The NFL awarded one team with the Built Ford Tough Offensive Line of the Week award throughout the season. Now, at the NFL Honors, one unit will be awarded as the Offensive Line of the Year. This is the first year the award will ever be handed out.
Plenty of O-lines received credit throughout the season. A good offensive line can be determined by how they blocked for the run game or how an offensive line was able to buy time for its quarterback. The following O-line units will be serious contenders for the award at the NFL Honors on Feb. 4. You can check our website for instant updates and reactions to all the winners.
The Raiders had All-Pro left guard Kelechi Osemele to lead the O-line in 2016. The former Baltimore Raven had an outstanding campaign, earning him his first trip to the Pro Bowl. In addition to Osemele, the Raiders will send center Rodney Hudson and tackle Donald Penn to the Pro Bowl.
Derek Carr took just 16 sacks this season, 15 less than in 2015. The unit gave up a total of 18 total sacks all year, ranked best in the NFL. They have the third most experience in the league as most of their linemen have come via free agency. It is not often that offensive lines are successful when they are not built from the draft, but the Raiders defied all odds this season.
The Titans got extremely impressive play from rookie right tackle Jack Conklin, a First Team AP All-Pro, and Taylor Lewan, a Pro Bowl tackle. The most impressive stat that jumps off the page from this unit is the way they helped the running game. Their two rushers combined for 1,777 yards and 14 touchdowns. In total, they rushed for 54 first downs, tied for first in the NFL.
There is a bright future on this O-line as they rank 31st in total experience, unheard of for a successful unit. Overall, they allowed the eighth-fewest sacks in the league and allowed just 51 hits on their quarterbacks, second-best in the league. Pro Football Focus ranked this unit the 25th-best in the preseason but ranked them as the best at the end of 2016.
Out of all the offensive lines in the league, the Cowboys’ O-line has received the most national media attention in 2016. You cannot take any credit away from Ezekiel Elliott, but it is hard to imagine he would have had the rookie season he did without these guys blocking up front. Tackle Tyron Smith, guard Zack Martin and center Travis Frederick are all headed to the Pro Bowl for the Cowboys, all three are also First Team AP All-Pros.
They helped Elliott rush for over 1,600 yards and earn himself the rushing champion title. In addition, they gave up the fifth-fewest QB hits, ninth-fewest sacks and were tied for most rushing first downs in the NFL. It’s tough to make it easy for a rookie QB and running back to both have phenomenal first seasons, but the O-line did just that. While a serious argument can be made for the Titans, I think Dallas is the favorite to win the award.
The Steelers have one of the most complete and deepest O-lines in the NFL. They boast five good starters, who got better as the year went on, and a few quality bench players. Ranked 14th in the preseason by PFF, they ended at number three. The line is led by David DeCastro, a second team AP All-Pro, and Maurkice Pouncey, a Pro Bowler.
Ben Roethlisberger was well protected in the pocket, getting sacked just 21 times, second-best in the NFL, and getting hit just 56 times, third-best. Their top-two rushers combined for 1,611 yards and 11 touchdowns. The Steelers have an experienced line that played above expectations and helped Pittsburgh get deep into the postseason.
Honorable Mentions: Washington Redskins, Green Bay Packers, Atlanta Falcons
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