5

January

Packers Film Study: Bulaga’s Miscues Overshadow an Otherwise Solid Game (Packers – Bears)

Bryan Bulaga is 6 feet, 5 inches tall and weighs almost 320 pounds. But the Green Bay Packers’ right tackle probably felt like the smallest person in Lambeau Field after each of his four penalties in Sunday’s must-win game against the Chicago Bears.

Bulaga committed two holding penalties that negated Packers’ first downs. He was also guilty of two false starts. The Packers failed to pick up a first down after each of Bulaga’s penalties.

It’s impossible to give Bulaga a passing grade for Sunday’s game because of those drive-killing penalties. You simply cannot afford mistakes like that when the season is on the line.

But lets be as fair as we can to the big guy and examine the plays where Bulaga was not committing a penalty. In my opinion, he actually played decent.

Bulaga’s brightest moments came in pass protection on the two long Aaron Rodgers to Greg Jennings connections. The fourth quarter connection is especially highlight-worthy.

Aggressive at the line
Bulaga is matched up against Israel Idonije (I think it’s Idonije. It’s difficult to see on Direct TV’s camera angle). Idonije hesitates for a bit on the play-action, then tries to get up field and force Rodgers to move out of the pocket. Bulaga stonewalls Idonogie, which allows Rodgers to stand tall, go through his reads, and deliver a perfect strike to Jennings.

Rodgers also hit Jennings on a long pass late in the third quarter that eventually led to a field goal. On that play, Bulaga picked up Henry Melton, who originally tried to go inside before taking on Bulaga. Once again, Bulaga doesn’t allow any penetration, which gives Rodgers ample space to step into his throw and hit Jennings in stride.

Waiting too long
Contrast these two plays with the Third-and-goal sack of Rodgers near the goal line late in the third quarter. On that play, Bulaga is matched against Idonije and doesn’t engage him until Idonije is about two yards into the Packers’ backfield.

Idonije pushes Bulaga back just a little bit, and it seems to somewhat spook Rodgers. I think Bulaga had Idonije blocked, but because Bulaga waited to engage Idonije so deep in the backfield, Rodgers may have thought he had less time than he actually did.

If Bulaga engages Idonije closer to the line of scrimmage, perhaps Rodgers doesn’t get so jumpy and he stays in the pocket a bit longer to see if anything opens up in the end zone.

This is a pattern that repeats itself throughout the game. The Packers deep passing game seems to function best when Bulaga is aggressive and keeps his man as close to the line of scrimmage as possible. Of course, it is impossible to expect Bulaga to not allow any penetration for an entire game, but the Packers should consider using play-fakes and chips as much as possible to keep Rodgers’ right side open and unobstructed.

Running plays
On running plays, Bulaga holds his own, but needs to do a better job preventing his man from making plays from the backside. Occasionally, Bulaga appears content to let his opponent’s momentum dictate the block.

On this Second-and-2 run in the first quarter, Bulaga is matched against Melton. Melton comes from the backside and is part of the pile-up that stops John Kuhn. It is a difficult block, but Bulaga needs to try and beat Melton to the inside and prevent him from crashing down on the line.

To be fair, many zone blocking schemes like the Packers run encourage offensive lineman to use their opponent’s momentum against him to open cutback lanes for the running back. But linemen also have to realize who is running the ball. In this case, Kuhn was not considering making any cutbacks. He was going to put his head down and plow forward. Bulaga needs to recognize that and not let his man crash down so easily.

Final word
Bulaga has made some obvious gaffes as this season, but he has also shown a lot of promise. I am not convinced that he is the long-term solution at left tackle, but I think he can more than hold his own on the right side.

Bulaga’s main deficiency right now is his occasional lack of aggressiveness. This will hopefully improve as he builds confidence and becomes more familiar with what the Packers expect of him and how opponents try to beat him.

For now, he needs to eliminate the penalties – all of them. He’s talented enough to help the Packers to a playoff win as long as he’s not single-handedly killing drives.

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Adam Czech is a freelance reporter and a Packers fan living in the Twin Cities. Follow Adam on Twitter. Read more of Adam's writing on the Packers here.

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13 Responses to “Packers Film Study: Bulaga’s Miscues Overshadow an Otherwise Solid Game (Packers – Bears)”

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by packernation and others. packernation said: Packers Film Study: Bulaga’s Miscues Overshadow an Otherwise Solid Game (Packers – Bears) http://bit.ly/hP1ghI [...]

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  2. Dave K says:

    I watch Buluga and I see an OL that is reeling out there and it is effecting the confidence of his QB to stand in the pocket. He is getting beat around the edge too often and that causes him to jump back at the snap. (and thus not block at the line of scrimmage) It eventually leaves him open to a pocket collapsing inside rush as his momentum is already going backwards. He seems over-matched so he has to guess at speed rush or inside rush and if he guesses wrong he gets exposed. Good tackles don’t guess. They have the speed and technique to react to the DL instead of guessing. Let’s hope he is struggling not because of a deficit of talent but because he is a rookie and has yet to master the technique and skills required to be an effective tackle in this league.

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    • Jersey Al Jersey Al says:

      Reeling? no. Overmatched? no. Struggling? Yes,at times. Never played right tackle before? Yes. Gone up against some really good Defensive ends the last few weeks? Yes.

      I’m not nearly as down on him as you are, and I would like to see him next preseason at LT before I make any concrete judgements. And maybe LG ends up being his spot. That would be fine too. Either way, the Packers need to draft another OT in the early rounds this draft. Protecting Rodgers in the future is essential to long-term success for the Packers.

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      • cpheph1 says:

        Al, I 100% concur w/ your response to Dave K.

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      • Adam Czech says:

        Bulaga has the tools to be a solid lineman. I don’t think he will be a shutdown LT, but he’s way too talented to even think about writing off at this point. He just seems a bit tentative at times (like most rookies).

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  3. Tarynfor12 Taryn says:

    He is a ROOKIE.The mistakes he makes are not the make or break of a game,they factor somewhat but not decide.His are more apt to occur especially in games of this importance and opposing DEs know this and will try to increase and prey on them.
    Would we blame him if the Packers lost this game,probably as it’s easier to point a finger there then to point it at the veterans who didn’t get it done either and play calling again.
    I posted in another article that points off our mistakes would be the downfall,we didn’t get points from his and neither did the Bears.Luckily the fumble,the drops,the INT didn’t give them any also,but those are more likely to, than his holding and false starts which we have not seen the last of,and “I’m glad we will be able too”.Otherwise,the Packers are watching TV with us.

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  4. TheDude says:

    If you compare Bulaga with the OT’s that were drafted before him, he is doing a pretty good job. You can’t expect the guy to dominate 24/7 when he’s only a rookie.

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    • Adam Czech says:

      Especially in a zone blocking that tends to lend itself to confusion.

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  5. JimR_in_DC says:

    How many times did we have holding and false start penalties from our seasoned veterans such as Clifton, Tauscher, and Colledge? Bulaga isn’t playing badly at all, although he does have his moments. How much of this is ZBS and/or coaching?

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  6. JimR_in_DC says:

    I just figured out all our offensive problems…pad level! It’s got to pad level! :D

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  7. Ron LC says:

    He is a rookie and will get better. More important, I’m convinced that the Packer blocking seems by virtue of it’s complexity is inherently vulnerable to aggressive, hard rush type defenses. That must change. And it has nothing to do with Bulaga.

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  8. [...] year I broke down Bulaga’s penalty-filled performance against the Bears in Week 17. One of the things Bulaga struggled with was engaging pass rushers [...]

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