Now we get down to the rea nitty gritty. We’re in the trenches for today’s power rankings, looking at who has the edge. With a good line you can do great things, the ability to build a stable running game as well as develop more complex routes in the passing game if your QB has time to hold on to the ball.
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs allowed 41 sacks last season, which was bang average in the league. In fact it wasn’t even worst in the division, and ranked 10th in fewest yards lost to sacks but a lack of development in the offseason has seen them drop to the back of the pack. Ali Marpet and Donovan Smith make up a strong left side to the line with a solid, if unspectacular right side to the line. The interior, needs to improve though as the Bucs averaged 3.9 yards per rush (31st) for 1500 yards, though that highlights their lack of talent in the backfield more than anything.
3. Atlanta Falcons
There are serious questions in Atlanta, the Falcons could easily rank anywhere on this list. That’s simply because of the uncertainty of rookie development having reached for two physical specimens early in the draft, who look set to start from day one. If Kaleb McGary and Chris Lindstrom are solid plug in and play starters, they could top this list, but rookies will always make mistakes. The left hand side of the line looks strong with Alex Mack, James Carpenter and Jake Matthews, so as a group they should improve on the 42 sacks they allowed and 4.5 yards per rush last year.
2. New Orleans Saints
The Saints allowed just 20 sacks a year ago, bettered only by the Colts, which makes them strong contenders for the number one spot. However, they are let down by the running game, gaining 4.3 yards per rush (17th best in league). Erik McCoy is slated to start at Centre, which was a real need following Max Unger’s retirement, so more of a replacement than an improvement. That said there is definite talent on the Saints’ line with McCoy joining Terron Armstead, Andrus Peat, Larry Warford and Ryan Ramczyk, from New Orleans’ vaunted 2017 draft class. With depth at running back behind Alvin Kamara, the Saints need to be able to make big plays on the ground regularly, particularly with Drew Brees’ gradual decline setting in. Most important though is giving the 40 year old signal caller a stable pocket and keeping him upright.
1. Carolina Panthers
The Panthers line probably have the toughest task on their hands, with a mobile QB under centre. While there are no big names along the lines, as a unit they are very effective. The Panthers finished 2018 in the top quarter of the league for sacks allowed and topped the yards per rush table with 5.1. While their yards per rush is arguably inflated by Newton’s influence on the run game, there is no doubting that the Panthers line gets the job done. Taylor Moton, Matt Paradis and Daryl Williams are the main names, and they are developing young talent with Greg Little looking to usurp Moton to the start at LT.
Here’s how they stand so far (with average ranking over the four categories in brackets).