The Combine Report: Week 13 – Veteran RC O-Line Pioneers Held Down The Fort

By: Barry Barnes, Founder

Three NFL quarterbacks needed support from their offensive linemen heading into Week 13 as the postseason race heats up. These veteran signal callers are capable of leading their teams, but without solid protection, their postseason will turn into an early offseason.

Fortunately, there were three NFL Regional Combine pioneers ready for the task.

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Left tackle Alejandro Villanueva started for the Pittsburgh Steelers midway through the 2015 campaign. The converted linebacker and tight end kept quarterback Ben Roethlisberger untouched for majority of their contest against the New York Giants.

Giants defensive Olivier Vernon managed to sack Big Ben twice, but when Roethlisberger needed to wind up to throw strikes, the offensive linemen cleared room.

Le'Veon Bell/Steelers.com

Most specifically, this contest turned into a battle. Villanueva and the gang were game as the Steelers stuck with the run throughout the evening.

“We knew we had a good group in front of us,” said Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell, who carried the ball 29 times for 118 yards. “We knew they were coming in gearing up to stop the run. We knew we had a long game in front of us.

“But our guys up front, they prepared for battle. They were out there talking trash and going back and forth. It was a fun game.”

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck had his best performance of the season against the New York Jets Monday night. Sacked just once, Luck threw four touchdowns and 278 yards. Offensive tackle Denzelle Good was one of the key reasons why Luck had a near perfect evening.

RELATED ARTICLE: The Combine Report: Week 11 – RC Offensive Talents Are Making Statements

Even the Colts’ running attack benefited from the o-line’s aggressive push.

Tackle Ulrick John was signed from the Miami Dolphins practice squad by the Arizona Cardinals following Week 10 when guard Evan Mathis was lost for the season due to an ankle injury.

In Week 12, John was activated to the active roster. The 2014 RC attendee and seventh-round draftee (232nd-overall) of the Colts in the 2014 NFL Draft earned his first start of the season, but found his rhythm in Week 13.

And it showed.

Carson Palmer/azcardinals.com

Veteran quarterback Carson Palmer found some of his best throw lanes and protection this year, which was needed against a hostile Washington Redskins’ pass rush as he threw 46 times for 300 yards and three touchdowns.

If the lines hold up during the course of December, these clubs will have a realistic chance to play deep into January.

THE RUNDOWN

-Oakland Raiders wide receiver Seth Roberts did not score a touchdown, but assist in posting numbers to the scoreboard after successfully converting a two-point conversion in their second half blowout win over the Buffalo Bills.

-Wide receiver Adam Thielen had a tough evening against the Dallas Cowboys after a costly fumble late in the fourth quarter.

Nevertheless, Thielen led his squad in receiving yards with 86 off seven receptions, and he was recognized by former NFL wide receiver Nate Burleson of “Good Morning Football” for his “toe-drag swag”

-As the snow fell heavy in Lambeau Field, Houston Texans running back Jonathan Grimes attempted to plow his team to victory against the Green Bay Packers. For the first time this season, Grimes led the Texans ground attack with 43 yards off five carries and caught a 15-yard pass.

With four week remaining, many players from the NFL Regional Combine still have plenty of time to stake their claim as solid athletes in the NFL.

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