NFL’s top 5 offensive tackles for 2015

The left tackle position is an experienced one for the top players in the game at that position.

Want to know the importance placed on left tackle in the NFL versus right tackle? The top-10 ranked tackles in the league, according to Pro Football Focus’ rankings, were all left tackles.

They are the protectors of the franchise and have the responsibility of battling one of the highest paid positions on defense, the pass rushers, most of which are coming their way. If a quarterback is getting crunched too often, the eyes of the fan base start to turn to the offensive line, and especially the offensive tackles.

Here the best in the game for 2015:

1. Joe Thomas, Cleveland Browns
Thomas came to the Browns with great expectations as a 2007 first-round draft pick (No. 3 overall) and hasn’t disappointed. He also hasn’t missed a game, which speaks to work ethic and a desire to always be available, despite the nagging injuries that inevitably wear on offensive linemen. He has been a Pro Bowl player every one of his eight seasons and a five-time All-Pro player, and he doesn’t seem to be slowing down. Last year, he was credited with allowing only two sacks and three quarterback hits.

2. Andrew Whitworth, Cincinnati Bengals

In the last six years, Whitworth has missed only two games and has been an impressive staple for the Bengals’ offensive line since he became a starter as a rookie in 2006, registering 136 games and 132 starts over those nine seasons of stability. The Bengals ranked third last year for fewest sacks allowed (23) and PFF didn’t credit Whitworth for any of those, handing him only one quarterback hit and eight quarterback hurries. He was the only tackle that played in at least 500 snaps (he had 1,057) that didn’t give up a sack and his eight hurries were the fewest among those that played at least 600 snaps. He wants to sign an extension and that would be a wise move on both sides, as he remains an important, versatile piece yet is 33 years old with a deep tackle class scheduled for free agency.

3. Jason Peters, Philadelphia Eagles
Peters was a workhorse and a thoroughbred for the high-paced Eagles offense last year. His 1,168 snaps were the most at the position and he was equally effective in pass protection and run blocking, earning his way to his seventh Pro Bowl berth. Six of those Pro Bowls have come with the Eagles since he was traded to them from the Buffalo Bills in 2009. Rising from the ranks of the undrafted in 2002, Peters finished 2014 as PFF’s top-rated tackle, giving up four sacks and 17 quarterback hurries.

4. Tyron Smith, Dallas Cowboys
The ninth overall pick of the 2011 draft class, Smith has missed only one game in his four seasons as part of the Cowboys’ impressive offensive line. The last two years, he has been a Pro Bowl player, and last year he added first-team All-Pro to his résumé. The Cowboys were ahead of the curve, however, signing him to an eight-year, $109 million contract in July 2014, making him the highest paid offensive lineman in the league, and he then agreed to restructure it in March to help create cap room for the Cowboys. In 1,082 snaps last year, he yielded only two sacks but did surrender eight quarterback hits and 13 hurries. Playing both right and left tackle at USC, Smith is adept at run and pass blocking, with the former being even more important this year after the loss of RB DeMarco Murray in Dallas.

5. Trent Williams, Washington Redskins
Williams has made the Pro Bowl each of the last three seasons, when he didn’t miss a start. While the Redskins have struggled to find consistency on offense amid their coaching change, Williams was not part of the problem. PFF credited him with four sacks and seven quarterback hits while dealing with uneven quarterback play from Robert Griffin III, Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy.

Honorable mention: Ryan Clady, Joe Staley, Sebastian Vollmer, Branden Albert, Jared Veldheer.

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