Pass protection. It's an absolutely crucial component of the passing game. Yet all you ever seem to hear about from the average NFL fan are “weapons” when it comes to establishing the level of support a quarterback has for attempting to complete a pass.
Everyone's attention is on the quarterback while he has the ball in his hands, and once he throws it, that attention immediately goes to the intended receiver of the pass where it remains until the play is over.
Meanwhile, the offensive line and any tight ends and backs who stayed in to block are ignored. Even though it was the pass protection they provided that allowed the quarterback the time and passing lanes he needed to survey the field and go through his progressions and the clean pocket that allowed him to step up into his throw and put sufficient velocity and distance behind it.
Even though that pass protection that gave the receiver the time he needed to get down the field and find that hole in the zone or beat that man coverage. Take away that time, those passing lanes, and that clean pocket, and that completion didn't happen. In fact, that pass attempt might not have even happened.
Phil Simms recently mentioned during a broadcast that he would rather play without his wide receivers than his tackles. The salary structure of the NFL clearly agrees. There's a reason for why offensive linemen are paid more than wide receivers, and it's not to ensure that they get enough to eat.
There's a reason why left tackles in particular are paid more than any other position in the league after quarterbacks. What these non-jersey-selling players do in the trenches matters quite a bit even if so many fans aren't paying them the slightest bit of attention.
The Buccaneers signed their restricted free agent left tackle, Donald Penn, to a six-year $48 million dollar contract on the first day of training camp this year. Some of you may be asking yourself: Donald Penn who? I can't really blame you because he plays for the low-profile Bucs and has never been to a single Pro Bowl.
He might just go to Hawaii this year though because he has earned every cent of that contract and is a big reason why Josh Freeman and the Buccaneers have been surprisingly successful this season.
When asked about the pressure he's been under to succeed this season, this is what Philip Rivers had to say:
“If you really want to know, the constant that’s been around here is the five guys up front. Yeah, I know,  guys have caught passes and all that. It sounds good, and we’ve been able to make it work from the outside. But the real story is on the inside. They’ve been playing great and giving me time, and that allows me to run the offense.”
I guarantee you Rivers was a lot happier to see his left tackle Marcus McNeil return from his holdout than his top wide receiver Vincent Jackson. There's a reason why the Chargers openly entertained trade offers for Jackson during his holdout, but were adamant about holding onto McNeil. It's why McNeil already has his new extension and Jackson is still waiting for something I seriously doubt he will ever get from the Chargers.
Remember that Visa commercial featuring Tom Brady out on a date chaperoned by the starting offensive line of the New England Patriots? There's a reason why early in his career Tom Brady insisted on having his offensive line be included with him in any commercials (though not his wide receivers).
There's a reason why Tom Brady takes his offensive line out for dinner and always picks up the check (though again not his wide receivers). Joe Flacco has Anquan Boldin, Derrick Mason, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, and Donte Stollworth as his wide receivers. Yet it's his offensive line that he buys dinner for, not them.
Quarterbacks know where their support truly lies. It's about time the fans know it too.