The offensive tackle position is one of the toughest to play in the NFL. It takes a rare breed of size, strength, technique, quickness and athleticism to succeed. Unlike their counterparts to the inside, the tackle HAS to be strong enough to move defensive ends and defensive tackles, quick enough to drop into his kick-slide against a speed-rusher, solid enough in his hands to deliver a jarring blow to a defender that will knock him off his pursuit path, and agile enough to work in space against a smaller linebacker or corner. They also often work against the opposing teams best pass rusher in one-on-one situations.
Yes, these big men a truly a rare breed!
So what separates the average-to-good ones, from the All-Pros? Below are a few attributes you should look for in your starting left or right offensive tackle.
Footwork: This is by far the most important attribute an offensive tackle can have/develop. Footwork is key to getting oneself into proper position in both the run, and passing game. In the outside zone(the stretch, toss or jet), the tackle must be able to reach the end man on the line of scrimmage(EMOLS). A quick, compact reach step is needed to attack the outside shoulder of the EMOLS. The defenders job is to keep the outside arm free, and turn the play back inside, for the inside linebackers to make the tackle. If the offensive tackle is too slow, or takes a false step, the play can be disrupted before it even develops.
On passing sets, the kick-slide is instrumental. If the tackle is facing a speed-rusher, it is imperative for them to get out of their stance, maintain the proper leverage and balance, and slide into their set with fluidity and quickness. A false, or slow step here can allow the defender to gain the edge, and put immediate pressure on the passer.
Hand Placement: Almost as equally important as footwork, hand placement is vital in the battle between the offensive tackle and the defender. Battles are often won or lost because of hand placement. This is a technique that most high school offensive tackles lack when they enter college, but will develop, and continue to refine, as they work their way into the NFL. The offensive tackle must have sound hand placement in the run game. There are two reasons for this. First, the hands need to be inside the framework of the defenders body, or a holding penalty is likely to be called. Second, the hands need to fight to stay inside the defenders hands. Much like a bench press, the arms need to stay in line with the body. The strongest part of the arm is the triceps. The maximum strength out-put of the triceps is achieved when the arms are closer to the body. Fighting to gain that inside leverage happens on every play in the NFL, and those that are successful usually win one-on-one match-ups.
The hand-punch is a weapon for the offensive tackle in pass-pro. Delivering a good punch to the defender can knock him off balance, and divert his path to the quarterback. You often hear scouts use the term "heavy hands" when referring to an offensive tackle, and believe me, this is a good thing. One of the best offensive tackles I have even had the pleasure of watching was Jonathan Ogden. He had some of the heaviest hands I have ever seen. His punch was so jarring, that he would often d-rail a pass-rusher withing two seconds of the ball being snapped.
Leverage/Balance: My ideal height for an offensive tackle would be 6'5". This is because leverage is so important in winning the one-on-one battles. The average height of a defensive end in the NFL is just over 6'4" The average height of 3-4 outside linebacker is 6'3". If you get an offensive tackle that is too tall, you often hear the term "waist-bender" associated with that individual. This terms is eluding to the tackle bending at the waist to lower his point of attack, rather than sinking their hips, and exploding, into the defender. When a offensive tackle bends at the waist to take on a blocker, they immediately lose balance. Their center of power is no longer over their hips, and this causes them to lose the ability to be powerful, and to counter moves by the defender.
In pass-pro, this is huge. The offensive tackle must be able to sink into their kick-slide, and sit back in their stance with the legs set underneath them, and the hips nice and low, so they are able to come into the defender with both power and balance. If a tackle over-extends, the defender can easily exploit this by ripping through the body, or knocking down the outside arm/shoulder to gain the edge. Getting off-balance, or losing the game of leverage will undoubtedly cause the tackle to lose the battle.
Lets now take a look at the offensive tackles on the Redskins roster, and see which of these attributes each has, or may be lacking.
Trent Williams: 6'5" 328 - Trent has the perfect body type for a left tackle in the NFL. He is not too tall, is massive in the lower body, and has exceptional footwork, quickness and agility. He sometimes tends to lunge at defenders instead of sitting back over his hips, and waiting to counter a move, but I have seen vast improvement in this area over the last two season. His kick-slide is really what separates him from other good offensive tackles. His feet always seem to be in the right position, and even if he is caught out of position, he has the quickness to counter. The one area I could stand to see some improvement is the hand-punch. Aside from this, his size, quickness, leverage, balance, footwork and hand placement are all at a Pro Bowl level.
Tyler Polumbus: 6'8" 305 - Polumbus has a few things going against him. First, he is so tall, that he almost always bends at his waist, rather than sinking his hips. He can sometimes get away with this in the run game, but we have seen him get beat far too often in pass-pro, as he can easily get off-balance, and lose the game of leverage. Polumbus also struggles with his technique and foot-speed, and will often just be getting into his kick-slide when the defender is already on his outside shoulder. His hand-punch is average, and his hand placement in the run game can often get outside the defenders body, causing him to be less powerful than he should be.
Maurice Hurt: 6'3" 329 - Hurt has the size of an offensive guard, but that is not always a bad thing. He does have long arms for his frame, and uses them effectively in pass-pro. Hurts best attribute is his massive lower body. He can generate a ton of power from the hips and legs, and this is why he is very effective in the run game. He also displays good foot-speed, and technique which allows him to get into correct position in both run and pass sets. He still needs to work on his hands, but thankfully that's something than can be easily taught.
Tom Compton: 6'5" 308 - Compton has the ideal size for an NFL tackle. He is very light on his feet, shows good quickness getting out of his stance, and displays a really good hand-punch. The one area he could improve on is lower-body strength. I really like the combination of balance and leverage I saw from Compton last preseason. He has the technical makings of a good offensive tackle.
Tony Pashos: 6'6" 325 - Pashos is a good technician. This is the best attribute of his game. He's not the quickest guy in short areas, but he makes up for that with good technique, hand placement and awareness. His strength at the point of attack is adequate, but could be better. He's not the road-grader that his size would merit.
Jeremy Trueblood: 6'8" 320 - Of all the offensive tackles of the roster, I believe Trueblood has the worst combination of quickness, leverage, balance, and hand placement. What I do think he brings to the table is strength and attitude. He is a good run-blocker, and when he gets his hands of a defender, they are usually done. What he also does, which gets him into trouble, is lunge at defenders, and grabs outside the body.