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Old 04-06-2013, 10:02 PM  
Ace Gunner Ace Gunner is offline
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LT: Left behind


Left behind
In today's pass-happy NFL, the image of the left tackle is taking a beating


Since Cleveland drafted Joe Thomas in 2007, its scoring offense has ranked above 24th only once.



IN APRIL 2008, the Dolphins were so eager to make Michigan left tackle Jake Long the No. 1 pick overall and the cornerstone of their franchise that they signed him to a $57.5 million contract four days before the draft. Long more than lived up to that deal, becoming only the fourth tackle in 50 years to make the Pro Bowl in each of his first four seasons -- before a triceps injury sent him to injured reserve last December.

Yet almost five years after the '08 draft, the Dolphins let Long -- who at 27 is entering his prime -- hit the open market without even offering him his $15.4 million franchise tag salary. Long ultimately became the 11th free agent offensive tackle to sign this offseason, inking a four-year deal with the Rams that could be worth as much as $36 million. But the contract came after he lingered on the market for a week, with his old team as the only other real suitor.

So why the dramatic drop in urgency and currency for such a productive player? Actually, it's not Long who has lost so much value -- it's his position. The left tackle, once considered an essential building block for every franchise, has seen its importance erode in this era of read-option spread offenses. That's something NFL teams with high draft picks need to consider on April 25, when two left tackles, Texas A&M's Luke Joeckel and Central Michigan's Eric Fisher, are expected to be top-five picks.

Times have changed dramatically since 2006, when the Ravens' Michael Oher was the inspiration for The Blind Side. That best-selling book and eventual blockbuster movie helped mythologize the left tackle's role in protecting the quarterback's back. But in '06, the ideal QB still stood in the pocket and worked through his progressions before delivering the ball downfield. Today, QB drops are shorter, the ball comes out quicker, the passers are far more elusive and the pressure is coming from all over, not just the right defensive end. As a result, Oher doesn't even protect the blind side anymore. In Super Bowl XLVII, he started at right tackle.

Who would have ever predicted that when the Ravens made Oher their first-round pick in 2009? "If there's a great left tackle available, sure, people are still gonna take him," says Phil Savage, executive director of the Senior Bowl and former GM of the Browns. "But I absolutely think you're going to see more and more people rethink the idea of the left tackle as this top-notch, highest-paid, building block kind of player."

Savage's reversal on the position is telling. In 1996 he was the director of player personnel in Baltimore when the Ravens drafted left tackle Jonathan Ogden with the fourth pick overall. In 2007, while running the Browns' draft, Savage selected LT Joe Thomas third overall. It's hard to dispute the impact of either guy; Ogden, in fact, was just elected to the Hall of Fame. But there's no disputing this either: Of the 12 left tackles drafted in the top 10 since 2004 -- at a collective price of more than $500 million -- only three have a postseason victory, and not one has an NFL title to his credit (Ogden won a ring in 2000). And although Thomas and Long have been to 10 Pro Bowls between them, neither has won even a single playoff game.

Consider this also: In the first round of the 2007 draft, Savage bypassed Adrian Peterson, who last year had one of the greatest seasons by a running back in NFL history. To take Long in 2008, Miami passed over QB Matt Ryan, who has led the Falcons to the playoffs four times and took them to last season's NFC championship game. "I do not regret taking Jake Long," former Dolphins executive Bill Parcells told ESPN.com in April 2011. "But you always wonder if you should have taken a quarterback."

For decades, old-school thinkers like Parcells and former Colts president Bill Polian considered quarterback, left tackle and pass rusher to be the "holy trinity" of team building. Now the argument can be made that the correlation between victories and elite left tackles no longer exists. "When coaches talk about position hierarchy, left tackle isn't among the top few anymore," an AFC team exec says. "Now it's QB, pass rusher, cornerback, wide receiver. A guy like Joe Thomas shows that a great left tackle isn't nearly sufficient."

Nor is he necessary. After all, Eli Manning won two Super Bowl MVPs with former fifth-round pick and converted guard David Diehl protecting his backside. Aaron Rodgers sets up behind fifth-round pick Marshall Newhouse. And who can name Tom Brady's left tackle? How about Peyton Manning's? Considering that those two legendary QBs had the quickest releases in the league last season -- 3.03 and 3.04 seconds, compared with the league average of 3.46 -- do the names really matter? Linemen simply don't have to hold their blocks as long as they used to.

Meanwhile, to counter quick-strike passing attacks, defenses like the Giants' and Ravens' have started to take a shorter, more direct path to the quarterback by overloading pressure up the middle, which places more value on guards and centers. That's why Alabama's Chance Warmack could become just the seventh guard taken in the top 10 of the draft since 1988. And because running backs and especially tight ends are too valuable in the passing game to stay in and block -- catches by tight ends are up 16 percent since 2008 -- even the right tackle position is on the rise.

In the end, the importance of protecting the quarterback hasn't diminished; it's just that the responsibility and rewards are now more evenly distributed across all five O-linemen. "It used to be you found a great left tackle and built the rest of it from there," Savage says. "Now, because of defenses, you'd better be solid across the entire line. Instead of the super-elite left tackle, it's about five men who block well in a system. You could write a whole book about how the spread offense has impacted the NFL game."

In that book, the chapter about left tackles could be titled Blindsided.


http://espn.go.com/nfl/story/_/id/91...-espn-magazine
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Old 04-07-2013, 12:16 PM   #76
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Originally Posted by LoneWolf View Post
How often do players like Jared Allen, Tamba Hali, or Von Miller switch sides. I know Von rushes from the right side, but the QB is almost always looking at that side. That is why the LT is the most important position on the line.
A lot actually. You see Tamba on the right side a lot. Not so much now that Houston is there, but he used to switch up a lot.

Allen, not so much as he's operating out of a 43, but he flips as well.

Miller is all over the field.

It's still an important position, but it's not the absolute cornerstone of a team as it once was. Teams are looking for more balance on the line versus sinking a huge contract into one guy and having run paving road graders at the four other positions.

It's rapidly turning from a run-run-pass league (which mandated a high quality blindside protector) to a do whatever you can to move the ball downfield offensive game plan. Pulling guards and centers and tackles capable of quickly getting to the second level are just as important as that blindside protector.
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Old 04-07-2013, 12:18 PM   #77
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Tell me again why Notre Dame is as good as Alabama...

Do you pay attention to the positions getting big money? Have you not noticed the contracts LT's are getting is going down, while all the other line positions is going up?

In today's NFL the left tackle is no longer a top 3 piece to build your team around.
Keep telling yourself this when three of the top ten picks in the draft are LTs.
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Old 04-07-2013, 12:22 PM   #78
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I'll eat a bug if Stephenson AND Allen are our starting tackles next season.

Reid isn't going to war with those guys based on their rookie tape.
No, he won't. But he'll go to war with those guys after a full training camp in his system.

With both of them getting good reps last season, it only helped their development if Albert gets traded prior to the start of the season.

And there are very few rookies who are forced into playing time that usually come out looking like rock stars. Neither of those guys got first team reps until they were forced onto the field due to injury.

However, both were high level players at the college level with potential for the NFL who now know what it's like to block at that level. That game time that they got was extremely valuable and an off-season/summer camp with a guy that is a pretty decent offensive mind versus a complete buffoon like Daboll is going to be Nirvana-level enlightening for not only the offensive line, but for all the players.

I think that both of those guys are going to be okay when the season rolls around.
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Old 04-07-2013, 01:29 PM   #79
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I saw this great article on Twitter last night. Good stuff.
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Old 04-07-2013, 01:33 PM   #80
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"When coaches talk about position hierarchy, left tackle isn't among the top few anymore," an AFC team exec says. "Now it's QB, pass rusher, cornerback, wide receiver."

the point in this article is that the "trifecta" is void and the LT isn't even part of the equation anymore.
Hence, the signing of Smith, retaining Bowe, signing Smith and Robinson and maybe Geno or a pass rusher in the first round and why Albert hasn't been signed to a long term deal.
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Old 04-07-2013, 02:00 PM   #81
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Old 04-07-2013, 03:01 PM   #82
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Keep telling yourself this when three of the top ten picks in the draft are LTs.
The QB isn't worth a 1st round pick because KC hasn't drafted one in 30 years.

Nobody that agreed with this article is saying LT's are not important anymore, we are saying you don't need your franchise built around one.
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Old 04-07-2013, 03:07 PM   #83
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The QB isn't worth a 1st round pick because KC hasn't drafted one in 30 years.

Nobody that agreed with this article is saying LT's are not important anymore, we are saying you don't need your franchise built around one.
Show me where I said a franchise is built around a LT. I disagree with the tone of the article saying the LT isn't one of the top three positions on any team.
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Old 04-07-2013, 03:11 PM   #84
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Show me where I said a franchise is built around a LT. I disagree with the tone of the article saying the LT isn't one of the top three positions on any team.
So you believe the LT is a top 3 position on the team, but you don't think you build around that?

You're ****ing stupid.
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Old 04-07-2013, 03:18 PM   #85
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So you believe the LT is a top 3 position on the team, but you don't think you build around that?

You're ****ing stupid.
The team should be built around the QB. The next two positions are LT and pass rusher. A LT protecting a shitty QB is like putting a car alarm on a Pinto. On the other hand having a franchise QB and not having an elite LT is like living in a mansion without locks on the doors.
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Old 04-07-2013, 04:25 PM   #86
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The team should be built around the QB. The next two positions are LT and pass rusher. A LT protecting a shitty QB is like putting a car alarm on a Pinto. On the other hand having a franchise QB and not having an elite LT is like living in a mansion without locks on the doors.
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Old 04-07-2013, 04:30 PM   #87
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This discussion is lost on you. May the boners you have dreaming of old school football bring great pleasure to your loins.
And I hope you consume a bag of dicks, wash them down with a glass of antifreeze, and then drive your car straight into a flaming AIDS tree. Other than that, have a pleasant evening.
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Old 04-07-2013, 09:49 PM   #88
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Old 04-08-2013, 10:45 AM   #89
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