Of Lines and Coordinators

Matt Mosley has a piece today on why he distrusts the Redskins as a contender in the East, despite John Clayton's beliefs to the contrary: it's all about that offensive line.

Fans know all about this of course. In response to this post, I thought it would be worth sharing some info I posted on another site about a month ago about this -- essentially, I found it really problematic to make any assumptions about the O-Line, considering how much of a difference it makes to have Kyle Shanahan in the OC spot.

Let's assume that the starting lineup is:

OT Trent Williams, OG Derrick Dockery, OC Casey Rabach, OG Mike Williams, OT Artis Hicks

Yeah, this looks like a pretty average bunch. Much will depend on the players' ability to adapt to a new scheme and respond to some higher quality coaching. Obviously this assumes no more short term vet signings to bolster the O-Line as starters (though I think none of us would be surprised if there was another name in the mix for depth purposes). O-Line coach Chris Foerster is probably being honest when he says Hicks should be expected to lock down an OT position -- which makes Stephon Heyer your primary backup at both Tackle spots.

Yet I'm not as down on this line as some fans are, or certainly as Mosley is. Assuming they're really running the Kyle Shanahan Houston offense with few alterations (and why would they change it, given its statistical success?), last year he finished the year with a line which wasn't much better. He had Duane Brown at OT (the lone 1st rounder), Kasey Studdard at OG (6th rounder), Chris Myers at OC (6th rounder), Antoine Caldwell at OG (3rd rounder) and Eric Winston at RT (3rd rounder).

Matt Schaub obviously led the league in passing behind that line (Chris White, an undersized vet, was in at the beginning of the season). None of these guys other than Brown was highly touted coming out, but Shanahan knew how to use them effectively, even in a division last year where they were facing guys like Vanden Bosch, Henderson, Dwight Freeney, Raheem Brock, and Robert Mathis twice.

Similarly, I don't think we can assess how much McNabb improves the line. Mosley talks about mobility changes, but I think the real difference is McNabb's delivery -- which anyone can tell you is faster than Campbell's slow arm motion. Now, McNabb has a lot of frustrating accuracy issues which I'm sure we'll come to know and love -- but McNabb was also sacked 35 times last year compared to Campbell's 43. You'd much rather have an incomplete or a throwaway than that.

I know what you're going to ask, so here's the number for comparison: last year, with that fairly average looking line in Houston, with two 6th rounders, two 3rd rounders, and only one 1st rounder, the Texans allowed only 25 sacks.

That's a great number. Doubt this line could ever hope to do that. But just getting back to the median of 35 sacks a season would be very helpful for the offense. Only one team allowed more than 40 sacks last year and made the playoffs -- the Green Bay Packers -- and they're the exception that proves the rule.

In any case: this OL looks like a marginally better squad than last year, but still one that has a lot of weaknesses. But that's going to give us a real opportunity to see whether the problem was the personnel, or the problem was Zorn, Campbell, or the schizophrenic offense. I'd put odds on the latter.