Maybe you’ve noticed it, maybe you haven’t, but offensive line play in the NFL might be at an all-time low.
Why is that, you ask? Well, that’s what Pete Prisco wanted to find out.
“There’s a couple reasons why,” the CBS Sports NFL analyst said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “I talked to LeCharles Bentley, who has the O-Line (Performance facility) out in Arizona, and I talked to Tony Boselli, who I do a radio show with here in Jacksonville. Both guys know a lot about offensive line play, and the one (thing) that stood out to both of them was (offensive linemen are) not prepared when they come out of college anymore. College football has become pass-happy. You don’t put your hand in the ground, you don’t drive anybody, and a lot of the techniques are not taught the right way. And then when you get to the NFL, they ask the line coaches to go fix them, and the problem with that is they don’t have the time anymore to be able to fix them.”
Players also don’t practice like they used to. For example, Boselli, who played in the NFL in the 1990s and early 2000s and was a five-time Pro Bowler, used to get 10 padded practices a week.
“That’s a lot of reps,” Prisco said. “Now they get maybe two or three padded practices in that same time frame. So you’re not repping it. With offensive line play, you have to have cohesion; you have to be able to work together. It’s one of the toughest positions to come together as a group. I think you add it all up, and boy, I’ll tell you what: if you look at the preseason, the line play has been horrible around the NFL.”
It’s not just spread-heavy programs like Ohio State and Oregon that are ruining offensive linemen, either. Even linemen from pro-style offenses are struggling.
“You look at some of the Alabama offensive linemen and they haven’t exactly transitioned to become stars, either,” Prisco said. “(Chance) Warmack came in and was a high pick (10th overall in 2013), and he’s now settled in to become a pretty good guard, but it’s taken some time. These coaches now, (they’re all told), ‘Implement the offense, put the offense in, get this in, do this, do this.’ You only have so much time, so you can’t really teach techniques the way you like. So it takes time for these young guys (to develop).”
If you think that doesn’t matter, you had better think again. You might not draft offensive linemen in your fantasy league, but you need them to keep your quarterback healthy. Just ask Robert Griffin III, who was running for his life in a preseason game against the Lions before ultimately getting concussed. Kirk Cousins has been named the starter, and Prisco does not believe that Griffin will even be on the Redskins’ roster by this time next season.
“No, I don’t,” he said. “Look, the disaster is there. The entire thing is a mess. It’s self-inflicted wounds from all parties, including the coaching staff and RG3. But do they really think Kirk Cousins is the answer? Are you kidding me? Why not play RG3 and find out if he’s your answer? All these guys – Kirk Cousins and Ryan Fitzpatrick and Matt Cassel and Josh McCown – all that does is delay the inevitable, and inevitable is you’re going to have to find a franchise quarterback somewhere along the way. So you might as well take RG3 – with all his faults – and play him and find out. Because you know Kirk Cousins (is not the answer). He can’t play at all. So find out if RG3 can play.”