The NFL is a quarterback-driven league. This is a statement repeated over and over by coaches, players and experts when discussing the modern game. Because of how the game has evolved, the most important positions on the field, besides quarterback, are defensive end and left tackle. One is tasked with putting the other team’s franchise player flat on his back. The other’s job is to make sure that doesn’t happen. These two positions are also polar opposites with regards to the amount of attention they receive. You can tell the impact a defensive end is making on a game when the announcer repeatedly says his name. For offensive tackles, you know he’s done their job when you never hear his name called.
This has been the case for Cordy Glenn, the Buffalo Bills‘ starting left tackle, for much of his first two seasons in the NFL. A second-round pick in 2012 who flew a bit under the radar during the draft process, Glenn wasn’t expected to do much right away in the NFL. Draft experts weren’t sure whether he could play left tackle as a pro, as he had spent most of his time with the Georgia Bulldogs playing right tackle. Glenn answered his doubters right away by starting 13 games at left tackle during his rookie season. He never looked out of place as a rookie and was a reliable piece on a sometimes-shaky Buffalo offensive line. Glenn improved in his second year, starting in every game. Despite his team’s struggles, Glenn was one of the most consistent players on the Bills’ roster.
While he hasn’t received anything in the way of accolades so far, Glenn looks poised to change that in 2014. He will be playing on a Bills offense that should be much better, with new pieces like Sammy Watkins, Mike Williams and Bryce Brown joining an already strong group of playmakers that includes C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson and Robert Woods. Quarterback E.J. Manuel, unable to find any consistency in an injury-riddled rookie year, will be a much more polished player, especially with the knowledge that he has a reliable blind side protector.
Every NFL team, whether they are contending for a Super Bowl or rebuilding, needs to start with a franchise quarterback and cornerstone left tackle to protect him. The NFL is in an interesting place as far as “franchise” left tackles are concerned. There are a number of very good left tackles in the league today such as Trent Williams, Tyron Smith, Joe Thomas and Joe Staley. Young studs like Luke Joeckel, Eric Fisher and Greg Robinson look like they could be very good for a very long time. But there are no truly “elite” left tackles on the level of someone like Orlando Pace, Jonathan Ogden or Walter Jones in their prime, a larger-than-life bodyguard whose very presence seemed to enhance both their quarterback’s confidence and level of play.
Glenn may never attain that level of greatness, especially if the Bills’ mediocre ways continue. But he is ready to join the upper-echelon of left tackles in the NFL and stay there for years to come.