Ranking the NFL's Top 20 Best Run-Blocking RTs

Vincent FrankCorrespondent IFebruary 29, 2012

Ranking the NFL's Top 20 Best Run-Blocking RTs

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    Some tackles in the NFL are best suited for run-blocking, while others are better suited in pass protection. Then you have that rare breed that is dominating in both aspects of the game.

    Those type of players are far and few between. They also tend to exist on the left side of the offensive line, protecting the blind side of the quarterback.

    It is the right tackle position that has become less heralded because their "importance" to the success of the team has lessened. While this may be true, they do represent one edge of a line that needs to be successful in order for the team to win.

    They also tend to be some of the best run-blocking tackles in the league. This article is going to give those unheralded names some attention. The ability of a running back to get to the outside and break the edge does rely on the offensive line to block at the point of contact.

    These 20 right tackles are among the best in the league in helping their running backs gain the necessary yards to be successful in the NFL.

     

    Note: please take time to read over the first slide in order to better understand how I came up with statistics for this article.

Statistics and Resources

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    All advanced rushing statistics provided by

    The NFL

    Football Outsiders

    Pro Football Reference

    Pro Football Focus

    ESPN

     

    *All averages running behind each player are adjusted to take into account penalties committed by the offensive tackle.

    *The "total adjusted yards" total at the bottom of each slide takes into account penalties committed by the offensive tackle and is the total amount of yards his team gained running behind him.

    * Some of the links above require paid subscription, therefore you may not be able to find the information that I provide in this article.

20. Jeremy Trueblood, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    About 11 percent of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' rushing plays went behind the right tackle during the 2011 season. They averaged about 4.3 yards per carry on those runs.

    Overall, Tampa Bay averaged 4.2 yards per rush in 2011, ranking them right in the middle of the pack.

    Jeremy Trueblood, who started 14 games this season, was a consistently good blocker in the running game.

    Adjusted rushing yards from scrimmage: 224.7


19. Todd Herremans, Philadelphia Eagles

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    Don't be fooled by these great numbers; aside from Jason Peters, the Philadelphia Eagles offensive line was marginal at best. It sure does help when you have the best up-and-coming running back and the greatest running quarterback in the backfield at the same time.

    With that said, the right side of the Eagles offensive line was pretty darn good in run blocking. The Eagles averaged 4.2 yards per rush going behind the right tackle a mere 10 percent of the time.

    Adjusted yards from scrimmage: 188


     

     


18. Jammal Brown, Washington Redskins

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    Jammal Brown has received somewhat of a bad rap throughout his career. Even after being selected to two Pro Bowl Teams, there has been some talk that the Washington Redskins plan on releasing the talented right tackle.

    Despite injury and pass protection concerns, Brown has been extremely solid in the running game. They averaged nearly one-half yard more running behind him than they did in other directions last season.

    It is all going to be about his recovery from a hip injury that occurred during the 2008 season as to whether Brown will ever return to full form.

    Adjusted yards from scrimmage: 215.5



17. Tyron Smith, Dallas Cowboys

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    Some might be wondering why I have Tyron Smith so low on this list. Well, the article focuses solely on the running game. In terms of overall right tackles, Smith is already a top-10 player.

    Dallas averaged a pedestrian 3.3 yards per rush running behind Smith and only 3.8 yards running to the right side of the line. Overall, they ran to that side just 30 percent of the time, usually focusing this part of the offense towards the left side or the middle.

    Smith was also called for multiple holding penalties when the Cowboys went to the ground.

    Adjusted yards from scrimmage: 200.1


     


16. Jeromey Clary, San Diego Chargers

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    There is a reason why Ryan Mathews improved in every major statistical category in his second season in the NFL. The San Diego Chargers used a different blocking scheme, which played to his strengths. The young running back also became more fluid in his running between the hashes.

    While Mathews did average nearly five yards a rush, he wasn't nearly as solid running to the right side. Running 23 percent to that side, Mathews averaged under four yards per attempt: nearly one whole yard less than his overall average.

    When the former first-round pick did run directly behind Jeromey Clary, he was much more successful. Mathews averaged nearly five yards a rush on those occasions.

    Adjusted yards from scrimmage: 219.1


     



15. James Carpenter, Seattle Seahawks

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    Despite the fact that Marshawn Lynch had a breakout 2011 campaign, the Seattle Seahawks were horribly inconsistent in the rushing game.

    With that said, James Carpenter quickly became their best run-blocking offensive lineman. Seattle ran behind the rookie tackle 23 percent of the time, averaging 4.3 yards per rush and utilizing his raw natural ability to the best of their capabilities.

    Adjusted yards from scrimmage: 211.6



14. Brandon Keith, Arizona Cardinals

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    There is a reason that Beanie Wells had a breakout 2011 campaign: The Arizona Cardinals did a really good job of run-blocking throughout the season.

    During the Cardinals' final nine games, a stretch that saw them go 7-2, they racked up a 231-yard game against the St. Louis Rams and finished off the season with a 131-yard rushing performance against the Seattle Seahawks.

    No matter how bad Brandon Keith struggled in pass protection, he was extremely solid in the run game. Arizona averaged 4.7 yards per rush running behind Keith 15 percent of the time.

    Obviously, this article doesn't take into account their horrible performance in pass protection (52 sacks allowed).  

    Adjusted yards from scrimmage: 283.6

     


13. Khalif Barnes, Oakland Raiders

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    Probably a surprise addition to this list, Khalif Barnes has been a journeyman offensive tackle for years now. His bread and butter remains in the running game, while the vet continues to fly under the radar in pass protection.

    Even with Darren McFadden missing substantial time due to injury, the Oakland Raiders had a tremendous amount of success running the ball in 2011. They finished in the top 10 in both yards per game and yards per rush.

    This was magnified even more when they ran behind Barnes. While only utilizing him as a primary blocker 14 percent of the time, the Raiders averaged nearly five yards per attempt running behind Barnes. Considering that he was called for a nice amount of holding penalties, this is an astonishing number.

    Adjusted yards from scrimmage: 319.7


     


12. Bryan Bulaga, Green Bay Packers

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    To say that the Green Bay Packers struggled in the running game would be an understatement of epic proportions. They failed to reach four yards per rush or average 100 yards a game—just one of four NFL teams not to reach either mark.

    With that said, they had much more success running behind Bryan Bulaga.

    They ran behind the second-year tackle 16 percent of the time, averaging 4.6 yards per attempt. By comparison, the Packers struggled running to the left side, averaging just 3.7 yards.

    A lot of this had to do with the Packers increased focus on Aaron Rodgers in the passing game. Some of it had to do with their lack of a true starting running back. I can envision a scenario in which this teams adds one via the draft and starts to run behind Bulaga a lot more.

    After all, he has quickly become their best blocking offensive linemen.

    Adjusted yards from scrimmage: 291.4

11. Tyson Clabo, Atlanta Falcons

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    There will come a time, sooner rather than later, when the Atlanta Falcons move Tyson Clabo to the left side of their line. After all, he is their best pass-protecting tackle.

    For the time being, he is considered the Falcons best run-blocking exterior linemen.

    Michael Turner ran to the right side of the line over one-quarter of the time, following Clabo directly 13 percent of the time. Turner averaged 4.7 yards on his rushes behind the right tackle, compared to just 3.1 between the hashes.

    Adjusted yards from scrimmage: 273.8


     


10. Jeff Otah, Carolina Panthers

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    Jeff Otah missed all but four games of the 2011 season, but he deserved to be on this list because of performances of the past.

    The Carolina Panthers ranked in the top third of the league in rushing during the 2010 season. Despite averaging a pedestrian 4.3 yards per rush that season, Carolina gained an average of 5.2 yards per attempt when they ran behind the former first-round pick.

    You can definitely expect this total to increase in 2012 when Otah returns to full health. Especially with the emergence of Cam Newton as the most dangerous running quarterback in the league.

    Something to definitely watch out for next season.

    Adjusted yards from scrimmage (2010 season): 344.3

     

     


9. Anthony Davis, San Francisco 49ers

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    Much like the San Francisco 49ers' entire offensive line, Anthony Davis improved a great deal throughout the 2011 season. At the end of the regular year, he was one of the better run-blocking tackles in the conference, despite still struggling with penalties and in pass protection.

    San Francisco ran behind Davis only 14 percent of the time, but they did average 4.5 yards per attempt. Moving forward, you can expect this up-and-coming player to continue climbing this list.

    Adjusted yards from scrimmage: 302.6



8. Nate Solder, New England Patriots

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    Another rookie that made this list, Nate Solder was more than flexible for the New England Patriots in 2011. He lined up at both tackle positions, at fullback and even at the tight end position.

    You shouldn't be too surprised with this—Solder is an extremely athletic player: just look at the embedded photo. 

    Despite ranking in the bottom third in the league in both rush average and total rushing yards, the Patriots were much more successful running to the right side. Overall, they averaged about 4.8 yards per attempt going in that direction. When the Patriots ran directly behind Solder, they averaged 5.2 yards.

    There is no reason to expect that the 2011 first-round pick cannot continue his progression as one of the best young offensive tackles in the league. Right now, he ranks among the best in terms of run-blocking.

    Adjusted yards from scrimmage: 294.9



7. Phil Loadholt, Minnesota Vikings

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    This is where gauging the ability of an offensive tackle to run-block becomes extremely interesting—an art of sorts. Phil Loadholt did have the honor of blocking for the best running back in the NFL in 2011, Adrian Peterson.

    With that said, the splits in terms of the Minnesota Vikings' running game leads me to believe that he is a primary reason that Peterson is consistently among the best backs in the NFL.

    The Vikings averaged a pedestrian 3.3 yards running to the left side behind Charlie Johnson. On the other hand, they put up a whopping 5.1 yards per attempt behind Loadholt. 

    Many skeptics had issues with the Vikings play-calling last season, the following statistic is only going to give more fuel to that criticism. They ran behind Loadholt only 10 percent of the time in 2011, going in the other direction the same amount of time.

    Adjusted yards from scrimmage: 283.4



6. Marcus Gilbert, Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Despite Rashard Mendenhall having a down year by his standards and the Pittsburgh Steelers struggling to protect Ben Roethlisberger, they did a pretty good job on the ground overall.

    Pittsburgh accumulated 100 rushing yards in 10 different games, as Isaac Redman came through big time as an alternate starter.

    Marcus Gilbert, who started 13 games as a rookie, was their best run-blocking offensive lineman throughout the season. They averaged 4.8 yards per rush behind Gilbert, utilizing him as the primary blocker 18 percent of the time.

    Adjusted yards from scrimmage: 353.4



5. Zach Strief, New Orleans Saints

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    Surprisingly, the New Orleans Saints possessed one of the most consistent rushing attacks in the NFL last season. Zach Strief became somewhat of a midseason addition due to a season ending injury to Charles Brown along the right side of the Saints offensive line.

    Prior to being inserted midseason, he had only started 10 career games.

    Following his reinsertion into the starting lineup in Week 9, the Saints averaged 148.5 rushing yards per game. It is easy to say that Strief was a primary reason for this, as their running backs averaged a whopping 5.3 yards per attempt running behind him in the second half of the season.

    Adjusted yards from scrimmage: 182.7




4. Orlando Franklin, Denver Broncos

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    One of a few different rookies on this list, Orlando Franklin was exceptional in terms of run-blocking during the 2011 season. The Denver Broncos averaged 5.1 yards per rush running behind Franklin, while going in that direction 18 percent of the time.

    The 2011 second-round pick was more than solid in every aspect of his game as a rookie. He didn't struggle with penalties, was above-average in pass protection and became the Broncos' best run-blocking tackle.

    Adjusted rushing yards from scrimmage: 352.7

3. Michael Oher, Baltimore Ravens

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    Michael Oher might be a disappointment up to this point in pass protection, but he is one of the best run-blocking offensive tackles in the NFL. The former first-round pick is one of the primary reasons that Ray Rice remains a top-five back in the league.

    While Baltimore averaged less than four years per attempt running behind Bryant McKinnie, they averaged nearly five yards per attempt going behind Oher.

    More than that, the Ravens showed a renewed trust in the blocking ability of this talented right tackle, as they ran behind him nearly one-fifth of the time.

    Adjusted yards from scrimmage: 409.9


2. Wayne Hunter, New York Jets

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    The New York Jets ran a whopping 20 percent of the time behind Wayne Hunter. Their average rush attempt when doing so was a solid 4.5. This showed that they have confidence in the right tackle to open up holes for their myriad of average running backs.

    While Hunter might have struggled in pass protection, he was extremely solid in run-blocking. This is an aspect of the game that a lot of people just don't take into account when looking at the value of a right tackle in the NFL.

    By comparison, the Jets averaged 4.1 yards per attempt when running behind Pro Bowl left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson.

    Adjusted yards from scrimmage: 396.9


     


1. Eric Winston, Houston Texans

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    Every single member of the Houston Texans offensive line stood out in run-blocking last season. After all, they finished second in the NFL in rushing behind the Denver Broncos.

    Among the Texans' best blockers was Eric Winston, who dominated in the running game.

    Arian Foster and Ben Tate averaged 4.6 yards per attempt running behind Winston, doing so nearly 20 percent of the time.

    Adjusted yards from scrimmage: 477.2