Adrian Crawford

The Weekly Kickoff with Geoff Schwartz: NFL Week 11


Editor’s note: The Weekly Kickoff is a weekly column from the pen of former NFL offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz. Check back every week for the latest edition.

There is one absolute certainty in the NFL: injuries.

There’s a 100% injury rate in the NFL. Not a single player who plays more than three seasons that will escape the NFL without an injury. Injuries aren’t all equal. Some are minor. You dislocate a finger. You get a mild turf toe. A hip pointer. A deep thigh bruise. Those can be played through. And some injuries cannot. An ACL tear, a broken ankle and so on. But best believe, every NFL player will be injured.

As the season wears on and the body accumulates wear and tear, more players break down. The depth of your team gets tested. And outside of quarterback, the worst depth in the NFL is at the offensive line.

Now, it’s not surprising considering you have five offensive lineman, so having depth could be difficult. But over the last 15 years, it’s gotten worse. When teams lose linemen, they lose their offense, and there’s three teams that have this issue right now.

First, it’s worth explaining why there’s no depth. It tracks back to college first. The college game has slowed down and there’s more focus on using offensive line techniques that translate to the NFL. But for years the goal of a college offense was going fast. Technique, and most importantly, finish, wasn’t as important at the position. This hurt the overall development of offensive lineman coming into the NFL. Now, once they get drafted, there’s no practice time in the NFL anymore to improve quickly, or even sometimes at all. The offensive line is a position that needs contact and reps to improve. We need time. We get none of those now. So it’s difficult to develop the position in the NFL. 

On a Sunday gameday, most NFL teams will dress seven offensive lineman. Back in the day, one of the backups would be the swing tackle. They could play either of the tackle positions if someone got injured at left or right tackle. There was an interior backup, who could play either guard or center if any of those three had to miss reps. This is not necessarily how offensive lines rotate with players injured anymore. When a left tackle gets hurt, the right tackle moves to left tackle. Or when the center is hurt, the left guard moves to center. This is not good, as it now weakens two positions. The injured position and now the position where the lineman moved to fill the injured position have backups. So you lose one lineman and two positions get weaker.

So, tying this all back to three current teams. The Baltimore Ravens’ offense has not been the same as last season’s offense. That is clear. But what is also clear is losing All Pro left tackle Ronnie Stanley has hurt this offense even more. The last two weeks without Stanley the offense has two of its three worst rushing performances. The Ravens moved right tackle Orlando Brown to left tackle and inserted a backup right tackle, who got hurt last weekend. This will not improve their rushing attack.

The Titans lost left tackle Taylor Lewan four weeks ago. In the four games without Lewan, the Titans have scored 11 less points per game and nearly 100 less yards per game. Ryan Tannehill has been under more pressure and his completion percentage has dropped 15 points over the last four games. Just brutal. 

And we finish with the Rams, who lost left tackle Andrew Whitworth last weekend. In just the 17 pass pro snaps he missed last weekend, the pressure rate on Goff increased by 10 percent. When Goff is pressured, he’s one of the worst QBs in the NFL: 31st in completion percentage and 29th in passer rating. The Rams offense will not be the same without Whitworth.