What is the foundation to a great offense? Throughout the history of the NFL, the best offenses boast the top-rated offensive lines every year. These offenses are given the highest scores on Pro Football Focus player grades to the men in the trenches. They flood the All-Pro list with their Tackles, Guards, and Centers. It’s the core to every great offense, and arguably the least saturated position at the NFL level. There is a devastating lack of parody between the O-line talent and the D-Line talent.
Former NFL scout, Matt Williamson went through every team in the 2017 season to see where there were more “above replacement level” players in the trenches. His findings showed every team can boast at least two quality players on their D-line, if not four or five, while there were teams that only have one or no “above replacement level” O-lineman. With this glaring lack of depth on one side of the line, I wish to dive into the trickle-down effect this will have on the AAF and learn how this will drive offenses in the league. Therefore, we will begin our dive by figuring who will be fighting for us in the trenches as members of the Memphis Express O-Line.
This first section will be a quick bio on the players that the Memphis Express staff brought in to evaluate.
School: Tennessee State
Morris is an athletic offensive tackle out of TSU. He started 10 games his JR season and all 11 games his SR season year at Right Tackle. Morris was drafted number 2 in the 7th round to the Oakland Raiders, although he got released due to injury. He has been picked up by the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League but left to play in the AAF. Morris displayed impressive athleticism during his Pro-Day at TSU, especially when you consider his size. He boasted a broad jump over 9’, and a sub-8 second 3-cone drill. I think his combination of size and athleticism will translate well in Singletary’s offensive scheme.
School: Ole Miss
Morris came into Ole Miss as a 4-star recruit, and the 10th best offensive tackle in the country according to Scout.com. He had grown into his impressive size out of high school, and already showed control over it. Playing with impressive talents, like Laremy Tunsil, he has experience blocking NFL talent playing in the SEC. He spent most of his time as a swing tackle playing both on the Left and Right Tackle. He played one season as a graduate transfer at Tennessee State where he was a starter at LT. At his Pro Day, he boasted a solid 8’10” broad jump. His versatility should make him an asset for the Express
School: University of Kentucky
Cole Mosier played LT for the University of Kentucky his JR and SR year, and LG and RG his freshman and sophomore year. His JR year, he was a dominant force anchoring down the blindside of the UK O-Line that produced two 1000-yard rushers. His efforts earned himself on the semi-finalist list for the Joe Moore Award (given to the most outstanding offensive lineman). During his time in the SEC, he has shown the ability to hold up against future 1st round draft picks in the NFL like Derek Barnett, Jonathan Allen, and Charles Harris. His is absolutely punishing play in and play out, and he surprisingly quick out of his stance for a man of his size. Unfortunately, he tore both of his ACLs his SR year and fell through the draft.
School: Mississippi Valley State University
I could find very little about Trevin during his time at MVSU, though since graduating Wallace has started his pro career in the Indoor Football League, where he has played starter at RG (they do not have Tackles in Arena style football, so he was still anchoring the outside). He has both Guard and Tackle experience during his days at MVSU. From the tape I have seen from the IFL, he has exceptional anchoring and power.
School: Louisiana State University
Jonah came out of high school as 3-star prospect. He played in the SEC, so he got to face up against players like Deonte Flowers. He played for Nicholls State as a graduate transfer for one year, where he got even more on field experience. Austin has a ton of versatility playing both Left and Right Guard as well as Left and Right Tackle. He showed a lot of power and great technique, though he showed inconsistent leverage. His ability to play multiple positions across the O-Line could make him an asset for Memphis.
School: Ole Miss
Daronte played mostly at RG during his time at Ole Miss but also has experience at LG. During his JR year, which he played all but five games due to injury, Bouldin and the rest of the Ole Miss O-Line showed incredible poise allowing their QBs to average 9.4 air yards over the course of the season. This shows that the O-Line was allowing Shea Patterson and his receivers time to develop deeper and more complicated passing plays. Daronte is big, strong and best in small areas, comes out of his snap quickly, and shows great leverage and hand usage. He can be a little sluggish laterally and can be ineffective at the 2nd level, but with his size and strength, I think there is still a lot of untapped potential with him.
School: Tennessee State
Dunker originally started his college career at the University of Florida, but after a grand theft auto charge he got from stealing a scooter, he ended up at Tennessee State. He is an exceptional athlete boasting a sub-5 second 40-time and a 9-foot broad jump. He spent most of his time playing on the Left side of the offensive line earning 2nd team All-OVC his sophomore year at LG and 1st team All-OVC at LT his senior year. Even though he has shown a little struggle with anchoring, he shows good technique and has the explosiveness to be effective at the second level. He is best in space which could be essential in Mike Singletary’s offense.
School: Memphis University
Gabe showed incredible durability during his years at Memphis as well as versatility playing both Center and Guard. In 2015 he was on the preseason Remington Award (goes to best Center in the country) watchlist, and in 2017 he made an appearance on the preseason Outland Trophy (Best Interior Lineman in the country) watchlist. What he lacks in size he makes up with technique and quickness. He gets to the second level quickly and plays well in space. He was also All-American Athletic Conference 1st team his senior year at LG.
School: Tennessee State
Robert Myers has a super bowl ring to pad his resume. He was on the Denver Broncos roster (albeit inactive) when they won Super Bowl 50. His senior year in 2015, he was 2nd team All-OVC. He got drafted in the 5th round of the 2015 draft and showed incredible athleticism for a man with his size and power boasting a 9’4” broad jump and completing the 3-cone in 8.10 seconds, as well as turning heads at the Senior Bowl against the best of the best of the draft-eligible prospects. He uses his size well, anchors well and has shown above average footwork and hustles to get to the second level. Myers showed some lapses in his angles and lateral movement, probably better suited for pass protection as opposed to run.
School: University of Tennessee
Dallas was a 3rd team All-American and 2nd team All-SEC his senior year at the University of Tennessee and was drafted in the 3rd rd of the 2013 draft to the Miami Dolphins where he started 26 games and played in 37. He shows natural bend, excellent agility and can anchor even bigger DT. He shows a great ability to meet his man in space. Thomas has, however, shown he can get behind with footwork a little, and I have noticed that he will give up space if his initial punch fails. Every now in then, he showed a tendency to lunge. Dallas is big and athletic, in addition to his experience will make him an asset to the entire Memphis Express, not just the offensive line.
School: Iowa State
Oni showed exceptional athleticism during his Pro Day at Iowa State, showing off a sub-5-second 40-yard dash and a 33” vertical jump. What he lacks in power, he makes up in burst and converting speed to power. He comes out of snap fast and uses his leverage well. Has spent time on both Raiders and Steeler roster. On December 12th, 2018 he signed onto the Dallas Cowboys practice squad. This is not relevant to his ability on the field, but Oni Omoile is a Nigerian prince. His father has a direct bloodline link to royalty in the Oki Village. His mother, Catherine, also has a link to Nigerian royalty.
School: Tennessee State
Ty boasted a ridiculous 7.65-second 3-cone drill. Just like Oni, he converts his burst and leverage to power well. Shows the ability to get to the second level. Has more starts at Guard while at TSU. He spent time on the Seattle Seahawks practice squad. Most of his draft critics claimed a lack of detail to his technique and footwork, but Dana Ford denied it in an interview with TSUTigers.com.
School: Chattanooga University
Out of High School, Josh was a 4-star prospect. According to rival.com, he was the 22nd ranked Center in the nation and the 35th best prospect out of Georgia. He transferred from the University of Georgia to Chattanooga, which Josh once said in an interview with Draft Diamonds, it was the biggest obstacle of his life. Nevertheless, Josh overcame this adversity to be All-SoCon 2nd team to two years in a row at both the Guard and Center position. Cordiello spent time with the Buccaneers during spring training. He has shown the ability to anchor the middle of a line and showed incredible leadership as well as intangibles according to draftscout.com. These are essential to be a successful Center at the next level.
School: Tennessee State University
The Memphis Express’s newest offensive line addition Demetrius Rhaney has 32 games of NFL experience from 2015-2016 with than St. Louis/LA Rams. He was drafted 7th round to the Rams in 2014 (spent his first year on the inactive roster list) after turning heads at his pro-day. Rhaney made people take notice with a 27″ vertical jump and 9-foot broad jump, but really put his name on teams’ big board by doing his 3-cone in 4.59 seconds. He gets into his blocks quickly and has NFL starter lower-body strength. Great at anchoring the middle of the line and pass blocks well. NFL.com drafts say he lacks ideal size and can lose power in motion, but with his power and burst, he could eventually compete for a starting position in the NFL.
Very few players are so talented that they can transition seamlessly from scheme to scheme. A player that is successful in a Shannahan style offense may not be near as successful playing in the Andy Reid system. So, it is important to consider who is coaching the offense and what kind of scheme they will be putting out on gameday.
Mike Singletary Head Coach
If you want to know more about Singletary, Isaac Thompson has a wonderful bio of his historic presence on the game of football. Singletary had experience as Head Coach of the 49ers in 2009-2010. During his time with 49ers, they went 8-8 and 6-10 respectively and didn’t finish his final year as Head Coach. As HC, the 49ers were primarily a ground and pound style team but I do not think that philosophy will follow him to the Express. I believe the offense was more a product of Offensive Coordinator, Jimmy Raye, and the roster construction. The team at the time was led under center by Alex Smith, who is commonly referred to as a game manager, and Frank Gore, the infinite one. (Not to mention a stacked Defense led by future Hall of Famer Patrick Willis).
Air Raid Offense
Singletary has suggested to us he has a completely different vision for the Memphis Express by hiring Hal Mumme to be the offensive coordinator. Mumme is widely considered the godfather of the “Air Raid” offense. This is a fast-paced offense that utilizes quick passes (screens, bubble screens, tunnel screens, quick slants, and short curls) to get their quick-twitch athletes into space. “Throw it where they ain’t” as Mumme would say. Hal Mumme describes it this way, “remember those Joe Montana drives, in the last few minutes of a game. Where they would utilize and quick passes to drive the ball and score to win the game. We want to run that offense, but for the entire game.”
The Air Raid is primarily a no-huddle offense, which could be vital since there are only 30 seconds on the play clock (in between plays) as opposed to the 40 seconds the NFL offers. A no-huddle offense will give the Express an advantage by keeping the opposing defenses from substituting player in and out, thus it mostly focuses on 2 formations, 5-wide sets or 11 formations (one TE, one RB, and 3WR). Even though the Express and Mumme have since part ways, Singletary has hinted to us that he will still run this style of offense by hiring Mumme personal protegee Bobby Blizzard as the WR coach. Blizzard spent 4 years as Mumme’s Offensive Coordinator, QB Coach, and WR Coach at Belhaven University. With this knowledge, we would expect Singletary to favor athletic Lineman that can quickly get to the perimeter and second level to screen block.
Steve Marshall Offensive Line Coach
Offensive Line coaching is regarded as the most strenuous positional coaching job. Other positional coaches focus on one player and their technique. Even WR coaches mainly focus on one receiver’s field positioning and route running, while the OC oversees utilizing his chess pieces to give his QB an opening. But an Offensive Line Coach must get five men to work as one unit. He is a maestro of an orchestra, and he must keep them in sync for the entire performance.
Our Memphis Express are fortunate to bring in a man like Marshall who has a decorated career coaching offensive lines dating all the way back since 1979. During his time in the college ranks, he coached 18 players into the NFL including a personal favorite of mine, 5-time pro-bowler Andre Gurode (longtime Guard for the Dallas Cowboys). He also has had 4 stints in the NFL with the Texans (2002-2005), Browns (2007-2008), Packers (2014), and most recently the New York Jets (2015-2017). He has coached in almost every style of offense.
Opening Day O-Line roster
Most NFL rosters have 8-9 O-lineman: starting LT, LG, C, RG, RT, a swing tackle, a backup Center, a backup Guard who also serves as the Emergency Center, and then a Tackle/Guard swing player. As I predict the Memphis Express O-line, please keep the following in mind:
- We do not have access to any of these players current medical reports, therefore I will be assuming everyone is 100% healthy
- I do not know what the players do in their downtime, therefore I will be assuming they are all in playing shape.
- I do not know any of these players personally, therefore I will trust Singletary and the Express staff that everyone on the roster is “stand-up” guys and I will not evaluate character without concrete evidence, which I do not have.
Starting Left Tackle
I do not think Cole is a perfect match for the Blizzard system, but I think this will simply be a case of “you cannot keep that kind of talent off the field.” I am curious if they will try to cut his power a little to increase his burst. I do not think Cole will be able to serve his entire 3-year contract, I find it hard to believe that the NFL, being as starved with talent at the Tackle position as it is, will not eventually steal Cole from us.
Starting Left Guard
Every Great O-Line has that one guy who brings the veteran presence. The guy who brings the experience to recognize different looks the defense will throw at them. The 2016 Cowboys had RT Doug Free, 2017 Eagles had LT Jason Peters, and the 2018 Rams have LT Whitworth. His experience as a starter at the NFL level will bring this presence to our O-Line in Memphis. Plus, his burst and ability to meet players in space should fit perfectly in this offense.
Demetrius is the perfect combination of experience and burst to anchor the center of the Memphis Express offensive line. He gets out of his snap quickly which will allow him to get to his assigned block and create space for the skill position players.
Starting Right Guard
This man can take his 326 lbs. and broad jump over 9 feet! His burst and size are inhuman. If he can get his size into space, which is tape suggest he can, this guy will be an utter force in the screen game.
Starting Right Tackle
I realize I sound repetitive, but an air raid offense requires nimble offensive lineman to get off the ball and into space. With that being said, Anthony Morris showed great technique out of the snap at TSU and has done it out of the right side of the offensive line. He also put his quickness on display when he produced a sub-8-second 3-cone drill.
Not many players can seamlessly transition from the right side to the left side of the offensive line (this isn’t Madden). Morris has experience on both sides and has played swing at the SEC level in college. His versatility will be perfect to fill in for an injured tackle or spell them for a drive.
He may be a little undersized, but I think his ability to get out of his snaps will make him the perfect Center for Memphis. Also, he is reported to have great pre-snap recognition, this will be essential in a “no huddle” offense.
This is another situation where the untapped potential has got to be enticing for coaches. He has great size and has already shown productivity in a high scoring offense. It would not surprise at all if Bouldin was named a starter on this roster, I gave Myers and Thomas the edge due to their experience playing in real NFL games, but Bouldin will give then competition during the preseason.
He has shown the ability to play consistently at both the Tackle and Guard position by earning 1st team All-OVC at LT and 2nd team All-OVC at LG. His versatility, size and potential will make him a valuable member of our Memphis today and for the future.
So that is who I predict to make our opening day roster: Did I overlook anything? Miss something? Want more information? Comment below:
Addendum: I had originally slated Cole Mosier as the starting Left Tackle, he has since been released from the team. After tearing both his left and right ACL his senior year at Kentucky University, it was going to be an uphill battle to get back to the level he played at when he was a top-ranked LT.
New Starting LT Christian Morris
At 6’6” and 320lbs he should slot perfectly on the left end. He has shown great burst, with an 8.10 second 3-cone. He also has an entire year of experience at the LT position at TSU.
New Swing Tackle Trevon Wallace
He has a ton of experience playing all over the offensive line and has the versatility to play both and Left and Right Tackle. He also has already produced tape playing at the pro level in the IFL, his experience will also be an asset to the entire team.