• 08/13/2008, 01:01PM ET

TDAholics Tourney-Who has the best O-Line in the NFL?

Super Squirrel (75-68-14) vs Porkins. (179-15-3)

I think that it is the Cleveland Browns

Last year, the Browns were 10th in the league in rushing yards, with an average of 118.4 yards per game. The Browns also only allowed Derek Anderson to be sacked 19 times throughout the season. That was good for 3rd in the league in that category.

The Browns are now returning four starters from 2007, including their Rookie of the Year candidate LT Joe Thomas. This line has jelled together and is going to be good again in 2008.

Good choice, but I think there are better options.

O-Line play is tough to quantify with numbers, but one of the best stats I've found is the Adjusted Line Yards stats by Football Outsiders. The ALY stat takes into account "down, distance, situation, and opponent" for every rush.

It also accounts for RB ability with the "10+ yards" stat (number of rushes over 10 yards). A team with a good ALY ranking that has a poor "10+ yards" ranking depends on its O-line to make the running game work.

NE had the #1 RANKED ALY in 2007, but ranked 26th in "10+ yards", indicating that the rushing success they had was due mostly to the LINE.

NE also ranked 4TH in pass blocking and had a BETTER adjusted sack rate than CLE.

The Pats gave up 21 sacks in 2007, DESPITE:

-The 5th most attempts in the league (Browns were 16th).
-Their full line healthy and playing together in only 7 of 16 games- that speaks to their depth and teamwork.
-A significantly HARDER SCHEDULE than the Browns.

There's a reason why Brady was able to set so many records. yes, he had Moss, but more importantly he had TIME. He's a pocket passer who had some of the best protection in the league.

Brady also had been sacked 26 times over the three previous years. He throws the ball quick enough to avoid a lot of sacks. Did the O-Line play a major role in lowering the number this year, duh, but it's not like they had Byron Leftwich standing behind them.

Anderson was sacked 8 times in 5 games in 2006, and the O-Line improved to the point where he was only sacked 14 times in 16 games in 2007.

The thing is, the Browns line has actually gotten better since last year, upgrading over Seth McKinney by picking up Rex Hadnot, who was a three year starter in Miami, going back to when they were actually decent.

That depth that you were talking about really showed when the Giants sacked Tom Brady 5 times, and now, they've got issues. Neal just had surgery, Kazcur has off the field issues, and Light has trouble against speed guys.

The Browns have the all-around better players playing on their line, and they are going to have 4 of the 5 starters for Week 1...

If this was about building a line for the future, I would definitely take the Browns, but currently NE's line is a little bit better.

CLE's line improved from '06 to '07. But Anderson also improved a hell of a lot - that was a big reason why his sack rate dropped.

McKinney and Hadnot help add depth inside, but that's not where they have concerns.

With the injury to Ryan Tucker, the Browns are very thin at tackle. Thomas is clearly a super stud, but RT is not nearly as solid, and an injury could really hurt them on the edges.

Meanwhile, the Pats had their complete starting line in fewer than half their games last year but STILL ended up ranked #1/ #4 in run and pass blocking respectively.

Neal's surgery was to repair a 2-year old shoulder injury- fixing it will make him MORE effective, not less. As for Light- the guy was only apro-bowl starter last year.

1 game's performance (against a pass rush as good as the Giants) is all fine and good, but you have to ALSO recognize that this team went 16-0 largely due to OFFENSE, which starts and end with LINE PLAY.

The bottom line for me is that NE was BETTER last year, and all 5 guys are back and HEALTHY.

Look what the Cleveland line did for Jamal Lewis. Lewis was coming off of two down years in Baltimore, comes to Cleveland and gets almost 200 more yards on 20 fewer carries and gets back to the stats of his early years in Baltimore (2000, 2002).

Kevin Shaffer has been a starter for the Browns since 2006, has only missed one game since 2004...Injuries haven't exactly been a concern for a guy who's been a rock on the right side of Cleveland's line.

The Pats line WAS better last year, we know that...but Cleveland's line improved with Hadnot. Hadnot is a much better guard than McKinney is and will add a great rock to the right side of the line. We saw how the line improved with the additions of Thomas and Steinbach last year, and the same thing is going to happen on the right side with Hadnot.

Light may have started the Pro Bowl, but Thomas made it too, and he was also the only rookie other than Adrian Peterson to get votes for Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Like I said, the Pats were slightly better last year, but the additions that the Browns have made this offseason have put them over the top....

At least we agree the Pats were better last year.

As I said, they dealt with injuries for most of the year- you admit NE was better than CLE, and they did it all with a rotating line that never really allowed them to get comfortable as a 5-man starting unit.

This year, the line is much healthier and have eevn more experience playing together- that can only mean that their performance will improve.

The main critique of NE is..."yeah but they didn't run that much."


In REALITY, the Pats were 9TH in the league in rush attempts with 451- They actually ran MORE than the Browns.

Their ypg ranked 13th in the league- so for all of you who think this team couldn't or didn't run, think again.

All those attempts and NE STILL had the #1 run-blocking.

Hadnot is NOT Steinbach or Thomas- Cle hasn't improved enough YET to overtake NE.

If the Pats were BETTER in '07 and are HEALTHIER now, how did they be worse? Doesn't make sense.

Consider the facts:

-#1 rush, #4 pass- BOTH higher than CLE's
- Only 7 games with their full starting unit
- Harder schedule than CLE
- Oldest starter is 31, 3 are under 30
- All 5 starters return

For now, it's still NE.


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