Cleveland Browns using power run to neutralize outside linebackers
By Joel W. Cade
It is undeniable the NFL has become a passing league. The proliferation of the passing game puts a premium on pass protection for offensive linemen. Instead of the specialization of lineman in terms of the running game, linemen have become specialized in the passing game. While each position must pass block differently, offensive linemen are now becoming pass blockers first and run blockers second.
Von Miller of the Denver Broncos is the standard-bearer of the outside linebacker position in the NFL today. Outside of J.J Watt of the Houston Texans, Miller is the best defensive player in the game. Miller’s greatest asset is his ability to rush the passer, but unlike Lawrence Taylor, Miller primarily rushes against the right tackle.
As Bleacher Report’s Brent Sobleski reports in a recent article, in today’s NFL, the left and right tackle must both be able to block outside linebackers against the pass. Miller rushing against the right tackle means the right tackle position must change.
As a passing league, offensive linemen are becoming mirrors images of each other. That is, right and left tackles are basically the same player. Left and right guards are basically the same player. Both sets simply line up on opposite sides of the center.
According to Sobleski, offensive line salaries are starting to reflect the change in position. No longer is the left tackle the most important position on the line. Guards and centers’ salaries are now starting to catch up to those of left tackles. Teams are now looking to acquire the best five linemen available instead of preferring one position over another.
All of this assumes that as a passing league, the best offensive line is the one that can create enough space and time for a quarterback to deliver long, intermediate and short passes.
All of this makes sense, except in the AFC North.
Next: AFC North as a passing division