Up next on our journey through cumulative player ratings for the past three years is the offensive line. With so many of them to look at, we’ll divide it all into three separate articles looking at the tackles, guards, and centers of the NFL.
We begin on the ends, presenting the Top 5 for either side.
If anyone on the O-line is going to get publicity, it’s these guys (particularly on the left), so there are sure to be some familiar names. The lists are short though, as this is the cream of the qualifying crop, so don’t be shocked if one or two you were expecting didn’t make it.
We’re only considering the tackles who have played at least two thirds of the average number of snaps of those five who played the most. That’s 2309 snaps to get in the door.
And onto the rankings …
1. Joe Thomas, Cleveland Browns
Thomas dominated the rankings in 2009 with the kind of season that warranted more praise. Such were his performances, he set the bar so high that no-one, not even himself, has been able to follow it. But as much of a down year as 2010 was for him, he was still one of the league’s better tackles and has put together a body of work that makes him the top left tackle in the league.
2. Jake Long, Miami Dolphins
Each year, Long has improved, and he was heading to his best year yet in 2010 before a shoulder injury slowed him down. He’s not quite as imposing as Joe Thomas is in the run game, but no tackle surrenders less pressure on a per play basis. As much as any left tackle can be, he was worth the first pick of the draft in 2008 and he’s threatening Thomas’ stranglehold on the top spot.
3. D’Brickashaw Ferguson, New York Jets
It’s weird that despite constantly playing well, D’Brickashaw Ferguson has never really received the full credit he is due. Has ranked in the top five of tackles the past three years, and is the prototypical left tackle who excels in pass protection but could do with getting a little bit nastier in the run game.
4. Matt Light, New England Patriots
He’s not the player he once was where in 2008 he finished the year our top-ranked left tackle, but he’s still an above average player. Can’t quite handle the top rushers anymore, but is an aggressive run blocker who still has something to offer. Last two years have been relatively so-so, but in a league lacking in superior left tackles, that’s not necessarily been a bad thing for the Patriots.
5. Andrew Whitworth, Cincinnati Bengals
2010 was the year Whitworth really emerged as a top tackle, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him start to challenge the dominance of the top three guys. Has developed leaps and bounds since moving from left guard.
1. Damien Woody, New York Jets
The Jets cutting Woody had little to do with his talent or production on the field, and more with age and injury concerns. As it is, no one has been more consistent at the right tackle spot than the former Jet over the past three years. Has finished in the top three of tackles every year since we started.
2. Kareem McKenzie, New York Giants
Our top right tackle in 2010 has always been one of the league’s most punishing right tackles in the run game, but deserves more credit for being an above average pass protector as well. He’s been the one constantly strong performer on the Giants’ offensive line over the past three years (even in 2010 when durability concerns hit others).
3. Willie Colon, Pittsburgh Steelers
Colon may have missed last year, but by virtue of the Steelers 2008 Super Bowl exploits has played more than enough snaps to qualify. An incredibly strong pass protector, Colon has been perhaps the only guy to make the life of Ben Roethlisberger easier these past few years. Not the prototypical run tackle, Colon is an interesting free agent.
4. David Stewart, Tennessee Titans
This year wasn’t the best for David Stewart, one year after he used 2009 to cement himself as the uncrowned top tackle in Tennessee. Hopefully that will go down as a blip, because he was one of the most complete tackles in the league before 2010, equally capable of getting to the next level as shutting down a top pass rusher.
5. Vernon Carey, Miami Dolphins
Prior to his early exit with the injury in 2010, Carey wasn’t playing up to the level we’d come to expect. Before that, he had finished fourth (2008) and third (2009) in our right tackle rankings. A rounded and complete tackle, you have to hope that he can find that form again.