We round out the week's look at the NFC North offensive line positions with the most critical—but oddly enough, least talented in so far as the NFC North is concerned—place on the line—the left tackle.
There are a ton of question marks here, and while I like the upside of some of the players, it's a little surprising more teams didn't make left tackle a priority.
Then again, the Bears picked up Gabe Carimi not long ago to, perhaps, take over the left tackle, the Lions grabbed Riley Reiff and the Packers had bigger fish to fry on defense and a very talented line overall, so they can prop Newhouse up if need be.
As Ryan Riddle, former defensive end for the Jets, Raiders and Ravens and current B/R writer said recently in a piece on offensive lines, the whole is often more than the sum of it's parts.
Back to the topic, though, there are a lot of changes coming, perhaps this year, perhaps next, but this list will look much different around this time next year.
Until then, though, we'll take a look at what's in front of us right now.
As usual, I will use my own eyeballs as well as Matt Miller's B/R 1000 list and some Pro Football Focus stats when needed.
CHICAGO BEARS—J'MARCUS WEBB/CHRIS WILLIAMS
Miller had J'Marcus Webb at 25, and PFF said he was awful on the left in their article ranking offensive lines postseason.
Here are my thoughts on Webb. He was tossed into the deep end long before he was supposed to be, and for a late-round draft pick—even one a few years into his career.
Webb got better over the season and was a pretty good run blocker. While I don't love the idea of rolling with him, or Chris Williams for that matter, we will see improvement from him if he wins the job.
I really don't like Chris Williams—I mean, I'm sure he's a fine person, but as a tackle, he's pretty bad.
He had issues at guard, and that's where tackles who can't play go to die.
The outside possibility is Gabe Carimi steps in at some point, but at least for now, it doesn't seem to be a real option.
Another factor is the new and simplified blocking scheme, as well as the removal of the seven-step drop. We'll see how big an impact they have on this group for the Bears, but I don't believe it's a stretch to say that the season could hinge on the outcome.
After all, it did last year.
DETROIT LIONS—JEFF BACKUS
Backus has done an OK job for the Lions—like so much of this offensive line. He's not terrible, but he also isn't what I would call a standout tackle.
That said, here are a few interesting points from PFF's series examining three years of pass blocking efficiency for tackles.
Backus is ranked as the 15th-best tackle under pressure, with a 94.96 pass blocking efficiency rating. Now, as PFF will tell you, that's not the whole story, but it's a pretty good sign he can hold his own, at least until we know if Riley Reiff can step in or not.
For now, Backus has the job—he should be able to hold it for the year.
GREEN BAY PACKERS—MARSHALL NEWHOUSE
Newhouse came into being at the left tackle late and after a lot of injury issues.
Ranked at 31 on Miller's list, Newhouse got better as the year progressed, much like fellow tackle J'Marcus Webb.
His position as lead left tackle likely solidified when second-year player Derek Sherrod ended up on the PUP to start camp this week.
Newhouse is a decent pass blocker and a less-than-average run blocker (something which really isn't a big deal in Green Bay) and has the advantage of All-Pro level help around him if he's overwhelmed. While it would be much better to have a guy who could hold his own on his own, the line is in a position to hold him up while he learns.
That's the single biggest difference between the Bears' line and this one.
MINNESOTA VIKINGS—MATT KALIL
Kalil was brought in to replace Charlie Johnson—a guy Miller called the worst left tackle in the league. As I said the other day, Johnson should do much better at guard.
The question is, will Kalil be able to hold up any better?
I love Kalil, and if you have been reading this blog, you know I was 100 percent for this pick from day one.
Kalil is an elite talent, and I loved watching him play at USC. He can pass block, is effective when he gets out to the second level and is simply a big, strong, athletic guy who should cover Ponder's side for a long time.
There's nothing to dislike about Kalil, and while he may have some bumps coming up, the end result will be a guy who is a fantastic tackle.
THE CALL—MINNESOTA VIKINGS' MATT KALIL
OK, maybe this is a thin limb to be out on, but nobody else here is that impressive.
We don't know for sure who wins in Chicago; Backus is likely to be replaced soon, and Newhouse has a lot to prove.
So yeah, a rookie is the best left tackle in the North.
Scary ain't it?
Ultimately, looking back on this week, the assertion I started with remains true—pound for pound, the Packers have the most talented line in the division.
While they have the same issue almost every team has at left tackle, the rest of the group is so much better than most of the other teams that it's not really close.
While I believe in what some teams are doing as well, the Packers are just the class of the division, left tackle notwithstanding.
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