- Matt Williamson, ESPN.com
After watching games and breaking down film, Scouts Inc. has evaluated and graded more than 2,500 NFL players heading into the 2011 season. Here's how the tackles stacked up.
Offensive tackles, though profiled as similar, can be extremely different. But there are clear elements you target: Tackles need to have excellent height and excellent feet; they must be agile enough to do battle in pass protection with both big defensive ends, and also outside linebackers that are far more athletic and sometimes as much as 100 pounds lighter. But then they also have to be powerful enough to seal the edge in the run game.
For us, the top two here are clear -- and while Joe Thomas gets the nod, several might put Jake Long on top. There are some questions after that, but overall, this is a very strong top five. Needless to say, it is easy to see why such a premium is placed on this position -- particularly on the left side.
Thomas is an excellent combination of size, strength and athleticism. He has great instincts and reactions. His technique is strong for such a young player, and he obviously takes his craft seriously.
Thomas can get to the second level as a run blocker and is adept at hitting a moving target downfield. Thomas could stand to add more strength. He is a physical lineman that can set the tone in the running game.
Long has good balance, foot quickness and agility but isn't special for the left tackle position. He shows the ability to slide his feet and maintain contact with pass-rushers.
He shows quick hands to counter and gain leverage. Long is physical in the run game, showing power to dominate his opponent at the point of attack. He can lock on and power block drive the defender at the point of attack. He does a nice job adjusting to moving targets in space and on the second level.
Ferguson has excellent size, long arms and good athletic skills. He has the ability to adjust and recover. He flashes the ability to lock on and steer defenders.
He keeps his feet moving on contact. Ferguson can locate targets on the move and excel on the second level. He can be vulnerable to up-and-under moves. Ferguson struggles at times against bull-rushers but has improved dramatically in this area.
Peters has been a consistent performer for the Eagles since coming over from the Bills in 2009. He has power to get movement as a zone run blocker, and stays connected with active hand use and foot agility. Peters maintains proper body position with good knee bend and instincts.
He does a nice job against bull rushers by anchoring with his powerful lower body. Peters is quick to kick-step and gain leverage as a pass blocker, using an effective punch and footwork to keep defenders at bay. Peters brings toughness and consistency to the Eagles' offensive line and should continue to play at a high level in 2011.
Clady has played in, and started, all 16 games in all three seasons he has been in Denver. He has rare athleticism and excellent foot quickness and body control along with top lateral range in pass protection.
He is a natural knee bender that can keep his pad level down to leverage blocks and shows the ability to roll his hips to explode into his blocks. He can kick out to pick up the edge rusher and shows good change of direction and ability to adjust as he reacts to counter moves in space. He needs to work on his techniques when it comes to hand use as he will grab wide more than you'd like. He is getting stronger as a run blocker but could still use additional bulk and strength in both his upper body as well as his legs.
1hBy Ian O'Connor
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