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What is an offensive tackle?

Elvis Elvis

As an Offensive Tackle on a football team, your role is an important one. You must help secure the offensive line by keeping the defense from sacking the Quarterback and help open holes for your Running Backs. Each football team fields two offensive tackles on the offensive line.

You don’t need to have much speed to play this position but you do need to be very unselfish as the work done by the Tackles often goes unrecognized, but couldn’t be more important to the success of the offense.

The Tackles line up immediately adjacent to the Guard positions (who are lined up on either side of the Center) and are referred to as the Right Tackle and the Left Tackle, depending on which side of the Center they play.

Offensive Tackle characteristics.

The type of athlete playing the Offensive Tackle position is often very large and strong. Professional National Football League (NFL) Tackles often weigh in excess of 300 pounds. Essentially, teams use the Tackles to help form a “wall” to prevent others from getting through to its most vital offensive player (the Quarterback), while opening that wall when necessary to allow an offensive teammate, such as a Running Back, through.

If the Offensive Tackles are weak, and the wall is porous, the Quarterback, Wide Receivers and the Running Backs have less time to implement the intended play. In a game of inches, less time means more havoc resulting in a significant loss of production.

What is an offensive tackle?

Protecting the blind side.

Being positioned on the outside edge of the offensive line (with the possible exception of the Tight End position) the Tackles have the job of preventing any defensive player from sweeping around the edge of the line to reach the Quarterback. This is particularly important when protecting the “blind-side” of the Quarterback.

The blind side of the Quarterback is the side of the offensive line where the defenders approach the Quarterback from his back-side. Being approached from this direction leaves the Quarterback most vulnerable as virtually any sack attempt comes as a surprise to the Quarterback – putting the Quarterback in a position to fumble the football or sustain an injury.

As an example, many football teams have quarterbacks that are right handed, therefore they are most vulnerable from a defensive rusher coming from the left side of the offensive line. This is because the Quarterback can’t see the rusher as their back is turned to the left side of the line when throwing.

Because of this, many teams beef up the left-hand side of the offensive line, having the better Offensive Tackle of the two play the left side. Thus, it is not uncommon to find the bigger, quicker and stronger Tackle on the blind side of the Quarterback as any surprise hit on the Quarterback from this direction can easily cause a dramatic shift in the game.

Freeing up the running backs.

Protecting the Quarterback isn’t the only task on the Tackle’s agenda. As an Offensive Tackle, opening holes for the Running Backs should also be a primary focus.

Creating holes can be accomplished by several means. You might be asked to aggressively push the defender forward, to the left, or to the right depending on where the play is run. You might also be asked to be less aggressive. This means that you would pull back from the line once the football is hiked and not initiate contact, but rather find yourself in a defensive mode.

This less aggressive approach helps prevent any defender from turning a corner around you into the backfield and disrupting the run occurring on the opposite side of the offensive line. Essentially, by pulling back you help to keep an aggressive rusher away from where the run is to be directed and “out of the play”.

One of the more difficult plays asked of an Offensive Tackle is when you may not be asked to protect your general position at all, but rather to help out elsewhere along the offensive line. To do this, you’ll need to pull from your position and quickly move behind the offensive line to the opposite side of the Center or Guard positions. Once there you’ll need to pick-up on a free defensive player to block out of the way – giving the Running Back a clear hole through the line.

Common injuries at the Offensive Tackle position.

Unfortunately the most common injury to an Offensive Tackle is in the knee area. Along the offensive line there is much commotion and many bodies flying in many directions. This chaos often prevents players on the offensive line from having a chance to protect or prepare themselves when another player is falling in their direction.

While they don’t eliminate knee injuries from the force of a large body in motion, many Offensive Tackles wear protective steel knee braces. These braces provide some additional support in an attempt to protect their knees as much as possible.

Unglamorous but vital.

If you find yourself playing the Offensive Tackle position, you’re the one working the trenches. It is not glamorous as you’ll never have the chance to run with the ball like a Running Back out of the backfield, or throw the long bomb like a Quarterback, or run down the field in an all-out sprint ready to receive a throw like a Wide Receiver.

But, there is little doubt that none of those position players could be successful without the work that you or the rest of the offensive line do play, after play, after play.