Offensive Line is STILL a big problem
The offensive line is still a problem. Yes, there seem to be other problems popping up everywhere, and everyone seems to have an opinion about which are the most crucial. And given that we've targeted the OL in recent drafts, can it still be a primary problem? Well yes, it still is - because the hole was very, very deep indeed.
Obviously we're golden at center, with a young all-world Pouncey - unlimited upside. Forget the worries about whether he's injury-prone. He's had only one injury, the high ankle sprain, with subsequent tweaks. That type of sprain is notoriously tricky, and it turned out to require surgical correction. After that, no problems.
I think we're golden at RG as well. During last year's exhibition season, DD was playing at a level above everyone else - to my eyes, he was right there with Pouncey, just amazing. A serious injury derailed his season, but I expect him to come right back and be over-the-top amazing.
At LG, we've got a problem. The Colon experiment was so-so. Nice aggression and energy, but uneven technique, and he continues to make those maddening mental errors that hurt the team at the most inopportune times. It's safe to say that we're still searching for Willie's natural position in life - whatever it is, it's likely to be one where he's not required to learn a snap count. But it's all moot at this point - he's very expensive, he's mega-prone to injury, and he's still at the developmental stage. Willie is already gone, probably one of the first and easiest names on the list for the off-season moves.
Foster is ideally a multi-position depth guy, but he's been forced into starting, and let's be honest, that level of responsibility is more than a bit over his head. On a really solid NFL line, we could accomodate a single weak link in the starting five - but that's not where we're at. Ideally we could have him as a flexible backup at a cheap price, but in his mind he's probably an NFL starter. Will he be happy as a cheap backup? Probably not.
There is a ray of hope at LG in Beechum, but we haven't seen it yet, so who knows? Plus, Beechum might be needed at OT. One way or another, we're going to need Beechum to step up somewhere, because we have holes that need to be filled.
At tackle, we've also got problems. First, what about Starks? Two impressive years, arguably our best lineman behind Pouncey - even though his play is just average NFL-level, that's a shining light on the Steelers. But two good years against seven years of relaxation and underperformance makes you wonder. It was great to see Max get lean and mean - once he was at NFL minimum salary, and playing to stay in the league. He certainly owed the Steelers those two years of effort, and a lot more. I'd happily take the lean and mean Starks, especially for depth, but someone next year is going to have the fat, happy and well-paid Starks from the first seven years. We've been there, and it ain't pretty.
Now, Adams vs. Gilbert. Adams seems to be a hard worker, has a great body frame, and great feet. He needs to build up the muscle, and he needs to stay healthy. He's well beyond Gilbert as a run blocker, and (in my opinion) he's not any worse in pass protection - but different. Adams is often beaten by technique, and by his own hesitaton - a matter of confidence and training. But when he's beaten, he doesn't give up, his motor keeps going, and that hustle is great to see. Technique can be taught, and confidence can be developed. I have high hopes for Adams through continued development.
Gilbert, on the other hand is a problem. His conditioning doesn't look to be great, and the quality of his performance is very inconsistent. He took a big step backward in his second year, and that's worrisome, because sometimes he plays very well. He's not a great run-blocker, and he does gets beaten often in pass protection - in every way. He can be tricked, outmaneuvered, overpowered, and he gives up. I don't need to mention how often he finds himself being driven into the lets of his teammates. What's the problem with Gilbert's head, given that sometimes he can play great? The coaches better figure that out.
OK, there's our starting lineup: we can feel good about C, RG, and hopefully one OT position. But one OG position is unfilled, and at least one OT positon loos very shaky (Gilbert). And where does that leave us with depth? Beyond Doug Legursky's great position flexibility, what do we have? Foster/Starks are almost certainly gone, and I gotta believe that Beechum will get a shot at G.
People, we're down quite a few OL bodies even in the best scenario. OL is still a major problem. Don't even talk to me about running backs when we have no credible method of creating holes!!!!