April 26, 2013; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars offensive lineman Luke Joeckel speaks at a press conference held at Everbank Field. Mandatory Credit: Rob Foldy-USA TODAY Sports

Luke Joeckel: Revolutionizing The Right Tackle Position

Pro Football Focus continues to put out quality analysis of every NFL play but sometimes they go above and beyond what I would expect from their already great work and come out with an article like “Examining Pressure:  Are Left Tackles Overvalued?”  This is the second post examining right tackle and left tackle value and it makes the case that left tackles are not more important than right tackles, no matter what our minds tell us.  Here’s the final word from the analysis:

There’s a lot to digest here, but it can be summed up rather quickly. The right tackle should no longer be viewed as the athletic inferior to the left tackle and teams should change their team-building strategy to make this happen. Today’s passing NFL makes it a necessity to have two competent pass protectors on the edge and when scouting players, if a tackle is deemed to not be good enough to play left tackle, well you’re better off just putting him at guard rather than exploiting him at right tackle. There’s no hiding — defensive coordinators will find him.

The writer, Steve Palazzolo, covers everything from left tackle and right tackle pressure surrendered to the percentage of sacks from each side to the ability of the pass rushers on either the right or left side.  The conclusion is that right and left tackles are about equal in most things and that teams still tend to invest heavily in their left tackle rather than their right and teams have begun to notice.

This makes the selection of Luke Joeckel in the first round even more important.  Some have given the pick an abysmally low grade.  That grade is a reflection of the right tackle position not being a “premium” position.  Even though the Jaguars filled a need, they “reached” by selecting a player to fill a less valuable need than pass rusher or defensive secondary.

Based on what Palazzolo has shown in his writing and research, you have to say that the Jaguars really just found the future of the NFL in Joeckel.  Two top-tier offensive tackles has to be the way of the future if you are focusing on protecting your quarterback.  The Jaguars desperately need to protect their quarterback and they have valued the right tackle position as far less than the left tackle position for far too long.

The best pass protectors, per PFF grades, are at the left side and they are getting paid like it.

Top pass protectors at their OT position and their pay

Year LT RT Total % LT
2008 14 11 25 56.0%
2009 13 12 25 52.0%
2010 13 12 25 52.0%
2011 15 10 25 60.0%
2012* 16 9 25 64.0%
Player Team Primary Pos Cap Value PFF Rating Draft Round Difference
Trent Williams WAS LT $13,985,198.00 18.8 1st
Tyler Polumbus WAS RT $704,805.00 -24.0 UDFA $13,280,393.00
Jake Long MIA LT $12,804,960.00 -0.4 1st
Jonathan Martin MIA RT $869,867.00 -22.0 2nd $11,935,093.00
Jordan Gross CAR LT $11,504,340.00 16.3 1st
Byron Bell CAR RT $474,626.00 -8.2 UDFA $11,029,714.00
Russell Okung SEA LT $8,964,960.00 21.0 1st
Breno Giacomini SEA RT $2,254,960.00 -11.6 5th $6,710,000.00
Duane Brown HST LT $4,568,175.00 35.6 1st
Derek Newton HST RT $485,489.00 -8.7 7th $4,082,686.00
Eugene Monroe JAX LT $5,062,460.00 21.0 1st
Guy Whimper JAX RT $2,129,495.00 -14.6 4th $2,932,965.00

Yet when you look at the numbers, it appears that teams know that the best pass protector is on the left and so they make their left defensive end (going against the right tackle) their best pass rusher.  Palazzalo notes that Michael Strahan (the single season sack record holder) and Reggie White both did most of their work on the left side in their careers.  If the right tackle position is a weakness against players like White and Strahan, then shouldn’t teams address right tackle as well?  The answer is yes.  This is especially true for the Jaguars, who face J.J. Watt twice a year and he does his rushing from the left side (against the right tackle) in base packages.

I highly recommend you go and read the article linked at the top.  It’s too good to ignore and the data makes what Joeckel will be doing in Jacksonville seem even better.  While teams like the Kansas City Chiefs look to unload their top tackle because they’ve found the perfect replacement despite having far less talent at right tackle, the Jaguars are revolutionizing the NFL.

- Luke N. Sims

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Tags: Jacksonville Jaguars Luke Joeckel NFL Draft NFL Draft 2013

  • http://www.blackandteal.com/ Jason Love

    You know… I was horrified at the pick and angered all night by it. However, I was assuaged by both Caldwell and Bradley’s actions (calling Monroe, assuring us too that he would stay at LT). This article has even further diminished my fears and has actually made this pick a great pick for me. However, there is one catch

    Monroe must be resigned.

    If Monroe isn’t resigned or tagged next year, it’ll be a lateral move. The first round should never be a lateral move, it should be a team building move. Monroe is good. Monroe will be 27 at the end of next season. If he is resigned to, say a 4 or 5 year deal, he’ll be 31/32 after his second contract. Joeckel’s contract will be a 4 year deal with a team option 5th year. He is 21. By the time Joeckel’s second contract rolls around, Monroe will be 30ish. At that time, the Jags can play Monroe at RT.

    However, because of this article, Joeckel could remain at RT for the tenure of his career, considering how the Jags now really love their stats and numbers. Either way, hooray Jaguars!

    • LukeNSims

      Hooray indeed! I agree, I think Monroe is too good to let go. Not only that, but if he is a top 10 left tackle for the next three years but then regresses, he and Joeckel could likely be interchangeable and then we still have two quality players at both right and left tackle (much like your scenario).

      It’s good to loaded in talent, especially at offensive tackle. It’s weird that so many of us are willing to be loaded at cornerback or receiver but think it’s fine to neglect right tackle because it isn’t “as important.” Coaches and players are starting to realize it’s actually on equal footing, and that’s good.

    • john.D

      Agreed…..Go Jags…

  • http://twitter.com/mikeyfeelsfine Michael McCrosky

    Luke, I’m curious if you think that our switch to a zone blocking scheme on offense further equalizes the RT and LT positions.

    • Zain Gowani

      An interesting idea. I think to some extent it does, given the athletic abilities required of a zone-blocking tackle. Couple that with the point that Luke and the PFF article are making – that protecting the quarterback is increasingly less about protecting the blind-side – and you have more than enough reasoning for the Joeckel pick (even without considering how horrid our line has been for years on end). PS – A bit of shameless self-promotion: we made the case Joeckel pick, and hashed out the reasoning behind it, back in February. http://blackandteal.com/2013/02/06/luke-joeckel-and-the-case-for-forward-drafting/
      Mel Kiper can’t touch that.

      • LukeNSims

        We? That was a stroke of brilliance purely by yourself, Zain!

        I think the the ZBS will be most beneficial for center Brad Meester, actually and he may be the great equalizer in the ZBS scheme because he’s smart and still has some athleticism to go with. When protecting the QB I think that they (both OTs) will be about equal no matter what scheme is employed. Monroe has more experience with a ZBS but Joeckel’s athleticism and overall football acumen should make him a quality pass protector and run blocker no matter what scheme the Jaguars are using on a given down. I like him as a power blocker, but he’s so big it’s tough for me to picture him doing anything else.

  • Terry O’Brien

    After watching Eben Britton help our QB up off the ground for 4 years, I think placing value on the RT makes sense to me. We don’t seem to mind paying Marcedes Lewis big money to do the blocking for our missing RT. Draft a really top notch lineman to keep our QB productive and free up our pass catching TE? Maybe win a few more games? Sounds like an A+ draft choice to me.