Weekend Mailbag: Part II

March, 22, 2009
3/22/09
1:00
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

For the second part of our weekend mailbag, I thought I'd try focusing one question that popped up often last week. Duncan inspired the exercise by noting that 75 percent of the NFC North has significant questions at right tackle:

  • Chicago's John Tait has retired and swing tackle John St. Clair signed with Cleveland. For now, Frank Omiyale is holding down the position.
  • Green Bay starter Mark Tauscher is recovering from surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament and is also a free agent.
  • Minnesota has made clear it expects starter Ryan Cook to make significant improvement.

Only Detroit appears confident in its starter, in part because Gosder Cherilus was a first-round draft pick last season. (It's not out of the question the Lions will draft a left tackle, but that possibility is irrelevant in this issue.)

I got maybe a dozen mailbag notes who offered the same solution: Free agent Orlando Pace, whom St. Louis released earlier this month.

My first inclination was to dismiss Pace for that possibility entirely. He's had some health concerns and at 33, he's on the far downside of his career. And then there is the issue of moving from left tackle to right tackle. Anecdotally, Pace is the classic tall and long-armed left tackle who is difficult to run around in the pass rush but not exactly a mauler in the running game.

Traditionally, teams are right-handed and therefore like to have the right tackle be a strong run-blocker. But as I've mentioned before, I also have no illusions about my amateur football intelligence. The Baltimore Ravens, after all, are investigating the possibility of Pace playing right tackle for them. So I asked Jeremy Green, the director of pro scouting for Scouts Inc., if he thought Pace could -- or should -- play right tackle for the final few years of his career.

Jeremy's answer surprised me a bit, but it also made sense:

I think he could play right tackle and it might almost be better for him to play right tackle. He's not going to be as physical in the running game as you might like, but he's also not going to be facing the opponents' best speed rusher like he was on the left side. He has really struggled with some guys that can really rush the passer. It was getting to the point where guys were running around him. But even if he's at 80 percent, I think he can handle the guys on the other side. You could do a lot worse than having a player who is 80 percent of what Orlando Pace once was, especially on the right side.

There are still some other issues to resolve, including whether a Black and Blue team would want to take on a short-term addition at a time when it clearly needs a long-term solution. Nothing about the approach of any NFC North team suggests it will pursue Orlando Pace to play right tackle. But based on Jeremy's analysis, it could work on a football level.

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