So we are now up to week 5 in the 2019 NFL season and so far we have had to hold on tight to a roller coaster of emotions and the O-Line has been key. Aside from all the Antonio Brown drama and the fact the Dolphins are now just playing for draft picks, something else has occurred to me that appears to be many teams across the AFC and NFC.
When John Dorsey started to rebuild the Browns, he built an aspiring team around a young QB who had huge success last year. Adding Kareem Hunt and Odell Beckham Jr as hard-hitting weapons and drafting Greedy Williams into the secondary all seemed like good decisions. But as we close the books on Week 5, the hype train that the Browns were riding high on in the pre-season has crashed, derailed and gloriously burned into flames. They currently stand at a hugely disappointing 2-3 record and even some of the hardcore fans are struggling to stick behind Baker Mayfield and his young team.
As a Browns fan, I’ll openly admit that some of the things Baker Mayfield does are questionable. It is claimed that he refused the customary handshake before kick-off against the 49ers, which has earned him a lot of heat off the field. But the blame cannot land on his shoulders alone. One of the Browns’ biggest problems is an O-Line that struggles to keep Mayfield upright and allow him to make big plays.
One of the things John Dorsey should have done in the off-season is bulk up his O-Line to not only protect his young QB but also give him the chance he needs to throw to the big-time receivers he has at his disposal. Signing hugely talented players such as Odell Beckham Jr is a step in the right direction, but not adding to an offensive line that has struggled now for three years seems like a bad call.
O-line is the key building block
Many fans assume that to build a winning offensive unit, you must first start with the QB and work outwards. Although this has been the standard practice in the NFL, I strongly believe that to build a franchise, start with the O-Line and then add the tools needed to bring in the victories. There are two solid arguments for this case.
When Andrew Luck was drafted in 2012, the Indianapolis Colts could look forward to a new era behind their young and hugely talented QB. But a leaky O-Line forced Luck to be hit too many times, knocking his confidence and causing devastating injuries. One injury even ruled him out for the entire season. The Colts drafted the monster Quinton Nelson to help bolster their O-Line and in 2018, Luck guided the Colts to a playoff game.
But in 2019, after suffering from an ankle injury, he decided to call time on his career in an emotional press conference. Much like any Colts fan, I was gutted, but a huge part of me understood exactly where he was coming from. The cycle of injury and recovery didn’t seem to end for Luck and that would destroy even the best of us.
Other victims include Dwayne Haskins of the Washington Redskins and Kyler Murray of the Arizona Cardinals. Drafted in 2019, both of these young men are extremely talented and will undoubtedly go on to become some of the biggest stars in the league, but first, their teams must repair their leaky O-Line in order to give them a chance.
Providing them the protection they need will help them remain accurate and prevent them from having to run the ball and make big plays which in turn exposes them to potential injuries. As both of them are young, neither can afford to take too many big hits and risk their careers in the future.
On the other side of the coin, New England have arguably the best O-Line in the league, allowing just 1.2 sacks per game in the 2018 season. This undoubtedly helped them go on and win their 5th Super Bowl and cement Brady as the G.O.A.T that we recognise him as today.
By building a great O-Line, teams can ensure their QB’s can remain healthy, make big plays and step up when the need arises. Don’t forget, it’s also the job of the O-Line to create holes and allow teams to run the ball, something which Baltimore and Dallas have done outstandingly well this year.