NFL Top 10 Offensive Tackles 2011
Friendly Disclaimer: The following list is influenced largely — but not strictly — by film study of all 32 teams from the 2010 season. Stats weren’t acknowledged in any fashion (which is easy when evaluating offensive linemen, of course). Recent history was taken into account. Vague enough for you? Criteria for Top 10 lists tend to be. That’s why most of you will have no trouble finding some disagreement with what you’re about to read. (Last year’s ranking in parenthesis)
10. Andrew Whitworth, Bengals (NR)
Talent-wise, he’s a right tackle with fairly limited drive-blocking power. But production-wise, he proved in 2010 to be a dependable left tackle with no major weaknesses.
9. Marcus McNeill, Chargers (NR)
Holds up in pass protection and throws his size around in the run game. It’s a little concerning, however, that he hasn’t improved exponentially during his five-year career.
8. Chad Clifton, Packers (NR)
Supposedly nearing the end of his career, though you could make a good case that, next to Aaron Rodgers, he was Green Bay’s MVP during this past postseason.
7. D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Jets (6)
Lack of physical strength can be an issue at times, but few if any linemen in the league move as fluidly as he does.
6. Jason Peters, Eagles (NR)
Re-corralled his boundless athleticism in 2010 to play with good knee bend, pad level and hand placement. Needs to hobble off the field with a “three-to-five-play injury” just twice in 2011 to officially qualify for membership in the Jevon Kearse Club, but we can overlook that.
5. Ryan Clady, Broncos (2)
Seemed to have some trouble mentally bouncing back from his offseason knee injury last year, though did improve as the season wore on. When he’s right, he’s the most athletic blocker in football.
4. Jordan Gross, Panthers (7)
Goes unnoticed in pass protection and exerts power in space as a run-blocker. That’s the exact description you want for your left tackle, no?
3. Michael Roos, Titans (5)
Takes full advantage of arms that are long enough to make even Scottie Pippen jealous. Because he’s a steady, near perfect technician but not a raging athlete, he’s another one of those star blockers you simply don’t notice.
2. Jake Long, Dolphins (3)
Possesses remarkable power for a guy who gets out of his stance quicker than anyone since Tarik Glenn.
1. Joe Thomas, Browns (1)
Makes the game look easy, especially in pass protection. Not a mauler, but as reliable a run-blocker as you’ll find.
On the cusp:
Michael Oher, Ravens
Dropped from list:
Jared Gaither, Ravens (4)
Matt Light, Patriots (8)
Jammal Brown, Redskins (9)
Michael Oher, Ravens (10)
Injuries hindered Brown in 2010 and prevented Gaither from playing at all. These days Light struggles too much pass-blocking on an island, while Oher must bounce back from a sophomore slump.
Youngster who could burst onto next year’s list:
Russell Okung, Seahawks
If not for repeated high ankle sprains as a rookie, last year’s No. 6 overall pick would probably already have cracked this list. Simply put: Okung is a natural.