BY FLOYD WEDDERBURN/ When building a new structure ,you start with your foundation.Â The same rules apply to a football team.
The offensive line is the foundation of a football team. You set out to find the best offensive line you can and build around it.
These guys have to be smart, fundamentally sound, quick, strong, fast and agile. Most importantly, they have to be able to work well with guys in their group. Unlike their counterparts, the O-line puts in that daily grind and hardly gets credit for what they do. The exception is when they trigger the effect of a game.
Weâ€™re used to guys like Tra Thomas and John Runyan who held the foundation intact for years. When guys like them leave, it creates cracks in the foundation. Unfortunately, it often takes years to fill that void. These guys were the best of the best. They were hard-working guys who made it very hard for the defense to get to the quarterback.
The closest thing to these guys was All-Pro Jason Peters and Todd Herremans, and unfortunately, both are out with season-ending injuries. When your core guys get injured, itâ€™s time to shuffle players around and fill in where you can.
The problem is the guys waiting their turn arenâ€™t always the best fit. Just because they are a backup doesnâ€™t necessarily mean thereâ€™re ready to play. Or they might not be good enough to sustain productivity.
Remember, chemistry is a part of O-line. These guys count on each other every game. Because of speed of the game and the ability to make a split-sec decision, a backup depends on the starter in the game to help them through the course of a game.
King Dunlap, Danny Watkins, and the rest of the offensive line are not bad players (after all, theyâ€™re in the NFL.) Theyâ€™re just not asÂ good as the former greats weâ€™ve had for years in this town.
In the NFL, we have great players that live up to the hype year after year. Then you have backups (replacement players) who move around the league trying to find a home that fits.
So we have to go back to the drawing board and start from scratch. We start by building the offensive line and the rest of the team will fall in place.