1. New England Patriots
Projected Starter: Stephen Neal
It’s no secret why the Patriots have had one of the best O-lines in football for years now. The guard combination of Stephen Neal at right guard, and Logan Mankins at left guard, doesn’t get much better. Neal is fantastic keeping Brady clean, and is very effective in run blocking as well. In fact, Pro Football Focus gave Neal the second best guard rating in the entire NFL, second only to the Saints’ Jahri Evans.
2. New York Jets
Projected Starter: Brandon Moore
Despite struggling on screen plays (receiving PFF’s only negative screen block rating for a guard), there are only a few more solid than Brandon Moore is on just about every other play. Moore is a big reason why the Jets are so successful running the football, and rarely allows penetration when Sanchez drops back to pass.
3. Miami Dolphins
Projected Starter: Richie Incognito/Donald Thomas/Nate Garner
During OTA’s and minicamp, Richie Incognito and Donald Thomas have been rotating, with both getting the opportunity to work with the first team every other day/practice. I really feel like it’s Incognito’s job to lose though, because in all honesty, Thomas was nothing special a year ago. Thomas is one of the strongest players on the team, so he is a decent run blocker, but he was exposed in pass protection last season. He gave up a team-high five sacks in 09′, and hasn’t lived up to the expectations he received after winning the starting job in his rookie training camp. Incognito meanwhile, will be an upgrade if he can keep his head. He has been more solid in pass blocking, a better run blocker than Thomas, and plays with a “nasty” style that Sparano, the former line coach, loves. The wildcard in all of this though, is Nate Garner, who can play any position along the line. Garner has been injured this spring, so no one knows where he will get the opportunity to compete, or if he will compete for a starting job at all.
4. Buffalo Bills
Projected Starter: Eric Wood
The scrutiny the Bills’ offensive line receives is probably justified at all five positions, and right guard is no exception. Eric Wood had his fair share of struggles as a rookie, and needs to make huge strides in his sophomore campaign. Wood was poor as a run blocker, mediocre in pass protection, and was penalized seven times last season, which was tied for second most among all guards in the league.