huge as the cohesion as a unit is what makes them perform better. However when it came to running the ball it may look like the Bears would be great in this category as they have Jordan Howard who performed well. They simply weren’t fantastic as a line when it came to run blocking. They actually ranked 28th in the league when it comes to the running back getting stuffed and 11th when the back gets to the second level. That shows that the running backs for the Bears did a lot of the heaving lifting themselves. Taking James Daniels in the second will be a good choice in Bears fans eyes as their lineman tend to move around the line quite a lot and having good starting depth at multiple positions will benefit them.
It’s quite well known that the Lions offensive line didn’t have the best year last year. Getting in the flop that was Greg Robinson was just another nail in the coffin for a season that is probably one to forget. TJ Lang did make the pro bowl somehow but that was mainly by name than performance as he had a down year compared to his Green Bay days. Taylor Decker was injured for the first eight games of the season and the injury seemed to still be holding him back in the games he did play. As a unit, they gave up the most pressures (199) in the North and the most sacks as well. Bob Quinn is adamant on fixing the offensive line and has thrown more capital toward it in drafting Ragnow in the first and Tyrell Crosby in the 5th (who is a steal!), as well as getting in a new coach for the position. This gives them NFL starting caliber players at every position on the line which is something the Lions have lacked for a long time.
I have a real love/hate relationship with the packers offensive line. The reason for this is for years I have respected them for their high level of play but also hated how they do it. A great breakdown of their style of play can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VKzcfrriEME I highly recommend you give it a watch. They were quite a sturdy unit with only 14 different variations used throughout the season. They had one of the lowest (2nd) rankings when it comes to the running backs getting stuffed in the backfield which in my eyes is the most important stat a line can have. Their pass blocking wasn’t as effective as previous years but a fair amount of that can be put down to them not having Rodgers in the backfield escaping sacks on plays where Hundley simply wasn’t up to NFL standard.
The Vikings had a sneaky good year. They used a lot of rotation on their line (26 combinations used), the most in the division. But their style of play allowed that with the power run being their go to, which focuses more on the players physical traits than mental knowledge of the play. This worked for them as they were a top 10 ranked team with power runs. They also surrendered only 2 more pressures than the Bears so weren’t far off the crown for the North either. Riley Reiff has a good year and his move to the Vikings was something that has definitely paid off for him. Drafting a tackle in the second and a guard in the sixth round proves they are going to keep with their philosophy of keeping players fresh for plays and that versatility is key.
4th – Lions
The stand out choice here was the Lions coming last. If your run game is the worst in the NFL, some of the blame has to fall on the line. As well as Stafford being one of the highest sacked QBs in the game last year. Hopefully next season can be an improvement for them and adding some pieces and getting a new coach in for the group should make a big difference. We shouldn’t see Abdullah running for the edge every play and knowing as soon as the play happens that it’s not going to end well!
3rd – Bears
Their offensive line is good and bolstering it a bit more with a second round pick is definitely a move in the right direction. However I believe having a runner as good as Howard has given them a stat pad compared to other teams who have made a mediocre back look good.
2nd – Packers
Their coaching style is a huge part to their positioning here. They are one of the best coached lines in the league. Statistically it looked like they had a down year but when running the ball they ranked fifth overall in the NFL. The main issue was Hundley, who simply wasn’t the same caliber of player they were used to having, which in turn affected their play. Bryan Bulaga’s injury could hamper him in the next season but as a unit on a whole they will be in for another decent year due to the technique they are taught.
1st – Vikings
The different combinations and the fact they rank highly is more categories puts the Vikings in first. They made Latavius Murray look like a great NFL back and came in firth when ranking them as a passing unit among every NFL team. Getting two additional pieces will only strengthen them further for next season.