What Does the Perfect NFL Right Tackle Look Like?
When it comes to the offensive tackle position, NFL teams have always given the glory to their left tackles.
They are valued the most right after the ultra-important quarterback and are usually given a significant sum of money. Meanwhile, right tackles are deemed "heavy-legged, waist benders" and left tackle rejects. However, the position has grown in importance in recent time.
Defenses are moving around their stud pass-rushers to create mismatches, particularly on the right side. Offenses have attempted to counter this by utilizing blocking tight ends next to the right tackle, but that's not the ideal situation for an offense. The reason is because it lessens the amount of weapons the quarterback has to throw to.
In a perfect world, the tight end doesn't need to help the right tackle because the latter can do his job on his own. He would be able to do this because of his size, strength, length and mobility—like a left tackle does.
One of the things that always stands out about a left tackle is how enormous they are. They are referred to as "houses" or "mountains". That's because they're usually 6'6" or 6'7" and are roughly 315 pounds.
That's what not only a left tackle should look like, but a right tackle as well. Right tackles are usually playing the position because they are either too slow or too short. 6'4" or 6'5" tackles are sent to the right because teams usually associate it with short arms, another detriment.
A recent example of prototypical size is the Minnesota Vikings' Matt Kalil. Kalil, a standout at USC, was selected No. 4 overall in the 2012 draft and plays the left tackle position for the team. He is 6'6" and 308 pounds.
That size should be targetedin an ideal right tackle as well.
One of the biggest reasons a player becomes a right tackle is because he is very strong, particularly in the running game.
A high percentage of run plays come in the right tackle's direction because they are viewed as maulers or road graders in the run game. Even though this is true, they should also have the strength to sit in their stance in pass protection and stonewall a pass-rusher's bull rush.
One of the tackle's that is very good at this is the New England Patriots' Sebastian Vollmer, who is arguably the league's best right tackle. He has great size and strength, and plays with proper footwork. An example of that combination came against the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC championship game.
Facing defensive end and outside linebacker Paul Kruger, Vollmer had his hands full. Kruger was the type of rusher that won with an endless motor, quickness and deceptive strength. That didn't faze the Patriots' tackle, as he stonewalled Kruger.
He did it by quickly kick-sliding from his stance and setting up a firm base by bending at his knees and spreading his feet shoulder-width apart. This made it difficult for Kruger to administer his sneaky bull rush because he couldn't move Vollmer from his spot.
When Kruger finally thought that he moved the tackle by popping him, Vollmer further held his ground. He did this by widening his feet, bending his knees and leaning forward to add additional weight. He also kept the Ravens rusher at a distance with his exceptional length.
Length is often debated in the scouting community. Many wonder how important it really is considering there are offensive tackles, such as the Cleveland Browns' Joe Thomas, that have less than ideal arms, yet are successful on the edge.
It's true that tackles can get by with shorter arms but only if they're excellent with their technique and are quick off the snap, which Thomas is. But it helps to have long arms, like most left tackles do, because it simply makes the job much easier.
Great length can help mask any technical or physical deficiencies a blocker has (e.g. Bryant McKinnie), especially when combined with power. It also keeps a pass-rusher away from the breast plates of the blocker, the one area that defenders are looking to grab a hold of in order to gain leverage.
Leverage is vital in winning the battle in the trenches, and it could be argued as the most important aspect of playing the position. One player that exemplifies the art of gaining leverage with outstanding length is the Dallas Cowboys' Tyron Smith, who has 36 3/8" long arms and made the move from right tackle to left tackle this past season.
In Week 14 against the Cincinnati Bengals, Smith showed how impressive his length is on a pass play. Facing a five technique weak-side defensive end, Smith was quick to get off the line of scrimmage and engage with the rusher.
Once he put his hands on the end, he grabbed the jersey just above the numbers. By doing so, he gained leverage before the rusher, thus was in total control of the defender. His length helped because if the defender was stronger, he could have made an impact by getting his hands on Smith's numbers.
Smith's length was vital here and helped keep his quarterback and own jersey clean. There have been other offensive tackles that don't win the leverage battle because of their arms, yet are able to withstand the power because of their strength. Two recent examples are the Green Bay Packers' Bryan Bulaga and Detroit Lions' Riley Reiff.
Mobility is perhaps the one trait that all personnel men would love in their right tackles. As noted earlier, right tackles are generally left tackle rejects, and a big reason why is because they lack the foot quickness to play the position. In an ideal world, that's not a problem.
The perfect right tackle would have outstanding mobility like the Houston Texans' Duane Brown or San Francisco 49ers' Joe Staley. These two tackles are two of the league's most gifted, which explains why they play on the left side of the line.
Both of them offer schematic versatility to their teams, something that isn't often considered by evaluators. An athletic and mobile tackle can change the design of a concept because they are able to get out in front and serve as a lead blocker for a ball-carrier.
One of the most famous moments in football was 49ers quarterback Alex Smith's 28-yard touchdown run against the New Orleans Saints in the NFC championship game. This play was not only significant because it gave the team a late fourth quarter lead, but also that it was a quarterback power run concept.
This concept is one that's not usually called for NFL quarterbacks, but it was in this case because of Smith and Staley's mobility. Staley, in particular, was impressive in moving away from the line of scrimmage and showing the agility in the open field, which not all tackles (or guards) can do.
Staley threw an outstanding block downfield on Saints safety Isa Abdul-Quddus that sprung Smith into the end zone.
Mobility like Staley's is vital to an offense regardless of a power/man or zone blocking scheme because it changes the way an offense operates. Defenses have to prepare more for the varying concepts, which is beneficial to the offense as seen above.
Finding the perfect right tackle can be a challenge. After all, personnel men invest more resources into the ideal left tackle and simply move an inferior one to the right side. That can be a problem in today's NFL.
As a matter of fact, it is a problem because there are very poor players at the position across the league. Teams are too busy spending time and money on skill positions while their franchise quarterback is laying on the ground concussed. With pass-rushers becoming more dynamic each year, it's now the time to spend money on right tackles as well.
The money spent should be on a player that has towering size, overwhelming strength, endless length and the always underrated mobility. These are the core traits that change games. And keep quarterbacks upright.
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