19

July

Fact Czech: Packers Tackle Marshall Newhouse will Never be any Good

Packers tackle Marshall Newhouse can be good on the right side of the offensive line.

Packers tackle Marshall Newhouse can be good on the right side of the offensive line.

Marshall Newhouse should be benched whenever the Packers play the New York Giants. He shouldn’t even be active.

In three games against the Giants since 2011 — including a playoff loss — Aaron Rodgers has been sacked 11 times and the Packers have managed only 230 total rushing yards when you subtract Rodgers’ scrambles.

Obviously, Newhouse isn’t the only Packers offensive lineman responsible for all that ineptitude, but he’s probably not going to be showing the game film from those contests to his grandkids one day.

Pro Football Focus (PFF) gave Newhouse a cumulative grade of -16.9 for all three Giants games. Both regular season games against the Giants were Newhouse’s worst of the season in 2011 and 2012 according to PFF.

No doubt those abominations against the Giants stick in the minds of Packers fans, as well they should. As my old high school history teacher used to say when lecturing about bloody military battles, “It weren’t purdy.”

I’m sure Mike McCarthy weighed Newhouse’s performance in games against New York — a team with good pass rushers and a disruptive defensive front seven — into his decision to move Bryan Bulaga to left tackle. But just because Newhouse lost his left tackle gig, it doesn’t mean he’s a lost cause.

I think the odds are decent that he’ll end up being a good right tackle in Green Bay. Unfortunately, many Packers fans seem to think there is no hope left for Newhouse. Perhaps they’ll end up being right, but I wouldn’t close the book on him yet.

Let’s crack open the PFF numbers again. I like PFF, but sometimes I hesitate to cite them because people either think PFF’s work is gospel, or complete nonsense, and it distracts from the topic at hand. In Newhouse’s case, I think the PFF numbers give some context to Newhouse’s overall career and helps us not just remember the glaringly bad games, like the three against the Giants.

Newhouse made a drastic improvement from 2011 to 2012. His overall rating jumped 28 points, from -32 in 2011 to -4.3 last season. Newhouse finished with a 5.3 pass-block rating last season, a 21-point improvement from -16.5 in 2011.

20

May

Who’s to Blame for Aaron Rodgers’ Record High Sacks?

Aaron Rodgers sacked by SeahawksWe’ve all seen the numbers. Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was sacked a total of 51 times in 2012 – more than any other NFL quarterback – and 55 times if you count the playoffs. It eclipsed his previous record of 50 sacks in 2009 and brings his five-year total as a starter to 202. His lowest sack count in that span was 31 in 2010, the same year they won the Super Bowl.

Frustrating doesn’t even begin to describe the feeling that Packers fans have in response to this data. Arguably the best player in the game right now is on his back way more often than he should be, and we are all left wondering why. Well, perhaps some fans are looking more for an answer to “who” than for “why.”

Who is to blame for this risk to our precious franchise quarterback? Who can we channel our anger towards when we’re yelling at the 60-inch plasma television?

Unfortunately, that’s not easily answered. But we can give you some suspects to choose from . . .

(don’t forget to cast your vote in the poll below…)

SUSPECT #1: The Blockers (Offensive Line, Running Backs, etc.)

In most cases, the offensive line is usually who we shout profanities at immediately after Aaron Rodgers gets sacked. After all, when it comes to the passing game, their number one responsibility is to protect the quarterback long enough for him to complete a pass. If he goes down, then it means they failed.

During the 2012 season, the two biggest culprits were Marshall Newhouse and T.J. Lang. They each allowed 9 sacks according to ProFootballFocus.com, which accounts for roughly 35% of the 51 total sacks. It’s not surprising that Mike McCarthy felt the need this offseason to shake up the offensive line, pointing specifically to a weakness “on the left side.”

There’s plenty of blame to go around, though. Josh Sitton, Jeff Saturday, Evan Dietrich-Smith, Bryan Bulaga, and Don Barclay combined for another 17 sacks allowed. All in all, that makes 35 sacks from the offensive line, which is a clear majority of the season total.

Let’s not forget, though, that tight ends and backs also share some responsibility for blocking pass rushers. Fullback John Kuhn allowed two sacks and tight end Tom Crabtree allowed one. (Some might be surprised that none of the halfbacks allowed a sack according to PFF, especially in recalling the major gaffes by James “Neo” Starks.)

14

May

Could the Packers Start a Rookie on the Offensive Line?

JC Tretter

Packers rookie offensive lineman J.C. Tretter

If I put the over/under on the number of rookies the Packers will have starting on the offensive line for the regular season opener at 0.5, would you take the over or the under?

What if I changed the season opener to week 10, but kept the over/under at 0.5?

If you believe some of the scuttle out of the Packers rookie mini-camp, recent draftees David Bakhtiari and J.C. Tretter are in the mix to start at right tackle. There’s also an outside chance that Tretter or undrafted rookie free agent Patrick Lewis of Texas A&M could give presumed starter Evan Dietrich-Smith a challenge at center.

If I had $100 burning a hole in my pocket, I’d take the under for the season opener and the over for week 10.

I don’t think Mike McCarthy wants to start a rookie right away. Ideally, I think he’d like to see Marshall Newhouse, Derek Sherrod or Don Barclay win the job. That’s not to say the rookies won’t get their fair shot. I’m confident they will.

But unless one of the rookies blows the veterans out of the water, McCarthy probably wants the young guys to develop a bit before getting tossed on the field to protect the league’s highest-paid player.

I’d take the over because of injuries if the bet was changed to week 10. If Dietrich-Smith gets hurt, I think a rookie will get a shot at center over Greg Van Roten. Unless Van Roten hit the weight room hard over the summer, he’s doesn’t seem strong enough to hold his own against NFL interior lineman or super freak linebackers at the second level.

A rookie will probably have to move ahead of Barclay at right tackle, but if there are multiple injuries up front, I see Barclay playing the role of sixth offensive lineman and filling in at any position (Dietrich-Smith’s former role), leaving the right tackle slot wide open for Sherrod or one of the rookies.

I know it’s only May, and I might change my mind about all of this 10 times before we get to real football, but it’s fun to speculate for now.

It’s always hard to determine if the “(insert name of Rookie) could start” stories that come out of rookie camp have any meat on them or not. It’s rookie camp. Coaches are going to say good things about the new guys and imply that they’re good enough to start.

3

May

Bulaga to Left Tackle Highlights Changes on Packers Offensive Line

Green Bay Packer Offensive Tackle Bryan Bulaga

The Packers will move Bryan Bulaga from right tackle to left tackle for the 2013 NFL season.

The Green Bay Packers aren’t waiting until training camp to shuffle their offensive line.

Details of the Packers new-look line can be found in this excellent Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel story by Tom Silverstein. To summarize:

  • Bryan Bulaga moves from right tackle to left tackle
  • Josh Sitton moves from right guard to left guard
  • T.J. Lang moves from left guard to right guard
  • Marshall Newhouse (last season’s starting left tackle), Don Barclay (who got a few starts in 2012) and Derek Sherrod (coming off a major leg injury that forced him to sit out last season) will compete to start at right tackle.
  • Evan Dietrich-Smith is the starting center

Essentially, Packers coach Mike McCarthy is moving his two most talented and experienced offensive lineman from the right side to the left, which is Aaron Rodgers’ blind side, the Packers franchise quarterback who just signed a five-year contract extension worth $110 million.

Having a shutdown left tackle isn’t as important as it used to be in the today’s NFL. If you have a quarterback like Rodgers — someone who is mobile, smart and reads the opposing defense like a coach — you can get away with having an average left tackle.

But why take that risk? Why not combine your all-world quarterback with a reliable left tackle? If I climbed inside McCarthy’s head, I’m guessing that’s what his thinking behind the move would be.

On the surface, I like the move. But let’s not fool ourselves into thinking the Packers offensive line woes are magically cured by moving a few players around.

Bulaga is coming off a bad injury and has missed 11 games in his three seasons in the league. He also looked completely lost at the beginning of last season. Lang played hurt most of last season and isn’t the most physically dominant guy to begin with. Who knows what the Packers will get out of the Newhouse/Barclay/Sherrod three-headed monster on the right side?

Evan Dietrich-Smith is a new starter center and is a smallish guy. Josh Sitton, if healthy, will be fine no matter where you line him up.

The Packers want to be more physical in 2013 and the offensive line will play a big role in making that happen. Eddie Lacy and the continued development of DuJuan Harris should also help.

9

March

2013 Packers Position Group Analysis: Offensive Line

The Packers can always count on Josh Sitton on the offensive line.

Packers offensive line:  The Packers have invested a significant amount of resources into their offensive line over the last three years. Two first-round draft picks (Bryan Bulaga and Derek Sherrod), a notable free-agent signee (Jeff Saturday) and a few contract extensions (Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang). Despite all that investment, the offensive line is still nowhere near the level of the Packers’ skill position groups.

Where are we now:

Here are the current suspects;

  • Bryan Bulaga (1st round)
  • Don Barclay (undrafted)
  • Josh Sitton (4th round)
  • Evan Dietrich-Smith (undrafted)
  • T.J. Lang (4th round)
  • Marshall Newhouse (5th round)
  • Derek Sherrod (1st round)
  • Greg Van Roten (undrafted)

 

For expanded coverage of this topic, listen in using the player below or download the podcast from the Packers Talk Radio Network on Itunes.

Listen to internet radio with Packers Talk Radio Network on Blog Talk Radio

Bulaga: There are all kinds of questions swirling around Bulaga right now. Will he ever be the pro-bowler many think he’s capable of being? Will he move to left tackle in 2013? What do we make of his dismal start in 2012? Can he stay healthy? That last question is probably the most important. I don’t think Bulaga was 100 percent healthy to start 2012, and that was part of the reason he struggled so much early. Whether he moves to the left side depends on a lot of things: What is Derek Sherrod’s status? Does Mike McCarthy want a more physical line? Does Ted Thompson draft another tackle in April?

Don Barclay: Assuming Don Barclay doesn’t leave football in order to pursue a career as the next great wrestling jobber, he should get a shot at starting in 2013. Ideally, I think the Packers would like to use Barclay as the sixth man on the offensive line, sort of like Evan Dietrich-Smith has been used most of the last two seasons. But if Barclay has to start, the Packers probably won’t panic. Barclay is kind of a poor man’s version of T.J. Lang: Physical, goes all out, versatile, lacking a bit in pure talent.

Sitton: Plug him in and forget about him. As long as Sitton is healthy, he’s one of the better guards in the league.

27

February

Packers Playmakers: Where Do The Chips Fall?

Aaron Rodgers and Josh Sitton

Aaron Rodgers and Josh Sitton are two of the Packers “blue chip” players.

Now that my fellow staff members and I have completed our annual player evaluations and report cards, I thought it might be fun to take a look at the Green Bay Packers’ impact players. Taking a page from Michael Lombardi, former NFL Network analyst who now works in the front office for the Cleveland Browns, I have categorized the players into representational colored chips.

I’ve added a couple more categories beyond the usual blue and red chips, but for the latter groups, I have taken some of the qualifications as used by Lombardi. While some players might have fallen short of their expectations this past season, I have attempted to look at their entire body of work and where they stand going into 2013.

One thing I did notice in this exercise was the lack of playmakers on the defense, which Ted Thompson, Mike McCarthy, and Dom Capers need to work on correcting.

Feel free to chime in with any agreements, disagreements, or additions to the lists!

Blue Chip Players:

» Demonstrates rare abilities and creates mismatches that have an obvious impact on the game.
» Is a premier player in the league and a weapon on the field.
» Combines competitiveness and skill to provide a consistent championship-level performance.

  • Aaron Rodgers – One of the best quarterbacks in the modern NFL era, Rodgers is the heart of this team. His exceptional football intelligence, technique, and work ethic make everyone else around him look better.
  • Randall Cobb – Some people might want to wait another year before elevating Cobb to this status, but he proved this year what kind of a difference he makes to the offense and special teams. His skill set is unrivaled.
  • Josh Sitton – He is the biggest asset along the offensive line, and without him I shudder to think how high Rodgers’ sack number would have climbed this year. Sitton handles both pass blocking and run blocking very well.

Red Chip Players:

» Has abilities that can create mismatches vs. most opponents in the league.
» Is a featured player on his team and has an impact on the outcome of the game.
» Can’t be taken out of the game in a one-on-one matchup.
» Is consistent from week to week.

12

February

Packers Bryan Bulaga: 2012 Player Evaluation and Report Card

Bryan Bulaga

Packers T Bryan Bulaga

1) Introduction: If Bryan Bulaga looked into a crystal ball, what would he see? Would he see a season where he finally stays healthy and is solid at right tackle? Would he see a move to left tackle? Would he see himself handing over half of his annual salary to me? It’d be nice if he saw the third scenario, but the first two are more likely.

2) Profile:

Bryan Bulaga

  • Age: 23
  • Born: 03/21/1989 in Barrington, IL
  • Height: 6’5″
  • Weight: 314
  • College: Iowa
  • Rookie Year: 2009
  • NFL Experience: 3 years

Career Stats and more:

3) Expectations coming into the season: Lots of talk in training camp about this being Bulaga’s time to rise to pro-bowl status. Bulaga and Sitton were finally going to give the Packers some muscle in the running game and act like a brick wall for Aaron Rodgers. Unfortunately, Bulaga hobbled around and struggled early, then went down with a hip injury for good in week 9.

4) Player’s highlights/low-lights: The hip injury is the obvious lowlight. Bulaga says it’s not a Bo Jackson type of injury, but we’ll see. Rams defensive end Chris Long was held in check by Bulaga in week 7. Bulaga also stepped up big-time when the Packers needed him against Houston. An obvious lowlight was Bulaga’s terrible game against Seattle, where he looked like he was playing in quicksand.

5) Player’s contribution to the overall team success: Bulaga gave up 5 1/2 sacks in the first three games, then started to turn things around. When healthy, he’s a good pass protector and physical run-blocking. When healthy is the key phrase. He’s missed time the past two seasons. Bulaga is only 23, so hopefully the injuries stop and we can see if that pro-bowl talk is legit.

6) Player’s contributions in the playoffs: Bulaga looked good watching from the sidelines.

Season Report Card:

(C-) Level of expectations met during the season

(C) Contributions to team’s overall success.

(Inc.) Contributions to team during the playoffs

Overall Grade: C

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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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