Commentary

Tip Sheet notes: Left-tackle glare

Young stars will be on the spot as new starting LTs in Dallas, Baltimore

Originally Published: May 21, 2010
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com
In the main Tip Sheet item, we noted the leaguewide lack of consistency on the offensive line. Such large turnover is perhaps magnified more by the pending changes at the critical left tackle spot -- even among 2009 playoff teams -- for the coming season.

Having released the venerable Flozell Adams earlier in the offseason, the Dallas Cowboys seem ready to turn the left tackle position over to three-year veteran Doug Free. He played well at right tackle last season in starting seven games for the injured Marc Colombo, but Free has never started a regular-season game on the quarterback's blind side. Speaking of "The Blind Side," it appears as if the Baltimore Ravens will flip Michael Oher (of cinematic fame) to the left side to replace Jared Gaither. The starting left tackle the past two seasons, Gaither is rumored to be on the trade block.

The Arizona Cardinals plan to fill the hole created when the club decided not to re-sign left tackle Mike Gandy with right tackle Levi Brown, a former first-round pick. The New England Patriots still have incumbent Matt Light, but he could be pushed by second-year pro Sebastian Vollmer. The native of Germany performed well in five starts at left tackle (and three at right tackle) as a rookie. Probably less critical, the New Orleans Saints are likely to turn the left tackle job back over to Jammal Brown, the two-time Pro Bowl player who missed the team's entire Super Bowl XLIV season after hip surgery. His fill-in, Jermon Bushrod, could be traded.

Among the non-playoff franchises from 2009, there could be as many as five left tackle switches.

"It's critical," Free said of playing left tackle. Free will be pushed some by former St. Louis Rams first-rounder Alex Barron (43 false-start penalties in five seasons in St. Louis), recently acquired in a trade. "You know all the eyes are on you, but you just try to put it out of your head, and rely on technique."

Said the Cardinals' Brown, a starter on the right side for three years: "It's the spot on the line. I want to play it. I'm looking forward to it."

Actually, left tackle was one of the more stable positions on the offensive line in 2009. Sixteen players started all 16 games for their respective franchises. The clubs, particularly the 2009 playoff teams making changes at the crucial blindside spot, hope it will be just as solid this season.