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Is the Left Tackle position 'evolving' in the NFL?

National Football Post

‘The NFL is Cyclical’ is a term thrown around a lot during the season. Whether it’s the discussion of the latest blitz craze or the Wildcat offense or tall receivers, trends in terms of NFL behavior come and go.

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Joe Thomas
US PRESSWIREBrowns' left tackle Joe Thomas.

And once coaches and personnel executives begin to truly examine the battle that takes place between Left Tackles and edge pass rushers, I think we will rapidly see the decline of the behemoth Left Tackles and the resurgence of quicker, leaner, and possibly shorter pass protectors.

Just a few years ago, NFL teams were searching for the 330-350 lb monsters that would tower over pass rushers and be devastating run blockers. Everyone was looking for the next Bryant McKinnie (6’8, 354 lbs) or Mike Williams (6’7, 337 lbs) body type. Finding men that big that could actually move their feet proved to be a challenge.

Joe Thomas of the Cleveland Browns, although unheralded, is generally considered amongst NFL coaches as the best Left Tackle in the NFL. He stands 6’6, 312 lbs and rarely gives up sacks. He’s a strong run blocker and is a hard-nosed player.

When the Minnesota Vikings made Matt Kalil the 4th overall pick of the 2012 draft, they were looking for someone of the same stature as Joe Thomas. Kalil is listed at 6’7, 308 lbs.  The mindset behind having a Tackle that is 6’5 or taller is that they can use their arm length as an advantage and get their arms extended when they engage a pass rusher. If the pass protector can get his hands on the pass rusher, he’s got a great chance of winning the battle.

However, based on recent production, NFL coaches and personnel executives may need to “think smaller” in their approach to evaluating Left Tackles.

During the 2011 NFL season, 17 different pass rushers reached double digits in sacks. That’s a lot of sack dances friends. Surprisingly, only 3 of those 17 pass rushers weigh more than 270 lbs. The average size of the NFL’s 2011 Double-Digit Sack Masters:  6’3, 262 lbs.

The one common trait that all these pass rushers possess:  SPEED.

It’s clear that the NFL is a passing league now. We all witnessed the records being broken last year, and we also see how freakishly big and athletic many NFL Receivers and Tightends are now. I don’t see that trend changing anytime soon.

But being able to deal with the trend of lighter, smaller edge pass rushers may cause NFL teams to look for lighter, smaller Left Tackles that can keep pace in the season.

Protecting the QB is of the utmost importance, and it appears as though smaller may indeed be better. In a league full of guys that aim to be bigger, faster, and stronger…that seems a bit ironic.

Warren McCarty is the founder of My Passion is Football.

Follow Warren on Twitter: @mpifradio

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