We’ve checked off the skill position players on offense with quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers and tight ends. Now it’s time to hit the offensive line as we continue our look at the highest-graded individual performances of 2011.
Up first are those offensive tackles who are dealing with speed rushers off the edge and giving their running backs ample room to run. Our grading takes into account what they do in pass protection, how they grade in run and screen blocking, and what penalties they give up. Obviously, it goes far beyond any box score you could ever wish to look at.
Here are 10 of the best from 2011, looking at the Top 5 on the left and the same for the right.
5. Bryant McKinnie, Baltimore Ravens: Divisional Playoff vs. Houston (+5.2)
With the eyes of the NFL world on him, all wondering if he could keep Joe Flacco clean, McKinnie gave up just two pressures and had an outstanding day with his run blocking. Eight times he graded positively during the game as Antonio Smith found out that Mount McKinnie can still be a formidable challenge.
4. Trent Williams, Washington Redskins: Week 12 at Seattle (+5.2)
After a horror show of a rookie year, Williams started to really get it in year No. 2. This was clearly evident in the Week 12 encounter with the Seahawks. Williams didn’t give up a single pressure or penalty, while grading positively five times in the run game. It was a near-flawless display and with Chris Clemons going up against you, that’s not often heard.
3. Jared Veldheer, Oakland Raiders: Week 17 vs. San Diego (+5.6)
The Raiders left tackle gave up just the one pressure in this game which isn’t bad since there were 47 occasions he was pressed into pass blocking. Veldheer absolutely dominated in the run game here. Vaughn Martin and Corey Liuget were the primary victims, but Veldheer also did a nice job getting to the second level and neutralizing Takeo Spikes on more than one occasion.
2. Jeff Backus, Detroit Lions: Week 17 at Green Bay (+5.7)
Backus gave up just two pressures on an astounding 64 pass blocks while earning a positive grade in the run game. What’s interesting is that these blocks came against linebackers and safety Morgan Burnett, with Backus having enough about him to get to the second level and assist a run game that sorely needed it.
1. Jason Peters, Philadelphia Eagles: Week 8 vs. Dallas (+6.2)
It’s only fitting that our top-ranked left tackle produced our top-ranked left tackle performance. It was very nearly perfect with Peters giving up no pressure against top opposition, and just the one false start penalty. Still, it was his work in the run and screen games that earned him this nod. With an impressive eight positive grades, he showed that on his day there may not be a more athletic tackle than him. The Eagles will sorely miss him in 2012.
5. Breno Giacomini, Seattle Seahawks: Week 15 at Chicago (+5.2)
This will come as a surprise to Packers fans who watched Giacomini fail to develop, but he earned himself a contract extension with some good play at the end of the 2011 season. The Week 15 matchup with the Bears was the best example of this. A false start penalty and poor work on a screen pass being the only blemishes on an otherwise perfect game. Stephen Paea in particular got taught some things by his more experienced foe here.
4. Andre Smith, Cincinnati Bengals: Week 16 vs. Arizona (+5.6)
It hasn’t always been easy for Smith in Cincinnati, but he made it look that way against a lackluster Cardinals team. He didn’t give up a single pressure and earned five positive grades in the run game without a single negative play.
3. Bryan Bulaga, Green Bay Packers: Week 1 vs. New Orleans (+5.6)
After a tough rookie season, Bulaga showed that things had changed right out of the gate in his second year. He gave up a pressure but nothing more, as he had success against various members of the Saints’ defensive line. He also dominated every time he got to the second level against Jonathan Vilma and Co.
2. Phil Loadholt, Minnesota Vikings: Week 13 vs. Denver (+5.7)
Outside of giving up a penalty for holding Elvis Dumervil, Loadholt had a lot of success here, particularly against Marcus Thomas in the run game. A fine effort from a player who wasn’t always the most consistent in pass protection (the next week he gave up two sacks to Cliff Avril). This was a good sign of what he is capable of.
1. Michael Oher, Baltimore Ravens: Week 8 vs. Arizona (+5.9)
Two of the top right tackle performances came against Arizona. What does that tell Cardinals fans? In any case, let’s not take anything away from a fine showing by Oher in a year that was riddled with inconsistency. He didn’t give up a single pressure and effectively neutralized Darnell Dockett every time the two men went head-to-head. That’s never an easy job, but Oher made it look so.