Analyzing Position Battles – Right Tackle

Posted by Mike Wobschall on July 14, 2009 – 12:45 pm

It might be a slow time on the NFL calendar, but with training camp just over 2 weeks away we thought it’d be an appropriate time to identify and break down some position battles that will be decided this August in Mankato and in preseason games.

Today we’ll take a look at RT, where incumbent starter Ryan Cook will be challenged by 2009 2nd round draft choice Phil Loadholt.

Ryan Cook, who was also a 2nd round draft choice (2006), has been a serviceable player for the Vikings at RT the last couple of years. He’s started 30 of 32 games since 2007, but he just hasn’t established a consistent standard of play. He was even benched briefly last year after ineffective play and a penchant for drawing yellow flags.

Loadholt looked solid during minicamps and OTAs this spring and summer. At 6-8, 343 pounds, he has the size and strength to be a mauling run blocker, which is what’s typically asked of NFL RTs. But he also has a large wingspan and good pass protecting skills, which he honed while playing LT for the Oklahoma Sooners.

There are a couple of other angles to watch in this competition. As is the case in every training camp battle for every team, injuries could be a factor. If either player goes down to injury, or if another player along the line goes down to injury, this competition could be affected. One of Cook’s best qualities is that he has position flexibility, which means he can play multiple positions and thus is a valuable commodity to have in a league where half the battle is staying healthy.

The other issue is going to be Loadholt’s ability to A) adjust to playing on the right side (which I don’t see as a problem) and B) prove that he can pass protect at the NFL level. Admittedly, I am not the best at watching a lineman’s feet and making a determination as to whether those are “good feet” or “quick feet” or “slow feet.” The good news is we have coaches on the staff who are good at making that determination. So, if Loadholt is deemed to have either “good feet” or “quick feet,” then his chances of winning this position battle increase.

I don’t consider this position battle over before it starts. Cook has been here before and he knows the offense. Loadholt is playing on the right side and is still in the process of proving himself. But at this point, I give the edge to Loadholt.

Prediction: Watch for Loadholt to run with the 1st team early in camp, and perhaps not ever relinquish those duties.

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