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.

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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.

9

January

Packers Spread Formations can Keep 49ers’ Willis off the Field

Patrick Willis

49ers LB Patrick Willis might spend a lot of time on the sidelines if the Packers spread things out.

The Packers best bet to to overcome the physicality and viciousness of the 49ers’ defense in Saturday’s NFC divisional playoff game might be to go with four and five wide receivers and spread things out.

Yes, the Packers’ running game has shown signs of life in the last month. But do you really think the Packers will win Saturday because they line up against San Francisco and blow them off the line in the running game? Doubtful.

You know how teams say the best way to slow down the Packers is with long possessions on offense that keep Aaron Rodgers of the field? The best way to attack the 49ers’ defense might be to try and get one of their best players off the field.

If the Packers use a bunch of four- and five-wide sets, it likely means that San Francisco’s all-pro middle linebacker Patrick Willis will spend a lot of time on the sideline. The 49ers will need another defensive back, probably Perrish Cox, on the field to deal with the Packers receivers instead of Willis.

What gives the Packers a better chance of winning? Running at a stout 49ers defense with Willis manning the middle of the field? Or using four or five receivers and putting the game in the hands of Aaron Rodgers while Willis watches from the sidelines? I vote for the latter.

All the Packers receivers are finally healthy (or at least healthy enough to play). Might as well use them, right?

Of course, the Packers should mix in run and power plays when needed. This isn’t Madden on the PS3. But spread sets and passing should set up those traditional formations and running plays, not the other way around.

Justin Smith, San Francisco’s mauling defensive lineman, will be slowed by a shoulder injury, which should reduce some of the stress on the Packers’ offensive line. Either way, there will be a lot of pressure on the offensive line to hold up and on Rodgers to make decisive throws if a receiver gets just an inch of separation.

The chess match on Saturday night will be interesting.

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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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5

January

Now a Veteran, Newhouse’s Play is Key to Packers Playoff Run

Marshall Newhouse and Jared Allen

Marshall Newhouse vs. Jared Allen will go a long way in determining the Packers’ fate on Saturday night.

If the Packers’ offensive line holds up, Aaron Rodgers and his (finally) healthy wide receivers should be able to score at least 30 points against the Vikings on Saturday night.

If the Packers put up 30, do we really think the Vikings – with Christian Ponder at quarterback – can once again score more than 30 and beat the Packers in a shootout for the second consecutive week? This time on the road, outside, on grass, in freezing temperatures?

I doubt it. Even if Adrian Peterson goes off again, it’s still going to take another strong game from Ponder for the Vikings to top 30 points.

But back to the Packers’ offensive line. We didn’t hear Marshall Newhouse’s or Jared Allen’s name called often during Sunday’s game. That’s because Newhouse was quietly doing a good job blocking Allen.

Newhouse has had his bad moments this season, but for the most part, he’s been decent. If what he did on Sunday against Allen is any indication of how he will perform in the playoffs, the outlook for the Packers’ offense is bright.

Don Barclay has boosted the Packers’ running game since taking over at right tackle. Pass protection has been a different story, especially on Sunday when Everson Griffen and Brian Robinson got around Barclay for sacks.

With three sacks, a hit, and a hurry allowed (to go along with two penalites) Pro Football Focus gave Barclay a -3.1 grade, the lone Packers’ lineman to grade out negatively. Barclay also had a -3.1 grade in week 13 against Minnesota.

If Newhouse holds up on the left side, and the pass protection can be shifted to focus on helping Barclay, that should go a long way in keeping Rodgers upright and giving him time to play pitch-and-catch with his healthy receivers against an outmanned Vikings’ secondary.

But if the Vikings’ front four gets to Rodgers and gets to him early, we could see a repeat of what happened against the Giants in last season’s divisional round: an outmanned Giants’ secondary bolstered by a pass rush that overwhelmed the Packers’ offensive line and rattled Rodgers.

To me, it all hinges on Newhouse. Newhouse is no longer the inexperienced guy on the line who is trying to find his way and doing his best to survive. That guy is now Barclay (and Evan Dietrich-Smith, I suppose).

4

December

Packers Beer Mug Perspective: Should Barclay stay at RT?

Packers Beer MugWhen T.J. Lang went down with an injury, the Packers’ offensive line depth was tested.

Right tackle Bryan Bulaga was already on the injured reserve with a hip injury, forcing the Packers to turn to undrafted rookie Don Barclay to fill Lang’s shoes. Nicole Richie thinks the Packers are thin on the offensive line.

But fortunately for the Packers, Barclay came in for Lang and filled in admirably at right tackle. Sure, the rookie from West Virginia had his fair share of speed bumps, but overall, he made the most of his opportunity and has earned the respect of his head coach.

Now, Packers coach Mike McCarthy faces a tough decision. Does he think the offensive line is a stronger unit with Evan Dietrich-Smith at left guard, or Barclay at right tackle?

Playing Barclay at right tackle would allow Lang to kick over to his natural position of left guard. Lang and right guard Josh Sitton are one of the league’s best young duos on the interior of the offense line. But as a right tackle, Lang is an average player at best. So, the question is:

Will Barclay remain the Packers starting right tackle?

In the format of the Packers Beer Mug Perspective, let’s take a look at the issue from both angles, then determine whether our mug is really “half full” or “half empty.”

THE MUG IS HALF FULL

With Lang’s status still up in the air, McCarthy admitted we may be getting ahead of ourselves in considering Barclay as a starting right tackle. The team will learn more about Lang’s injury on Wednesday.

However, the possibility still remains that Barclay could be inserted into the starting lineup.

The Packers are notorious for playing “musical chairs” on the offensive line. Many people disagree with their philosophy of rotating players around into different positions. But McCarthy has always been adamant on putting the best five linemen on the field, and Barclay is at least being considered as one of the top-five right now.

“I thought (Barclay) did a nice job,” McCarthy said. “It’s pretty much what I thought last night when I left here. He went into the game, we tried to protect him a little bit there in the 2-minute drive. Then really at halftime we made some protection adjustments – not really adjustments – which way we were going to lean on in the second half.”

2

December

An In-Depth Look at the Packers’ Don Barclay and Wrestling Jobbers

Don Barclay

Don Barclay, the Packers wrestling jobber.

There’s been some scuttle about the Packers moving T.J. Lang back to left guard and trying undrafted rookie Don Barclay at right tackle.

(Editor’s Note: This article was actually written before this week’s game against the Vikings but never appeared due to a scheduling issue.)

Lang has floundered since moving to tackle after Bryan Bulaga got hurt. Evan Dietrich-Smith hasn’t fared much better filling Lang’s slot at guard. Lang played well before the move, so perhaps moving him back to guard would solidify that spot and the Packers could focus most of their attention on helping Barclay.

Right now, it seems like the Packers have to worry about helping Lang, Dietrich-Smith and sometimes Marshall Newhouse. That’s not going to fly for much longer.

Anyway, I was going to do a post debating the pros and cons of trying Barclay at tackle, but writing about backup offensive lineman is boring.

Instead, I decided to write about my second favorite thing in the whole wide world (behind the Packers, of course): 1980s and 90s professional wrestling.

What’s a Jobber?
Those of you who listen to the radio show Green and Gold Today know that co-host Bill Johnson refers to Barclay as “everyone’s favorite wrestling jobber.” For those of you that don’t know what a wrestling jobber is, what is wrong with you? Actually, you should probably be proud of yourself if you don’t know what a wrestling jobber is.

Back in the 80s and early 90s, wrestling on TV often featured a well-known wrestler beating up a scrub in a match that lasted minute or two. It usually took the well-known wrestler longer to make his ring entrance than it took for him to win the actual match.

These scrubs were known as jobbers. The only purpose jobbers served was to get destroyed by the big-name guys. Doesn’t sound like a very glamourous way to earn a couple extra bucks, does it?

Jobbers were either too small or slightly overweight and were always dorky looking. They resembled insurance salesman or truck drivers more than jacked up professional wrestlers. On the surface, jobbers sound like complete wastes of space. But they served a purpose.

Jobbers existed to make the popular wrestlers look good. Every time people saw Jake “the Snake” Roberts DDT some poor jobber, pin him, then throw a gigantic snake on the poor guy, it made Roberts look good and enhanced the overall wrestling product.

1

December

Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers Key Matchups

Jordy Nelson scores against the Minnesota Vikings

The Packers are hoping to see this familiar scene on Sunday versus the Vikings

The Minnesota Vikings visit Lambeau Field and face the Green Bay Packers for just the first time this season.  The two teams will square off again in week 17 in Minnesota.  Both teams are coming off of a big loss and are fighting to keep postseason hopes alive.

The Packers were handed their worst loss in years at the hands of the New York football Giants while the Vikings were soundly defeated by the first-place Chicago Bears.  Both teams will likely be fired up and looking to get back on track.  At least they should be in a divisional game this late in the season.

Let’s take a look at the key matchups that will manifest themselves this Sunday.

Vikings Defensive Line vs. Packers Offensive Line

In the number one slot is the matchup most critical to Green Bay’s success this week.  As is likely to be the case for the rest of this season, the Packers have to find a way to protect Aaron Rodgers and start winning their matchups up front.

Minnesota features Pro Bowl defensive end Jared Allen, who will square up on Packers left tackle Marshall Newhouse.  Last season, Allen had three total sacks on Rodgers in the two games and that was when the Green Bay offensive line was playing better than they are now.  Allen is athletic and can get after the ball so Rodgers and the offense need to be mindful of where he is at all times.

My guess is that Green Bay is going to need to provide some extra help on the blind side with either a chip block by the back and release for check down or a straight up double team.

On the right side is Vikings defensive end Brian Robison.  You may recall an incident last season when, after a play, Robison gave TJ Lang a foot shove a la Ndamukong Suh (couldn’t resist the reference) right to the mid section.  Whatever Lang needs to do to find his motivation this week, he needs to do it in a big way.  True, he’s filling in for the injured Bryan Bulaga and is out of position.  But he still has to find a way to neutralize the rush.  Rodgers rolls out right more often than he does left and this matchup will be key.