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Old 06-10-2009, 03:17 PM   #1
Bronco Rob
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Default NYTimes.com The NFL: A Golden Age for Offensive Tackles

As a defensive coordinator, Steve Spagnuolo knew how devastating a pass rush could be when he designed the one the Giants used to end a perfect season and achieve one of the greatest Super Bowl upsets. So it was no surprise that when Spagnuolo began his head coaching career this year, his new team — the St. Louis Rams — drafted an offensive tackle.



Eugene Monroe, Jason Smith and Michael Oher were among the four offensive tackles selected in the first round of the N.F.L. draft in April. Spagnuolo learned from bruising National Football Conference East battles with the Giants and the Eagles that big men win games, and that the only way to stop the big players racing toward the quarterback was to get even bigger players with quick hands and nimble feet to block them. The stunning results against the Patriots in the Super Bowl two years ago proved the point.


“When the Giants beat the Patriots, that game was a wake-up call for the league,” said Eric DeCosta, the Ravens’ player personnel director. “The Giants had such a fearsome pass rush, it wore New England down. Teams saw that and realized that if you can’t protect your quarterback, you have no chance to win.”


That eye opener magnified what has become obvious on recent N.F.L. draft days: this is a golden era for offensive tackles. Four were taken in the first round of the April draft, including three in the first eight picks. (Baltimore took the fourth, trading up to get Michael Oher at No. 23.)


Jacksonville used its first two picks on offensive tackles. Last year, seven tackles went in the first round and almost all of them started quickly, including the first overall pick, Jake Long, who became a Pro Bowl left tackle with Miami. In 2007, three tackles were taken in the first round, including Joe Thomas, the gold standard for the new generation, who made the Pro Bowl in each of his first two years with the Browns.


The seeds for the offensive line glut were planted in 1978, when an N.F.L. rule change allowed tackles to extend their arms in pass protection. The passing game exploded and placed new emphasis on the behemoths who keep defenders from the quarterback.


That opened the door for tall, big athletes with long arms to play football instead of basketball, allowing players who might be too short to be power forwards to transform into tight ends and tackles whose height and reach were better suited to pass protection than to run blocking. But the offensive tackle is in full flower now because the college game has become pass-happy too.


Little more than a decade ago, most college programs were run-oriented, with the wishbone and the option still so popular that few tackles were drilled in the fundamentals of pass protection. But the proliferation of the spread offense and the trickle down to high school programs mean that tackles are schooled in pass protection from the time they are 14, even in former wishbone and option strongholds like Texas and Oklahoma. The tackles entering the N.F.L. are far better prepared for the most critical job, pass protecting, than tackles were even a few years ago.


“When I watch college now, they’re throwing as much as the N.F.L.,” Spagnuolo said. “They have gotten a lot of reps seeing the edge rusher trying to get to the quarterback.”


The transformation is so complete that N.F.L. offensive line coaches have to teach run blocking. Scouts have difficulty evaluating a college player’s blocking skills because he spends most of the game in the two-point stance — with no hand on the ground — used when a pass play is called.


The situation is worsened, N.F.L. coaches say, by limits on the number of contact sessions college teams can conduct. It takes less time to teach pass protection because run blocking involves more technique and more detailed assignments, so college coaches emphasize pass blocking.


Paul Alexander, the Bengals’ offensive line coach, said N.F.L. coaches sometimes watch only film of goal-line plays — which are more likely to be runs — or tapes of drills to determine whether a prospect can run block. He recently watched five-year-old tape of a player as a freshman to see him blocking for the run. This year, the Bengals took Alabama tackle Andre Smith with the sixth overall pick.


“The absolute litmus test is he has to pass block,” said Alexander, who is in his 18th year in the league and has coached tackles Willie Anderson and Levi Jones. “There’s guys in the league who can pass block but can’t run block. There is nobody playing in the league who can run block but can’t pass protect.”


Jason Smith, the Baylor tackle selected by Spagnuolo’s Rams with the second overall pick in April, is a converted tight end known primarily as a pass protector. But Baylor gained more than 65 percent of its rushing yards in 2008 by running to Smith’s side of the field.


“We pass blocked 60-40 ratio,” said Smith, who has been tabbed to succeed left tackle Orlando Pace, who signed with the Chicago Bears. “It benefits us. The run blocking is the more natural part of football for the offensive line because it’s a matter of going forward rather than going to the side. Pass blocking is more unnatural, but that’s what makes offensive linemen the best athletes on the field — we make so many unnatural moves look natural.”


He might not just be bragging. Next year’s draft class will include several more top offensive tackles — early projections show six going in the first round. In another lifetime, those players might have lined up somewhere else, or played another sport.


Oher, whom the Ravens drafted from Mississippi, wanted to play basketball. At 6 feet 4 inches with good speed, he might have been a pass-rushing defensive end. But he was the best athlete at his Memphis high school, so he became an offensive tackle. That may lead to the N.F.L.’s next problem.


“All of these high school teams are all passing teams,” said Gil Brandt, a former Cowboys personnel executive who analyzes the draft for NFL.com. “Everybody is in pass mode, so you get more quarterbacks, you get more tackles and more wide receivers. I think we’re having a harder time finding defensive ends and defensive tackles. Maybe it’s just that we need more.”




http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/10/sp...r=3&ref=sports


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Old 06-10-2009, 08:19 PM   #2
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Im glad we have Clady. He's the best player on our team.
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Old 06-11-2009, 12:27 AM   #3
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“When the Giants beat the Patriots, that game was a wake-up call for the league,” said Eric DeCosta, the Ravens’ player personnel director. “The Giants had such a fearsome pass rush, it wore New England down. Teams saw that and realized that if you can’t protect your quarterback, you have no chance to win.”


No chance huh? He makes it sound like the Giants had it easy that day. If not for a spectacular catch by a NYG WR, they lose. So much for that theory.
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Old 06-11-2009, 02:14 AM   #4
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We are so lucky to have Clady.
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Old 06-11-2009, 06:09 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by footstepsfrom#27 View Post
We are so lucky to have Clady.
QFT

IMO he's our most important player atm.
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Old 06-11-2009, 08:14 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ZONA View Post
“When the Giants beat the Patriots, that game was a wake-up call for the league,” said Eric DeCosta, the Ravens’ player personnel director. “The Giants had such a fearsome pass rush, it wore New England down. Teams saw that and realized that if you can’t protect your quarterback, you have no chance to win.”


No chance huh? He makes it sound like the Giants had it easy that day. If not for a spectacular catch by a NYG WR, they lose. So much for that theory.
NYs defense held NE to around 20 pts below their average.
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Old 06-11-2009, 08:24 AM   #7
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It's true teams are looking for strong LT's but it has nothing to do with that super bowl.

Ahh okay its a Nytimes article so that's why they're bringing the super bowl up randomly.
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Old 06-11-2009, 08:26 AM   #8
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I thought I saw a 2008 draft re-do with 20-20 hindsight on how the rookies performed and Clady was taken in the top 5.

I think I remember the Chiefs even considering him around the 3rd pick or something. It probably would've been the best pick they might've made this decade.

Giving up only a half a sack in a rookie season at Left tackle would be considered validation if Clady had been the first over-all pick. To get him where we did is as gratifying as it is a relief to finally have stability at that crucial position.
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