Could LT be the most important position in the NFC East this season?

What do the following players have in common?

DeMarcus WareJared AllenTrent ColeBrian OrakpoDwight FreeneyJulius PeppersMario WilliamsOsi UmenyioraAaron KampmanClay MatthewsKyle Vanden BoschDerrick Morgan.

Those are the pass rushers that the NFC East Left Tackles (Jason Peters, Doug Free, David Diehl, Trent Williams) will all have to face this year.  Peters won't have to face Cole of course, Free will avoid Ware, Diehl won't see Umenyiora, and Williams won't have to block Orakpo.  But otherwise, barring injury, this is what the NFC East Left Tackles have to look forward to this year.  Also of note is that Doug Free will also have to face Will Smith and Joey Porter, and Jason Peters will line up against John Abraham.

Of the players mentioned at the top...

- Only Derrick Morgan has never been to the Pro Bowl, because he's a rookie.  He was selected 16th overall in the 2010 draft by the Titans.

- The only 2 players with only one Pro Bowl appearance are Clay Matthews and Brian Orakpo, who were both rookies last year.

- The rest have all been to the Pro Bowl at least twice, and the aggregate number of Pro Bowls among them totals 30, which is extraordinary considering the majority of them are still very young.

- 6 of them were in the Top 10 in sacks in the NFL last year. 

After the jump, we'll look at each of the Left Tackles in the NFC East, and ask which player you'd be most comfortable with when facing this elite cast of pass rushers.

First, let's look at the number of sacks for each opposing pass rusher both in 2009 and 2008, and the number of sacks per game. Note - since Derrick Morgan has no NFL experience, I substituted in Jacob Ford, the Titans' backup RDE.  Updated note - This is not a projection of the number of sacks Peters, Free, Diehl and Williams will give up this season - They're merely lists of the opposing pass rushers each O Lineman will face this year, and how many sacks those pass rushers average per game over the past 2 seasons, with a total sum of each of those figures at the bottom.

Jason Peters - Eagles




Doug Free - Cowboys
















Week Opponent Sacks '09 Sacks '08 Games Sacks/game
Week Opponent Sacks '09 Sacks '08 Games Sacks/game
1 Clay Matthews 10 n/a 16 0.63
1 Brian Orakpo 11 n/a 16 0.69
2 Kyle Vanden Bosch 3.5 4.5 26 0.31
2 Julius Peppers 10.5 14.5 32 0.78
3 Aaron Kampman 3.5 9.5 25 0.52
3 Mario Williams 9 12 32 0.66
4 Brian Orakpo 11 n/a 16 0.69
4 BYE



5 Justin Smith 6 7 32 0.41
5 Jacob Ford 5.5 7 29 0.43
6 John Abraham 5.5 16.5 32 0.69
6 Jared Allen 14.5 14.5 32 0.91
7 Jacob Ford 5.5 7 29 0.43
7 Osi Umenyiora 7 n/a 16 0.44
8 BYE




8 Aaron Kampman 3.5 9.5 25 0.52
9 Dwight Freeney 13.5 10.5 29 0.83
9 Clay Matthews 10 n/a 16 0.63
10 Brian Orakpo 11 n/a 16 0.69
10 Osi Umenyiora 7 n/a 16 0.44
11 Osi Umenyiora 7 n/a 16 0.44
11 Kyle Vanden Bosch 3.5 4.5 26 0.31
12 Julius Peppers 10.5 14.5 32 0.78
12 Will Smith 13 3 32 0.5
13 Mario Williams 9 12 32 0.66
13 Dwight Freeney 13.5 10.5 29 0.83
14 DeMarcus Ware 11 20 32 0.97
14 Trent Cole 12.5 9 32 0.67
15 Osi Umenyiora 7 n/a 16 0.44
15 Brian Orakpo 11 n/a 16 0.69
16 Jared Allen 14.5 14.5 32 0.91
16 Joey Porter 9 17.5 30 0.88
17 DeMarcus Ware 11 20 32 0.97
17 Trent Cole 12.5 9 32 0.69













Sum of each player's sacks per game

10.37
Sum of each player's sacks per game
10.07













David Diehl - Giants




Trent Williams - Redskins
















Week Opponent Sacks '09 Sacks '08 Games Sacks/game
Week Opponent Sacks '09 Sacks '08 Games Sacks/game
1 Everette Brown 2.5 n/a 15 0.13
1 DeMarcus Ware 11 20 32 0.97
2 Dwight Freeney 13.5 10.5 29 0.83
2 Mario Williams 9 12 32 0.66
3 Jacob Ford 5.5 7 29 0.43
3 Chris Long 4 5 32 0.28
4 Julius Peppers 10.5 14.5 32 0.78
4 Trent Cole 12.5 9 32 0.69
5 Mario Williams 9 12 32 0.66
5 Clay Matthews 10 n/a 16 0.63
6 Kyle Vanden Bosch 3.5 4.5 26 0.31
6 Dwight Freeney 13.5 10.5 29 0.83
7 DeMarcus Ware 11 20 32 0.97
7 Julius Peppers 10.5 14.5 32 0.78
8 BYE




8 Kyle Vanden Bosch 3.5 4.5 26 0.31
9 Chris Clemons 3 4 32 0.22
9 BYE



10 DeMarcus Ware 11 20 32 0.97
10 Trent Cole 12.5 9 32 0.69
11 Trent Cole 12.5 9 32 0.69
11 Jacob Ford 5.5 7 29 0.43
12 Aaron Kampman 3.5 9.5 25 0.52
12 Jared Allen 14.5 14.5 32 0.91
13 Brian Orakpo 11 n/a 16 0.69
13 Osi Umenyiora 7 n/a 16 0.44
14 Jared Allen 14.5 14.5 32 0.91
14 Stylez White 6.5 5 31 0.37
15 Trent Cole 12.5 9 32 0.69
15 DeMarcus Ware 11 20 32 0.97
16 Clay Matthews 10 n/a 16 0.63
16 Aaron Kampman 3.5 9.5 25 0.52
17 Brian Orakpo 11 n/a 16 0.69
17 Osi Umenyiora 7 n/a 16 0.44













Sum of each player's sacks per game

10.12
Sum of each player's sacks per game
9.92

 

What does this graph show? 

I'll preface by saying that NFL defenses are extraordinarily complex, and it's not as if Jason Peters will always be lined up one-on-one vs. Clay Matthews on every play Week 1 against the Packers.  And it's not like the Cowboys will always line up Demarcus Ware on the right side of the D Line on every obvious passing down - They'll move him around to try to confuse the offense.

However, it is very reasonable to suggest that each of the NFC East LT's will see more than their share of these opposing pass rushers, and based on the chart above, one might conclude that an average LT will allow about 10 sacks this year.

Jason Peters (Eagles) and David Diehl (Giants)

35383_medium David_diehl_medium

Same old, same old here for Peters and Diehl.  They both had to face the following players last year - DeMarcus Ware twice (Peters actually faced him 3 times), Brian Orakpo twice, Shawne Merriman, Elvis Dumervil (who led the league in sacks), Julius Peppers, Will Smith, Tamba Hali, and John Abraham. Diehl also faced Richard Seymour (Peters was injured for the Oakland game), and Jared Allen.  Peters/Diehl also obviously had to face Umenyiora/Cole twice.

Profootballfocus credits Jason Peters with giving up 7 sacks, 5 QB hits, and 14 QB pressures

David Diehl was credited with giving up 7 sacks, 12 QB hits, and 26 QB pressures.

With the Eagles having so many injuries along the OL last year, Andy Reid basically put Peters out on an island and asked him to shut down their opponent's best pass rusher week in, week out.  In a vacuum, 7 sacks may seem like a lot, but considering he had virtually no continuity with his OL teammates and often received no help whatsoever, he did a pretty remarkable job against an elite group of pass rushers, and his peers rewarded him with his 3rd consecutive trip to the Pro Bowl.  The same can be said to a degree with David Diehl - In a vacuum, 7 sacks seems bad, but considering the opposition, I think you'd have to be happy with his performance if you're a Giants fan.  He, too, made the Pro Bowl in '09.

 

Doug Free (Cowboys) and Trent Williams (Redskins)

Doug-free_medium Trent-williams-oklahoma-2010-nfl-draft_medium

 

Both Free and Williams enter this season as first year starters.  Free was drafted in the 2007 draft in the 4th round, and was put into the spotlight when the Cowboys rightfully cut the aging/declining Flozell Adams.  He had some experience last year starting at RT for the injured Marc Colombo, and mostly played well.  The Cowboys traded first round bust Bobby Carpenter for another first round bust, Alex Barron, either for depth, to compete for Free on the left side, or perhaps to compete with Colombo on the right side - Perhaps all 3.  Jerry Jones insists that Free is his man at LT, and for now I believe him - To be determined.  Williams was drafted 4th overall by the Redskins after a stellar college career at Oklahoma, but (not to oversimplify it)... He's a rookie.  There's plenty of uncertainty for these two players.

 

Now, is LT the most important position in the NFC East?  Probably not.  QB is always the most important position, no matter what.  But LT, at least for this season, isn't very far behind.

Hat tip to Kevin Ewoldt of Hogs Haven for providing the inspiration for this piece.

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