American football is a sport that is often praised for its diversity in terms of player roles and positions. One of these positions is the offensive tackle, which plays a vital role in the game. But what exactly is an offensive tackle in American football?
An offensive tackle is a key football position on the offensive line.
The position is played by two players, the left tackle (LT) - protecting the blind side for right handed quarterbacks - and the right tackle (RT) - protecting the blind side for left handed quarterbacks.
As part of the offensive linemen, the offensive tackles are positioned at the edges of the line, alongside the offensive guards on the line of scrimmage and are responsible for blocking the defensive players who are attempting to sack the quarterback, tackle the running back, or disrupt a pass play. Their primary role is to provide time for the offense to make a play.
What are their responsibilities?
The offensive tackle has several responsibilities on the field, and it is their job to execute them correctly. Some of the responsibilities include:
Protecting the Quarterback: The quarterback is the leader of the offense, and it is the job of the offensive tackle to protect him from the opposing team's defense.
Run Blocking: Offensive tackles must also create holes in the defense to help the ball carriers get through.
Pass Blocking: Offensive tackles must also prevent the opposing defense from getting to the quarterback. This mostly consists of blocking defensive ends rushing from the edges of the defensive line.
Screen Blocking: The offensive tackle also needs to block for the wide receivers or running backs during a screen pass.
What makes a great offensive tackle?
As one of the most versatile offensive players, an offensive tackle needs several qualities to stand out from the crowd. Some of the traits of a great offensive tackle include:
Size: The offensive tackle must be big and strong enough to withstand the opposing team's defense. This is key for a great pass blocker, where they must be big and strong enough to prevent defensive tackles from getting to the quarterback. Sometimes the offensive line can switch their typical assignments and block different players. This means that tackles, who tend to be the most nimble and agile of the offensive line, could be responsible for blocking the biggest player on the defensive line - the nose tackle. This is where size and strength are hugely important.
Footwork: The offensive tackle needs to have excellent footwork to maintain their balance and speed. This is especially important for running plays, where offensive tackles will need quick feet and strength to get to the defensive secondary and block linebackers.
Intelligence: The tackle must be intelligent enough to understand the defense's formations and adjust accordingly. They will receive live play adjustments from the quarterback and the center, and they must be able to react to the new information and change their blocking accordingly.
Technique: A great tackle must have good technique to execute blocks and prevent the opposing defense from penetrating. Great coordination and high football IQ can be the difference between winning and losing a block.
Famous NFL Tackles
- Anthony Munoz - Munoz is widely considered one of the greatest offensive tackles of all time. He played his entire career for the Cincinnati Bengals from 1980 to 1992, earning 11 Pro Bowl selections and being named a First-Team All-Pro nine times. He was also inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1998.
- Jonathan Ogden - Ogden played his entire career for the Baltimore Ravens from 1996 to 2007. He was a 11-time Pro Bowler and a 9-time First-Team All-Pro selection. Ogden was also named to the NFL's 2000s All-Decade Team and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2013.
- Walter Jones - Jones played for the Seattle Seahawks from 1997 to 2009. During his career, he was selected to nine Pro Bowls and was named a First-Team All-Pro four times. He was also named to the NFL's 2000s All-Decade Team and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2014.
- Orlando Pace - Pace played for the St. Louis Rams and Chicago Bears from 1997 to 2009. He was a seven-time Pro Bowler and a three-time First-Team All-Pro selection. He helped the Rams win Super Bowl XXXIV and was named to the NFL's 2000s All-Decade Team. Pace was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2016.
- Joe Thomas - Thomas played for the Cleveland Browns from 2007 to 2017. He was selected to the Pro Bowl 10 times and was named a First-Team All-Pro seven times. Thomas never missed a game in his career and was named to the NFL's 2010s All-Decade Team. He retired in 2018 and is considered one of the greatest offensive tackles in NFL history.