20

August

Packers – Rams Video Second Look: Offensive Line

Packers offensive line.There were a few things I noticed while watching the first string offensive line as they were blocking for the rather impressive Eddie Lacy. I mentioned a few in my “First Impressions” post, where I give my initial observations without rewinding. It’s a little game I like to play, a way of testing if my perception of what is happening during the game is accurate or not.

I normally get the answers when I go back and watch the game a second time, this time with the benefit of rewind at will.

Time permitting, I’m going to try to pick one or two of those first impressions and look at them together with you, in video form, every week.

Today’s topic is the offensive line’s run blocking. Although Eddie Lacy had some impressive gains, I was noticing Packers offensive linemen getting pushed into the backfield on several occasions, especially Evan Dietrich Smith and TJ Lang.

In this first video, Lacy breaks off an 8 yard run, but no thanks to Evan Dietrich-Smith (EDS), who can not handle the speed of the gap-shooting DL. Lacy. Matthew Mulligan is also beat badly, and Lacy is confronted with two ST. Louis DL in his path, two yards deep in the backfield. For another running back, this is a loss of a few yards. But thanks to his much-renowned spin move, Lacy gets away from that trouble, breaks a tackle past the line of scrimmage and then plows through a few more defenders for some extra yards. It’s good to have a real running back, isn’t it?

(Note: I slowed the play down in the second part of this video. I also recommend using the pause button to stop the action at various points to get a better idea of what is happening.)

 

16

July

Ten Packers Training Camp Topics: #9 — Battle at Right Tackle

The Packers felt strongly about Sherrod in 2011 when they spent their first-round pick on the tackle. But is he now healthy and ready to play?

The Packers felt strongly about Sherrod in 2011 when they spent their first-round pick on the tackle. But is he now healthy and ready to play?

The Green Bay Packers offensive line has underwent a significant shift this offseason. Bryan Bulaga and Josh Sitton moved from the right side of the line to Aaron Rodgers’ blindside, while T.J. Lang kicked over to Sitton’s old spot at right guard.

Evan Dietrich-Smith will begin the season as the starting center, leaving right tackle as the lone unclaimed spot on the front line.

Last year’s starting left tackle, Marshall Newhouse, will begin training camp perhaps as the favorite to win the job. Newhouse has started 29 games the past two seasons for the Packers, but according to Pro Football Focus, he hasn’t performed overly well.

PFF’s grades have Newhouse ranked No. 54 among 80 offensive tackles in 2012. Newhouse came in dead-last at No. 76 during the 2011 season.

The Packers view Bulaga as their best pass protector, and they hope that by moving him to the left side, they’ve better protected their biggest asset in Rodgers. Newhouse will compete with Don Barclay, who started the last five games of the season, and 2011 first-round pick Derek Sherrod for the right tackle job.

Sherrod didn’t play a snap last season after appearing in five games as a rookie in 2011. The team will give the former No. 32 overall pick every opportunity to win the starting job, but Sherrod has yet to practice this spring, still recovering from a devastating leg injury suffered in 2011.

Barclay, in some ways, was the unsung hero of the Packers offense last season. With Sherrod on the sideline and Bulaga ending up on the injured reserve with a hip injury, Barclay was called upon to take over as the starting right tackle as an undrafted rookie.

The offense didn’t miss a beat without Barclay, as they averaged 32 points per game in the six games he started.

In April’s NFL Draft, the Packers used their third pick on Colorado tackle David Bakhtiari. The rookie played all along the offensive line in college, and he’ll enter training camp as the probable backup to Bryan Bulaga on the left side.

Question: Who wins the starting right tackle job?

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.)

17

April

2013 NFL Draft: Trade-Down Scenarios for Packers GM Ted Thompson

Ted Thompson covets his draft picks. Who might he target in a trade-down?

Ted Thompson covets his draft picks. Who might he target in a trade-down?

Packers general manager Ted Thompson covets his draft picks like nothing else. He often trades down, gets the player he’s targeting and adds late-round picks in the process.

And at first glance, this draft appears tailor-made for Thompson.

The Packers hold the 26th overall pick in this year’s draft, and the team will certainly have plenty of options at that point. Perhaps Thompson would consider moving up if a player falls to a certain point in the draft, but in my opinion, moving down is a much more likely scenario.

There are a few scenarios in which I think the Packers would be wise to stay at No. 26 and make their pick. In the unlikely event that Kenny Vaccaro or Jonathan Cyprien fall to the Packers, either player would be a great pick. If Datone Jones is available at 26, he would also be an option.

But this year’s draft lacks star power at the top, and rounds two and three figure to be loaded with NFL-ready talent, especially at some of the Packers’ positions of need. Let’s take a look at five potential targets if the Packers trade out of their first-round pick.

#1) DE Margus Hunt – Southern Methodist

The Packers have a handful of guys on the defensive line that are effective in one specific area. Mike Neal is a solid pass rusher in the nickel, C.J. Wilson and Ryan Pickett are stout against the run, while B.J. Raji is probably the Packers’ best all-around defensive lineman.

But between Neal, Wilson, Raji, Jerel Worthy and Mike Daniels, the Packers lack a prototypical body type for a 3-4 defensive end. Margus Hunt would fill that void.

Hunt (6-8 277) has a monstrous frame to which he could afford to add 15-20 pounds and keep his explosiveness. He blew people away at the NFL Scouting Combine in February by clocking a 4.53 in the forty-yard dash and putting up 38 reps on the 225-pound bench press.

It’s definitely possible that the Packers would consider drafting Hunt at No. 26, but he’d be a much better value with one of the last picks of round one or one of the first few picks of round two.

12

April

Packers News: Evan Dietrich-Smith signs one-year deal

Packers center Evan Dietrich-Smith

Packers center Evan Dietrich-Smith

Evan Dietrich-Smith signed his restricted free agent tender worth $1.323 million, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. He’s expected to be the Packers’ starting center next season after Jeff Saturday retired.

Dietrich-Smith, 26, was handed the lowest possible restricted free agent tender with no compensation. If a team wanted to sign him, they simply would have had to make an offer that the Packers couldn’t match.

But that never happened, and Dietrich-Smith will remain in Green Bay next season.

The only restricted free agent to receive an offer sheet is Pittsburgh wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders from New England. The Steelers have a week to match the Patriots’ offer.

Dietrich-Smith is now slated to participate in the Packers’ offseason conditioning program. Green Bay’s other restricted free agent, Sam Shields, has yet to sign his tender worth $2.023 million for the upcoming season.

Now that Dietrich-Smith is in the fold for at least another season, the Packers figure they have their starting center in place. But that doesn’t mean the Packers won’t consider adding a young player at the position relatively early in this month’s draft.

California’s Brian Schwenke or Wisconsin’s Travis Frederick will likely be the first center off the board at some point on Day 2. Alabama center Barrett Jones will likely start 2013 on the PUP list due to medical concerns. He was on the same level as Schwenke and Frederick prior to the medical issues becoming public, but he’s now expected to come off the board on late Day 2 or early Day 3.

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Follow @MJEversoll

Marques is a Journalism student, serving as the Sports Editor of UW-Green Bay\'s campus newspaper The Fourth Estate and a Packers writer at Jersey Al\'s AllGBP.com. Follow Marques on Twitter @MJEversoll.

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12

March

2013 NFL Draft Preview: Ranking the Interior Linemen

Alabama OG Chance Warmack

Alabama OG Chance Warmack

Typically, offensive guards are not drafted very early in the first round. In last year’s draft, Stanford guard David DeCastro was thought to be one of the “safest” picks in the entire class, but he fell all the way to the Pittsburgh Steelers with the 24th overall pick.

This year, Alabama’s Chance Warmack has a chance to crack the top ten. Warmack (6-2 317) is a throwback who will help a team immediately as a rookie.

He could go as high as No. 7 to the Arizona Cardinals, so it’s unlikely that he’ll endure a DeCastro-type fall. But either way, Warmack is a surefire first-round pick.

Behind Warmack, the next-best interior offensive linemen in this year’s draft is Jonathan Cooper of North Carolina. Cooper is more athletic than Warmack but isn’t quite as physical. His versatility could help him on draft day, as he also has the ability to play center.

The center position lacks a true can’t-miss guy at the top.

Alabama’s Barrett Jones, Wisconsin’s Travis Frederick and California’s Brian Schwenke all figure to be drafted at some point on Day 2. Jones is the most versatile of the bunch, Frederick is the most physical, while Schwenke is the most athletic.

Warmack and Cooper will likely be first-round picks, but the depth at offensive guard doesn’t stop there. Larry Warford (6-3 332) of Kentucky is viewed as a starting-caliber guard, as is Syracuse’s Justin Pugh (6-4 307) who some prefer as a right tackle.

The Packers’ offensive line has been heavily debated. Aaron Rodgers may very well be the best quarterback in football, but he was sacked more than anyone else in the league. Rodgers deserves some of that blame along with the offensive line.

At guard, the Packers are set with T.J. Lang and Josh Sitton. Adding depth is always a possibility, as is bringing in a center, whether Evan Dietrich-Smith returns or not.

1. Chance Warmack, Alabama – OG (6-2 317)

  • Draft stock: Early-Mid 1st
  • 225-pound bench: DNP, Arm length: 34.68, 10-yard split: 1.83
  • Three-year starter at left guard.
  • The last time an offensive guard was drafted in the top ten was 1997 when the New Orleans Saints took Chris Naeole out of Colorado. Leonard Davis (2001) and Robert Gallery (2004) both have had long NFL careers at guard, but both players were drafted as tackles. Warmack is a guard, without a doubt.
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.