FRISCO, Texas — Some of the league’s best offensive linemen were in the same room for three days last week. All-Pros, Pro Bowl players and long-time starters, all right there to provide insight on what one player insisted was the “most skilled position” in football.
That can be debated. So can other topics, such as: Who is the most dominant pass-rusher in the NFL? Who has the best move? Which offensive lineman would be a superstar if he played a sexier position?
With so many top players in one place for the OL Masterminds summit, we decided to ask around the room for answers to those questions and more. Here are the results after polling 10 offensive linemen:
There are only three options. The votes were spread fairly evenly between Donald, Von Miller and Khalil Mack. They’re clearly head and shoulders above the competition. Donald came out the slight winner, though. One lineman talked about how he had two hands locked into Donald’s shoulder pads on one play and thought it was over. But the Rams’ defensive tackle dipped and shook off the usually reliable grips of that established player and was on the quarterback within seconds. The offensive lineman considered the move voodoo magic.
“It’s not even close. It’s not even fair.” — Bucs center Ryan Jensen on Donald
Khalil Mack’s outside spin, Chicago Bears
This was mentioned by a handful of guys. It almost seemed like an urban legend that has taken on a life of its own. Guys can only laugh when they mention or describe it at this point. Bears tackle Charles Leno Jr. described it as an outside, inside, chop-spin. Lane Johnson said it’s something Mack sets up with a stunt that he runs earlier, which makes the tackle bite inside. Then he comes with the nasty spin. The thing is, most edge rushers don’t spin to the outside. Then again, Mack isn’t most players.
“It was the nastiest move I’ve ever seen. It was one of the dirtiest moves I’ve seen of all time.” — Leno on Mack’s outside spin move
OL who would be a star if he played a sexier position
Lane Johnson, Philadelphia Eagles
It’s easy to overlook an offensive lineman. Heck, they’re sometimes referred to as Big Uglies, which speaks for itself. Offensive linemen traditionally get noticed when they allow sacks. Otherwise, they generally fly under the radar regardless of personality. They’re not quarterbacks, wide receivers or even pass-rushers. But if they were, players believe Johnson would be a star. He’s athletic (a former quarterback and tight end), talks trash and doesn’t hold back. There is a WWE feel to his approach. Johnson understands he’s in the entertainment business and plays his role well. If only he were a skill-position player, everybody would know him well. Others who were given consideration for this title were Eagles center Jason Kelce, Bears guard Kyle Long and Titans tackle Taylor Lewan.
“If [Johnson] were a QB or receiver, he’d be in the headlines every week. I think today a lot of guys are concerned about what people might think about you, or [how they] view you. But Lane really doesn’t give a s—.” — Eagles guard Brandon Brooks on Johnson
Chicago’s Akiem Hicks doesn’t stop talking during games. Former Seattle defensive end Frank Clark is pretty chatty. But perhaps the biggest trash-talker is Daniels. He has caught the ears of more than a few offensive linemen over the years. What’s interesting is that Saints left tackle Terron Armstead feels that most of the chatter comes from interior guys rather than on the edge.
“Pretty chatty guy [Mike Daniels]. Pretty X-rated. He says some off-the-wall stuff. Kind of funny. He’s always talking.” — Jensen
Vontaze Burfict‘s name surfaced. He has quite the reputation. So does Suh, some of it self-inflicted and some of it perhaps undeserved. Still, his name was uttered more than anyone else’s when linemen fielded this question. One player said Suh was more a fierce competitor than a dirty player. Another added that his reputation is probably a little overblown. Daniels, Donald and Derek Wolfe also were mentioned.
“At this point it’s probably a little undeserved.” — Chiefs tackle Mitchell Schwartz on Suh being dirty
Offensive lineman they like to watch
This was interesting in that it varied quite a bit by individual. Offensive linemen seem to look for players who play the same position with similar builds and skills. So Schwartz watches a lot of right tackles like Johnson, Rob Havenstein and Ryan Ramczyk. New England’s Shaq Mason keeps his eyes on Ron Leary and Trai Turner. The left tackles always seemed to begin with Williams and include Tyron Smith and Joe Staley.
“Trent is an [Oklahoma] guy. I like his style of play, too. His demeanor, it’s nasty. I like that.” — Johnson
Player they hate to face
Von Miller, Denver Broncos
There were a wide variety of options seemingly based on style of play. Vikings defensive tackle Linval Joseph was mentioned because of his sheer strength. That makes for a tough afternoon. Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan earned consideration because he brings power along with speed. A complete package. Johnson even surprisingly brought up Dallas’ DeMarcus Lawrence — despite their sometimes public back-and-forth — because Lawrence is always a menace and gives him a good matchup, with each of them winning their fair share. But more than anybody, when players face Miller they know they’re in for a looooooong day, year after year.
“[Miller] keeps getting better every year. He’s a guy, he obviously does the pass-rushing camp — he’s really interested in learning more about his craft. He continues to maintain and improve his athletic ability and his skill is also through the roof. I think that has come the longest way. He keeps adding stuff and obviously he has one of the best defensive lines in the NFL. So he’s always a tough matchup.” — Schwartz