How Good Was the Eagles' Offensive Line in 2011?

How Good Was the Eagles' Offensive Line in 2011?

Everybody knows the Birds' offensive line improved by leaps and bounds last season. What you may not have realized is they made a meteoric rise from the middle of the pack to one of the top units in the league.

Pro Football Focus released Part 2 of their annual O-line rankings on Thursday, where the Eagles finished all the way up at second place. The cumulative rankings are formulated by grading every player individually in run and screen blocking, pass blocking, and penalties, and while Philadelphia finished 22nd in the latter, PFF named Howard Mudd's group the best run blockers in the league.

That the Eagles are among the very best run blocking teams in the NFL should come as no surprise. They finished the season fifth in rushing and third in yards per carry, thanks in part to a breakout effort by LeSean McCoy, and Michael Vick's mobility.

However, a lot of the credit for their success falls on the guys up front. In particular, Jason Peters and Evan Mathis formed a dominant tandem. According to NFL.com's offensive line statistics, the Eagles gashed defenses for gains of 10 yards or more on the left side 35 times, the second-highest total in the in league in 2011 -- on the left, or anyplace else on the field for that matter.

Even though the line was ranked second overall, PFF's pass block score shows the Eagles have a ways to go yet.

The pass blocking ranked just 12th, which is certainly not bad, but needs to improve. They're not super kind to Todd Herremans, openly questioning whether the converted right tackle should be protecting Vick's blind side, and the round-up tagged first-round pick Danny Watkins as their worst player.

Still, it was largely a positive review, and acknowledges the difficulties of blocking for certain people whose names rhyme with 'bicycle kick.'

"Blocking for Michael Vick isn’t always easy, but the Eagles did a great job of putting him in a position to succeed."

Obviously, you would hope Watkins as well as Jason Kelce continue to make strides throughout the offseason and into their sophomore year in the league. Herremans could also be better as he takes more snaps at right tackle, where he was moved only days before the regular season began.

Either way, the group fared much better than a year ago, when PFF ranked the unit 17th. They've undergone quite an overhaul since then, with a new coach, and Peters being the only starter who remained in the same position. There's no question they've already benefited greatly from the change, and they should continue moving in the right direction.

More: PFF also had a guest post from Evan Mathis on Tuesday. Mathis, who has been a busy guy of late, provides some nice insight on how to evaluate offensive line performance.

>> Ranking the 2011 Offensive Lines - Part 2 [PFF]

Best of NBA: Curry, Warriors demolish Cavaliers, 126-91, at home

Best of NBA: Curry, Warriors demolish Cavaliers, 126-91, at home

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors certainly looked ready to trade some more blows with LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers come June.

The two-time reigning MVP hit five 3-pointers and had 20 points while matching his season best with 11 assists in Golden State's 126-91 rout of the defending champs Monday.

Klay Thompson scored 26 points with five 3s, and Curry made four steals. Draymond Green produced his third triple-double of the season with 11 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists while matching his career best with five blocks -- and had another dustup with King James in the process.

James had 20 points on 6-of-18 shooting and eight rebounds, and he and Green became the talk once more as their relationship turned even more testy.

Kevin Durant added 21 points, six rebounds, five assists and three blocks for the Warriors in a much-hyped matchup merely weeks after Golden State lost 109-108 in Cleveland on Christmas (see full recap).

Thomas explodes for 17 in fourth quarter to lift Celtics over Hornets
BOSTON -- Isaiah Thomas scored 17 of his 35 points in the fourth quarter, and the surging Boston Celtics beat the Charlotte Hornets 108-98 on Monday night for their ninth victory in 11games.

It was Thomas' 25th straight game with 20 or more points. He's been putting up big final quarters of late -- scoring 20 or more three times this season. No other NBA player had done it more than once entering Monday.

Al Horford had 22 points, while Kelly Olynyk and Jae Crowder added 15 apiece for Boston, which has won all three meetings with Charlotte this season.

Kemba Walker scored 24 points and Marvin Williams 21 for the Hornets, who lost their fifth straight -- all on the road.

Thomas scored 13 straight points, pushing Boston ahead 93-83 with his 3-pointer from the left wing with 7 minutes left.

Boston led 80-71 entering the final period (see full recap).

Wizards remain hot with win over Trail Blazers
WASHINGTON  -- Bradley Beal scored 25 points and John Wall had 24 as the Washington Wizards took a page from the Portland Trail Blazers' playbook by hitting 13 3-pointers in a comfortable 120-101 victory on Monday afternoon.

The Wizards, who rely less on the 3-pointer than almost any NBA team, were 13 of 23 from beyond the arc in their 12th consecutive home victory. The 3-pointer-heavy Trail Blazers shot 8 of 26 on 3-point attempts.

After Washington coach Scott Brooks called Portland guards Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum as good as any backcourt in the league, Beal and John Wall outplayed them. Lillard led the Blazers with 22 points and McCollum had 12, but they combined to shoot 11 of 29 from the floor.

The Wizards have won four of their last five games (see full recap).

Best of NHL: Penguins halt Capitals 9-game streak with wild 8-7 OT win

Best of NHL: Penguins halt Capitals 9-game streak with wild 8-7 OT win

PITTSBURGH -- Conor Sheary scored 34 seconds into overtime and the Pittsburgh Penguins ended the Washington Capitals' nine-game winning streak with a wild 8-7 victory Monday night that included nine second-period goals.

Sheary had two goals and an assist for the Penguins, who snapped a three-game losing streak. Evgeni Malkin picked up his 11th career hat trick during a frenetic second period, and Sidney Crosby collected his NHL-leading 27th goal to go with two assists. Bryan Rust and Nick Bonino also scored for Pittsburgh, and Matt Murray got the win despite allowing seven goals on 28 shots.

The Penguins trailed 3-0 before scoring six goals in less than 11 minutes in the second period, more goals than the Capitals had allowed in a game all season. Pittsburgh led 6-5 after 40 minutes.

Lars Eller scored twice for Washington, and T.J. Oshie, Brett Connolly, Nicklas Backstrom, Justin Williams and Andre Burakovsky also found the net. Philipp Grubauer made eight saves after coming on in relief of Braden Holtby, who was pulled during Pittsburgh's second-period deluge (see full recap).

Eichel scores twice to give Sabres' 4-1 win over Stars
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Jack Eichel scored two goals and the Buffalo Sabres defeated the Dallas Stars 4-1 on Monday.

Tyler Ennis scored 19 seconds into the first period. Ennis returned after missing 30 games with a groin injury that required surgery.

Jake McCabe also had a goal and Robin Lehner made 31 saves after missing the past three games with an illness.

The Sabres snapped a two-game losing streak and beat the Stars for the first time in four matchups.

Radek Faksa scored for the Stars in the opener of a three-game road trip. Kari Lehtonen stopped 25 shots. Dallas has lost two in a row and six of eight (see full recap).

Bishop anchors Lightning to 2-1 win over Kings
LOS ANGELES -- Brian Boyle scored the go-ahead goal late in the second period, and the Tampa Bay Lightning opened a six-game road trip with a 2-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Monday.

Ben Bishop made an early mistake that led to Kyle Clifford's goal for the Kings, but bounced back to make 31 saves in his second start back from a three-week absence with a lower-body injury.

Tyler Johnson scored in the first period for the Lightning, who won for just the second time in seven games.

Peter Budaj stopped 27 shots for the Kings.

Both teams played without stars due to illness. Kings captain Anze Kopitar missed his first game since Nov. 20, and All-Star defenseman Victor Hedman missed his first game of the season for Tampa Bay (see full recap).