Top Ten Offensive Tackle Bookends of 2014

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San Francisco 49ers tackle Joe Staley (74) blocks. Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

5. Denver Broncos Ryan Clady, Chris Clark

Ranking the teams in the top five was no easy task, as the teams from 3-5 are virtually interchangeable, so it might as well be a “tier” of players. The Denver Broncos have three players who can succeed as tackles in this league, but they will kick Orlando Franklin inside to replace the departed Zane Beadles. Franklin’s natural position is tackle, but I think he’ll be better than Beadles, who wasn’t as good in 2013 as he was in 2012. Clady has been slapped with the “overrated” tag recently, but I don’t think he deserves it. I’m not sure he’s elite, but he’s close and is undoubtedly a franchise LT; that’s all that matters. Clark was huge replacing Clady last year, and he might actually be an even better RT than Franklin.

4. Minnesota Vikings Matt Kalil, Phil Loadholt

It seems like nagging injuries caused Matt Kalil’s play to slide a bit in 2013 after a phenomenal 2012 campaign, but there’s no doubt that Kalil is one of the most individually gifted tackles in the game. Heading into his third season with a knee injury (and scope) well behind him, Kalil will be a top ten tackle next season. Loadholt is one of the game’s best right tackles, and he’s the best run-blocking tackle in the league for my money (Peters and Solder provide some nice competition).

3. Cincinnati Bengals Andrew Whitworth, Andre Smith

Ranking the Bengals over the Broncos and Vikings was no easy choice, but Andrew Whitworth wasn’t going to be denied this spot. He’s one of the game’s elite offensive linemen, and he managed to play guard and tackle at an elite level last season. He’s even better at tackle, though, and he’s still going strong at the age of 32. Andre Smith can be hit-or-miss at times, but he’s been money over the past two seasons despite some hitches in pass protection. He’ll have lapses like an embarrassingly quick pressure to Jason Worilds last year that led to a hit on Andy Dalton, but he’s still one of the top right tackles around.

2. San Francisco 49ers Joe Staley, Anthony Davis

This ranking might also be controversial, but Joe Staley is just that good. Per PFF, he allowed just 14 pressures last season, but the craziest thing is that he is an even better run blocker. This is key in the 49ers smashmouth rushing attack led by Frank Gore, and Davis is another road-grader in the running game. Davis was still solid last year, but he was even better in 2012. In fact, he was the best right tackle that year, and that’s saying something given how good Sebastian Vollmer is. Run blocking pushes these two to the top, because we know that everyone on this list (well, except for Johnson and Schwartz last year) is assured in pass pro.

1. New England Patriots Nate Solder, Sebastian Vollmer

These two are clearly the cream of the crop when talking about duos, and it’s such a shame Sebastian Vollmer went down with a gruesome injury at the beginning of the season against the Miami Dolphins. We were robbed of watching the game’s premier right tackle, and it sometimes seems like there’s nothing he can’t do out there. Vollmer is the definition of solid, and his loss was lost in the talk of other big losses such as Rob Gronkowski and Jerod Mayo. Solder is even better than Vollmer, and it’s important to overlook the ten sacks he allowed last year. Sacks are overrated. Sometimes he needs to do a better job of not giving up those kinds of hits, but that’s the lone blemish to an incredibly advanced game. One of the game’s best, Solder is incredibly athletic, can dominate in the running game, and his ability to get out and block on screens makes Shane Vereen‘s life a whole lot easier. Solder isn’t flawless, but it’s telling that the sacks allowed are fluky when he only allowed 12 total QB hits and 23 pressures. He’ll be even better next year, and Tom Brady will certainly reap the rewards of having a healthy Vollmer, though he is a major injury risk due to chronic back issues, next season as well.

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  • Erick Trickel

    Ryan Clady and Chris Clark shouldn’t be on this list for one simple reason. Chris Clark isn’t guaranteed to start at RT. He was handed the job and is now fighting with Winston Justice for it.

    • Joe Soriano

      It’s interesting to hear how well Justice has played this offseason in workouts after being re-signed, as I’ve always viewed him as a career swing tackle. If he’s good enough to beat Clark, based on how well Clark was last year, then the Broncos duo should still be somewhere in the top ten. I really liked the way Clark played last year, and I’m not convinced he’s going to lose out to Justice just yet.

      By the way, how is Michael Schofield looking?

      • Erick Trickel

        My point was that they should’ve been left off only because the RT is still unknown. Also Clark’s performance last year was vastly overrated. He played solid but wasn’t great. Schofield is doing good from the little I have heard about him. He has a shot at RT though he is considered a long shot.

        • Joe Soriano

          That’s good to hear. I like Schofield as a long-term tackle option, because I think it’s going to take him, like most tackles, some time to develop.

      • anon76returns

        Yeah, I haven’t heard much about Schofield either. More than Justice or Clark, I was hoping that Painter would really step up this year. Physically he has the tools to be the best RT on the team by some margin, but it appears that the RT position is a two-man race at this point between Justice and Clark.

  • jj

    Long and barksdale will crack the top 3 tackle duo this season. Barksdale had great help from saffold when he made the switch to gaurd because of saffolds fluid movement and great awareness. Long on the other hand was aided by chris williams and shelley smith. Both who had to earn and prove their ability after being cut by their respective teams. Now long will be lined up next to a monster who can both run and pass block, and is considered a franchise tackle.

  • jj

    What gets me is that robinson and saffold are tackles by nature. With the exception of wells, the rams o line consists of 4 franchise tackles.

    • Joe Soriano

      Yeah, I hope I got that point across as well, because this line is truly stacked. Hopefully Long shows no ill-effects, because Barksdale was a major breakout player last year, and there’s no questioning what Saffold can do or what Robinson can bring to the table.