Luke Joeckel: Revolutionizing The Right Tackle Position


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

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

YearLTRTTotal% LT
PlayerTeamPrimary PosCap ValuePFF RatingDraft RoundDifference
Trent WilliamsWASLT$13,985,198.0018.81st
Tyler PolumbusWASRT$704,805.00-24.0UDFA$13,280,393.00
Jake LongMIALT$12,804,960.00-0.41st
Jonathan MartinMIART$869,867.00-22.02nd$11,935,093.00
Jordan GrossCARLT$11,504,340.0016.31st
Byron BellCARRT$474,626.00-8.2UDFA$11,029,714.00
Russell OkungSEALT$8,964,960.0021.01st
Breno GiacominiSEART$2,254,960.00-11.65th$6,710,000.00
Duane BrownHSTLT$4,568,175.0035.61st
Derek NewtonHSTRT$485,489.00-8.77th$4,082,686.00
Eugene MonroeJAXLT$5,062,460.0021.01st
Guy WhimperJAXRT$2,129,495.00-14.64th$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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