The Bad – The most probable reason for the offensive line to underperform is a failure to achieve cohesiveness as a unit. Four linemen can execute perfectly and one missed assignment or block, even off the ball, can result in a 2 yard loss rather than a big run, a strip sack rather than a long touchdown pass.
A rash of injuries can also lead to underperformance. Look no further than the first half of 2015 when the line looked like a Mash Unit with many of the linemen playing out of position replacing fallen teammates. There is better depth this year, so if injuries occur linemen may not be shuffled as much, but there are reasons that back-ups are back-ups. Typically they do not perform as well as the fallen starter and unit cohesiveness suffers.
Underperformance by any of the linemen can result in underperformance of the whole unit. Among the veterans the two most likely to underperform are Xavier Su’a-Filo and Derek Newton. Both are talented but were up and down in 2015. Both are expected to be “up” in 2016, but reasonable doubt remains.
Finally, if the quarterback position group performs poorly it can lead to a perception that the offensive line is underperforming. A defense that doesn’t have to defend the whole field can stack the line of scrimmage shutting down the run. A quarterback who holds the ball too long creates sack statistics that unfairly reflect on the offensive line. Morale can suffer followed by performance shortfalls.
Many things can go wrong to create “The Bad”. The quarterback position group and the line position group are interdependent. They can lift each other or drag each other down. There are enough questions at quarterback and enough changes in the offensive line that despite the talent underperformance is a possibility.
Next: The Ugly