Under Pressure: Rookie Tackles

Under Pressure: Rookie Tackles
Under Pressure: Rookie Tackles
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by J.J. Cooper

If you want to get immediate production from your first-round pick, draft an offensive tackle. Five offensive tackles were taken in the first round this year. Two have played every snap this year. Two more have started all but one game this season which they missed because of injury and the fifth was lost in Week 5 to a fractured ankle.

So how have the five fared? Here’s a quick look at the five first-rounders.

Eric Fisher, RT, Chiefs

Games Started: 8

Offensive Snaps Played: 510 (82 percent of Chiefs’ offensive snaps)

Sacks Allowed: 4

FO Adjusted Line Yards Stats: Chiefs rank 10th on runs at right tackle, 11th on runs at right end. In comparison, the Chiefs rank fourth on runs up the middle, 21st on runs to left tackle and fifth on runs around left end.

Summary: Fisher has allowed four sacks this year, three of which have come when he’s been physically beaten. Only one has appeared to come from confusion about his assignment--a week two sack against the Cowboys where Fisher had difficulty recognizing a line twist. Of his four sacks, three have come in 2.5 seconds or less, so in the rare occasions he gets beaten, it’s a bad beat.

Luke Joeckel, RT/LT, Jaguars

Games Started: 5

Offensive Snaps Played: 272 (46 percent of Jaguars’ offensive snaps)

Sacks Allowed: 4

FO Adjusted Line Yards Stats: Jaguars rank 19th in runs at right tackle, 22nd on runs to right end, which is better than the Jaguars rank on runs up the middle, to left tackle or left end.

Summary: Of the 2013 first-round tackles, Joeckel struggled the most in pass protection. Joeckel gave up four sacks in less than five full games of action. He gave up a sack to Justin Houston on a speed rush in Week 1, gave up a pair of sacks in Week 2 where he figured out too late who to block and another in Week 3 where Michael Bennett beat him around the edge. Joeckel didn’t get a chance to put his early season struggles behind him thanks to his Week 5 fractured ankle.

Lane Johnson, RT, Eagles

Games Started: 10

Offensive Snaps Played: 684 (100 percent of Eagles’ offensive snaps)

Sacks Allowed: 6

FO Adjusted Line Yards Stats: Eagles rank 14th in runs at right tackle, 16th on runs to right end, which is better than the Eagles’ ranks on runs up the middle, to left tackle or left end.

Summary: Johnson has also had his struggles, most significantly a three-sack disaster against Justin Houston in Week 3 against the Chiefs. He’s had a hand in seven sacks, as two of them he shared with someone else. Johnson’s biggest problem has been oversetting to the outside. Four times, he’s let a pass rusher through to his inside, leaving the quarterback no chance to step up in the pocket.

D.J. Fluker, RT, Chargers

Games Started: 8

Offensive Snaps Played: 563 (91 percent of Chargers’ offensive snaps)

Sacks Allowed: 3

FO Adjusted Line Yards Stats: Chargers rank 24th on runs at right tackle, 14th on runs around left end. In comparison, San Diego ranks ninth on runs up the middle, 11th on runs to left tackle and third on runs around left end.

Summary: The Alabama product has proven to be a pretty polished addition to the Chargers offensive line. Considering the sucking chest wound that was the Chargers’ pass protection last year, Fluker has been a huge addition. Fluker’s biggest problem has been getting overpowered. Connor Barwin steamrolled him into Phillip Rivers in Week 2 and Broncos’ defensive end Derek Wolfe roller skated him into the backfield in Week 10.

Justin Pugh, RT, Giants

Games Started: 9

Offensive Snaps Played: 594 (100 percent of Giants’ offensive snaps)

Sacks Allowed: 3

FO Adjusted Line Yards Stats: Giants rank 28th in runs at right tackle, 29th on runs around left end. They rank a little better on runs up the middle (24th), at left tackle (27th) and around left end (15th).

Summary: The Giants have had plenty of problems this year, but Pugh isn’t the biggest cause. Pugh was beaten to the outside by Thomas Davis in Week 3 and by Charles Johnson that same week. The next week, he was beaten by Tamba Hali thanks to a well-designed Chiefs blitz and he had a hand in a Week 5 sack against the Eagles.


Case Keenum was in trouble not long after the snap on a third and three in the fourth quarter on Sunday. He didn’t want to give up on the play, so he decided to scramble backwards. It may have seemed like a good idea, but all it did was get Keenum in more trouble, so he kept running backwards.

Eventually, Keenum was tripped up by Frostee Rucker 23 yards behind the line of scrimmage. Third-and-3 became fourth-and-26. It’s not only the longest sack of the season (by yards), it’s the longest since Eli Manning’s 26-yard sack in 2007.


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Russell Wilson and Joe Flacco shared the honor this week with each of them recording a 6.6-second sack. Flacco had plenty of time, waited, waited some more and eventually took off only to be run down by Cory Dunlap.

Wilson’s story was similar. He stayed in a clean pocket for as long as a quarterback’s internal alarm clock would allow, then took off, but was run out of bounds for an eight-yard loss.


Cardinals outside linebacker John Abraham got one of the easiest sacks of his long career this week when the Texans forgot to block him. With left tackle Duane Brown picking up the man on his outside shoulder and right guard Wade Smith picking up the man on his inside shoulder, the Texans gave Abraham an engraved invitation to sack quarterback Case Keenum. Abraham quickly accepted, taking Keenum down in only 1.5 seconds.


6 comments, Last at 16 Nov 2013, 8:24am

#1 by jonesofalltrades // Nov 15, 2013 - 6:04pm

Any thought to the value the Bears found in Jordan Mills in the 5th round? Started every game at RT, 100% of offensive snaps. From a fan's perspective, big upgrade over Gabe Carimi of 2012.

Points: 0

#4 by justanothersteve // Nov 15, 2013 - 9:06pm

I'd also like to hear about David Bakhtiari, who has started every game for the Packers at LT despite being a fourth round pick.

Points: 0

#5 by TacticalSledgehammer // Nov 15, 2013 - 11:03pm

Seconded on both these guys. I think they've both played better than all the first-rounders, save maybe Fisher.


“Treat a man as he is, and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he could be, and he will become what he should be.”

Points: 0

#2 by Lance Nieuwsma (not verified) // Nov 15, 2013 - 6:46pm

Can we get some data on Seattle's rookie linemen Alvin Bailey and Michael Bowie? Each have spent time at right and left tackle for the Seahawks due to injuries.

Points: 0

#3 by Kal // Nov 15, 2013 - 8:00pm

Do you...need to? They've been pretty horrible as far as line play goes.

Points: 0

#6 by Chester_Allman (not verified) // Nov 16, 2013 - 8:24am

Bailey's snaps have been pretty limited, but he hasn't been horrible at all. With Bowie, there seems to have been a learning curve (playing against defensive fronts like Houston's, Arizona's, and St. Louis's hasn't made for the easiest introduction to the league). It would be interesting to see more analysis as to how that curve has developed.

Points: 0

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