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Old 04-06-2013, 11:02 PM  
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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, 11:02 AM   #61
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Originally Posted by LoneWolf View Post
This is a contradictory statement.
Passes are out faster. That means:
1. You don't block as long
2. You have less time to get to the QB

Lowers requirement for elite blockers, raises the need for elite pass rushers.

Got it Frankie?
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Old 04-07-2013, 11:09 AM   #62
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Originally Posted by Bewbies View Post
Passes are out faster. That means:
1. You don't block as long
2. You have less time to get to the QB

Lowers requirement for elite blockers, raises the need for elite pass rushers.

Got it Frankie?
Passes are out faster. That means:
1. Elite pass rushers are going to be less effective.
2. You still need a dominant blind side protector to protect your most valuable asset, your QB on the occasions that the quick pass is not available.

There is a reason everyone has insurance on their cars and homes.

Got it PeytonsPrincess?
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Old 04-07-2013, 11:12 AM   #63
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Originally Posted by Bewbies View Post
Passes are out faster. That means:
1. You don't block as long
2. You have less time to get to the QB
3. NFL secretly allowing LT's to hold that mutha ****a like a mutha ****a
Lowers requirement for elite blockers, raises the need for elite pass rushers.

Got it Frankie?
FYP cuzz it's ALL ABOUT THA QB NOW and Goody Goodell is as crooked as they come
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Old 04-07-2013, 12:26 PM   #64
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Originally Posted by LoneWolf View Post
Passes are out faster. That means:
1. Elite pass rushers are going to be less effective.
2. You still need a dominant blind side protector to protect your most valuable asset, your QB on the occasions that the quick pass is not available.

There is a reason everyone has insurance on their cars and homes.

Got it PeytonsPrincess?
Did you read the whole section about needing to be strong in all 5 positions up front?

This article doesn't claim that o-line isn't important, it says that the LT is no longer the building block.

An elite LT doesn't do shit if they are rushing you from the right side of your line....
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Old 04-07-2013, 12:35 PM   #65
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Comparing one player to another is not suggesting that player is the same player, or that he will ever play to the level that the player has achieved.

But you can watch a player and see similarities in their game.

It's stupid to dismiss comparisons.

I can watch Reggie Bush even today and see the valid comparison of his style to Gale Sayers.

Anyone that would suggest that comparison is even remotely suggesting their production is similar is a moron that can't draw a distinction.
Well you can always make comparisons. But that doesn't mean they are a good idea. Matt Cassel's release when he was playing well was very similar to John Elway. He didn't have the arm strength or accuracy, but the physical mechanics of their throwing motion were very similar.

As far as Rodgers though... I don't think there's anyone out there like him. Stafford probably. The way the ball comes out of his hand, it's amazing. It is kind of that Elway-like zip to rip it down the field. Flacco probably has a bigger arm... but he throws a lot of rainbows.
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Old 04-07-2013, 12:37 PM   #66
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Both Super Bowl teams had 1st round starting LTs. Manning had a first round LT. The Patriots have a 2nd round and 1st rounder as their starting tackles. Seattle has Okung at tackle.

I'm not advocating taking Joeckel or Fisher, but this article while having some good points isn't being completely honest. Using Long and Thomas as examples is deceiving. They both have never had a good or even average QB playing behind them. And then using Matt Ryan as the example of a QB being successful in the playoffs without an upper echelon LT is hilarious. The one playoff win Matt Ryan whose team has repeatedly been upset in the playoffs?! Typical ESPN lazy reporting.
Matt Ryan is a good QB. I'd take him on the Chiefs in a second. If they didn't have a Greg Robinson-level secondary they would've been in the Super Bowl this year. That's why all that ga-ga about Wilson is a bit disingenuous. The Falcons DBs were leaving receivers wide open all over the field. It was horrible. That's why it was Wilson's only 300 yard game of the entire season. Same thing happened against the Niners.

But that said, even Matt Ryan had a 1st round pick at LT.
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Old 04-07-2013, 12:43 PM   #67
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Originally Posted by Bewbies View Post
Did you read the whole section about needing to be strong in all 5 positions up front?

This article doesn't claim that o-line isn't important, it says that the LT is no longer the building block.

An elite LT doesn't do shit if they are rushing you from the right side of your line....
And that's the thing: teams are constantly switching their elite pass rusher to both sides in an effort to maximize matchups. It's no longer about DT, LT, Andre Tippett type guys who are on the right side 97% of the time just pinning their ears back to beat a single left tackle on third down. Guys are flipping sides, dropping into coverage, stunting, etc. all over the place in order to get into the backfield as soon as possible to disrupt the quicker pass oriented offenses on any down.

It's why you've got to spread out the capabilities of all the offensive linemen, just not put all your money into a blindside protector and four roadgraders.

It's why the term "blindside" doesn't have as much meaning as it did 10-15 years ago.

And why I really like the offensive line that we have. Pissholi deservedly got a lot of shit for what he did, but I seriously think that he put together the building blocks for establishing a very solid offensive line unit that has the potential to be one of the best in the league. The only guy he missed out on was Zane Beadles when he drafted McCluster instead, but otherwise, the pieces are in place to have a pretty darn good O-line, especially if they can re-sign Albert.

But even if they trade him, I'm not too worried about a line consisting of:

LT: Stephenson
LG: Asamoah
C: Hudson
RG: Schwartz
RT: Allen

especially if Lilja comes back for depth on the interior and they pickup a guy from someone's camp or draft a good tackle prospect this year. (KU's Hawkinson, Wisconsin's Ricky Wagner or Virginia's Oday Oboushi would all be ideal in that 5/6 round range. All have plus athleticism and have been very good pass protectors for their entire careers.)
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Old 04-07-2013, 12:47 PM   #68
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I'd be scared to ****ing death of Stephenson at LT, sorry.

Penciling him in as a solid player at this point is laughable. HUGE question mark.

Same goes with Jeff Allen.
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Old 04-07-2013, 12:49 PM   #69
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Originally Posted by Bewbies View Post
Did you read the whole section about needing to be strong in all 5 positions up front?

This article doesn't claim that o-line isn't important, it says that the LT is no longer the building block.

An elite LT doesn't do shit if they are rushing you from the right side of your line....
Teams like to rush from the left side because most QBs are right handed and they have a harder time seeing the rush from that side. The article is bogus and the fact that you are buying it hook, line, and sinker is laughable.
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Old 04-07-2013, 12:53 PM   #70
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And that's the thing: teams are constantly switching their elite pass rusher to both sides in an effort to maximize matchups. It's no longer about DT, LT, Andre Tippett type guys who are on the right side 97% of the time just pinning their ears back to beat a single left tackle on third down. Guys are flipping sides, dropping into coverage, stunting, etc. all over the place in order to get into the backfield as soon as possible to disrupt the quicker pass oriented offenses on any down.

It's why you've got to spread out the capabilities of all the offensive linemen, just not put all your money into a blindside protector and four roadgraders.

It's why the term "blindside" doesn't have as much meaning as it did 10-15 years ago.

And why I really like the offensive line that we have. Pissholi deservedly got a lot of shit for what he did, but I seriously think that he put together the building blocks for establishing a very solid offensive line unit that has the potential to be one of the best in the league. The only guy he missed out on was Zane Beadles when he drafted McCluster instead, but otherwise, the pieces are in place to have a pretty darn good O-line, especially if they can re-sign Albert.

But even if they trade him, I'm not too worried about a line consisting of:

LT: Stephenson
LG: Asamoah
C: Hudson
RG: Schwartz
RT: Allen

especially if Lilja comes back for depth on the interior and they pickup a guy from someone's camp or draft a good tackle prospect this year. (KU's Hawkinson, Wisconsin's Ricky Wagner or Virginia's Oday Oboushi would all be ideal in that 5/6 round range. All have plus athleticism and have been very good pass protectors for their entire careers.)
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.
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Old 04-07-2013, 01:06 PM   #71
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Teams like to rush from the left side because most QBs are right handed and they have a harder time seeing the rush from that side. The article is bogus and the fact that you are buying it hook, line, and sinker is laughable.
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.
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Old 04-07-2013, 01:10 PM   #72
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I'd be scared to ****ing death of Stephenson at LT, sorry.

Penciling him in as a solid player at this point is laughable. HUGE question mark.

Same goes with Jeff Allen.
Then you should be downright terrified of them drafting guys like Joeckel, Fisher or Johnson.

Stephenson was as good as any of those guys as a junior and got good playing time late last season. He was definitely better than Johnson on the same team. A training camp with Reid and he's going to be ready to absolutely blow up.

And Allen was a four year starter at right (freshman) and left tackle (sophomore, junior, senior) for the Illini. Second team All-American as a freshman and made All-Conference lists every single year.

Don Stephenson at left tackle is one of my least concerning concerns for next season and I think that Allen has the capability of being a solid right tackle in this scheme. He's 6'4 1/2", 315 lbs. with good power, feet and hands. I hated that they (Crennel/Pissholi) tried to shoehorn him into the guard position, but with Winston gone, I think he's got a shot at the RT spot.

It's like Geoff Schwartz said: I can play right tackle, but I'm a better guard. Allen is a better tackle than guard.

No, my stated lineup wouldn't worry me in the least.
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Old 04-07-2013, 01:12 PM   #73
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Doesn't mean squat for Geno in our situation, it means that Dion Jordan could be the guy.
Yep !

Having a good rush in the 4th quarter is essential and will never go away especially in a pass happy league.
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Old 04-07-2013, 01:15 PM   #74
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Then you should be downright terrified of them drafting guys like Joeckel, Fisher or Johnson.

Stephenson was as good as any of those guys as a junior and got good playing time late last season. He was definitely better than Johnson on the same team. A training camp with Reid and he's going to be ready to absolutely blow up.

And Allen was a four year starter at right (freshman) and left tackle (sophomore, junior, senior) for the Illini. Second team All-American as a freshman and made All-Conference lists every single year.

Don Stephenson at left tackle is one of my least concerning concerns for next season and I think that Allen has the capability of being a solid right tackle in this scheme. He's 6'4 1/2", 315 lbs. with good power, feet and hands. I hated that they (Crennel/Pissholi) tried to shoehorn him into the guard position, but with Winston gone, I think he's got a shot at the RT spot.

It's like Geoff Schwartz said: I can play right tackle, but I'm a better guard. Allen is a better tackle than guard.

No, my stated lineup wouldn't worry me in the least.
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.
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Old 04-07-2013, 01:15 PM   #75
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Yep !

Having a good rush in the 4th quarter is essential and will never go away especially in a pass happy league.
So the question will be is Jordan Halis bitch or Houstons bitch.
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