One of the great paradoxes of the game of football lies in the fact that the largest men on the field are also the most invisible. Affectionately known as the big uglies, offensive linemen get the Rodney Dangerfield treatment from media and fans alike, who rarely, if ever, acknowledge their existence, let alone, performance when analyzing an upcoming matchup.
Yet, it’s those same invisible giants who get the third degree if the opposing defensive end is constantly penetrating his way into the backfield and sacks Aaron Rodgers four times.
The grim reality is the less these bodyguards are talked about, the better. If the offense is clicking it means that the men at the line of scrimmage are doing their job.
During any given game, the cameras will constantly follow the ball. They’ll focus on the quarterback, zoom in on the ball carrier and then roll back to endless shots of coaches on the sidelines that do little more than make faces and survey their play menus.
Everyone gets their share of the spotlight except the players who do the dirty work. But however boring or non-descript these hulking figures may often appear to be, offensive linemen are the engines that make an offense go.
A solid and cohesive line can make middle-of-the-road skill-position players more productive than they would be otherwise.
An offensive line’s effectiveness can easily determine the outcome of the NFC North, but it won’t always be the line with the biggest and most athletic players on it that will form the top unit. Quality line play requires that every blocker know his assignment and is one the same page with his linemates.
Blocking upfront in the trenches may appear pretty basic at first blush, but it requires both discipline and technique. Details, such as maintaining a wide base, foot alignment, elbow and hand placement, keeping one’s shoulders square to the line of scrimmage and the ability to explode out of your stance in different directions are just a few of the concepts an NFL player must constantly work on to survive as an offensive lineman.
So which NFC North teams boast the types of offensive lines can allow a quarterback enough time to make his reads or simply dominate the opposition by moving the defenders off the ball in the running game? Some teams are easier to evaluate than others given the amount of turnover that has transpired over the course of the offseason, particularly for an organization like Detroit.
In the following divisional breakdown, each squad will be evaluated on the basis of experience, past performance, health, continuity, coaching and overall physical talent. So buckle up and enjoy the ride through the land of giants NFC North style.
Next: No. 4