If you’ve been paying attention to the Kansas Chiefs this offseason, you’ve likely read or heard the following as it relates to newly-signed veteran offensive tackle Jawaan Taylor.
“He’s being paid to be a left tackle.”
“That’s an overpay for a right tackle.”
“What’s the point of signing left tackle Donovan Smith?”
In this article, we will look at why those statements deserve greater consideration — and, more importantly, why right tackle is indeed the best position for Taylor in Kansas City.
Defensive coaches and players have realized for many years that — typically — the opposing offense’s right tackle is a worse player than the individual playing left tackle. This still normally holds true today. It has led to many of the NFL’s best pass rushers primarily aligning on the defense’s left side — or across from the right tackle. In the ultimate chess match that is football, it’s been a good option for defenses to create optimal one-on-one matchups.
However, there are a few teams in which the right tackle is the best (and perhaps even highest-paid) offensive lineman for their respective roster. The Chiefs were actually one of those offenses just a few years ago, from 2016-20, when former All-Pro Mitchell Schwartz manned the right tackle position with tremendous stability. At the time, left tackle Eric Fisher was a very good Pro Bowl-caliber option. Schwartz was almost undeniably the greatest pass-blocking right or left tackle in the entire league — one that was capable of single-handedly matching blows with defensive ends like Von Miller and Khalil Mack in their physical primes.
Jumping to the present times, consider how the best defensive ends are being used now. Below is a list of recognizable names, with the percentage of snaps they aligned across from the right tackle to follow.
- Maxx Crosby, Las Vegas Raiders — 94%
- T.J. Watt, Pittsburgh Steelers — 96%
- Joey Bosa, Los Angeles Chargers — 69%
- Von Miller, Buffalo Bills — 58%
- Matt Judon, New England Patriots — 69%
- Nick Bosa, San Francisco 49ers — 61%
While there are a few elite players (Myles Garrett and Micah Parsons to name a few) who line up a bit more frequently against left tackles, we still see that most often, the league’s best pass rushers are taking on right tackles.
Having a really good pass-blocker such as Taylor on the right side means Kansas City will be able to trust him one-on-one against most of these defenders far more frequently than they otherwise could with a lesser right tackle. Even if the left tackle spot isn’t as strong, Andy Reid and the offensive coaching staff can dedicate more help to that side with running backs and tight ends if they know the right tackle spot is solidified, thanks to Taylor.
Jawaan Taylor vs Maxx Crosby Week 9— Caleb James (@CJScoobs) March 14, 2023
-22 pass blocking downs
-15 1v1 snaps + 7 with help (chip/TE alignment)
- Of the 15 solos Taylor won 12 allowing just two pressures
-Anchor & Recovery vs the power was nice to see pic.twitter.com/gGezx79ee2
Chiefs fans saw how much of an advantage that right tackle slot being a massive strength can be when Schwartz was in the lineup. Don’t forget that now.
Beyond the on-field quantifiables, we can also look at present-day offensive tackle salaries and see that Taylor’s contract is not some crazy new outlier for a right tackle. In fact, some of the league’s elite right tackles are making every bit as much or more than their fellow competitors at left tackle.
As of May 2023, in terms of average salary per year, the following statements hold true:
- Seven (50%) of the 14 highest-paid offensive tackles are right tackles.
- Four (50%) of the eight highest-paid offensive tackles are right tackles.
So, while some might say the blindside protector is still far more valuable than any other offensive line position, NFL decision-makers have been telling us otherwise for multiple years now. In the current day’s pass-heavy game, being able to protect both edges is equally necessary to keep your quarterback clean against the best defenses out there.
The bottom line
Taylor has played right tackle his entire NFL and collegiate career thus far. It’s his natural home. In 2022, he put together his best season so far, indicating that he is a 25-year-old player who is trending upwards as he arrives in Kansas City.
Jawaan Taylor had the third-lowest pressure rate allowed (2.5%) among tackles last season.— Jeff Kerr (@JeffKerrCBS) March 13, 2023
Only Tristan Wirfs and Lane Johnson were better.
He allowed just 16 pressures and 5 sacks last season. #Chiefs #ChiefsKingdom
Could he still end up playing left tackle for the Chiefs in the future?
Sure, and that may just work out phenomenally.
General manager Brett Veach still remembers Super Bowl LV in Tampa Bay — and as a result, his team has assembled the most overall depth at offensive tackle the team has likely ever had since Mahomes took over. With recent third-round draft picks, Wanya Morris and Lucas Niang, the offense may be positioned to withstand some unwanted attrition.
Left or right, it doesn’t really matter one way or the other. The thing that does matter is Taylor continuing to play at a very high level regardless of position and putting the best possible offensive line group in front of quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
Whether at right or left tackle, Taylor will help improve that cause in 2023.