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An O-line observer

Walker Carey | Wednesday, October 5, 2011

I have been a proud and loyal professional football fan ever since I was young. While I have seen my allegiances change from the Los Angeles Raiders to the Dallas Cowboys to the Cleveland Browns and finally to my hometown Chicago Bears, there has been one part of my football fandom that has remained overwhelmingly consistent, and that has been my fascination with watching offensive lines.

There has always been something intriguing to me about seeing five 300-pound plus guys lining up across from a defensive front with the lone objective of knocking the snot out of the guy in front of them. Luckily, throughout my fandom, I have had the pleasure of watching some of the best ever go to work in protecting quarterbacks and paving the way for running games.

When I was a lame, front-running grade-schooler, I had an obsession with the Dallas Cowboys. Sure, the Cowboys had superstar power with Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin and Deion Sanders, but they also lined up Larry Allen at guard and Erik Williams at tackle. Even at a young age, I knew there was something special about watching a left side of an offensive line that accumulated a total of 15-career-Pro Bowls by the time their careers ended.

In the early 2000s, the St. Louis Rams and Kansas City Chiefs deservingly garnered a great deal of fanfare for their explosive offenses. Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk, Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt, Trent Green, Priest Holmes, Larry Johnson, Tony Gonzalez and Dante Hall all became household names. However, what most fans did not seem to realize was that All-Pro offensive lines were protecting both of these offenses. The Rams possessed the luxuries of Pro Bowl guard Adam Timmerman and Pro Bowl tackle Orlando Pace. The Chiefs started three Pro Bowlers in tackle Willie Roaf and guards Will Shields and Brian Waters.

When the New England Patriots won three Super Bowls in four seasons, all anyone could talk about was Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. Yet, center Damien Woody (and later Dan Koppen), guards Joe Andruzzi and Stephen Neal and tackle Matt Light were all more than instrumental in bringing the Lombardi Trophy to Foxboro each time.

On the contrary, I have had the unfortunate displeasure of having to watch the porous, revolving door offensive line of my beloved Chicago Bears over the past three seasons. Just as great offensive lines open up the rest of the offense, a poor offense line can prevent an offense from making any sort of substantial impact.

While I understand that the casual football fan will probably never devote time to focusing on the offensive lines during the course of a football game, I believe it would be in the best interest of every fan to just try it for one quarter. If I were asked to make suggestions, watch Browns tackle Joe Thomas, Dolphins tackle Jake Long or Jets center Nick Mangold — I guarantee even the most casual fans will be amazed at what they see.

Contact Walker Carey at wcarey@nd.edu

The views expressed in the Inside Column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.