Bryan Bulaga vs. Derek Sherrod: Battle for Left Tackle!
With the 32nd pick, the Super Bowl Champions selected Derek Sherrod, offensive tackle from Mississippi State and raised one big question, where is he going to play? The question stems from the 2010 NFL draft, where the Packers used their 1st round selection to nab offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga from Iowa.
Bulaga and Sherrod seem to have a lot in common; both players were predicted to be drafted far ahead of where they actually ended up and both were technically sound and athletic offensive linemen who weren’t as highly touted as some of the other offensive linemen in their respective drafts (such as Russel Okung and Trent Williams in 2010 and Gabe Carimi and Tyron Smith in 2011). Both are considered more technicians than maulers and were considered left tackle prospects.
The Packers have claimed after drafting Sherrod that both will get a chance to battle it out in training camp, but lets see how they compare to each other and who fits the mold of a left tackle. Below is a side by side comparison of Bulaga and Sherrod. I don’t claim to be a evaluator of talent, so I’ve used analysis from CBSports.com (most likely written by Rob Rang), Doug Farrar (of Yahoo’s Shutdown Corner and Football Outsiders) and Kevin Seifert (of ESPN).
|Name||Bryan Bulaga||Derek Sherrod|
|Pass Blocking||Takes a strong angle on kick slide, keeps knees bent, head up, and arm extended to keep defenders at bay. Very difficult to get off his blocks if he’s mirroring. Has a strong punch. Tends to lunge against inside moves, lacks great recovery speed and can be beaten by secondary rush. Slow to recoil once extended. Hesitates when defenders let up. Gets bull rushed into the pocket by strong ends because he allows their hands into his chest, but typically anchors before reaching the quarterback. Must improve his arm-bar to keep rusher out of the pocket. Inconsistent quickness after the first step in his kick slide makes him susceptible to giving up the edge to quicker pass rushers.-NFLDraftScout.com
|Good initial quickness. Eases out of his stance and has the lateral agility and balance to mirror the defender. Good hand strength and has long arms that he uses to latch onto and control his opponent. Generally plays with good knee-bend and leverage, but can lose his anchor when he tires. Can become fundamentally lazy and lean into the defender; gets knocked off-balance and gives up the inside lane. Should improve in this area with greater focus on his technique, but has an upside-down triangle build due to broad shoulders and relatively narrow hips, making him top-heavy and susceptible to being overpowered. Among his better attributes is his recognition. Recognizes the blitz coming and gets a good initial pop on his primary target (defensive end) before passing him off to the guard and working his way outside to catch the rushing linebacker or stunting defensive tackle.-NFLDraftScout.com|
|Run Blocking||Good positional blocker, well coached on how to get correct angles. Capable in zone scheme, has a strong combination of agility and strength. Turns his man out of the hole and seals the edge. Attacks defenders in short yardage situations, strong enough to lock on and sustain, even against large ends. Gets low to drive near the goal line.-NFLDraftScout.com||Comes off the ball too high and lacks the pad level and power to consistently knock defenders off the line. Good quickness and hand strength to turn and seal off defenders from the play. Good recognition to release from double-team and get out to the second level. Scouts would like to see him finish blocks with more authority before releasing.-NFLDraftScout.com|
|Pulling/ Trapping||Isn’t asked to pull or trap a lot in Iowa’s zone system, but has the quick feet needed to work behind the line and burst through the hole. Usually hits a target on the move and sustains.-NFLDraftScout.com||Good initial quickness to release to the second level, but has only average agility to re-direct in the open field. Locates his target, but has to do a better job of anticipating where the defender is going. Isn’t fluid enough to change direction and hit the moving target. Too often extends his arms, “catching” the linebacker, which could result in penalty flags when playing against NFL-caliber athletes. Good trap blocker due to his initial quickness, big frame and recognition.-NFLDraftScout.com|
|Initial Quickness||Brings a very strong punch and pop to his opponent when run blocking, especially for a left tackle. Adequate quickness to pass set from two-point stance.-NFLDraftScout.com||Good, though not elite, initial quickness off the snap. Has the agility and long arms to handle most right defensive ends (and thus remain at left tackle), but due to the fact that he is a bit top-heavy and lacks elite balance, is susceptible to quick jab-steps outside and spin or counter moves back to the inside. Is quick enough in the running game to turn and seal off the defender, creating a wall from which the running back can bounce off from.-NFLDraftScout.com|
|Downfield||Excellent mobility to get to the second level and beyond. Keeps feet moving and hands strong after initial contact, sustains well against linebackers and safeties. Mirrors quicker players in space. Adjusts to players coming from any angle. Gives effort downfield to block on runs and pass plays.-NFLDraftScout.com||Gives good effort to block downfield. Above-average straight-line speed, though his average balance keeps him from being as effective at the second level as his speed and size would indicate. Gets in the way of defenders and has the wingspan to alter their path, but struggles re-directing his charge.-NFLDraftScout.com|
|Intangibles||Considered a very competitive, smart and hard-working leader up front. Fought to return from thyroid condition during 2009. Cleans up piles and defends teammates on the field.-NFLDraftScout.com||Was one of 16 players to win the storied National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame (NFF) Award, which includes a post-graduate $18,000 scholarship. Earned his degree in business with a 3.54 GPA. Is the third Bulldog to win the award and the first since 1989. Team leader voted a captain in 2010. A four-year member of the M-Club, MSU’s student-athlete community service organization, he has spent considerable time with the youth of Mississippi. He has served breakfast at Sudduth Elementary School, participated in Sudduth’s Kids Fair and read to local students to promote literacy. He has also organized a Thanksgiving food drive.-NFLDraftScout.com|
|Pros||Works from the snap until the whistle and gives same effort when Iowa runs to the opposite side as he does when Iowa runs behind him. Short-term memory and doesn’t appear to dwell on mistakes. Gets set quickly, locks out arms and can ride explosive edge rushers past the pocket. Shows excellent body control and footwork when forced to redirect. Active and strong hands.-Kevin Seifert||Does all the little things well in pass protection — rises up off the snap quickly, keeps a wide base to his kick step, exhibits startling quickness outside, and blocks out edge rushers especially well on the back half of the rush. Gets a good hand-punch on running plays, though he doesn’t always strike with ideal power (bulling ends back). However, when he locks in, he’s great at pushing defenders out of the way and wrangling them to the ground without holding. Chips quickly and gets to the second level in a hurry — once he gets there, he has great footwork and targets defenders consistently. You’ll see a lot of college tackles skate and lurch around in space, but Sherrod doesn’t have that problem.- Doug Farrar|
|Cons||Can be a step late sliding off combo block and covering up linebacker. Doesn’t always show great spatial awareness as a zone blocker or take sound angles to downfield blocks. Vulnerable to some spin moves and needs to do a better job of handling power-to-speed moves. Must continue to improve lower-body strength in order to anchor better versus bull rush.-Kevin Seifert||Technique makes him look stronger in the lower body than he actually is — Sherrod could fill out in the lower body a bit and it would help with his base and strength at the NFL level. Pulls and traps decently, but this is where he seems to lose his feet a bit — while Sherrod is tremendously agile north and south, side-to-side is a different story.-Doug Farrar|
So what do you think? In my opinion, it doesn’t really look like one player is more of a left tackle than the other and I think that makes a lot of sense considering the Packers modus operandi. The Packers have claimed that they prefer having two traditional left tackles at bookends due to the fact that defenses are often now targeting the weakest link on the offensive line, not just the blindside protector.——————
Thomas Hobbes is a staff writer for Jersey Al’s AllGreenBayPackers.com.