Michigan Football: Coach’s Corner — That Big Left Tackle
Do you want a big contract in professional sports? One way to secure a big paycheck is to become a premium left tackle in the NFL. To ascend to this level a player must be big, strong, be fast with the feet, have long arms, and, more than anything else, be able to neutralize the edge rusher in pass protection.
The left tackle protects the flank by using his quick feet and maintaining leverage with the arms and hands. The arms must be at the proper length to keep the rusher from overcoming the block. The hands are used to get the rusher off balance and push him backwards if possible. All of this creates time and keeps the quarterback safe.
The left tackle is critical in protecting most quarterbacks’ “blind spot.” The famous “look out” block from a missed assignment from the left tackle leaves the quarterback in a precarious spot.
The left tackle needs to get back quick enough (back-peddle or most recently a kick-back technique) and take an angle that forces the rusher from a straight line to a circle, protecting the pocket for those precious few seconds that are needed to execute a pass play.
Most of the time, a left tackle will plow forward on running plays. With the invention of the stretch play and zone blocking, sometimes the tackle must leave his homestead and travel down the line. Tackle traps are still used in some offenses.
Defensive linemen have improved greatly in speed the last few decades and have techniques to defeat an edge blocker. The tackle will need to set a firm base and prevent the defensive end from going across the face.
Pulling and trapping is not out of the question for tackles even in this age of “modern football.” On the classic trey play, a tackle must have a good bucket step and pull hard to get to a spot where damage can be done.
Defenders have now become aware of setting up and knocking passes down if the rush techniques are neutralized by the tackle. So, tackles now must work on getting the hands of a defensive lineman down. This little game within a game came about with the three step drop offenses that used quick timing patterns to offset a pass rush. The timing passes need open passing lanes and that of course is the job of the offensive linemen. Forcing or letting the defensive lineman get outside and then cutting the rusher helps in creating a passing lane. This philosophy is used in various screen set ups, like slip and jailbreak, as well.
Perhaps the most important technique a good left tackle must master in pass protection is getting depth on the snap and forcing the defensive lineman to go wide and take up more time. The offensive tackle wants to force an angle that creates extra depth before the rusher can get to the quarterback. This provides an easy opportunity for the quarterback to simply step up and avoid at least that rusher.
Then, there is that wonderful time for a left tackle, where there is no tight end (common on the left flank) and no running back to pick up a blitzer. The left tackle must give the defensive end enough of a shot to slow him down and then pick up the blitzer.
Left tackles are indeed one of the most valuable assets on a football team. Quarterbacks tend to treat them like valued family.
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Written by GBMWolverine Staff
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