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NFL Offensive Line Projections for 2021: AFC and NFC South

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Every season, NFL teams are made and broken by the backbone of every team, the offensive line. It’s important to know how changes will affect your team.


In this article, I will be making NFL offensive line projections, cataloging signings and cuts (starters lost to free agency will also be noted), and how these moves affected the line overall. Any teams not listed did not have any Free Agent additions. (Grades thanks to PFF. Grades from 60-65 are average, 65.1-69.9 grades are above average, and anything over 70 is great).

 

AFC

Houston Texans

Cole Toner, T: 295 snaps, 0 penalties, 0 sacks; pass blocking 58.3, run blocking 60.5

Justin Britt, C: 504 snaps, 1 penalty, 2 sacks; pass blocking 45.7, run blocking 66.2 (He was out of the NFL in 2020, these are his 2019 stats.)

Cut: Nick Martin, C; Senio Kelemete, G; Darren Fells TE.

Overall Feeling: Losing Martin and Fells really hurts this line. Fulton was also a big loss for this team, mostly because he allowed a league-leading 11 sacks in 2020. The Texans still have Laremy Tunsil holding down the left tackle, which is an area of the Texans with lots of questions.

The projected starting center hasn’t played football since week 8 of 2019 and is the only returning starter from last year with over 500 snaps. Max Scharping, the left guard, had a slightly disappointing season before being lost to injury.

I plan on keeping an eye on camp reports and will feel a lot better if Britt doesn’t look like he has lost a step. The Texans also acquired Marcus Cannon, from the patriots, who is coming off knee surgery and did not play in 2020.

 

Indianapolis Colts

Eric Fisher, T: 1,049 snaps, 3 penalties, 3 sacks; pass blocking 76.1, run blocking 72.7

Sam Tevi, T: 1,024 snaps, 4 penalties, 2 sacks; pass blocking 59.0, run blocking 41

Anthony Castonzo, T: Retired

Overall Feeling:  Its not often you lose one of the best tackles in the game and get to replace him with a tackle is who arguably equal in talent. That’s what the Colts got in Eric Fisher. Outside of Fisher, this unit is returning all of its starters from last year. Expect great things from this line again.

Update: The injury to Quenton Nelson has really thrown a wrench in this line.  What was projected to be a top-end line is now in total disarray. In addition to Nelson being out for up to 12 weeks, Free Agent signing Eric Fisher is still on the PUP list while coming back from an Achilles tear last year.

Ryan Kelly is also still out with an elbow injury and should return before the season starts. All of this is bad news for this line. I expect that whoever starts the season under center will need to be mobile because this line is going to be bad.

 

Jacksonville Jaguars

Overall Feeling:  This unit is returning exactly the same as last year, and last year was not good.  The Jaguars slapped a franchise tag on Cam Robinson and, hopefully, he will finally step up and be the player he was drafted to be, including a reduction in penalties and sacks allowed. If Robinson can be that, and Jawaan Taylor can just be average, this line will take a massive step forward.

The Jags have two great tackles that prevent this line from being one of the worst in the league — Andrew Norwell and A.J. Cann. They also signed TE Chris Manhertz who should help this team with run blocking and is a better run blocker than Trey Burton and James O’Shaughnessy. The line should benefit from his presence.

 

NFC

Atlanta Falcons

Cut: James Carpenter, G.

Overall Feeling: This lost one of the best centers in football — Alex Mack. Mack departed for San Fransico via free agency. Those are very large shoes to fill and there is no one in Atlanta currently who is capable of being what Mack was. The Falcons brought in a lot of new pieces to fill the line — they currently have 16 rostered offensive linemen.

You should expect that number to be reduced to 9, maybe 10, depending on how training camp plays out. The only thing we know for sure is that the right side is set with Chris Lindstrom and Kaleb McGary. Matt Hennessy will probably win the center position, but that is not for sure. The Falcons are blessed to have one of the best offensive line coaches in the league — Dwayne Ledford.

 

Carolina Panthers

Taylor Moton, OT: 1,032 snaps, 2 penalties, 3 sacks; pass blocking 77.9, run blocking 76.3

Cameron Erving, OT: 279 snaps, 1 penalty, 1 sack; bass blocking 69.2, run blocking 48.0

Pat Elflein, G: 419 snaps, 1 penalty, 2 sacks; pass blocking 30.5, run blocking 56.1

Dan Arnold, TE: pass blocking 72.6, run blocking 58.8

Overall Feeling:  With Cam Erving and Pat Elflein as the projected starters, I’m concerned. This is Cam’s fifth team in seven seasons and he is coming off his best season. Young Dennis Daley, who is coming off his worst pass-blocking season, will likely benefit from playing behind him and could see good growth moving forward. The play of this line will depend heavily on what we see from Erving and Elflein.

 

New Orleans Saints

Overall Feeling:  The Saints made no changes to their line this off-season. They really didn’t need to, as they already have one of the better offensive lines in the league. The Saints have probably the best tackle in the league in Terron Armstead and Ryan Ramczyk.  Erik Mccoy was more than capable in his second season.

Ceaser Ruiz Struggled a bit in his first NFL season but should take a step forward this year after a full off-season. The only concern here is left guard Andrus Peat, who is the weak spot on this line, going into his seventh season. The only hope is that a change in QB helps him. All in all, expect more of the same from this really good line.

 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Rookie: Robert Hainsey

Overall Feeling:  The Bucs had one of the best lines in the NFL last year, and there is no reason to think it won’t be at the top again. They did not lose any players from that dominant Super Bowl-winning team. Every player ranked in the top 35 at their position last year, and they had two players in the top 10.

The Buccaneers’ OL should give Tom Brady plenty of time to make the throws we love to watch him make. They invested a third-round pick in guard Robert Hainsey, to shore up depth issues the team had last year.

 

Those are my offensive line projections for the AFC/NFC South. Check back tomorrow for my AFC/NFC East projections!

You can find my  AFC/NFC North offensive line projections here, and my AFC/NFC West offensive line projections here.


Thank you for investing some time in my articles. If you’d like to read more, you can visit my IDP Guys author page or follow me on Twitter at @FF_Skinnychef. If there is something you would like to see written, DM me. May the waivers be forever in your favor.

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