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2010 Mini-Camp Aftermath: Offensive Line

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After a full weekend of mini-camp, it seems some positions are already beginning to be overhauled.  One of those spots seems to be the interior of the offensive line. It seems that four players; Brad Meester, Uche Nwaneri, Vince Manuwai, and Kynan Forney are up for three interior offensive line positions.

So how will it shake out?

The offensive line last season was a unit in a state of flux. The unit had two rookies starting from Game 1 at left and right tackle.  Former first and second round picks Eugene Monroe and Eben Britton were thrown into the fire and played nearly the entire season.  They both played well for the most part, but the offensive line still gave up 42 sacks and David Garrard wound up the most hit quarterback in the NFL.

"I’m expecting a lot out of my offensive line and I know they are expecting a lot of me. One of our things this year is keeping our sack total down and our goal is to stay in single digits. That’s a big task but we can do it," David Garrard told reporters on Sunday.  I don't think it's realistic to think that the offensive line can hold the sack total to single digits, which would be a record setting pace, but with a possible shake up the offensive line could be much better in pass protection.

One of the moves that looks set in stone so far is the move of guard Vince Manuwai from the left side to the right side. "I think for him, him and Eben (Britton) are more of a type of blocker so it’s going to help that scheme on the backside and the front side help a little bit better and Eugene (Monroe) and Uche (Nwaneri) are more the types; you don’t want a guy that totally can’t play physical or non‐physical, but the way they block you want them on the same side so you get a road grader. I guess the blockers should be on the same side. Last year we kind of had it mix‐matched a little bit," said Pro-Bowl runningback Maurice Jones-Drew. Jones-Drew is right, Manuwai is more of the road grading guard who's going to maul people and Nwaneri is more of a finesse blocker.  Each are adequate the other, but they were miscast on the opposite side of where they should have been.

One of the wildcards in this interior line shake up is veteran guard Kynan Forney, who coincidentally played at Hawaii with Vince Manuwai.  Forney was signed last off-season after he was released by the San Diego Chargers. During mini-camps Forney was getting work with the first unit at left guard.  While he was at left guard, Uche Nwaneri moved inside to the center position. "That is a part of my cross‐training. They’ve been pushing me into playing some center since I got here. It’s something that I’ve become comfortable with, and it feels a lot more natural now than it would have a year or two ago," Nwaneri told reporters after practice Monday.

It does seem odd for Nwaneri, who did get some work at center last off-season, to be fighting Brad Meester for his job right now.  Nwaneri was very vocal on wanting to bring back Meester last season and now it's possible he could take his job. "Brad is a professional. He comes out every day to do his job and he does it well. Right now he’s the anchor of our offensive line. For us there is always competition," said Nwaneri in response regarding if it was awkward competing with Brad.

However it shakes out, the offensive line should be improved for the better.  Moving Manuwai to the right side of the line should open even more holes for runningbacks Maurice Jones-Drew and Rashad Jennings.  Whatever left guard/center combination winds up starting should also improve the passing game.  As I mentioned in another article, the offense on this football team was left primarily in tact. It seems Gene Smith is confident in the ability of his offense, and these tweeks should make it all the better.