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Lining Up
David Sabino
August 11, 2008
These offensive interiors are a reason to pick up—or pull away from—the players who operate behind them
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August 11, 2008

Lining Up

These offensive interiors are a reason to pick up—or pull away from—the players who operate behind them

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SINCE 1995, when Mike Shanahan became Denver's coach, the Broncos have rushed for the most total yards of any NFL team—and what's particularly impressive is that they've done it with a revolving door in the backfield. During that span 12 backs have had a total of 93 games with at least 100 yards on the ground. That record is a tribute to the Broncos' offensive line, and it reinforces this fantasy truism: When in doubt, draft a Denver running back.

Across the league the fortunes of skill players rise and fall with their interior linemen. As the 2008 season approaches, here are five more lines that get votes of confidence, and five that give fantasy players reason to worry.

COMING ON STRONG

1. Houston
The most porous line in football not too long ago, the Texans have found a way to stop the pass rush: Their 22 sacks allowed in 2007 were less than a third of their '05 tally (68). This year the run blocking will catch up, thanks to the hiring of zone-blocking guru Alex Gibbs, who worked with Texans coach Gary Kubiak when they were both on Denver's staff. That's good news for running backs Ahman Green and Chris Brown.

2. New York Jets
Five-time All-Pro guard Alan Faneca, formerly of the Steelers, and ex-Vikings fullback Tony Richardson, virtually a lineman himself, will help Thomas Jones rebound from his dismal '07 season.

3. Cleveland
Last year a thrown-together group that included new signee Eric Steinbach at left guard and rookie Joe Thomas at left tackle helped resurrect the career of Jamal Lewis. Having been together a year, this line could become the league's best.

4. Green Bay
The running game will face more pressure if Aaron Rodgers is at the helm, but the offensive line, which plowed its way to the league's third-most yards per carry during the second half of last season, is back in its entirety.

5. Philadelphia
The Eagles gave up 49 sacks last year, fifth worst in the league, but 12 of those sacks came in Week 4, when starting left tackle William Thomas was out. All five starters return (assuming Pro Bowl right guard Shawn Andrews ends his absence from camp); look for a healthier Donovan McNabb to get off more balls than last year.

SHAKY SITUATIONS

1. Carolina
They've got Jordan Gross, who is shifting from right to left tackle, and Travelle Wharton, who moves from left tackle to guard, and the three other starters had just four NFL starts among them in '07. This is not good news for anyone on the Panthers' offense.

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