Counting down the top-three NFL offensive lines of 2017

By Nick Shook
NFL.com
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We brought you the bad news last week. You’re here if you came back around for the good news, and for that, I thank you.

This week is all about those lines who rose to the cream of the crop in 2017. We have two surprise groups, including one that is getting almost no love, despite the great numbers it has posted in run and pass blocking (not to mention the division title of which it was a part of winning). We also have a unit that you’ll probably recognize and chalk up to its running backs — but it’s so much more than just that. Continue reading

Three NFL offensive lines that need offseason upgrades

By Nick Shook
NFL.com
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We’ve spent much of this season taking a week-by-week look at individual offensive lines and their successes, or failures. This week, that changes.

As we enter Week 16 and near the beginning of a new year, it’s time to take a look back on what we’ve learned about offensive lines in 2017. We’ll start with the bad news first this week — three teams that need to address their offensive lines in the offseason — but come back next week for the good news. Continue reading

Bears’ shifty backs find success behind Josh Sitton in road win

By Nick Shook
NFL.com
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In the midst of a season that could very well produce a coaching change, the Chicago Bears pulled off a surprise, blowout win over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 14. A quick look at the box score tells the story of how they did it: By grinding the Bengals into submission with a multi-back ground attack.

Jordan Howard rushed for 147 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries, and Tarik Cohen added 80 yards on 12 carries (and could have had his own touchdown, had he not stepped out of bounds when cutting up field toward paydirt). Continue reading

Packers’ offense stuck in first gear, but not because of blocking

By Nick Shook
NFL.com
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Green Bay is a team with hope standing on its sideline in the form of a man who usually dons a No. 12 jersey. But in the meantime, the Packers aren’t all that threatening.

Against Pittsburgh in Week 12, some of that had to do with struggles in protecting backup quarterback Brett Hundley. The Packers surrendered four sacks in that game and are 31st in the NFL in sacks allowed with 42 through 12 games. Continue reading

Inconsistency on Chiefs’ OL putting limitations on Alex Smith

By Nick Shook
NFL.com
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A week after the disaster in Carson that included five interceptions and a 50-burger put on them, the Buffalo Bills rebounded with a close win over the Kansas City Chiefs, who appear to be up a creek without a paddle as we enter the final quarter of the regular season.

After opening the season with five straight wins, Kansas City has lost five of its last six, including three straight. Sunday’s loss to the Bills would probably be the most concerning of the defeats, had the Chiefsnot just inexplicably fallen to the now 2-9 New York Giants a week earlier.

In both losses, the same theme emerged: The Chiefs‘ offense has fallen apart. Continue reading

Vikings winning with stronger interior line, composed QB play

By Nick Shook
NFL.com
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It’s been quite some time since the Minnesota Vikings and Los Angeles Rams played a meaningful game after Halloween. In Week 11, we finally got a new, relevant chapter between the two division leaders.

In perhaps the most unexpected outcome, the Vikings came away with the win earned on the backs of its runners.

Latavius Murray rushed 15 times for 95 yards and two touchdowns, and Jerick McKinnon gained 48 yards on 14 attempts. The running game chewed all the clock necessary to cap an excellent offensive day from quarterback Case Keenum, who spread the ball among nine receivers on 27-of-38 passing for 280 yards and a score. The Vikings salted away their best win of the season in the fourth by riding the two backs, feeding them carry after carry, including one by Murray that initially went for 34 yards before some of it was negated due to an illegal block in the back. Continue reading

Saints’ offseason additions powering surging offense

By Nick Shook
NFL.com
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The New Orleans Saints have won seven straight.

Is the year 2009? No, but there are some similarities.

In that season, the Saints reeled off 13 straight wins to open the campaign before dropping their final three, which were essentially meaningless games. New Orleans also ran out to a 13-3 mark with an incredibly balanced and dangerous offense.

In 2017, New Orleans has rushed for 1,280 yards (142.2 per game) through its first nine games. In the Saints‘ first nine games of 2009, they rushed for 1,360 yards (151.1 per game).

New Orleans also won the Super Bowl during that season. Continue reading

Eagles soaring with versatile offense, starting with linemen

By Nick Shook
NFL.com
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The 2017 season has witnessed the rise of the unexpected — at least in the NFC.

Two of the conference’s underachievers in 2016 — Los Angeles and Philadelphia — have risen to the top. Sure, every year sees some turnover, some surprises and some disappointments. But the clips at which these two teams are playing is impressive.

Both put up 50-burgers on their opponents last week, and Week 10 is Philadelphia’s bye, which means the players are free to do a little traveling if they so desire. Eagles offensive lineman Brandon Brooksstopped by the NFL Media compound on Tuesday and we sat down to talk about why this Eagles offense is finding success.

“You want one word for why the offense is rolling the way it is?” Brooks asked. “Carson.”

He’s talking about Wentz, of course, the second-year quarterback who is setting the league on fire with his play. He’s a big part of why the Eagles are 8-1. But he’s not the only reason. Continue reading

Duane Brown poised to instantly improve Seahawks’ potential

By Nick Shook
NFL.com
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Twelve-year veteran Duane Brown spent much of the first half of the 2017 season at home, away from the Houston Texans as he held out for a new contract.

That might seem a tad extreme for a player who’s in the back end of his career, but Brown has been an effective left tackle for the Texans for more than a decade. You don’t make it into the double digits in seasons played without being good at what you do.

When Brown returned from his prolonged holdout in Week 8, he was a welcome addition to an offensive line that needed him. The Texans immediately inserted Brown into the starting lineup at left tackle, replacing Chris Clark at the position. Houston saw an instant improvement to its offensive line play as a result, which quarterback Deshaun Watson surely was happy to see.

That is, until Houston traded Brown to the Seattle Seahawks a day later. Continue reading