In the mid-2000s, the perceived importance of the left tackle position was at an all-time high thanks to front offices making them some of the highest-paid players in the NFL and Michael Lewis publishing "The Blind Side."
Newsflash: Football has changed quite a bit since then, and as former NFL offensive lineman Ross Tucker points out for The Athletic (subscription), we're at the point now where there is "no longer a distinction" between left and right tackles.
The backdrop: Decades ago, defenses began putting their best pass rushers over the left tackle because that was typically the QB's blind side and, thus, gave them the best opportunity to get sacks and, better yet, strip-sacks.
- Offenses responded to this by putting their best offensive lineman at left tackle. And then defenses responded to that by moving their best pass rushers over to the opposite side — a classic back-and-forth that has led to both tackle positions becoming almost synonymous.
- Proof: The Raiders plan to use former Patriots left tackle Trent Brown at right tackle after making him the highest-paid offensive lineman in NFL history this offseason.
The big picture: This redistribution of importance is not just happening at the tackle position; it's happening across the entire offensive line.
- With offenses getting rid of the ball faster than ever, it's crucial for defenses to apply quick pressure — and the shortest distance to the QB is straight up the middle.
- This has spawned a new wave of pass rushers like Aaron Donald (last season's sack leader) who make a living wreaking havoc on the interior. In response to this rising threat, guards — who play inside the tackles — are being asked to do more than ever, and their value is skyrocketing as a result.
- Proof: Last offseason, the Colts took Quenton Nelson with the No. 6 pick (highest-drafted guard since 1985) and the Cowboys signed Zack Martin to an $84 million deal (biggest contract ever given to a guard).
The bottom line: At no point in NFL history has the offensive line been more of a unit, and it's no longer a given that a team's most athletic trench warrior will line up at left tackle.