As we all know, the NFL has become a passing league, the only problem is that certain passers can’t seem to get time to perform the simple task of the forward pass. It seemed evident last week during the early stages of Monday night’s Broncos-Chargers game that Philip Rivers was in for a long night. The Pro Bowl passer was under duress on nearly every snap (sacked 5 times, fumbled three times). Rivers for years had what many considered the best offensive line in football, well, no longer and he’s not alone. Some of the leagues most prominent young stars are getting drilled into the field-turf at what seem to be alarming rates (they are definitely alarming if you’re a fan of these teams).
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has always enjoyed holding onto the ball for a very long time, but you’ve got to wonder what the offense could be if he were given some better protection. I believe that no matter how much time Big Ben gets he would be among the league’s most sacked quarterbacks, but last year and this year his offensive line has been pretty rough. He’s on pace to be sacked 43 times this year, combine that with the previous three seasons, and you’re talking 182 sacks. I don’t care how BIG Ben may be, 6’5’’ 241 pounds can’t take that pounding forever. Pittsburgh’s gotten two titles from its brawny, big-armed gun-slinger, but if his protection continues to be porous, you have got to fear for the offense and his health.
Young stud passer Aaron Rodgers has all the tools to be an elite passer, but after getting rocked last year and eventually injured, his offensive line this time around has been down right offensive. He’s tops in the league, having been sacked 25 times. He’s on pace for well, death, no, more like 80 sacks. Rodgers’ numbers ( 8 touchdowns, just two interceptions, and a 65% completion rate) are very good, he’s on pace for a terrific year, but without more help along the line, cheeseheads are crossing their fingers he can survive. Injuries have ravaged the Packer line. The team has been forced to sign former lineman Mark Tauscher off the scrap heap. It’s top lineman, Chad Clifton has missed 2 out of the Packers five games this season (Rodgers was sacked 10 times during that stretch). Thankfully for Green Bay, Clifton returned last week against the Lions, a game GB won 26-0.
Both Green Bay and Pittsburgh have been good, I’m not trying to diminish their accomplishments for the early part of 2009, the issue is long-term. Can these and other habitual sack-takers survive the season, let along a decade in the league? The least sacked elite passers, Peyton Manning (2), Drew Brees (4) and Tom Brady (7) don’t have the most talented lineman or best running games in the world, but these guys have quick releases and evidently better schemes. Green Bay, Pittsburgh, and middle-tier teams, here’s to hoping your squads figure it out before the doomsday golf cart is wheeled to a quarterback near you.