NFL fans often overlook the offensive line. Quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers get most of the attention and, when the O-line is considered, it's usually the tackles that are discussed. But the interior linemen are just as vital to the success of a team. Not only do these players create holes up the middle for backs to run through, but they play a vital role in buying the quarterback time to read the field. In the 26th installment of the Draft Dose series, PFW takes a look at six teams that could consider drafting an interior lineman (listed in first-round draft order):
Arizona got another surprisingly productive season from OLG Alan Faneca, who started all 16 games for the ninth consecutive season. Although the veteran continues to hold up well, the feeling is that he can't have too much left in the tank and bringing in an eventual replacement couldn't hurt. ORG Deuce Lutui had a strong season as well, but has struggled with conditioning and will become a free agent when a new labor agreement is reached. Lutui likely will test the free-agent waters and is not expected to offer the Cardinals a hometown discount.
The Rams' offensive line appears solid with OTs Rodger Saffold and Jason Smith looking like mainstays, and C Jason Brown figures to be part of the long-term mix. However, the addition of an elite guard could help propel St. Louis' offense to the next level. Both Adam Goldberg and Jacob Bell are finess players who were overpowered at times last season. Goldberg is set to become a free agent and might not return, and Bell — who has been the more consistent of the two — could be replaced. The Rams are unlikely to take a guard with the 14th pick but could add one in the later rounds. OG John Greco is an in-house option if no one is added.
The Dolphins have become known for their ability to run the ball effectively the past few seasons, but things changed in '10. Miami dropped to 21st in rushing, with just 3.7 yards per carry, and that wasn't the fault of OTs Jake Long and Vernon Carey. ORG John Jerry didn't live up to expectations his rookie season and OLG Richie Incognito could be moving to the center position in '11. The Dolphins could grab an interior lineman with the No. 15 pick, and PFW draft analyst Nolan Nawrocki has them doing exactly that in his latest mock draft, taking Mike Pouncey. However, Pouncey might be the only interior lineman worthy of a selection that high.
Both C Shaun O'Hara (foot) and OLG Rich Seubert (knee) will be coming off surgery to begin the 2011 campaign and it remains to be seen how effective they will be. The pair of blue-collar linemen have a combined 21 seasons in the league and, although Seubert had one of the best seasons of his career filling in for O'Hara last season, both are likely nearing the end of their careers. Look for the Giants to take an interior lineman somewhere in the middle rounds of the draft.
Considering Eagles head coach Andy Reid's preference to add bodies on the offensive line, it seems likely that Philadelphia will look to upgrade with an interior O-lineman through the draft. Mike McGlynn replaced Jamaal Jackson (torn triceps) at center early last season, but neither player was overly impressive on the field. Same story goes for OGs Todd Herremans and Max Jean-Gilles, who both struggled at times in '10. With the addition of highly respected offensive line coach Howard Mudd, the Eagles could add a guard or center in Rounds 2-5.
The defending AFC champs could make a change at both guard spots. OLG Chris Kemoeatu, who signed a five-year contract extension in '09, has been inconsistent at times, although he does show flashes. ORG Trai Essex lost his starting job midway through the '10 season and Ramon Foster wasn't overly impressive after taking over the spot. The Steelers were willing to take an interior lineman in the first round last season (Maurkice Pouncey) and could do so again if the right player falls to them.