Friday, May 3, 2013

Packers Shuffling Offensive Line

By: Matt Bove

This offseason Mike McCarthy guaranteed that the Packers would have a better offensive line this upcoming season and he particularly called out the left side of the line.

According to Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinal, McCarthy took the first step in improving that area by moving Bryan Bulaga from right tackle to left tackle and Josh Sitton from right guard to left guard.

Also, T.J. Lang will move from right guard to left guard and Don Barclay, Marshall Newhouse and Derrick Sherrod will compete to start at right tackle. Rookies David Bakhtiari and J.C. Tretter will have their positions decided following next week's rookie mini camp.

"I sat down with Bryan and Josh on Monday and I told them I wanted to make the move to where they're on the left side," McCarthy told Silverstein. Those two are our most accomplished and experienced players. I told them about the responsibilities and my expectations about playing the left side."

Logistically, this move make plenty of sense, as most teams want their best offensive linemen protecting their quarterbacks blind side.

After signing Aaron Rodgers to a five-year contract extension worth $110 million, protecting him from injury is of the utmost importance. Newhouse allowed 11 sacks and 42 1/2 pressures at left tackle last season, which is just way to many hits for Rodgers to take.

Sitton is one of the best pass blocking guards in the NFL and Lang struggled in that area last year in part due to injuries to his arm. Lang is more of a power guard anyways, so he might be better off on the right side.

Bulaga, a first-round pick in 2010, has made all 33 of his regular season starts on the right side. He played left tackle at the University of Iowa, but scouts questioned whether 33 1/4 arms were long enough to play left tackle in the NFL. Bulaga filled in for Mark Taucher in 2010 when he went down with a season-ending injury and has been playing right tackle ever since.

The two veterans should be able to pick up all the nuances of playing the left side quickly and be able to pick  up all of the stunts and blitzes teams throw at Rodgers' blindside. As long as Bulaga has physically recovered from bad hip injury that ended his season last year the transition should be smooth.

On the right side, the competition will be fierce between Barclay, Newhouse and Sherrod. I would give a slight edge to Barclay since he is the much better run blocker than Newhouse, which is important on the right side and you do not know how healthy Sherrod is. However, that is just a really early guess.

The Packers wanted to get more physical this season and the play of the offensive line will have a lot to do with whether that happens. Watching rookie running backs Eddie Lacy and Jonathan Franklin run behind this newly shuffled offensive line will be on of the main things to watch for this training camp.

The Packers have certainly been proactive in trying to improve their offensive line, now they just have to wait and see if it pays off.

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