With NFL training camps about a month away, here we take a look at which NFL teams must see improvement on the offensive line heading into 2022:
The Falcons had a new Center and Left Guard in 2021, but while they only allowed the 12th most sacks in the league (in large part thanks to Matt Ryan getting the ball out in time), they gave up the highest pressure percentage of any NFL team – 40.8%. Arthur Smith may be tempted to rotate Drew Dalman and Matt Hennessy as he did last pre-season and Justin Shaffer has been brought in via the draft to shore up the LG position and provide competition for a starting spot with Jalen Mayfield. Chris Lindstrom is a solid piece at RG on their OL, conceding a mere 5.0% pressure rate and finishing the season as PFF’s 6th ranked Offensive Guard.
The Ravens conceded the most sacks of any team in the NFL in 2021, which was potentially surprising considering the strong OL they had on paper with Villanueva, Zeitler and Stanley all starting on the OL. They have since focused heavily on improving this area of their roster, and brought in Ja’Tyre Carter as a potential starting OG, Tyler Linderbaum as a starting Center, and Daniel Faalele provides great competition at OT. Morgan Moses was also brought in as a potential starting RT and has started 16 games per season every year since being drafted (except his rookie season). Plenty of change in Baltimore, but as long as the unit is cohesive, it’s hard to not see an improvement coming in 2022.
As the team who allowed the second highest pressure rate in 2021 (38.9%) and the 5th most sacks (51), the Panthers have a great deal of improvement required in 2022. Firstly, the QB situation wasn’t ideal with different QB starting games, and the relationship between QB and OL is one of the most important on offense – understanding the timing of their drop and release etc. However, the OL performance wasn’t good enough to get them anywhere near the playoffs, so they looked to make big upgrades during the off-season. Ikem Ekwonu comes in as the starting LT (and he may be the best OT from the 2022 Draft), Bradley Bozeman joined from Free Agency to bring a high-level Center to Carolina and Austin Corbett joins his third team since being drafted, a key piece of the Rams’ Super Bowl-winning-season in 2021 at RG. It’s almost inconceivable that the Panthers OL performance would worsen with the roster moves they’ve made, but time will tell.
Justin Fields came into a less than ideal situation in Chicago last season. The young QB was running all over the field trying to escape pressure in 2021, and while the OL didn’t perform to their capabilities and he took some unnecessary sacks, there were scheme deficiencies which didn’t aid Fields. The Bears conceded the second highest sack total (59) in 2021 and they made some changes during the off-season which may not fully put Bears’ fans worries at ease. Teven Jenkins is now the likely starter at LT after learning his craft for a year, Lucas Patrick will start at Center after impressing for the Packers in 2021, providing positional versatility at OG and Center. However, the RG position is of concern with Dakota Dozier signing in Free Agency, but performance level and health factors meant he has only played 1 full season in the NFL since being drafted in 2014. Larry Borom showed promise at RT in 2021 and should be a solid starter, but questions remain over this Bears’ OL heading into 2022.
The fact that this team reached a Super Bowl is outstanding and really goes against most traditional team building principles of building from the trenches outwards. Joe Burrow was sacked 58 times in 2021 (T-3 most) and he did take some sacks where he potentially held onto the ball for too long, but he faced a lot of pressure too – especially in the playoffs. The Bengals have had a complete shift on the OL, bringing in Ted Karras at Center, Alex Cappa at RG, and La’el Collins at RT, all from Free Agency. Jonah Williams also showed up well in 2021 after missing his whole rookie season due to injury. The Bengals should improve for these additions on the OL in 2022 and there’s nothing to stop them making another deep playoff run.