In an effort to decide which team will win the NFC South in 2013, I’ve decided to rank the four players in the division at each of the 11 positions on offense, 11 on defense, punter, place kicker, and one specialist. Each team will have one representative at each position and will be given points based on where their player lands in relation to the others who play the same position in the division. The best player in the division will receive four points while the worst will receive just one. We will then tally the points up, and come up with the a ranking of the four teams in the NFC South.
Let’s now take a look at the left tackles.
Tie #1 – Donald Penn – Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 3.5 points
Donald Penn has been a rock for the Buccaneers for the past six years and likely will be for the next six as well. The reason is because he just keeps getting better. He’s turned himself into an excellent tackle and the kind of guy that Josh Freeman can trust will be there for him on every single play. He’s a better run blocker than pass blocker, but he’s taken some excellent pass rushers out of games, and based on the offseason workouts I’ve seen, I expect him to be even better this year.
Gross is an excellent run blocker and he’s a much better than average pass blocker. He has two Pro Bowls under his belt and has been on offensive lines that have propelled a number of successful running backs. The challenge now for the Panthers, and the reason why Gross isn’t number one by himself, is the mobile quarterback behind him. Gross was great last year, but with if your left tackle is not in perfect sync with your quarterback, it can mean real trouble. And with a running QB, things can change on any play.
Baker is the best pass rush left tackle in the division. But he struggles in the run game. With the new weapon in Stephen Jackson in Atlanta, Baker will have to step up his game to get the full return out of Jackson. If he can’t the Falcons will have to become a very predictable running away from Baker as often as possible. The good news for Baker, the team succeeds when the passing game excels.
Brown will step in for the departed Jermon Bushrod. He’s never played left tackle in his NFL career and frankly wasn’t terribly impressive in his time at right tackle a year ago. He’ll have to improve dramatically to keep that Saints pass attack as dominant as it has been. Drew Brees has been able to rely on Bushrod since the day he arrived in New Orleans. Well now he’s gone, and it could be a problem.
The rankings are now complete. Be sure to check out the NFC South Position Rankings roundup to see point totals and observations based on the rankings.