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Ranking the offensive lines in the NFC East

Which team in the division has the best protection up-front?

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NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Washington Football Team Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Here at Big Blue View, we have been taking a close look at the major offensive position groups in the NFC East to determine which team may have an advantage heading into the 2021 season. Here are where the rankings stand so far:

Quarterback:

  1. Dallas Cowboys
  2. Washington Football Team
  3. New York Giants
  4. Philadelphia Eagles

Wide receiver:

  1. Dallas Cowboys
  2. Washington Football Team
  3. New York Giants
  4. Philadelphia Eagles

Running back:

  1. Dallas Cowboys
  2. New York Giants
  3. Washington Football Team
  4. Philadelphia Eagles

As you can see, the rankings on the offensive side of the ball heavily favor the Cowboys and the reigning division-champion Washington Football Team. But what about a less star-studded but equally as important position group? The offensive line. Without solid protection up-front, the above rankings could change. Giants fans know first-hand what a weakened offensive line has done for Daniel Jones and the offense. So let’s take a deeper dive into the offensive line groups of each team in the NFC East.

Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys’ offensive line did not have a great season in 2020, finishing 27th overall in the PFF rankings. But the line suffered from numerous injuries last year and looks much healthier heading into the 2021 campaign.

Tyron Smith will assume the left tackle role. He played just 154 snaps last season, but he maintained a 76.0 to 82.0 grade, per PFF, in his past three full seasons of play. He hasn’t completed a full season since 2015 but if he can stay healthy, he remains a consistent force on the line for Dallas.

The right side will feature La’el Collins who is returning after missing all of 2020 due to hip surgery. Collins posted the fifth-best PFF grade among tackles in 2019 at 86.4 and was particularly strong in the run game. Again, if healthy, Collins provides a major boost to the Cowboys’ line.

Zach Martin will play right guard and he is the second-best at the position in the league behind the Indianapolis Colts’ Quenton Nelson. Left guard Connor Williams has steadily improved in each of his three years in the league and is poised to continue his progress.

If all of these guys stay healthy, the biggest area for concern on Dallas’ o-line is at center. Longtime center Travis Frederick retired this offseason, leaving a gaping hole at the position that will likely be filled by Joe Looney or Tyler Biadasz next season.

Barring no more injuries, this line projects to be the best in the division next season.

Washington Football Team

The Football Team shocked the league last season when its offensive line finished sixth in PFF’s 2020 end-of-season rankings. A series of offseason moves mean that Washington is still strong up-front heading into the 2021 season, but not quite on the level of Dallas.

The biggest offensive line move Washington made this offseason was signing former Chicago Bears tackle Charles Leno. In four of the past five years, Leno has posted a 70.0 or higher mark according to PFF. He is consistent and will act as a mainstay on a young Washington team.

But with one addition to the line came another subtraction. Washington released starting right tackle Morgan Moses, leaving the heir to this position a little uncertain. The Football Team drafted second-round tackle Samuel Cosmi in the 2021 NFL Draft, who earned a 90.8 overall grade at Texas last year. Another option is Cornelius Lucas, who has been solid in recent years, posting a 72.2 mark with the Chicago Bears in 2019 and a 78.9 grade last season in Washington.

The Football Team signed Pro Bowler Brandon Scherff to his second franchise tag this offseason. He has not played in a full season since 2016 but remains one of the top guards in the league when healthy. Because the Football Team will likely be unable to afford Scherff when his contract expires next season and he hits the open market, they are hoping for one final strong performance out of him.

At center, Washington has Chase Roullier, who has steadily improved in each of his four NFL seasons. His 76.4 overall grade per PFF is ranked sixth among centers in the league.

Left guard is a bit of a question mark for Washington but only because they have multiple good options. Wes Schweitzer will return after posting a career-high 69.0 grade last season. But Washington also signed Ereck Flowers from the Miami Dolphins, who made his NFL debut with the team in 2019. He is another strong option at the guard position.

Overall, the Football Team has solid depth and experience on the offensive line that positions them well for next season.

Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles’ offensive line has generally been strong in recent years but injuries hobbled them last season.

Eyes will be on 2019 first-round pick Andre Dillard. He played 337 snaps at left tackle as a rookie, but was not overly impressive. Then he missed his sophomore campaign due to injury. The Eagles need him to step up next season.

Lane Johnson will remain a mainstay at right tackle. He turned in the lowest grade of his career last season at 71.9, but he has earned a reputation throughout his career as a solid pass protector. Also on the right side, guard Brandon Brooks will make his return after missing all of the 2020 season. If he can return to his 2019 form in which he graded 92.8, the Eagles will be in very good shape at this position.

Isaac Seumalo will return to left guard after an up-and-down 2019 season. At center, the Eagles will likely field veteran Jason Kelce but they also drafted Landon Dickerson in the second round of the 2021 NFL Draft so they could begin to phase him into a starting role.

As a whole, the Eagles’ line is the most difficult to project because their success is dependent on players remaining healthy and veterans staying consistent. If everything comes together for them, the Eagles could boast one of the best lines not only in the division, but in the league. But it is still too soon to tell.

New York Giants

In what was perhaps an aggressive ranking, Pro Football Focus listed the Giants’ offensive line as the worst in the entire league heading into next season. As Giants fans, let’s hope that they are not in fact that bad but, out of the four teams in the NFC East, New York has been the weakest up-front in recent years.

The Giants offensive linemen combined to produce the fifth-worst overall grade in the league over the past two years and they rank in the bottom eight in pass blocking and run blocking. Various circumstances contributed to the line’s poor performance. Starting left tackle Nate Solder opted out in 2020 and first-round pick Andrew Thomas struggled in his rookie campaign, posting a 62.4 overall grade.

Matt Peart, who was selected in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft, will compete for a spot at right tackle. Nick Gates moved to center for the first time in his career in 2020. He was respectable, but managed just a 59.7 grade. Guard meanwhile, remains a question mark as Will Hernandez, Shane Lemieux and Zach Fulton are all in the mix.

The bottom line is that the Giants look uncertain at many positions on the offensive line and they do not have strong options to work with. New York invested in its offense this offseason (Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney, John Ross, Kyle Rudolph - to name a few), but not so much in the line itself. It will remain to be seen if the star power added will be enough to make the Giants’ offense successful in 2021.