Once again, the AFC West is not teeming with great tackle play. It easily takes the top spot so far as the weakest position group in the division. Then again, with the known elite pass rushers they have the face six times a season, it also isn’t to most enviable job in the league either.
1. Raiders — Donald Penn, Marshall Newhouse/Austin Howard
This feels like Déjà vu. I feel like the Raiders were the top AFC West team at tackle last year despite serious questions at right tackle. Once again the talent of Donald Penn combined with the overall lack of tackle talent in the division puts this unit at the top. The veteran left tackle return to the Pro Bowl last season as the blindside protector for Derek Carr. The Raiders offensive line gave up a league low 18 sacks, with Penn personally responsible for just one (even though it was a big one).
Right tackle is up in the air at the moment. Newhouse comes over as a free agent from the Giants. If Austin Howard is healthy and still on the team come training camp, he will battle for that starting spot with Newhouse. Rookie David Sharpe and second year man Vadal Alexander will also be in the mix.
2. Chiefs — Eric Fisher, Mitchell Schwartz
Both Fisher and Schwartz are proficient tackles. That’s as much praise as I can give them. The Chiefs as a team gave up a total of 32 sacks last season. Not great, but not too shabby either. It’s above average. They get the job done.
3. Chargers -- Russell Okung, Joe Barksdale
Okung comes over after one shaky season in Denver. The oft injured tackle finished his first 16-game season of his career. Over those 16 games, he had ten penalties – 7 of which were for holding -- and gave up 4.0 sacks. Even with his troubles in Denver, Okung stands to be an upgrade for a unit that gave up 238 pressures last season, which according to PFF stats is the most given up by a team in the past three years.
Part of that insane pressures total falls on the man on the other side -- former Raiders draft pick, Joe Barksdale, who gave up a league-leading 10.5 of the team’s 36 sacks surrendered.
4. Broncos — Garett Bolles/Ty Sambrailo, Donald Stephenson
The best option here may just end up being rookie Garrett Bolles. Both Sambrailo and Stephenson were horrendous last season. Stephenson had 11 penalties and gave up 3 sacks and PFF gave him the lowest grade of any Olineman in the league. And Sambrailo may have actually been worse, giving up 8 sacks. If Bolles can’t win a starting job, they’re in even worse shape than they were before. Which is saying a lot for a group that gave up an AFC West worst 40 sacks last season.
Former Raiders’ second round pick Menelik Watson was signed this offseason as a free agent. It’s hard to count on him being available considering he was never able to stay healthy long enough to be a full time starter over his four seasons in Oakland.
Also see AFC West ranking for: Quarterbacks, Running backs, Wide receivers, Tight ends, Guards