NFL Notebook: Overrated tackles?

Is the offensive tackle talent lacking in the NFL these days? One personnel chief believes it is an overrated position right now. Plus, Cowboys cornerback Mike Jenkins is not on the trading block and Jerry Jones has his rationale for sticking with Jenkins, another reason for Andrew Luck's contract holdup, Shawne Merriman has something to prove, and more.

As noted in this space several times in the past, the offensive right tackle position is one that has become fairly mediocre around the league, and has been summarily disenfranchised in Pro Bowl choices in recent seasons.

In most years, the Pro Bowl selections feature no more than one right tackle among the six players named to the game at the position.

And on All-Pro teams, voters typically opt for a pair of left tackles to fill out their ballots.

But there is a feeling among personnel people that the higher-profile left tackle spot is also the weakest it has been in several years.

That's somewhat surprising, given that franchises have placed so much emphasis on the left tackle spot in the first round of the draft, and that nearly half the projected left tackle starters in the NFL for 2012 are former first-rounders.

But it might indeed be the case, with the deficiencies of a few tackles perhaps being masked a bit by the fact they play with quarterbacks whose quick releases in general make all of their offensive linemen look better.

Or in offensive designs that highlight the shorter, quicker passing games. One NFC personnel chief opined this week that there are "maybe four" premier pass-protection left tackles in the NFL, and that the position is a bit overrated.

  • As he has publicly insisted, Dallas owner/general manager Jerry Jones has no intention of trading veteran cornerback Mike Jenkins, even with the offseason additions of Morris Claiborne in the draft and pricey free agent Brandon Carr.

    The rationale of Jones, Dallas officials told The Sports Xchange, is that the $1.05 million salary Jenkins will make in 2012 is still a palatable price to pay for a projected No. 3 cornerback in a league where you need at least three top-shelf corners.

    Even if it means that Jenkins departs as a free agent next spring and the team gets nothing in return. At least two teams, in addition to the trade inquiries made by Indianapolis and Detroit, have made overtures about Jenkins since the draft, and been rebuffed. The Dallas source even discounted reports that Jenkins will be dealt much closer to the openings of training camps.

  • A few teams have stayed in contact with veteran offensive tackle Max Starks, who basically rescued the Pittsburgh line last season but sustained an ACL injury in the team's playoff loss at Denver, to keep tabs on his rehabilitation.

    Starks could be a July signing, or a safety net for a club that either suffers an injury or lacks depth at tackle, but he isn't likely to return to the Steelers again.

    The Steelers appear ready to go with second-round rookie Mike Adams (Ohio State) at left tackle or, if he fails, to move second-year right tackle Marcus Gilbert (13 starts as a rookie in 2011), over to the left side.

    In fact, before the team grabbed Adams, the plan was to transition Gilbert to the left side, which he played most of his college career.

  • While the gridlock over offset language in contracts for first-round picks is arguably the primary factor standing in the way of agreements for the top eight players in the draft, a deal for No. 1 overall selection Andrew Luck might be hung up on another element as well: The schedule for the payout of his signing bonus.

    Word is that the former Stanford quarterback and agent Will Wilson of the Wasserman Media Group are seeking a more favorable payout schedule than has been offered by the Indianapolis Colts.

    As reported last month by The Sports Xchange, the rookie wage scale formula pretty much dictates that Luck will receive the exact same signing bonus, $14,518,544, that Cam Newton got from the Panthers as the top overall draft choice a year ago.

    Newton's bonus was meted out by Carolina in two 50-50 installments – it's rare when top choices actually cashier all of their so-called "upfront" money in a lump payment – and Luck and Wilson are either bargaining for a different split or, more likely, timing that is more advantageous to the player.

  • The Bills could be an interesting team in '12, and Shawne Merriman, who has been beset by injuries since the outset of the 2008 campaign, figures to be one of the interesting story lines.

    The transition to end will have some rough spots, but Merriman has played in the past with his hand on the ground, but most notable might be how he performs versus the run. A former defensive rookie of the year (2005), Merriman has primarily been utilized as a forward-moving defender most of his career, an "edge" rusher in a 3-4 front.

    Rushing the quarterback still figures to be the biggest role on a remade Bills' unit that was woefully shy of pressure the past couple years, but Merriman will be asked to anchor against the run as well.

    "It's not like I just ignored (the run) in the past," Merriman said. "People will see that I can do it. I've got some staying power."

    Of course, merely staying on the field has been difficult for Merriman the past four seasons. Since the beginning of '08, he has appeared in just 23 games, with 21 starts, and posted only five of his career 44½ sacks.

    The seven-year veteran feels, though, that he is as healthy as he has been for some time – he was able to get on the field for a Thursday workout, his first full practice in about seven months – and the Buffalo coaches are guardedly optimistic that's the case.

  • Indications are that there has been some emphasis during the Philadelphia on-field workouts in getting the team's "bigger" wide receivers more involved, perhaps attempting to take some of the workload off undersized starters DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin.

    "They are always going to be the main guys," one offensive lineman said of Maclin and Jackson, "but there's some move to get bigger targets down the field, too."

    Veteran Jason Avant has been one of the NFL's most productive No. 3 receivers, averaging 48.0 catches over the past three seasons, and with campaigns of 50-plus receptions each of the past two years. But the Eagles feel that Riley Cooper, a fifth-round choice in 2010 and a rangy guy with sneaky speed, can be a factor in his third year and that even rookie Marvin McNutt, a sixth-round pick who is 6-3, can help.

    Along, of course, with placing more emphasis on the tight ends. One of the guys who has stepped up in workouts is miniscule (5-8) Damaris Johnson, a free agent from Tulsa, and the Eagles want some of the bigger guys to follow his lead.


  • Viking Update Top Stories

    \r\n\r\n","mobileBody":" As noted in this space several times in the past, the offensive right tackle position is one that has become fairly mediocre around the league, and has been summarily disenfranchised in Pro Bowl choices in recent seasons. In most years, the Pro Bowl selections feature no more than one right tackle among the six players named to the game at the position. And on All-Pro teams, voters typically opt for a pair of left tackles to fill out their ballots. But there is a feeling among personnel people that the higher-profile left tackle spot is also the weakest it has been in several years. That's somewhat surprising, given that franchises have placed so much emphasis on the left tackle spot in the first round of the draft, and that nearly half the projected left tackle starters in the NFL for 2012 are former first-rounders. But it might indeed be the case, with the deficiencies of a few tackles perhaps being masked a bit by the fact they play with quarterbacks whose quick releases in general make all of their offensive linemen look better. Or in offensive designs that highlight the shorter, quicker passing games. One NFC personnel chief opined this week that there are \"maybe four\" premier pass-protection left tackles in the NFL, and that the position is a bit overrated.
  • As he has publicly insisted, Dallas owner/general manager Jerry Jones has no intention of trading veteran cornerback Mike Jenkins, even with the offseason additions of Morris Claiborne in the draft and pricey free agent Brandon Carr. The rationale of Jones, Dallas officials told The Sports Xchange, is that the $1.05 million salary Jenkins will make in 2012 is still a palatable price to pay for a projected No. 3 cornerback in a league where you need at least three top-shelf corners. Even if it means that Jenkins departs as a free agent next spring and the team gets nothing in return. At least two teams, in addition to the trade inquiries made by Indianapolis and Detroit, have made overtures about Jenkins since the draft, and been rebuffed. The Dallas source even discounted reports that Jenkins will be dealt much closer to the openings of training camps.
  • A few teams have stayed in contact with veteran offensive tackle Max Starks, who basically rescued the Pittsburgh line last season but sustained an ACL injury in the team's playoff loss at Denver, to keep tabs on his rehabilitation. Starks could be a July signing, or a safety net for a club that either suffers an injury or lacks depth at tackle, but he isn't likely to return to the Steelers again. The Steelers appear ready to go with second-round rookie Mike Adams (Ohio State) at left tackle or, if he fails, to move second-year right tackle Marcus Gilbert (13 starts as a rookie in 2011), over to the left side. In fact, before the team grabbed Adams, the plan was to transition Gilbert to the left side, which he played most of his college career.
  • While the gridlock over offset language in contracts for first-round picks is arguably the primary factor standing in the way of agreements for the top eight players in the draft, a deal for No. 1 overall selection Andrew Luck might be hung up on another element as well: The schedule for the payout of his signing bonus. Word is that the former Stanford quarterback and agent Will Wilson of the Wasserman Media Group are seeking a more favorable payout schedule than has been offered by the Indianapolis Colts. As reported last month by The Sports Xchange, the rookie wage scale formula pretty much dictates that Luck will receive the exact same signing bonus, $14,518,544, that Cam Newton got from the Panthers as the top overall draft choice a year ago. Newton's bonus was meted out by Carolina in two 50-50 installments – it's rare when top choices actually cashier all of their so-called \"upfront\" money in a lump payment – and Luck and Wilson are either bargaining for a different split or, more likely, timing that is more advantageous to the player.
  • The Bills could be an interesting team in '12, and Shawne Merriman, who has been beset by injuries since the outset of the 2008 campaign, figures to be one of the interesting story lines. The transition to end will have some rough spots, but Merriman has played in the past with his hand on the ground, but most notable might be how he performs versus the run. A former defensive rookie of the year (2005), Merriman has primarily been utilized as a forward-moving defender most of his career, an \"edge\" rusher in a 3-4 front. Rushing the quarterback still figures to be the biggest role on a remade Bills' unit that was woefully shy of pressure the past couple years, but Merriman will be asked to anchor against the run as well. \"It's not like I just ignored (the run) in the past,\" Merriman said. \"People will see that I can do it. I've got some staying power.\" Of course, merely staying on the field has been difficult for Merriman the past four seasons. Since the beginning of '08, he has appeared in just 23 games, with 21 starts, and posted only five of his career 44½ sacks. The seven-year veteran feels, though, that he is as healthy as he has been for some time – he was able to get on the field for a Thursday workout, his first full practice in about seven months – and the Buffalo coaches are guardedly optimistic that's the case.
  • Indications are that there has been some emphasis during the Philadelphia on-field workouts in getting the team's \"bigger\" wide receivers more involved, perhaps attempting to take some of the workload off undersized starters DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. \"They are always going to be the main guys,\" one offensive lineman said of Maclin and Jackson, \"but there's some move to get bigger targets down the field, too.\" Veteran Jason Avant has been one of the NFL's most productive No. 3 receivers, averaging 48.0 catches over the past three seasons, and with campaigns of 50-plus receptions each of the past two years. But the Eagles feel that Riley Cooper, a fifth-round choice in 2010 and a rangy guy with sneaky speed, can be a factor in his third year and that even rookie Marvin McNutt, a sixth-round pick who is 6-3, can help. Along, of course, with placing more emphasis on the tight ends. One of the guys who has stepped up in workouts is miniscule (5-8) Damaris Johnson, a free agent from Tulsa, and the Eagles want some of the bigger guys to follow his lead.
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