Thursday, October 6, 2011

Where Have All the Hogs Gone?


Redskins' Hall of Fame Guard Russ Grimm (68) looks
as concerned as I am about the lack of quality
 offensive linemen in the NFL this season. 
I know the NFL has turned into a passing league and that puts teams' quarterbacks at higher risk, but has anyone seen the type of beatings these guys are taking every week? The sacks and hits are already mounting this season and despite the league's wussy rules to protect the quarterback, there have been a lot of injuries to these signal callers so far and it is only going to get worse as the season progresses. So I ask, where have all the hogs gone?

If you are unfamiliar with the term "hogs," it is a nickname for offensive lineman that was made popular during the early 1980s by the Washington Redskins' enormous offensive line that helped them win three Super Bowls between 1982-1992. The nickname stuck with the team and has spread throughout all levels of football (in my younger days, I was proud to call myself a hog).

Anyone who has read, or watched, "The Blind Side," should remember that it was not until the mid-80s that pass rushing demon Lawrence Taylor changed the game of football forever by making the left tackle, or the quarterback's blind side protector, the second highest paid position in the NFL. Taylor was such a feared defender that teams needed to find athletic giants to play left tackle in order to stop him for destroying their quarterbacks. I see the NFL changing in a similar manner over the last few years.

If you pay attention to free agency, the draft, and the type of contracts these players are receiving, you will have noticed that defensive tackles' salaries are the fastest growing of any position in the NFL. If you did not know that, now you do. In the 2010 draft, Sam Bradford was taken first, but the next two picks went to defensive tackles, Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy. Haloti Ngata and Kyle Williams are just a few of the defensive tackles that have received huge contracts as of late, and no one will forget about the $100 million contact given to Albert Haynesworth a few years ago. Defensive tackles have long been considered a position that could be filled by guys who are just there to clog up the middle of the field and did not necessarily have to be overly athletic. This is not true anymore.

The reason these athletic freaks in the middle are getting so much love in free agency and the draft is that teams are unprepared to deal with talented pass rushers attacking their guards and centers. Teams expect pass rushers to come around the tackles and they have gone out of their way to find bookend tackles to protect their quarterbacks. Unfortunately, in the modern NFL, that is simply not enough. Teams with subpar guards and centers are now not only being overpowered in the run game, but their quarterbacks are being destroyed by athletic defensive tackles. Since guards and centers are usually less athletic than the tackles and are usually better run blockers than pass blockers, there are very few guards who excel in pass protection and these defensive tackles exploit their inadequacies.

Much like how blind side rushers once caused salaries for left tackles to explode, I predict that the same will happen for guards and centers, since there is a growing need for guys who can match up against these highly talented defensive tackles. Not only should this happen, but it needs to happen so that young players actually go out of their way to learn the guard and center positions instead of all lineman trying to be tackles and only the players who fail at tackle turn into guards and centers.

I am taking my stand and the NFL needs to find a way to get our hogs back!

1 comment:

  1. It's worth noting, however, that per pound Albert Haynesworth actually gets paid less than the league average.

    I agree though. I think too much money goes toward running backs, who break down quickly, or wide receivers, who are a dime-a-dozen. Teams like the New England Patriots have proven that you can start any selection of practice squadders in the backfield and have-beens or never-weres out wide. So long as you have an elite quarterback to distribute the ball and a strong offensive line to give him the time to do so, the team can lead the league. (Toot! Toot! New England horn!)