Rookie report: Offensive tackle talent

Stepping in as a rookie offensive tackle isn’t easy, but six young linemen have been asked to do that. Some drafted talent is coping better than others, according to the grades and penalties.

Of the 15 rookie offensive tackles that have played in their initial NFL season, only six of them have played in at least 25 percent of their team’s offensive snaps.

Of those, only three have played much at the more difficult left tackle position, and only one of the six has received a positive overall grade from the analytical site Pro Football Focus.

It’s not an easy job stepping in as a rookie tackle, as the grades and penalties counts below indicate, but here is a look at the six rookie tackles with the most playing time to date:

Taylor Lewan (1st round, Michigan)
Tennessee Titans (6-foot-7, 309)
Where has he excelled: Lewan played all 10 games, making five starts with his most extensive time coming at left tackle. He has proven a worthy protector, no matter if the quarterback is Jake Locker or more recently Zach Mettenberger. Lewan has the competitive fire to hold up and is the only one of the six rookie tackles with extensive playing time that has a positive pass-blocking grade from Pro Football Focus. He also earned high marks in run blocking.
Where he needs work: His aggressiveness might be getting the better of him at times – he has four penalties, including two face-mask calls and one unnecessary roughness. Coaches love a competitor, but smart ones are appreciated more.

Ja'Wuan James (1st round, Tennessee)
Miami Dolphins (6-foot-6, 318)
Where has he excelled: James has played every snap for the Dolphins this season and even moved from right tackle to left tackle last week to replace the injured Branden Albert. He grades out higher as a run blocker than pass protector, according to PFF.
Where he needs work: Penalties have been a huge drawback for James. He has been flagged seven times this year – four false starts and three holding calls.

Justin Britt (2nd round, Missouri)
Seattle Seahawks (6-foot-6, 325)
Where has he excelled: He has started all 10 games and hasn’t missed a snap at right tackle. Only two of the rookies tackles with decent playing time received a positive run-blocking grade and Britt is one of them. He also has only two false starts and one holding penalty. Not bad for more than 600 snaps taken.
Where he needs work: While he received a positive run-blocking grade, he had the second-lowest pass-blocking grade among the most-used rookie tackles.

Seantrel Henderson (7th round, Miami)
Buffalo Bills (6-foot-7, 331)
Where has he excelled: Henderson has started all 10 games for the Bills at right tackle and has only three penalties, one holding and two false starts. That’s impressive for almost 700 snaps.
Where he needs work: He hasn’t received positive grades in run blocking or pass protection, and he is credited with yielding 19 quarterback hurries and four sacks.

James Hurst (Undrafted, North Carolina)
Baltimore Ravens (6-foot-5, 308)
Where has he excelled: He started four straight games at left tackle in replacing an injured Eugene Monroe, faring a little better in run blocking than pass protection. His five quarterback hurries is decent.
Where he needs work: He has played less than 300 offensive snaps and gave up three sacks, according to PFF.

Jake Matthews (1st round, Texas A&M)
Atlanta Falcons (6-foot-5, 305)
Where has he excelled: He has played 555 snaps and at least started out the year decently at the always difficult left tackle position. Overall, however, it hasn’t been an easy ride.
Where he needs work: His struggles show up in the penalty box. He has an awful 10 penalties in 10 games played, including five holding calls over a three-week stretch. It was about that time that PFF gave him some horrendous pass-blocking grades over a three-week stretch about a month ago. In the past few weeks, he has seemed to calm down, but has yielded five sacks over the last five games.

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