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News: Never look past the offensive line - NFL.com

Discussion in 'News Zone' started by Lord Sun, Jun 4, 2004.

  1. Lord Sun

    Lord Sun New Member

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    By Brian Baldinger, NFL.com

    (June 4, 2004) -- It's a disgrace that I'm writing this column for Week 10 [of NFLE - LS] and I have yet to talk about the no-skilled players of the league. I am embarrassed, and I offer all my apologies to the truly talented offensive linemen of NFL Europe.

    They'll get over it; they're used to it -- they're linemen. The only time anyone ever talks about offensive linemen is when they do something bad, and it's traditionally after a penalty is called on them or a great play is called back because of one of their infractions. I would like to use the rest of this space to comment on what I think is the deepest position in the league this year.

    Offensive line has always been the deepest position in NFLE. More current NFL players have served their tour of duty on the offensive line in Europe than any other position. That includes the coveted quarterback position. There is good reason why. Talent is not required. I know that sounds weird. I survived 13 years without having any. Dennis Thurman, a former teammate in Dallas, referred to me as "no skill." I wore that name like a badge of honor.

    All that is required to play offensive line at any level is a big body, a hard head and a huge heart. I see plenty of prospects over here that combine these essential qualities.

    The two best teams this season, Frankfurt and Berlin, have a foundation for success with their offensive linemen. Not surprisingly, they are ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in total and rushing offense. Last week, both teams went to their backup QB and both had success. David Rivers of Berlin entered the game in the second quarter down 13-0 in relief of Rohan Davey, the possible league MVP, and played like an MVP himself. It was the play along the line that allowed him the comfort to spot open receivers and also hand off to Eric McCoo to turn things around immediately.

    Berlin's offensive line is anchored by center Ben Claxton. He was Denver's fifth-round pick last year. He started every game as a senior at Ole Miss, snapping to a pretty good prospect named Eli Manning. Next to Claxton are a couple of heady guards, Troy Andrews from Duke and Jamil Soriano from Harvard. Andrews is back for a second stint after posting All-NFLE honors a year ago with the Barcelona Dragons. On the edges is a mammoth right tackle from the Philadelphia Eagles, Dante Ellington, and at left tackle is Dave Kadela of the Carolina Panthers. Eagles offensive line coach Juan Castillo has made a great living developing players like Ellington. He could be the next Eagles free-agent lineman to start in the NFL. That list includes Bubba Miller, Hank Fraley and Artis Hicks.

    Frankfurt has its share of prospects as well. It starts with left tackle David Pruce from the Patriots. He manned the position a year ago, starting every game on his way to a World Bowl victory. This should be the season he sticks with New England. At center is a young 23-year-old named Johnathan Ingram from the Chiefs. No team benefits more from the development of young players than the Chiefs. Currently they have cultivated four starters from NFL Europe: Dante Hall, Mike Maslowski, Brian Waters and Gary Stills. They were all just like Ingram is now.

    Left guard Konrad Dean has started every game so far. He was sent by the Jaguars, who are looking to develop some depth. As a college freshman, he started every game for the Temple Owls. My good friend and former teammate from the Eagles, Mike Schad, who played nine years in the NFL, said to watch out for this kid some six or seven years ago.

    I was asked during last week's broadcast to list my all-time NFLE team. It was a difficult assignment, especially when it came time to list the offensive linemen. For example, at guard, Marco Rivera from the Packers is an easy choice. He won a Super Bowl in 1997 and went to Hawaii this year for his first Pro Bowl. Joe Andruzzi seemed like an easy choice. He started on both of the Patriots' Super Bowl teams. But what about Waters in K.C., Ben Hamilton in Denver and Tupe Peko in Indy? All were starters on playoff teams. Waters will be a Pro Bowl performer, possibly as early as this year.

    At tackle it seems easy as well. Matt Lepsis of Denver and Barry Sims of Oakland have both started on Super Bowl Sunday. Both are deserving of this distinction of being the best alumni at their position. Starting on a Super Bowl team automatically qualifies a player as being a bonafide NFL Europe star. That is an obvious barometer. But where does that leave tackles like Everett Lindsay, Oliver Ross, Sammy Williams and Barry Stokes?

    There are other alumni who I can't help but follow. Two years ago, Javiar Collins from the Dallas Cowboys was sent to Frankfurt to learn how to play the line. He was a scholar and a defensive lineman while at Northwestern. Dallas liked his athletic ability and intelligence, and thought he could play up front full time. After one season in NFLE, he was back in the states battling Michael Strahan during a Cowboys-Giants tilt. He's still there, developing and learning. He wants it real bad.

    That is all OL play really is. Big-bodied, no-skilled, tough guys that like to compete. That's all Andruzzi, Rivera and Waters are. I am banking on Pruce, Claxton and a left tackle from Amsterdam this year named Thomas Barnett. As more O-linemen from NFL Europe graduate into the NFL next year, my job of selecting the all-time performers will only get more challenging.

    I have absolution from my fellow linemen and wish them all success in the final week, the World Bowl and future NFL employment. Welcome to the no-skilled world.
  2. big dog cowboy

    big dog cowboy THE BIG DOG Staff Member

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    The last time the Cowboys had what was considered the best o-line in the league was when were winning super bowls in the 90's. In '95 for example: Larry Allen, Ray Donaldson, Nate Newton and Mark Tuinei all went to the pro bowl. Ray Donaldson was the center and Ron Stone a top flight back up. Hopefully this new group we are putting together will achieve that same distinction of prior Cowboy teams.
  3. jay cee

    jay cee Active Member

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    Great read. It all starts up front. I don't care how good your skilled positions are, if you are weak in the o-line, you gets "naythin' but penetraytion."

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