LambeauOrWrigley (LOW) made a fair comment this week, noting that I wrote Green Bay's T.J. Lang is "physically more suited to right tackle."
LOW wanted to know:
"What does this mean? He is not athletic enough for LT? It seems NFL prefers the converted basketball or baseball player who is the all around athlete for LT. Or he plays too physical ala a RT and less refined/matching tone of D ala LT? I have heard run blocking is more critical for RT where he has to make holes but not sure if that makes sense as Packers seem to attempt either side equally. Or his wingspan is not that long so as to put his hands on the outside rush?
"I often get confusing explanations on why someone is best fitted for LT vs. RT. I have even heard stuff like, 'He is too high a draft pick for RT.'
"What are the set of criteria where someone is deemed better suited at RT than LT? Any clarity from anyone is appreciated."
It's a judgment I feel comfortable making, LOW, but couldn't quite articulate it to answer you directly. So I took your question to Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. Here's how Matt drew the distinction:
"Very different skill set. In a nutshell, left tackles are the nimble athletic pass blockers on the quarterback's blind side who face the better pass rusher usually: Dwight Freeney, Jared Allen, DeMarcus Ware, James Harrison, etc.
"The right tackles are generally the heavier, slower-footed maulers. They are lesser athletes who are probably better run blockers. Most teams prefer to run right with the tight end on that side, but obviously that isn't a constant. A right tackle's skill set is far easier to find. In essence, God/Darwin just doesn't make many human beings who are 6-foot-6 and 315 lbs., who can move their feet like Orlando Pace or Walter Jones."
The height issue is one of particular note. Lang is listed as 6-foot-4. For reasons related to pass protection, full-time left tackles are almost always 6-foot-5 and taller. Look at the NFC North. The Packers' Chad Clifton and Detroit's Jeff Backus are 6-foot-5. Chicago's Chris Williams is 6-foot-6. Minnesota's Bryant McKinnie is 6-foot-8.
I don't know if one inch really makes a difference, but look around the entire league and you won't find many left tackles shorter than 6-foot-5. Based on the law averages, at least, Lang is better suited for right tackle.
And if you're still curious, the Packers had an almost 50-50 split last season on running plays to the left and right of center. According to league statistics, they ran 179 times to the right and 176 times to the left.