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The NFL: An Offensive Line-Driven League?

Yahoo Contributor Network

These days in the National Football League, there's so much emphasis placed on the performance of the quarterback that you wonder if he's the only player on the field.

And while the man behind center, along with his running backs, wide receivers and tight ends, gets plenty of attention, that center and his four offensive line mates seemingly remain in the background.

So here's the fourth of many looks at the other positions on the field and their importance. In this instance, we'll be looking at the best offensive lines in the league. Not all of these groups (listed in alphabetical order) are perfect, but we're certainly open to other suggestions.

Baltimore Ravens: The line that was refurbished entering the playoffs returns this season, although veteran center Matt Birk has retired. Second-year pro Gino Gradkowski takes over in the middle. The tackles are Bryant McKinnie and Michael Oher. Pro Bowl left guard Marshal Yanda is on the mend but should be ready for training camp.

Cleveland Browns: This franchise doesn't often get a lot of good publicity but running back Trent Richardson and quarterback Brandon Weeden did play behind one of the league's better units. Left tackle Joe Thomas is six-for-six when it comes to being named to the Pro Bowl. Center Alex Mack is a former Pro Bowler and right tackle Mitchell Schwartz bears watching.

Houston Texans: Running back Arian Foster plays behind a solid group, although there were some issues at right tackle a year ago. Star left tackle Duane Brown is very solid and center Chris Myers has been named to the last two Pro Bowls. Houston allowed just 28 sacks last season and ranked eighth in the NFL in rushing.

San Francisco 49ers: This line is loaded with talent, such as the left side tandem of Pro Bowlers Joe Staley and Mike Iupati. Veteran center Jonathan Goodwin anchors the middle while former first-rounder Anthony Davis and Alex Boone are at right tackle and guard, respectively. The 49ers ranked fourth in the league in rushing offense in 2012.

Seattle Seahawks: Russell Wilson comes off a tremendous rookie season and running back Marshawn Lynch was huge as well. But so were left tackle Russell Okung and center Max Unger, both first-time Pro Bowlers in 2012. Former first-rounder and left guard James Carpenter has had trouble staying healthy, but this is a very good group.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: This may be the most unsung line in the league. Although the Bucs' line had no representation in Hawaii last season, left tackle Donald Penn and guard Carl Nicks and Davin Joseph are all former Pro Bowlers. And it will be interesting to see how new right tackle Gabe Carimi fits in. The Tampa offense was very potent and balanced a year ago.

Washington Redskins: Yes, there are some concerns at right tackle. But head coach Mike Shanahan and his staff put together a cohesive unit, led by Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams, one that managed to stay intact throughout the majority of 2012. Any surprise why the Redskins led the NFL in rushing last season?

Which offensive front is not on the list? In any case, as we continue to try and point out, football is a team game that requires many components to win a championship.

Russell S. Baxter has spent the last 40-plus years watching football. He is the founder of ProFootballGuru.com, writes for numerous websites and publications across the country and is blessed with an encyclopedic memory. Ready to talk NFL? Follow him on Twitter at @BaxFootballGuru.

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