The blindside tackle is easily one of the most important positions on the roster, and every quarterback in the NFL has to trust him to protect him from unexpected hits.
It’s been a mixed bag so far, but let’s see how he and his fellow tackle stack up entering the 2017 season.
4. Matt Kalil and Michael Oher, Carolina Panthers
Man, just a few years ago the Panthers would have had what could be called one of the best offensive tackle pairs in the league.
For now though, they’re coming in at fourth here.
Oher has been derailed by concussions and may not even come back depending on how the league and team handle his Uber disaster.
Matt Kalil coming in to help his brother got some mixed press, and if he doesn’t work out then the negativity attached to his signing will continue.
Question marks don’t usually equal success, and the Panthers have plenty at tackle.
3. Terron Armstead and Zach Strief, New Orleans Saints
The Saints also have some questions at tackle.
First, can Terron Armstead stay healthy long enough to be the impact edge protector the team needs him to be?
The fifth-year player appeared in just seven games last year. This is twice in his four seasons he has missed more than half of the year. Not a good track record to this point.
For Strief, being over 30 years old on any offensive line isn’t a good thing, and with the Saints drafting Ryan Ramczyk his days may be numbered.
If Armstead follows his injury trends and Strief can’t hold off the rookie, then the edge is going to be very inexperienced and frankly incapable of handling the pass rushers coming after Drew Brees.
2. Donovan Smith and Demar Dotson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs need Donovan Smith to step up this season. It’s his third, and like Trevor Sikkema of The Pewter Report said on the most recent episode of “Walking the Plank”, it’s a key season indeed.
Dotson has proven to be average on the right side, but average is good enough in most situations to be honest.
After playing in just six games in 2015, he was able to stay healthy for 13 in 2016.
Still, without Dotson in the lineup, the Bucs struggled to keep Winston free of harassment and it hindered the offense in key times during the season.
Dotson’s health and Smith’s development are very much the storyline here, but if both workout, then this team has a good thing going for the coming year.
1. Jake Matthews and Ryan Schraeder, Atlanta Falcons
Jake Matthews of the Falcons is the NFC South’s best left tackle, and Ryan Schraeder did enough to not mess things up.
Maybe Schraeder deserves more credit, but for now, he’s going to have to earn it.
Atlanta’s offense was incredible in 2016, and giving Ryan some clean pockets had a lot to do with it.
Blocking for one of the best ground games helped as well, and having both starting tackles returning should give the team some key continuity.
This will help give the offense a fighting chance at repeated success, and lands them at the top.
Atlanta’s strongest areas are at center and on the outside, but does it give them the best line in the NFC South?
The starters might be great, but depth is always needed. Professional football is always a game of attrition, and those who can step up when key players go down always come out on top.