View Full Version : Arm length, hand quickness dictate OLT success

03-03-2011, 12:46 AM
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Arm length, hand quickness dictate OLT success

By Nolan Nawrocki
April 14, 2009

Many traits are required for an offensive tackle to successfully be able to handle edge speed — quick hands and feet, balance and natural knee bend. The one physical trait that is most often taken for granted, however, is arm length.

Without good arm length, generally considered at least 33½ inches on the left side and preferably 34 inches, it is difficult for blockers to be able to handle inside counters and recover quickly to keep a pocket clean.

PFW calculated the average arm length of every starting left tackle in the NFL last season, and it was 34½ inches. The average arm length of the Pro Bowl tackles in the NFC, all of whom were left tackles, was 33¾ inches, while the average of AFC Pro Bowlers, also all left tackles, was 34 inches.

To overcome average arm length, offensive tackles must be very smart, understand angles and be technique-sound, which describes Titans All-Pro OLT Michael Roos to a T. That is why he can overcome having a league OLT-worst 32½-inch arms and only give up one sack, according to STATS LLC. Other factors in Roos' success that were cited by evaluators included good coaching and sound protection schemes, with Mike Munchak being regarded as one of the top OL coaches in the game.

Those with long arms, however, continue to excel. For example, Denver's Ryan Clady, who possesses an NFL-best 36¾-inch arms as measured at the Combine last year, allowed a league-best half-sack in 16 starts as a rookie. Clady's combination of length, quickness and athletic ability allowed him to adapt very seamlessly to the pro game.
The ability of quarterbacks to feel pressure, buy time with their feet and get rid of the ball quickly also affects a blind-side protector’s success. That is why Philadelphia OLT Tra Thomas, despite really struggling last season and appearing to decline every game, was able to get by, giving up only two sacks. Few coaches help their tackles on the edges like Eagles coach Andy Reid does. And even if Donovan McNabb has shown some signs of aging, he still shows great escapability in the pocket.

Having long arms, however, does not always matter if a tackle has slow hands. Browns OLT Joe Thomas appears effortless with his hands. Seahawks OT Walter Jones is extremely efficient with his hand use. Flozell Adams, however, does not have great hand quickness, but he does have extremely long arms and is generally able to get by using his length.

With 32½-inch arms and average quickness, it is easy to understand why the Lions are considering moving Jeff Backus inside rather than having him continue to protect the edges.

The following chart is sorted by arm length and includes the number of sacks allowed last season, according to STATS. Players highlighted in blue were selected to represent the NFC in the Pro Bowl. Players in red represented the AFC. The arm length of Pro Bowl players is boldfaced.

Team Left tackle Arm length Sacks
allowed Starts Sacks per game
Denver Broncos Ryan Clady 36 3/4 0.5 16 0.03
Philadelphia Eagles Tra Thomas 36 1/2 2 16 0.13
Dallas Cowboys Flozell Adams 36 1/2 7.25 16 0.45
St. Louis Rams Orlando Pace 36 1/4 2 14 0.14
New York Jets D'Brickashaw Ferguson 36 1/4 4 16 0.25
Indianapolis Colts Tony Ugoh 36 3 12 0.25
Baltimore Ravens Jared Gaither 36 3 15 0.20
Miami Dolphins Jake Long 35 3/4 2.5 16 0.16
San Diego Chargers Marcus McNeill 35 1/2 3 14 0.21
Minnesota Vikings Bryant McKinnie 35 1/2 4 12 0.33
Pittsburgh Steelers Max Starks 35 1/2 4 11 0.36
Kansas City Chiefs Branden Albert 35 1/2 4.5 15 0.30
New Orleans Saints Jammal Brown 34 3/4 3 15 0.20
Cincinnati Bengals Levi Jones 34 3/4 5.5 10 0.55
Jacksonville Jaguars Khalif Barnes 34 3/4 7.5 16 0.47
Seattle Seahawks Walter Jones 34 1/2 3.5 12 0.29
Oakland Raiders Kwame Harris 34 1/4 7.5 11 0.68
San Francisco 49ers Joe Staley 34 1/4 8.5 16 0.53
Houston Texans Duane Brown 34 1/4 11.5 16 0.72
Arizona Cardinals Mike Gandy 34 6.25 16 0.39
Chicago Bears John St. Clair 34 9.25 16 0.58
Cleveland Browns Joe Thomas 33 3/4 4.5 16 0.28
New York Giants David Diehl 33 3/4 6.5 16 0.41
Washington Redskins Chris Samuels 33 1/2 3 12 0.25
New England Patriots Matt Light 33 1/2 7.5 16 0.47
Carolina Panthers Jordan Gross 33 1/4 3 15 0.20
Buffalo Bills Jason Peters 33 1/8 11.5 13 0.88
Green Bay Packers Chad Clifton 33 7.5 15 0.50
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Donald Penn 33 8.5 16 0.53
Atlanta Falcons Sam Baker 32 3/4 1 5 0.20
Detroit Lions Jeff Backus 32 1/2 9.25 16 0.58
Tennessee Titans Michael Roos 32 1/4 1 16 0.06

Following is a breakdown of the arm length of the tackle and guard prospects in this year's class as measured at the Combine and classified by where they are projected to play in the pros.

Three of the top four OT prospects in this year's draft — Eugene Monroe, Jason Smith and Michael Oher — have arm lengths that measure less than 34 inches, but all show the quickness desired to play on the edges in the pros. The tackle with the longest arms, Andre Smith, could be the most likely to kick inside because of his overall lack of quickness and susceptibility against counter moves.

Left tackles School Arm length
Gerald Cadogan Penn State 35
Andre Smith Alabama 35
Will Beatty Connecticut 34 3/4
Joel Bell Furman 34
Jamon Meredith South Carolina 34
Eugene Monroe Virginia 33 7/8
Jason Smith Baylor 33 3/4
Michael Oher Mississippi 33 1/2
Xavier Fulton Illinois 33 1/2
Troy Kropog Tulane 33 1/4

Phil Loadholt's rare length is what gives some evaluators comfort thinking he might be able to play on the left side. However, his lack of quickness was exposed this season, and he projects best to the right side in the pros. Many others, such as Ramon Foster, Andrew Gardner, Alex Boone and Jose Valdez, all of whom played outside in college, could be forced to play inside because of their lack of quickness. Eben Britton's lack of arm length remains a big concern to NFL teams.

Right tackles School Arm length
Phil Loadholt Oklahoma 36 1/2
Gus Parrish Kent State 35
Ramon Foster Tennessee 34 1/2
Andrew Gardner Georgia Tech 34 1/2
Garrett Reynolds North Carolina 34 1/2
Alex Boone Ohio State 34 3/8
Jose Valdez Arkansas 34
Lydon Murtha Nebraska 33 7/8
Eben Britton Arizona 32 3/4

Seeing Herman Johnson's rare length at the Combine left some coaches believing they could get away with playing Johnson at tackle with enough chip help. However, his feet are very heavy, and he could always have issues handling quickness on and island.

Oklahoma's Duke Robinson, conversely, shows enough quickness and length, with nearly 35-inch arms, to help a team outside in a pinch. Andy Levitre, who started at left tackle for Oregon State, clearly projects best to guard, in part because of his short arms (32½ inches).

Guards School Arm length
Herman Johnson LSU 36 1/2
Paul Fanaika Arizona State 35
Jaimie Thomas Maryland 35
Roger Allen Missouri Western 34 3/4
Duke Robinson Oklahoma 34 3/4
Louis Vasquez Texas Tech 34 3/4
Brandon Walker Oklahoma 34 1/2
Jason Watkins Florida 34 3/8
Andy Kemp Wisconsin 34 1/8
Anthony Parker Tennessee 34 1/8
Robert Brewster Ball State 34
Travis Bright Brigham Young 33 7/8
Kraig Urbik Wisconsin 33 3/4
Tyronne Green Auburn 33 3/4
Dan Gay Baylor 33 1/2
Ryan McKee Southern Mississippi 33 1/2
Cornelius Lewis Tennessee State 33 1/2
Rey Feinga Brigham Young 33 1/2
Seth Olsen Iowa 33 1/8
Matt Slauson Nebraska 33 1/8
C.J. Davis Pittsburgh 32 3/4
Andy Levitre Oregon State 32 1/2
Greg Isdaner West Virginia 32 1/2
Kyle Link McNeese State 32
Trevor Canfield Cincinnati 32

03-04-2011, 05:11 AM

03-06-2011, 04:15 AM
Not sure if you guys read this.


TAMPA, Fla. -- So we leave Super Bowl XLIII just as we entered it -- talking about a Hall of Fame quarterback waiting to happen.

Only it's not Kurt Warner. It's Ben Roethlisberger.

With Pittsburgh's 27-23 last-minute defeat of never-say-die Arizona on Sunday, Roethlisberger enters a conversation once considered unimaginable. Yep, I'm talking about Canton, and here's why: In just five years he has been to four playoffs, three conference championship games and two Super Bowls.

Ben Roethlisberger is 21-for-30 for 256 yards, one interception -- and a touchdown pass on the game-winning drive. (AP)
Ben Roethlisberger is 21-for-30 for 256 yards, one interception -- and a touchdown pass on the game-winning drive. (AP)
More important, he's 2-for-2 in Super Bowls.

And that's what I love about this guy. He doesn't produce fantasy-football numbers; he just wins, as in 73 percent of his games and eight of 10 playoff appearances. Plus, there is this: He's at his best when his best is needed most.

And it was needed in the last 2½ minutes Sunday, after a 20-7 Pittsburgh lead had dissolved into a 23-20 Arizona advantage. No problem. Roethlisberger would rally this team as he had so many times before.

"I remember telling our guys, 'It's not over,'" Pittsburgh defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau said. "I believe in Ben, and I have since I saw him play as a sophomore in college. He's been doing that with great regularity."

He did this season. There was the overtime defeat of Baltimore in September. Then a come-from-behind victory over Jacksonville. A last-minute win over San Diego. Another last-minute defeat of Dallas. And the crowning achievement, a 13-9 defeat of Baltimore in December, when he drove the club 92 yards to score with less than a minute left.

No comeback, however, can surpass Sunday's, with Roethlisberger completing five of seven passes to drive the Steelers 88 yards. The clincher, of course, was that magnificent touchdown catch by MVP Santonio Holmes, but we've seen that before, too.

Remember who beat Baltimore for a 65-yard score in the AFC title game? Uh-huh, the same guy who beat the Rats with that controversial last-minute touchdown in December.

None of those plays, of course, would have been possible without Roethlisberger making them. Against Baltimore, he hit both his passes after scrambling to his left and fighting off a furious pass rush. Against Arizona, he stood in the pocket, pumped once, looked left then lofted a pass to the corner of the end zone that Holmes caught.

Great pass. Great catch. Great quarterback.

"What was that play called?" someone asked.

"Drop back, scramble right, scramble left, find someone open," Roethlisberger said.

Well, it worked ... again. Just as it worked on a first-quarter pass where Roethlisberger was corralled, scrambled left, sprinted back to his right, then threw the ball back to his left before he was hammered. Not only was the pass caught; it was caught for a first down.

But that's Roethlisberger, and that's why he deserves so much more than he's gotten this or any other season. Too often he gets lost in the accolades thrown down on the league's No. 1-ranked defense, but on this evening, when the defense cracked, the Steelers were forced to find oxygen from another source.

They dialed Roethlisberger, and he responded as he did not in Super Bowl XL.

"It feels a lot better to be able to come back on that last drive," he said, "probably a drive that will be remembered for a long time -- at least in Steelers history. So it feels really good, really special."

Those are two adjectives that should be attached to Roethlisberger's name from now on. I don't care if he once was perceived as a caretaker of the Steelers' offense. That's old news. He makes plays when you need them, and on Sunday the Steelers needed them.

So he threw one touchdown pass. It was only the most important pass of the evening ... and isn't that what defines greatness? When you absolutely, positively must make a play, whom do you call? Some people will say Tom Brady. Others will call on Peyton Manning.

But you better throw Ben Roethlisberger in there, which means you better start looking at him as Hall of Fame material.

Yeah, I know he's only 26 and it's a little early to get on the subject, but in just five years he has one more Super Bowl victory than Manning has in his illustrious career. That should at least get the conversation going.

"Ben may not have the stats as all the other guys in the league," said wide receiver Hines Ward, "but one stat he does have is that he's a winner. Two Super Bowls in five years, and to have a Super Bowl like he did?

"I know he was eager to play this game because he wanted to prove to all the naysayers that he can perform at a top level. And he sure did on that last drive. That was Joe Montana-like. But he's done that all year.

"I think this helps solidify him as one of the best quarterbacks in the league."

I don't. I know it does.