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2005 player ratings: Offensive linemen

this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; 2005 player ratings: Offensive linemen By Howard Balzer, Sports Weekly and Derek Harper There's pressure coming from every conceivable angle and alignment — the 4-3, 3-4, even the "46." Offensive line has become a firing line for the NFL's centers, ...

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Old 07-17-2005, 09:39 AM   #1
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2005 player ratings: Offensive linemen

2005 player ratings: Offensive linemen
By Howard Balzer, Sports Weekly and Derek Harper
There's pressure coming from every conceivable angle and alignment — the 4-3, 3-4, even the "46." Offensive line has become a firing line for the NFL's centers, guards and tackles, the fourth part of our 2005 NFL player ratings series, developed by The Sports Xchange for Sports Weekly. The Sports Xchange sorted players into six categories: Elite, A Notch Below, Rock Solid, On the Rise, On the Rebound and Setting Sun.

Seattle's Walter Jones doesn't get the publicity that Orlando Pace or Jonathan Ogden do, but he rates as Sports Weekly's top NFL offensive lineman.
By Ted S. Warren, AP

TACKLES

Elite

The standard for left tackles hasn't changed much the last several years. Perhaps as a matter of taste the order has been different, but Seattle's Walter Jones, Baltimore's Jonathan Ogden and St. Louis' Orlando Pace consistently have been the NFL's best.

Jones and Pace will be on unfamiliar ground when they report for training camp. Jones missed the Seahawks' last three camps and Pace the Rams' last two before signing one-year tenders as franchise players. However, after being designated franchise players again, each signed long-term contracts in March and could be even better. That's a scary thought for defensive ends they oppose.

Ogden continues to anchor the Ravens' line, and he could improve after missing four games last season because of injury.

A notch below

The Colts' line deserves mention, which it rarely gets, despite the exploits of the offense led by quarterback Peyton Manning. Left tackle Tarik Glenn quietly goes about his business of protecting Manning.

Marvel Smith of the Steelers has zoomed up this list and should stay around for a long time. Pittsburgh's offense is built around the run and doesn't place the tackles at risk too often in the passing game, but the 27-year-old Smith has developed into a capable all-around blocker.

For the Cowboys to improve, the offensive line will have to be better. They have few worries at left tackle, a position held by Flozell Adams. At 6-7 and 345 pounds, Adams also has the feet to handle even the quickest pass rushers.

Now that the Bengals are becoming a playoff contender, right tackle Willie Anderson is getting his due at age 30. Most of the top tackles on this list play on the left side, which makes Anderson's rating here all the more impressive.

Rock solid

Washington's Chris Samuels has the ability to ascend to a higher group, but the Redskins' offense, along with a lack of quality around him, hasn't allowed that to happen. Still, there is time for Samuels, 28, to become an elite player.

John Tait hopes he can stay in one spot for a while. At Kansas City, he played both right and left tackle, then was on the right side last season after signing with the Bears. However, he will be back on the left side this season after Chicago signed Fred Miller. If Tait can remain in one place, he could eventually rise.

Philadelphia's Tra Thomas has had some injury issues, and this offseason has been affected by a blood clot in his leg. Jason Fabini of the Jets is a tough run blocker who helps make Curtis Martin continue to be one of the top runners.

When the Raiders selected Robert Gallery in the first round of the 2004 draft, it was believed he would quickly move ahead of left tackle Barry Sims. It didn't happen. It seems the Raiders try to replace Sims every year, and every year he holds his own.

Chad Clifton of the Packers might not attain elite status, but he can be relied on to protect Brett Favre every week. Steady also describes New England left tackle Matt Light and Philadelphia right tackle Jon Runyan, who has started 144 consecutive games.

On the rise

This group is headed by Minnesota's Bryant Mckinnie, whose size (6-8, 343) makes him an anchor the Vikings can build their offense around. Arizona's Leonard Davis began his career as a guard but wound up last season at left tackle, where he's likely to stay.

Carolina's Jordan Gross is back at right tackle, where he excelled as a rookie in 2003. He played on the left side last season, and he could still be there if the Panthers' plan at left tackle doesn't pan out. Kareem Mckenzie has moved from the Jets to the Giants. He is strong on the right side and should help solidify the Giants' line. San Diego's Shane Olivea came out of nowhere last season as a seventh-round pick and helped make the team's line better than expected.

Cincinnati's Levi Jones continues to improve, and his presence with Anderson provides the Bengals with excellent tackle play. Buffalo's Mike Williams (6-6, 360) could become an elite tackle.

On the rebound

The Redskins are counting on right tackle Jon Jansen returning from an Achilles' tendon injury that cost him the entire 2004 season. If Jansen can return to his top level of production, he can combine with Samuels to give the Redskins outstanding production on the edge.

Setting sun

Some believed Chiefs tackle Willie Roaf was done in New Orleans. But he has been rejuvenated in Kansas City, and while he might not have many years left he still performs at a high level. In Tennessee, some wonder if left tackle Brad Hopkins' 13th season will be his last, but he still is leader of the Titans' line.

GUARDS

Elite

With more stability around him, Pittsburgh's Alan Faneca returned to left guard last season and anchored a line that paved the way for the AFC's top rushing attack.

After appearing to be working on his ticket out of Dallas, Larry Allen was revitalized last season and vaulted back into elite status. Already being paid tackle money, there's a chance the Cowboys could try him on the right side in training camp.

Kansas City's Will Shields remains one of the best as he enters his 13th, and possibly final, season. Seattle's Steve Hutchinson, only 27, is already a perennial Pro Bowl-caliber player.

A notch below

Marco Rivera is coming off three consecutive Pro Bowl appearances and received a five-year, $19 million contract from the Cowboys. He remains strong and is a quality run blocker, but he is 33 and has a history of injuries that includes back surgery after rupturing a disk while running on a treadmill in March.

Kansas City's Brian Waters is a rising star on one of the league's top offensive lines, and he is constantly on the attack. Washington's Randy Thomas remains one of the game's better run blockers but struggled at times in pass coverage last season.

Detroit's Damien Woody was a key free agent addition last season in the Lions' improved running game. He should stay at this level as long as he can control his weight. Baltimore's Edwin Mulitalo is an underrated part of a devastating left side playing next to Ogden.

Rock solid

Green Bay's loss is Carolina's gain, with Mike Wahle signing with the Panthers in the offseason. He's strong, smart and looks to finish, but the Packers couldn't afford him.

Tennessee's Benji Olson remains one of the most solid, underrated blockers in the game. Pete Kendall solidified the left side of the Jets' line when he was signed midway during training camp last year.

Jermaine Mayberry received a four-year deal from New Orleans because of his versatility and postseason experience, but he is 32 and has been prone to injury the past two seasons.

Chris Naeole is a key cog in Jacksonville's strong running game, while Cleveland signed Joe Andruzzi in an attempt to upgrade its offensive line. Andruzzi is 30 and has never been a star, but he brings a level of toughness to an offense in need of a more consistent running game.

Detroit signed Rick Demulling from Indianapolis, where he was an underrated member of a strong line. DeMulling is expected to line up on the left side, but he can also slide to center if needed.

Chris Villarrial started all 16 games in his first season in Buffalo, and the Bills are counting on him to be rock solid with other changes along their line.

On the rebound

Pittsburgh's Kendall Simmons missed last season after tearing his ACL on Aug. 18. That followed a 2003 season in which he struggled after learning he had diabetes and dropped 35 pounds. But his knee is expected to be healthy, and he has the diabetes under control.

Big things were expected of Jeno James when he signed a six-year, $21.1 million contract with Miami last offseason. But there was little talent around him, and James missed two games with a knee injury. He had offseason knee surgery, and the Dolphins upgraded the personnel around him.

On the rise

Atlanta's Kynan Forney moves well for someone 6-3 and more than 300 pounds, which is why he was a fit for a coaching staff that prefers smaller linemen. He was rewarded with a four-year extension as the Falcons attempt to build around young players.

New Orleans' Montrae Holland parlayed a strong 2004 training camp into a starting job on the right side. The Saints' running game took a step back last season, and Holland missed three games with a torn tendon in his right foot, but he is only 25 and improving.
Cincinnati's Eric Steinbach remains in this category despite a so-so second season. He is the Bengals' best athlete on the line and can play tackle if needed, but at 297 pounds he can be overpowered by the league's better defensive tackles.

Toniu Fonoti is an up-and-coming run blocker, but he has struggled with his weight and confounded San Diego officials with unexplained absences from the offseason program.

Setting sun

St. Louis' Adam Timmerman played every snap last year despite two injured shoulders and a stress fracture in his foot late in the season. After offseason foot and shoulder surgery, he should enter camp feeling better, but he is 34 and admitted he could have had knee surgery as well.

Ruben Brown was solid on the left side of Chicago's line until a neck injury ended his season after nine games. He expects to be ready by the start of training camp and will have better talent around him with John Tait shifting to left tackle, but a neck injury is a concern for the 33-year-old.

CENTERS

Elite

Kevin Mawae might be 34, but he still has one of the meanest streaks in the NFL and is the pacesetter for a Jets rushing attack that was third in the league last season. Chicago's Olin Kreutz said he wasn't pleased with how he played last season, but he managed to make his fourth consecutive Pro Bowl and is only 28.

LeCharles Bentley made a smooth transition from guard to center for the Saints and was a Pro Bowl alternate.
A notch below

Kansas City's Casey Wiegmann is a quiet force in the middle, but he is overshadowed by the Pro Bowlers and future Hall of Famers around him. The Colts' Jeff Saturday missed two games last season, his first in five years, but at 30 he remains a reliable member of a strong line. Coming off his first Pro Bowl, Pittsburgh's Jeff Hartings is 33 with chronic bad knees and could be playing his final season.

Rock solid

Houston's Steve Mckinney has started 108 of a possible 112 regular-season games in his first seven seasons, and he could be a candidate to slide to guard in training camp as the Texans look to put their five best linemen on the field. Jacksonville's Jeff Mitchell remains a steady, veteran presence entering his 10th season.

Philadelphia's Hank Fraley handles the line calls, but at 6-2 and 300 pounds, he can be overpowered by bigger interior players. Like Fraley, Detroit's Dominic Raiola can be overmatched at the point of attack, but he is effective when pulling and on the move.

On the rebound

Minnesota's Matt Birk has had four surgeries in 10 months and struggled through 11 starts last season. Birk could miss most or all of training camp, but the Vikings desperately need him back in the middle to anchor their running game.

Green Bay is relying on the return of Mike Flanagan, a mobile blocker who is key to the running game. However, he missed all but three games with a knee injury last season and might feel vulnerable with the departures of Wahle and Rivera.

On the rise

New England's Dan Koppen has started 31 of 32 regular-season games and performed well in replacing Woody last year. He doesn't make many mental mistakes and has the athleticism to get to where he needs to be. Arizona's Alex Stepanovich, Oakland's Jake Grove and San Diego's Nick Hardwick are young starters to watch.

Setting sun

Tom Nalen has been the prototypical undersized Denver lineman who has made a career of being tough and strong. But avoiding being overpowered by bigger defensive tackles will be increasingly difficult for him at the age of 34.

The 49ers desperately need Jeremy Newberry in the middle of their line, but he has little cartilage left in his right knee and could need season-ending surgery after recovering from offseason arthroscopic surgery.

Tackles
Rk. Name Team Ht. Wt. Age Pass blk. Run blk. Str. Aware Agil. Accel. Tough. Imp. Ovr.
1 Walter Jones Seahawks 6-5 308 31 96 99 95 94 77 77 94 99 93.50
2 Jonathan Ogden Ravens 6-9 345 31 96 99 96 98 68 78 95 99 93.10
3 Orlando Pace Rams 6-7 325 29 97 97 94 97 74 75 94 99 92.95
4 Tarik Glen Colts 6-5 332 29 94 95 95 94 67 74 95 97 91.30
5 Willie Roaf Chiefs 6-5 320 35 95 94 96 99 62 67 99 96 90.70
6 Marvel Smith Steelers 6-5 310 27 93 96 93 90 66 74 93 96 89.30
7 Flozell Adams Cowboys 6-7 345 30 90 93 95 98 61 69 97 96 88.90
8 Willie Anderson Bengals 6-5 340 30 89 93 95 94 65 73 94 94 88.50
9 Chris Samuels Redskins 6-5 310 28 88 91 95 88 72 76 93 91 88.00
10 John Tait Bears 6-6 315 30 92 88 93 90 70 74 93 90 87.40
11 Bryant McKinnie Vikings 6-8 343 25 91 89 96 85 68 73 91 95 87.00
12 Brad Hopkins Titans 6-3 295 35 85 88 93 99 65 67 96 93 86.60
13 Tra Thomas Eagles 6-7 349 30 88 92 95 89 68 75 90 88 86.40
14 Leonard Davis Cardinals 6-6 381 27 90 91 98 84 66 73 89 92 86.00
15 Jason Fabini Jets 6-7 304 31 91 95 92 94 60 67 93 89 86.00
16 Jordan Gross Panthers 6-4 300 25 88 91 93 83 71 76 91 87 85.80
17 Jon Jansen Redskins 6-6 306 29 83 90 95 95 67 69 98 82 85.80
18 Barry Sims Raiders 6-5 300 30 93 84 91 89 69 70 91 85 84.40
19 Chad Clifton Packers 6-5 330 29 92 86 91 89 69 70 91 83 84.20
20 Kareem McKenzie Giants 6-6 327 26 86 93 92 85 68 69 90 86 83.80
21 Jon Runyan Eagles 6-7 330 31 83 93 96 95 61 62 96 80 83.20
22 Matt Light Patriots 6-4 305 27 83 89 88 88 65 72 90 89 82.80
23 Mike Williams Bills 6-6 360 25 81 90 96 82 65 74 91 84 82.60
24 Shane Olivea Chargers 6-3 302 23 92 90 88 80 66 71 92 83 82.40
25 Levi Jones Bengals 6-5 310 26 85 87 93 83 68 73 91 81 82.20

Guards
Rk. Name Team Ht. Wt. Age Pass blk. Run blk. Str. Aware Agil. Accel. Tough. Imp. Ovr.
1 Alan Faneca Steelers 6-5 307 28 89 97 96 96 69 77 98 98 91.00
2 Larry Allen Cowboys 6-3 335 33 90 96 97 99 63 74 93 98 90.30
3 Will Shields Chiefs 6-3 320 33 88 95 89 99 71 75 96 96 90.10
4 Steve Hutchins Seahawks 6-5 313 27 85 96 95 89 73 78 95 95 89.35
5 Marco Rivera Cowboys 6-4 307 33 88 92 96 94 66 72 99 93 88.40
6 Brian Waters Chiefs 6-3 318 28 87 96 92 90 73 78 92 87 87.80
7 Randy Thomas Redskins 6-5 306 29 84 89 92 92 75 77 96 89 87.75
8 Damien Woody Lions 6-3 325 27 86 90 94 91 68 74 97 92 87.20
9 Edwin Mulitalo Ravens 6-3 345 31 87 92 96 90 66 72 97 90 86.80
10 Mike Wahle Panthers 6-6 304 28 84 91 94 94 68 75 95 86 86.20
11 Benji Olson Titans 6-4 320 30 84 90 95 93 68 70 94 89 85.60
12 Pete Kendall Jets 6-5 292 32 86 91 92 97 63 65 98 87 84.80
13 Jermane Mayberry Saints 6-4 325 32 93 90 93 92 64 66 95 85 84.70
14 Kynan Forney Falcons 6-2 305 27 83 89 93 85 68 72 95 90 84.00
15 Kendall Simmons Steelers 6-3 319 26 85 89 94 86 68 70 91 88 83.20
16 Adam Timmerman Rams 6-4 310 34 84 88 90 97 64 68 93 86 83.15
17 Chris Naeole Jaguars 6-3 320 30 83 89 91 93 66 72 91 83 82.80
18 Eric Steinbach Bengals 6-6 297 25 83 88 92 82 72 74 91 83 82.10
19 Joe Andruzzi Browns 6-3 312 30 84 88 93 87 65 73 91 82 81.80
20 Montrae Holland Saints 6-2 322 25 84 87 93 84 66 74 90 84 81.60
21 Rick DeMulling Lions 6-4 304 28 85 87 90 88 69 70 88 83 81.20
22 Ruben Brown Bears 6-3 300 33 85 85 93 89 65 67 93 81 80.80
23 Toniu Fonoti Chargers 6-4 349 23 89 95 94 83 61 61 92 80 80.20
24 Jeno James Dolphins 6-3 310 28 82 84 96 84 63 69 89 84 79.70
25 Chris Villarrial Bills 6-3 310 32 80 87 93 90 62 66 91 81 79.60

Centers
Rk. Name Team Ht. Wt. Age Pass blk. Run blk. Str. Aware Agil. Accel. Tough. Imp. Ovr.
1 Kevin Mawae Jets 6-4 289 34 87 98 94 99 59 62 98 99 90.20
2 Olin Kreutz Bears 6-2 292 28 88 97 91 90 65 65 98 98 89.80
3 LeCharles Bentley Saints 6-2 313 25 94 94 91 84 65 68 93 96 88.90
4 Matt Birk Vikings 6-4 308 29 92 95 89 96 58 62 94 91 87.80
5 Casey Wiegmann Chiefs 6-2 285 32 89 90 88 93 63 66 90 90 87.60
6 Jeff Saturday Colts 6-2 291 30 90 88 88 90 59 65 90 95 86.90
7 Jeff Hartings Steelers 6-3 299 33 87 92 91 95 54 56 93 88 85.20
8 Steve McKinney Texans 6-4 302 29 83 89 89 87 61 65 89 87 84.30
9 Tom Nalen Broncos 6-3 286 34 87 84 85 97 58 58 95 85 84.20
10 Mike Flanagan Packers 6-5 297 31 86 87 88 93 57 67 90 79 83.80
11 Jeff Mitchell Panthers 6-4 300 31 84 85 90 86 58 60 93 89 83.40
12 Hank Fraley Eagles 6-2 300 27 90 86 89 85 58 63 86 85 82.90
13 Dominic Raiola Lions 6-1 295 26 87 85 89 86 59 65 85 84 82.30
14 Jeremy Newberry 49ers 6-5 304 29 80 89 90 87 52 61 96 82 81.60
15 Dan Koppen Patriots 6-2 296 25 88 86 88 83 55 63 87 83 80.70

About these ratings
Methodology
The Sports Xchange, which pioneered NFL player evaluations used in top-selling video games, produced these ratings for Sports Weekly. They are based on a 100-point scale, incorporating more than 40 categories. Each week, categories are sequenced in order of importance for that position and only the categories most appropriate to each position are listed.
In addition to the listed categories, several other categories are considered, such as "injury avoidance." Categories (such as strength, speed, agility) are weighted differently at each position so the impact of the grade is appropriate to the position. These weighted grades are part of an underlying formula that determines the overall grade.

Listed ages are as of Sept. 8, date of this season's first game. The Sports Xchange's player ratings team includes Frank Cooney, Derek Harper, Howard Balzer and Brian Hitterman.

Category legend
Strength: Success while engaged with another player during blocking, running or tackling.

Awareness: Overall ability to recognize what is going on around him and react.

Agility: Combination of quickness and ability to change directions without losing speed.

Acceleration: How long he needs to reach top speed.

Pass blocking: Ability to block defenders during a pass play.

Run blocking: Ability to block defenders during a running play, both in-line and on the move in open space.

Toughness: A player's ability to come back from injury, plus overall physicality.

Importance: Overall importance to his team. Factors include the position itself and the player's impact or role within the team's system.


http://www.usatoday.com/sports/footb...ne_x.htm#chart
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