Rookie Richter: Which OL newcomers can rumble?

On top of every NFL locker is the nameplate of a college football star. Before they signed their first pro contracts, these players rocked the foundations of collegiate sports and shook stadium bleachers with their performances.

Now on NFL rosters — where every college star is just another guy – rookies need to reach another level of play to register any more than a tremor on the NFL landscape.

In our first installment of the “Rookie Richter,” we grade the guys who really pound the earth when they move — offensive linemen. After hunkering over hours of coaching tape, closely evaluating their debut performances, here are the blockers who made the greatest — and weakest — impacts for their teams.

Below, you will see our initial reading for how much of an impact in Week 1, and the “Aftershock,” how we expect their impact score to change in Week 2.

Rookie Richter scale: Offensive linemen
Player Week 1 report
Rookie Richter
Nate Solder


At MIA: Win, 38-24
A last-minute replacement for Sebastian Vollmer, Solder held his own against Cameron Wake one-on-one. At 6-foot-8, he gives up his chest at times, but his arm length and athletic base allows him to recover and re-anchor. The former tight end needs a more violent punch, but he has great feet.
8.9 (out of 10)
Week 2: vs. SD


Pending health of Vollmer, the league’s best right tackles could be on same team.

Anthony Castonzo


At HOU: Lost, 34-7
The score of the game was not an indication of how the rookie left side of the offensive line — Costanzo and Joe Reitz (see below) — played for the Colts. They protected the quarterback’s blindside and played with great chemistry. When left one-on-one with Mario Williams, Costanzo held his own.
Week 2: vs. CLE


Browns have young edge rushers and are not a heavy blitzing team.

Joe Reitz


At HOU: Lost, 34-7
Paired with Castonzo, the two rookies picked up several twists. Each thrived in one-on-one situations, were athletic enough to work in space and got out in front on a number of pulls, trap plays and slip screens.
Week 2: vs. CLE


With Phil Taylor and Atubya Ruben up next, the Colts’ interior line will be tested.

Orlando Franklin


Vs. OAK: Lost, 23-20
Franklin was a lone bright spot for a line that was dominated by Oakland. Never lost a battle — saw a number of rushers and a variety of moves (speed, spin, twist, bull rush). Strong, but he’s still learning blitz schemes; a couple free rushers slipped through.
Week 2: vs. CIN


Was too impressive in Week 1 to top that effort, but it was no fluke.

Tyron Smith


At NYJ: Lost, 27-24
In facing Calvin Pace in pass protection, he didn’t “catch” rushers — he attacked. He puts his hands on you and gains leverage. In the run game, he looked awkward and “grabby.” Noticed a few holds that weren’t called. Could be trouble down the road.
Week 2: at SF


The 49ers’ defensive line looked impressive vs. the Seahawks.

Gabe Carimi


Vs. ATL: Won, 30-12
Carimi gave up a sack to Kroy Biermann and played a part in John Abraham‘s sack off the left side (he was blown back and Cutler couldn’t step up. But Carimi displayed active, strong hands at point of attack. Could use work firing off the ball on zone stretch plays and getting to the second level.
Week 2: at NO


The Saints’ blitz schemes will target the young right tackle.

Jason Kelce


At STL: Won, 31-13
While the Eagles’ offensive line has its share of problems, Kelce wasn’t a liability. He held his own in pass protection, passing off defensive tackles to his guards and picking up blitzers. Offensive line coach Howard Mudd prefers Kelce to longtime center Jamaal Jackson because of his speed, and he showed quickness in pulls and getting to the second level.
Week 2: at ATL


Kelce looked better as the game progressed last week, so expect him to continue to improve.

Stefan Wisniewski


At DEN: Won, 23-20
Wisniewski has a motor but lacks the upper body strength to latch on to lineman and drive. On the other hand, he doesn’t get blown, mirrors defenders well and back pulls with speed. He does just enough to give Darren McFadden a crease.
Week 2: at BUF


Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams will be a much tougher test.

William Rackley


Vs. TEN: Won, 16-14
Rackley has a tendency to play high in pass protection, but he drives well off the ball in the run game and really helped open up holes for Maurice Jones-Drew. He picked off a linebacker on MJD’s TD run. Like many rookie offensive lineman, needs to get stronger.
Week 2: at NYJ


The Jets’ twists and looping blitzers will test Rackley’s fundamentals.

Mike Pouncey


Vs. NE: Lost, 38-24
Pouncey didn’t face a “two-gap” line, with a nose shade, but roamed and helped guards in pass protection. He has a wide, solid base and anchors well. Pouncey plays hard and finishes blocks, but he has to stay under control at the second level.
Week 2: vs. HOU


Pouncey will be seen in space more often against Houston, and should excel in the screen game.

Jason Pinkston


Vs. CIN: Lost, 27-17
Pinkston was inserted for the injured Eric Steinbach and acquitted himself nicely. Drafted as a tackle, he is athletic enough to pull, wrap into the hole and pancake a linebacker. But he stands too high in pass protection. Look out, Colt McCoy.
Week 2: at IND


The Browns’ tackles will have their hands full with the Colts’ defensive tackles, so Pinkston could be a huge X-factor for the Browns’ offense.

Clint Boling


At CLE: Won, 27-17
Filling in for the suspended Bobbie Williams, Boling held his own against a stout Cleveland interior, including rookie Phil Taylor and veteran Atubya Ruben. Boling combo-ed nicely with right tackle Andre Smith in a downhill running attack by the Bengals. Protection often slid in his direction so he wasn’t exposed in pass protection.
Week 2: at DEN


Boling should develop and get more comfortable in the offense.

John Moffitt


At SF: Lost, 33-17
Gave up early sack to Ray McDonald but finished strong in one-on-one pass protection situations. However, when he pulled in the run game, he had difficulty latching on to linebackers and finishing blocks. Moffitt also looked confused in his blocking assignments versus altering defensive fronts.
Week 2: at PIT


With Casey Hampton and Brett Keisel in Pittsburgh, Moffitt will be facing dominant defensive tackles once again.

James Carpenter


At SF: Lost, 33-17
Carpenter, who played right tackle all preseason, was slid inside after he lost his job to Breno Giacomini. At guard, Carpenter looked overwhelmed. Justin Smith dominated him in one-on-one situations. He showed no punch at the point of attack and was easily bull rushed back into the pocket.
Week 2: at PIT


Expect a heavy blitz at Carpenter from the Steelers, so this performance might not be able to get any worse.

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