When you think about the best players on the Patriots, the first names that come to mind are common ones: Tom Brady, Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski, Vince Wilfork and Logan Mankins. But there's a name being left out, and it's because he doesn't play a high-profile position.
Sebastian Vollmer could very well be the best right tackle in the NFL and no one in New England is talking about it. Vollmer, more than Mankins or left tackle Nate Solder, anchors the Patriots' offensive line. The fact that you don't notice Vollmer's elite play means that he's doing a great job. It's safe to say the Patriots' right tackle is the most underrated player on the team.
Vollmer does a magnificent job of keeping Brady upright, and he's been doing it since he was a rookie in 2009. As an NFL right tackle, since the job not protecting a quarterback's blindside, the chief responsibility is run blocking, but Vollmer's pass protection is what sets him apart. The four-year pro has allowed just one sack, one quarterback hit and 11 QB pressures all season according to Pro Football Focus. Vollmer also allowed just one sack during his only full season in the NFL -- his 2010 All-Pro campaign.
As one of the most well-balanced right tackles in the league, he's one of the best run blockers in the NFL as well. The Patriots are averaging 4.8 yards per carry on plays run to the right side and 5.0 yards per carry on runs to the right sideline. He displays great athleticism for his size, and overpowers smaller defensive ends and tackles while setting the edge on running plays.
Vollmer was a surprise second-round pick out of Houston in 2009, after not being invited to the NFL scouting combine. The six-foot-8, 320-pound product from Germany got a late start to American Football, and an even later start to playing tackle. Vollmer played tight end in his first two seasons at Houston before being converted to the offensive line as a junior. He was forced to switch positions because of back surgery, an issue that has plagued him as a pro.
Vollmer re-injured his back in the 2011 preseason, which forced him to miss 11 starts during the season. His back flared up again during the training camp in 2012, forcing him to miss most of the preseason. The Patriots' offensive line faltered during those games, leading to panic within Patriots nation. But since Vollmer has returned, you haven't heard a peep about supposed offensive line issues.
Fortunately, his back is now holding up and he could be on his way to his second All-Pro season. At Vollmer's height, it's no surprise that he's been having back issues. It's also no surprise that Vollmer has had success in the NFL with Dante Scarnecchia as his offensive-line coach. Over the last few years, it seems that Scarnecchia could coach anyone up to excel in the Patriots' offensive line. The Patriots rarely falter in picking an offensive lineman, and Scar's coaching certainly helps that.
Vollmer's fantastic play stood out on Sunday afternoon against the Rams. Defensive ends Chris Long and Robert Quinn have been giving opposing offensive lines and quarterbacks fits all season. Between them, they've put up 11 sacks and 11 separate QB hits. On Sunday, they had zero of each thanks to Vollmer and Solder.
While Vollmer may not get the notoriety that his more famous teammates get, that doesn't mean he's not well respected among NFL-circles. His 2010 All-Pro honor asserts that. It's time to start mentioning Vollmer's name with the Bradys, Gronks and Wilforks, because he may be the best right tackle in the NFL.
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