NFL

The Importance of Continuity In The NFL on the Offensive Line

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Through the first two weeks of the regular season, the NFL seems to be at an all-time low in regards to competent offensive line play. Whether it is Joe Flacco getting lambasted by the Denver Broncos or DeMarco Murray getting hit after one step, it is clear that the defensive lines have a clear advantage at this point.

Nevertheless, there is some light at the end of the tunnel for the collective offensive lines across the league and the reason for that light is continuity.

More than any other unit in football, the offensive line has to play in unison. They have to communicate seamlessly and work together to combat the various stunts, blitzes and slants that a defense will throw at them at any given moment.

All it takes is for one offensive lineman to act independently of his cohorts and a play will be stopped. Each offensive lineman must be confident that the man next to him will do their job in the context of the scheme, which isn’t as simple as just blocking the man in front of him.

For example, if an offensive guard quick sets, which is basically attacking the defender instead of getting into a normal pass set,  a defensive tackle, but the offensive tackle kicks wide because he expects inside help, it could spell disaster for that play. Another example that you see every Sunday is when a tackle and guard aren’t in sync as they pass off a stunt from the defensive line.

The only way an offensive line can get better at any of these aspects is by getting more reps together. Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy once said, “History will tell you if you have five guys who line up and play together week in and week out, you’re going to have a pretty good offensive line.”

This is because the offensive line develops a chemistry that allows them to defeat the defense as one collective unit and not five individual players.

Lack of continuity is a big reason why an offensive line like the Dallas Cowboys has struggled more than people thought going into this regular season. In training camp, all of the starters, except for Travis Frederick, missed a significant amount of time with an injury. This is a big reason why they have had some hiccups passing off stunts and creating holes in the running game. However, as the season wears on and the offensive line gets more reps together, you can expect that you will see the Cowboys’ offensive line return to their 2014 form.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Green Bay Packers’ offensive line has been able to play at an extremely high level. More than any other offensive line in the NFL, the Packers play as one cohesive unit. You can see this in the way they work to the second level after executing a double-team or by the way they handle blitzes in pass protection. You rarely see a defender break free because of a protection breakdown or a missed assignment.

If an offensive line can remain healthy for 16 weeks, you can expect them to do their job more times than not. If an offensive lineman just gets flat out beat by a defender, you can live with that, but if a defense is getting pressure on the quarterback or stifling the run game because of mental mistakes or a lack of cohesiveness then that is much more worrisome. You can scheme a way to help a guard who is having trouble with a defensive lineman, but there is no way to scheme around an offensive line that is not working together.

Therefore, if your favorite team’s offensive line is struggling, give them time to come together as a unit and hope they aren’t hit with an injury bug. The NFL season if full of ebbs and flows and you can bet that the offensive line will come back with a vengeance as the season wears on.


About John Owning

John Owning

John Owning is a NFL columnist for Football Insiders. He has years of experience covering the NFL, NFL draft and NCAA football. John's work has been featured on the Bleacher Report and DraftBreakdown.com