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Left Tackle or Defensive Tackle - Which is More Important?

Left Tackle or Defensive Tackle - Which is More Important? This is one of the most common misjudgments in the NFL today.

There are those who believe that Matthew Stafford is the franchise future and that he needs to be protected at any cost. They say the Left Tackle is the most important position on the offensive line because he protects what is usually the quarterbacks blindside. If a defender breaks free on the right side, a right handed quarterback can see him come at him and thus has time to avoid the rush or throw the ball away. However, if the defender comes free from the left side, a right handed quarterback does not see him so easily, resulting in what is often a free shot on the QB by the defender. Often this causes the quarterback to fumble the ball and in worse case scenarios, to be injured. But how much impact does a Left Tackle make on the offense?

Of any group of positions in any sport, it is the most important for the offensive line on an NFL team to play as a unit. Four of the linemen can all make perfect blocks, but if any one of them fails at his job on any play, it can cause the whole play to fail. Only one man needs to miss his assignment and a defender will break through and go after the quarterback. The left tackle can make his block on a run play but if the left guard misses his, the play will be broken up unless the ball carrier makes an outstanding play to avoid the defender. It takes five guys to block for the quarterback and sometimes a fullback or tight end is added into the mix because five guys may not be enough.

The best left tackle in the game will keep the quarterback from being hit as often in the back, but the offense is only going to be as good as the five offensive linemen are together. For this reason, the offensive line only needs to have five good players who play well as a unit to be great rather than have star players on it. There is proof of this fact in the stats.

In 2009, of the four offensive lines who gave up the least amount of sacks, only two of them had even one player who was a first round draft pick. Only one of those was a left tackle. Of the seven best offensive lines, only two of them had left tackles drafted in the first round. Only one had more than one player drafted in the first round. Of the top four lines (20 players), there were only 7 players drafted in the 3rd round or earlier. 13 of them were drafted in the fourth round or later. Three of those were undrafted.

The defensive tackle on the other hand is not like that. The defensive linemen all will feed off of each other, but they are not dependent upon each other. In a 4-3 scheme, if three of the defensive linemen fail in their jobs, the fourth can still break through on his own and sack the quarterback, cause a fumble and make a game changing play. For this reason it is more important to have a great player on the defensive line, because he will need to make more plays on his own.

Of the 3 or 4 defensive linemen used in an NFL scheme, the defensive tackle is the most important. There are many who would argue this point because they see two facts. 1) The defensive ends get far more sacks. 2) The defensive ends usually get paid more. ... The reason for both of these is because people tend to view the flashy stats rather than look at the who scenario.

It is seldom that a defensive end is so good that he can rack up a lot of sacks in a season without strong defensive tackle play alongside of him. It is far more often the defensive tackle drawing a double team that allows the defensive end to get open and make plays. Yet the defensive tackles will make the whole defense better. Not just the defensive ends.

A great defensive tackle will control the interior of the line during running plays, giving the linebackers fewer lanes to fill to stop the run. This will often force the running backs to bounce the play outside towards the defensive ends or out of bounds. When a running back has to turn it outside because there is nowhere to go on the inside, it also gives the defensive backs more time to make their adjustments and come in to make the tackles. During pass plays the defensive tackles pressure up the middle will close up the pocket so the quarterbacks cannot step up, leaving them in the open as targets for the defensive ends or blitzing linebackers. Pressure on the quarterbacks will force them to get rid of the ball sooner than they would like, making it so the defensive backs do not have to cover the receivers for so long.

The play of a great defensive tackle will make the jobs of every other player on the defense much easier. He will open things up for the other players to make the flashy game changing plays like sacks and interceptions. He does all of this and that is when he is not actually breaking through and making some plays himself.

While the left tackle is important, a decent one will look good if the whole offensive line works as a unit. He does not however, make the whole offense better. He does not make any game changing plays. All he can do is give the quarterbacks and receivers more time and the running back a little more room. But that is only if the rest of the unit plays as well as he does.

The defensive tackle makes the whole defense better. He makes all of the other defensive players jobs easier. He can also make plenty of game changing plays of his own.

The defensive tackle may not usually get the big contracts like the left tackles or the defensive ends will, but a great defensive tackle will still do a lot more for the team than the other positions will.

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