The Battle to be the Packers’ 6th Man on the Offensive Line

Don Barclay

Will Don Barclay be the Packers sixth offensive lineman?

There has been a lot of news worth following on the Packers offensive line this offseason. Another storyline up front that should develop further once training camp heats up is who will “win” the sixth-man slot on the offensive line.

I put “win” in parentheses because, technically, if you’re the sixth man on the line, it means you failed to land a starting spot. In other words, you lost the battle you were actually trying to win.

Nobody goes into camp hoping to “win” a spot on the bench, but when it comes to the offensive line, the sixth man typically ends up getting at least a few starts and playing some type of meaningful role during the season. If you don’t start on the line, being the sixth-man is the spot you want to secure.

The leading candidates to be the Packers sixth man appear to be Marshall Newhouse, Don Barclay, Derek Sherrod and rookie David Bakhtiari.

Derek Sherrod
In an ideal world, I think the Packers would like to see Sherrod storm into camp fully recovered from his broken leg and show everyone why Ted Thompson spent a first-round draft pick on him. Unfortunately, it doesn’t sound like Sherrod is on track to do that.

Ideally, the sixth-man on the line needs to be able to play multiple positions. Sherrod was drafted as a left tackle, but did compete at guard during training camp of his rookie season. Strength and nastiness appeared to be Sherrod’s weaknesses before he was injured.

Can he hold up inside against the big and physical interior lineman if asked to play guard? Is Sherrod physical enough to provide the run-blocking needed at right tackle, or anywhere else on the line?

Marshall Newhouse
Take everything I wrote about Sherrod about nastiness and apply it to Newhouse.

Newhouse has showed signs of being a decent pass-blocker, but the Packers are looking for more of a complete package. They need more consistency in pass blocking and more results in run blocking.

One possible scenario with Newhouse if he doesn’t win the starting right tackle job is this: The Packers would have two “sixth men” up front, Newhouse at tackle and a more physical run blocker-type player at guard.

Don Barclay
The undrafted rookie was a great story last season, but I’m not sure he’s starter material. Does that make him a good fit as the sixth man?

Pro Football Focus gave Barclay a -7.5 grade last season, -6.4 pass blocking and -0.8 run blocking. He’s physical enough to clear some lanes run blocking, but he’s on the small side.

I see Barclay as a decent backup, someone who can fill in here and there and not blow up the entire line. However, if he’s asked to start for an extended period of time, things could take a turn for the worse.

I suppose that fits the definition of a sixth man. If I thought he was a lights out player, I’d predict him to be the starter instead of including him in the discussion as sixth man.

David Bakhtiari
It looks like the rookie is in the mix to start at right tackle, which automatically puts him in the sixth-man race.

Bakhtiari played on a bad team in college and flew under the radar, but it sounds like he’s athletic enough to move around the line and had a good rookie camp.

Scouting reports questioned Bakhtiari’s athleticism and pegged him as a guard in the NFL, but at least for now, he’s being tried out at tackle.

Is Bakhtiari strong enough to play inside? That’s a question we seem to be asking about all of the sixth-man candidates besides Barclay.

Final Word
It’s way too early to say anything for sure, but “I have no idea” is a boring answer.

My gut tells me that Newhouse will win the right tackle job and Barclay will be the sixth man. The seventh lineman to dress on Sundays will be Bakhtiari, leaving Sherrod’s future in doubt.

I would not be shocked at all if Barclay and Bakhtiari end up starting at least one game apiece in 2013. I also wouldn’t be shocked at all if everything I’ve written in this post is obsolete come the first day of training camp.

Another thing that just popped in my mind: Where does Andrew Datko fit into this discussion? How about Greg Van Roten or Lane Taylor?

The offensive line will be an interesting storyline to follow and a lot of the story is unknown at the moment.

Packers LB Desmond Bishop: DPOY or Playing for a Different Team?

Desmond Bishop

Will Packers LB recover from his injury and be on the team come September?

This story from Tyler Dunne in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel about Packers linebacker Desmond Bishop is extremely well written. After reading it, you can’t help but like the guy even more than you probably already do.

In the story, Bishop says one of his goals is to win defensive player of the year in 2013.

Unfortunately, as entertaining as the story is, it doesn’t really address the main question I have about Bishop as the Packers open OTAs: What are the odds that he’s actually on the team once the season starts?

Reports surfaced during the NFL draft that the Packers were trying to trade Bishop. Several moves the Packers made in the offseason — bringing back A.J. Hawk, re-signing Brad Jones for $4 million, adding another inside linebacker in the draft — made it appear that the Packers might not be too confident in Bishop’s chances of returning from the torn hamstring he suffered last preseason.

“Trade or release Bishop?” you’re probably asking. “But I thought he was supposed to boost the Packers physicality and automatically improve the inside linebacker corp?”

In a perfect world, that’s exactly what would happen. But how perfect is the Packers’ world when it comes to injuries lately? Not very. J.C. Tretter, one of Green Bay’s fourth-round draft picks, just snapped his ankle in a fumble-recovery drill. Two of the past three seasons have seen the team ravaged by injuries. The scuttle around the Packers is that Ted Thompson won’t hesitate to jettison players who are hampered by injuries.

I suppose the release of D.J. Smith last month is a good sign for Bishop staying in Green Bay. Then again, Smith was also coming off a season-ending injury. Perhaps the Packers also won’t hesitate to cut ties with Bishop like they did with Smith if doubts about Bishop’s health linger further into the summer.

Look, it’s still May. This Bishop story has several chapters that have yet to be written. If you want to read another positive piece on Bishop’s outlook, check this out from Jason Hirschhorn at Acme Packing Company.

Dunne and Hirschhorn’s rosy outlook on Bishop could very well prove to be true. I hope it does. A healthy Bishop playing like he did in 2011 would do wonders for the defense.

But a torn hamstring is a nasty injury. Too nasty for Bishop to remain a Packer? I hope not, but right now, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if Bishop is playing for a different team come September.

Packers Jarrett Bush has Managed to Stick Around

Jarrett Bush

Packers CB Jarrett Bush has stuck with the team since 2006.

The pitchforks were out and the torches were lit after the 2009 season. Packers fans wanted cornerback Jarrett Bush off the team.

I admit that I was one of those Packers fans holding a torch high in one hand and a pitchfork in the other. I was sick of seeing Bush stumbling three yards behind a receiver after a double move left him in the dust and led to another touchdown against the Packers.

Ted Thompson has never paid much attention to the pitchfork- and torch-wielding sector of the Packers’ fanbase, and he held true to that philosophy with Bush. Now the undrafted free agent out of Utah St. and claimed by the Packers off waivers from Carolina is one of the longest-tenured Packers, a good special teams player and, dare I say it, somewhat beloved by fans.

I say “somewhat” because if Bush ever ends up playing significantly as a defensive back again, it will probably get ugly and fans will turn on him again. But as long as he remains the blue-collar, hard-working leader of the special teams unit, the love for Bush will only get stronger.

Admit it: When Bush picked off Ben Roethlisberger in the Super Bowl, you slapped yourself and wondered aloud if you just watched Jarrett Bush intercept a pass in the Super Bowl. For the Green Bay Packers. In January of 2011.

That play sticks in my mind to this day. Bush, a player who didn’t even get love from the fanbase of the team he played for, kept plugging away and made an impact when called upon to do so on the biggest stage.

If you were paying attention throughout the 2010 season, you would have noticed Bush making an impact on special teams. On Packers teams not known for their physicality and tackling, Bush goes as hard as anyone on special teams and is never afraid to stick his nose in the middle of the action and attempt to make a tackle.

Ever since Bush has been able to focus on special teams (albeit for one start in the 2012 season opener that didn’t go well), he’s found a place in Green Bay as a veteran and emotional leader.

If Bush makes a big tackle on special teams, he’s fired up and running his mouth. If he finds himself on the field for a defensive snap and makes a routine play, he’s fired up and running his mouth.

Yeah, the latter can be annoying, but it’s who Bush is. Raw emotion helped him stick with the Packers as long as he has and he’s not going to change.

Bush will be the second-longest tenured Packer behind Aaron Rodgers once the 2013 season starts. There’s a chance rookie Micah Hyde and a deep defensive backfield could lead to Bush’s exit in final training camp cutdowns, but I’m not betting against Bush.

Then again, maybe I should. We all bet against him before and he turned into a useful player.

Surviving Sunday: Packers News, Notes and Links for the Football Deprived

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football.

If I was creating my own perfect media universe to feed me information on the Green Bay Packers, here’s what it would look like:

Play-by-play announcer: Wayne Larrivee. No explanation needed. I could listen to Wayne all day — even if the Packers were losing by seven touchdowns — and still get enjoyment out of the game.

Color commentator: Mike Mayock. I used to have Cris Collinsworth ahead of Mayock, but not any more. Mayock made those boring Thursday night games on NFL Network tolerable last season. I’ll take substance over style from my color commentary each and every time.

Sideline reporter: Doris Burke. Ok, I’m cheating a little bit. Those of you who watch Burke work the sideline and conduct in-game interviews with coaches during NBA games know why I choose her, however. She takes the job seriously and actually tries to tell the viewer something that doesn’t insult his/her intelligence. Her questions are always light on fluff and high on substance.

Studio host: Trey Wingo. Doesn’t need catch phrases or tired schtick to be effective.

Studio analysts: LeRoy Butler and Mark Tauscher. Both guys have ties to the Packers, are extremely engaging and provide good insight.

Main beat writer: Tom Silverstein. Hard working. In-depth. No frills. Smart. Insightful. Gets a little snarky on Twitter. Everything you want out of a beat guy.

Secondary beat writer: Rob Demovsky. Doesn’t get enough credit because the talent pool of Packers reporters is deep. He’s one of the better ones.

Columnist: Bob McGinn. Years upon years of working with sources and dropping knowledge. He also tends to get people a little riled up, which a good columnist will do every now and then.

Radio talk show hosts: Jason Wilde and Bill Johnson. No need to re-create the wheel. Just keep Green and Gold Today what is already is: A show to discuss the Packers, not rant and rave incoherently like most sports talk radio shows.

Blogger: Jersey Al. One of the originals and still the best.

5 Packers people to follow on Twitter: @PackerRanter: Deep. @jrehor: Passionate. @Aaron_Nagler: NFL. @Packerpedia: Informative. @BrianCarriveau: Dedicated.

That about sums it up. I’m sure I left some good people off, but hopefully they get over it and their feelings aren’t hurt too bad by being left off such a prestigious list.

How would you all set up your ideal Packers media universe to stay up to date and engaged with the greatest franchise in the history of sports?

Packers News, Notes and Links

  • Jason Hirschhorn at Acme Packing Company has a great post about Randall Cobb and the upcoming 2013 season. I wrote about Cobb this week as well. The headline I chose for the post leaves it wide open for a Michael Scott “that’s what she said” remark.
  • Alex Petakas at ESPN Milwaukee has an interesting profile on Packers rookie WR Charles Johnson. It’s hard to not cheer for a guy to make it when his resume includes a stint at Antelope Community College.
  • I have yet to participate in a Google+ hangout (isn’t it basically Skype?), but Eddie Lacy did with the folks from Brian Carriveau recaps the occasion here.
  • The Packers Tailgate Tour kicked off this week and Alex Green is one of the players participating. With the addition of Lacy and Jonathan Franklin, Green is a bit of a forgotten man. He talks about that and other topics with Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in this story. I had high hopes for Green when he took over last season, but he wasn’t nearly as explosive as I thought he’d be. Sounds like his knee was still hurting, so we’ll see what another offseason of recovery did for him come training camp.
  • Aaron Rodgers doing more great things to boost the MAAC Fund’s fight against childhood cancer.
  • Seahawks CB Richard Sherman has invited Lance Easley — the clown/ref who was behind the Fail Mary debacle — to umpire his charity softball game. I have to admit, that’s pretty funny.
  • Packers president Mark Murphy would like to one day see Brett Favre on the annual offseason tailgate tour. I think that’d be great for multiple reasons: 1) Favre will be welcomed back to the Packers family one day and getting out and mingling with the fans is the best way to continue rebuilding his image; 2) Favre’s image likely will never be totally rebuilt, which could make for some entertaining and awkward moments on the tour; and 3) I’d love to be in the same room as Favre when he starts telling Packers stories from the 90s. Love him or hate him, that would be some great entertainment.
  • Need more Favre talk? John Rehor addresses Murphy’s comments on

Non-Packers Links and Other Nonsense

  • It’s not every day you see the mayor of a major metropolitan city involved in a crack scandal, with video evidence.
  • Ever wonder what happens when a deer crashes through the window of a bus? Wonder no more.
  • The Office on NBC came to a close on Thursday. It got pretty bad the last couple of seasons, but all in all, it was a great run (despite forcing Aaron Rodgers to say some terrible lines).
  • “Stone Cold” Steve Austin has a podcast and it might be the greatest thing ever. The episode where he spends 30 minutes talking about flies is comedy gold.

Could Fewer Touches Lead to More Production for Packers WR Randall Cobb?

Packers WR Randall Cobb

Packers WR Randall Cobb.

Breakout WR/HB/KR/PR Randall Cobb touched the ball 159 times and amassed a Packers franchise record 2,342 all-purpose yards in 2012.

It was quite the season for the second-year talent out of Kentucky, and very necessary. Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson all missed significant time with injuries. Cobb, along with James Jones, stepped up to fill the void left by Jennings and Nelson and helped negate the Packers struggles running the ball.

But 159 touches is a lot for a player who is 5-foot-10 and 191 pounds. Cobb injured his ankle and missed the season finale against the Vikings. He also managed just six catches for 31 yards in two playoff games and was taken off of punt returns against the 49ers, only to see rookie Jeremy Ross muff one deep in Green Bay territory that led to a San Francisco touchdown.

I was at the wild-card win over the Vikings and watched Cobb limp around on that ankle. He was hurting. The explosion wasn’t there.

With Jennings gone, it’s assumed Cobb will have an even bigger role in the offense. His role probably will be bigger, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll touch the ball 159 times again.

Cobb was targeted 104 times in 2012, the most since Jennings’ 125 targets in 2010. If Nelson stays healthy, and Jones repeats his stellar 2012 season, perhaps that number will come down a bit.

The addition of Eddie Lacy and Jonathan Franklin — and the shuffling of the offensive line — could also lead to more success in the running game and fewer touches for Cobb.

Of those 159 touches, 10 came as a halfback. You have to figure he won’t carry the ball any more with Lacy and Franklin around.

As great as Cobb is, a little bit less of a workload might be good for him and ensure that he’s just as productive in the playoffs as he is in week eight.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying the Packers should purposely look away from Cobb and reduce his role in the offense. He’s too talented to set off to the side.

All I’m saying is that other players stepping up might take some of the burden off the shoulders of the smallish Cobb, making him that much more explosive when he does get the ball.

A total of 69 touches came on kick and punt returns. If the Packers remove Cobb from special teams, that should also help keep him fresh. It’s unclear at the moment which way Mike McCarthy is leaning on that topic.

I’m fine with taking Cobb off of special teams as long as there’s a close-to-equal replacement. Having a talented return man is a major weapon and worth a bit of a tradeoff in wear and tear and production on offense.

Perhaps a reduced special teams role is in store for Cobb, one where he returns kicks only on certain occasions when the Packers need a spark.

The next step in Cobb’s bright young career is to stay healthy and be productive for an entire season. If that means carrying less of the load, then so be it. If the Packers aren’t ravaged by injuries again, they should be able to not lean so heavily on Cobb.

But if injuries do strike once again, or Jones/Nelson/Lacy/Franklin falter for whatever reason, it’s good to know that Cobb is able to touch the ball 159 times and do all he can to pick up the slack.

Let’s just hope it doesn’t come to that. I think Cobb be just as productive, maybe even more productive, with 125 touches.

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.

Writers are going to look for those “(insert name of Rookie) could start” stories because it’s no fun to write about guys who will need a year or two on the bench.

Sifting through the coach-speak and generic story topics that pop up during every NFL spring can be tedious, but that’s what we get for covering the now year-round monster that is the NFL.

Hey, if one of the rookies steps up and starts the first game, we can always say “I told you so.”

Surviving Sunday: Packers News, Notes and Links for the Football Deprived

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers made his acting debut on NBC’s The Office on Thursday. It was, well, not very good.

Rodgers picked a bad show to make his TV debut. The first couple seasons of The Office were excellent (if you’re one of those people who insists on telling anyone within earshot how much better the British version of the show is than the American version, go away. Nobody cares. You’re not cooler than everybody else in the room like you think you are.). Unfortunately, the show has been steadily declining since its promising start and has fallen off a creative cliff since Steve Carell left.

Thursday’s episode couldn’t even be saved by a cameo from the former MVP.

But Rodgers’ appearance on the program got me thinking: What current or past TV show or movie would you put Rodgers in if you had such power?

I’d cast him as Stan Gable, the lead jock/villain/bully on Revenge of the Nerds. It’s not the most glamorous role, but I think it fits Rogers perfectly.

Gable was a jock, obviously a good match for Rodgers, the star quarterback. Gable also had a tinge of cockiness too him, ditto for Rodgers. I don’t see Rodgers being mean-spirited like Gable, but that’s why they call it acting. I’m sure Rodgers has the chops to play the role of a**hole in a comedy, if needed.

Revenge of the Nerds also just seems like an Aaron Rodgers type of movie. Goofy, fun, inspirational, pushes the envelope without going too far, makes low-brow humor seem more sophisticated than it really is. Most importantly, it was a great movie.

After I got done casting Rodgers, I made a few other casting decisions to enhance the acting careers or other Packers players.

Clay Matthews, Ghost
Admit it. You can totally see Matthews replacing Patrick Swayze in the pottery scene with Demi Moore.

John Kuhn, Missing in Action
If I had to pick a Packers player that most resembles Chuck Norris in both looks and cult status, I’d go with Kuhn.

The Packers Offensive Line, Ghostbusters
I can picture Josh Sitton, T.J. Lang, Bryan Bulaga and Marshall Newhouse making wisecracks at each other and zapping ghosts.

Tramon Williams, Scooby-Doo
When it comes time to get dirty and make tackle, Tramon runs away like Shaggy from a Scooby-Doo cartoon vilian.

Mike McCarthy, The Wire
I know McCarthy is white and Bunk is black, but I think the coach could play the role of aging, jaded, crusty, overweight homicide detective perfectly.

Post your casting decisions in the comments section. What other Packers might be missing their calling as acting stars?

Packers News, Notes and Links

  • Packers rookie minicamp opened this week and there are all kinds of interesting stories popping up. Here’s a good one from Tyler Dunne at the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel on running back Eddie Lacy and some of his past health issues, including insight from some of his former coaches. The kid sounds tough, that’s for sure.
  • It’s already happening, the most annoying part of every Packers offseason and training camp: People whining and complaining about the backup quarterback situation. Jason Wilde of ESPN Milwaukee wrote about the development of B.J. Coleman, last season’s third stringer. Could he give Graham Harrell a run for the backup spot this fall? Whatever it takes for the Packers to not overpay a veteran QB just for the sake of having a veteran backup, I’m all for it.
  • Sounds like David Bakhtiari could be in the mix at right tackle. Nothing against Bakhtiari, but I can’t spell his name so I’m hoping someone else wins the job.
  • Check out Packers rookie minicamp central at Acme Packing Company for everything else you may or may not want to know about the rookies.
  • Once you’ve read up on the Packers rookie camp, be sure to listen to the post-draft podcast at While you’re there, also check out the latest podcast from the ‘Ol Bag of Donuts crew.
  • Aaron Rodgers continues doing some amazing things to help the fight against childhood cancer through the MACC Fund. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel had a good story about Rodgers’ and the MACC Fund’s work this week.

Non-Packers News, Notes and Links

  • Remember the movie Kids  from the mid-90s? I do because I watched it several times in my parent’s basement, careful to keep the sound down so my parents couldn’t figure out that it was a movie that I shouldn’t be watching. Anyway, here’s where several of the actors/characters from that movie are at today. It’s depressing.
  • This New York City detective is known for getting convictions on cases he’s assigned to. Now the Brooklyn district attorney is ordering over 50 of those cases to be reviewed. This is a great read.
  • That’s all for this week. The wife and I are babysitting our niece and nephew, and I need to make sure they don’t destroy anything while my wife is doing something else.


Surviving Sunday: Packers News, Notes and Links for the Football Deprived

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

With NFL draft now behind us, I’ve found myself asking one question about the Packers over the last week: Do the players Ted Thompson selected make the Packers a more physical team?

The answer I come up with is…maybe?

  • First-round pick Datone Jones is 6-foot-4, 280 pounds. When you see him play, you think long and lean instead of tough and mean. But a player’s height and weight doesn’t tell you much about how physical they’ll play. I’m sure Jones will add some weight. If he doesn’t, sometimes smaller guys play with such an attitude that they might as well be 320 pounds of brute force.
  • The first thing that comes to mind when I watch Eddie Lacy run is physical. You can automatically place Mr. Lacy in the immediately-makes-the-Packers-more-physical category. The catch with Lacy is his health. One of his big toes is fused on, he’s got screws in his hand, he can barely bench press because of an old pectoral injury and he’s had hamstring issues. It’s hard to help your team be more physical while riding an exercise bike on the sideline. Let’s hope Lacy is able to use his aggression on the field instead of in the team’s rehab facility.
  • J.C. Tretter and David Bakhtiari are two offensive linemen that were not projected to be drafted because of their physicality. The Packers like drafting athletic college tackles who can play multiple positions in the NFL, and that’s what Tretter and Bakhitiari are. I suppose they could develop into maulers, but neither one makes me think they’ll immediately make the Packers more physical.
  • When you think of being physical, do you think of riding a Jetski? Probably not, but that’s the nickname given to Packers fourth-round pick Jonathan Franklin because of his ability to leave defenders in his wake. Franklin does little to make the Packers more physical, but I don’t really care. You don’t draft speedy running backs to batter the other team. You draft them to run away from the other team once they are already battered.
  • Fifth-round pick Micah Hyde probably won’t get an opportunity to make the Packers more physical on an every-down basis, but he should get his shot on special teams. The Packers could always use more physicality on their special teams. Josh Boyd, the Packers other fifth-round pick, is 6-foot-3, 310 pounds. He at least possesses the measurements to make the Packers more physical.
  • I don’t know enough about the late-round picks to speculate either way. Nate Palmer is intriguing, though.

Regardless of how Mike McCarthy and the Packers try to spin it, they need to play more physical in 2013. Third-and-1 shouldn’t have to be a nail-biting adventure all the time. Adrian Peterson shouldn’t run for over 500 yards whenever he plays against Green Bay. Quarterbacks, regardless of how mobile they are, shouldn’t be able to move and dance around the field whenever they feel like it.

Staying healthy will go a long way in improving the Packers’ physicality (I love that word). I hope the draft class does too, but I’m not quite sold yet.

Of course, it’s silly to judge a draft class on their physicality before any of them step foot on the field, but the NFL draft wouldn’t be as fun as it is without the prognostication, speculation and analysis that comes with it.

When it comes to the physicality of this Packers’ draft class, let’s hope my “maybe?” turns into and firm “YES!”

Packers News, Notes and Links

  • The folks had Cheesehead Radio had a nice chat with Packers defensive lineman Ryan Pickett this week. Make sure to give it a listen here.
  • The Packers offensive line, it’s a shufflin’. Check out the changes here, then read the words I wrote about it here.
  • Al Harris officially retired as a Packer this week. Jason Wilde always had interesting interviews and stories on Harris, and Wilde’s blog post this week was no exception.
  • Evan Western at Acme Packing Company breaks down the Packers wide receiver post-draft.
  • Could the Packers add a veteran safety? Brian Carriveau at CheeseheadTV has a nice breakdown of that situation.
  • Quick shoutout to Packerpedia’s twitter account. They’re always tweeting useful news and nuggets of information on the Packers that are great for people on the go (also check out their fine blog here).

Non-Packers Links and Other Nonsense

  • Slayer guitarist Jeff Hanneman died this week from liver failure. People always laugh at me when they learn I’ve listened to Slayer since I was 10 years old, but I don’t care. There is more emotion and feeling packed into a Slayer song like “War Ensemble” than most of what passes as acceptable or safe music that the “cool” people listen to these days. Hanneman’s death bothers me. I know, he’s just some quasi-celebrity that I’ve never met and probably have little in common with, but when you’ve connected with a band’s music for 20 years, it stings a bit to see one of its members die. It’s an odd sense of feeling old yourself, knowing you’ll never get to hear him play again, and hoping he’s up in heaven (or hell, he played in Slayer, after all) at peace and with a clear understanding of all the lives he touched through playing loud, obnoxious, fast, and just plain awesome music. I guess I would compare the feeling to how I felt after Reggie White died, even though I was much younger when White passed on.
  • That’s all I got this week. RIP Jeff Hanneman \m/ \m/




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.

Does shifting players on the offensive line automatically make the Packers more physical? Not necessarily, but it doesn’t hurt, either.

Staying healthy up front, no matter where players line up, should automatically help the Packers play more physical. I also think moving away from zone blocking will lead to more physicality, but that’s a different topic.

It will be interesting to see how the Packers will operate with a few new toys in the backfield and a shuffled offensive line. Bulaga, Sitton and Lang have been around a while. With them, health is more of a concern than learning new positions.

If those three remain healthy, and Dietrich-Smith, Newhouse/Barclay/Sherrod make progress, good things could (finally!) happen for the Packers on the offensive line.

Around the NFC North: 2013 NFL Draft Edition

Vikings first-round draft pick Shariff Floyd.

Vikings first-round draft pick Shariff Floyd.

The Packers used the 2013 NFL Draft to finally address the running back position and add a much-needed player on the defensive line. What were the Packers division opponents up to in the draft?

Well, two of them used fifth-round selections to take punters and another drafted an offensive lineman in the first round that most analysts pegged as a second or third rounder.

Those were a few of the moves that made people scratch their heads. But it wasn’t all bad in Vikings/Lions/Bears land. Let’s take a trip around the NFC North to see how the Packers’ rivals used the draft to (maybe) close the gap and challenge Green Bay for a division title in 2013.

Minnesota Vikings

The Picks:

1 — Sharrif Floyd, DT Florida
1 — Xaveir Rhodes, CB Florida State
1 — Cordarelle Patterson, WR Tennessee
4 — Gerald Hodges, LB Penn State
5 — Jeff Locke, P UCLA
6 — Jeff Baca, G UCLA
7 — Michael Mauti, LB Penn State
7 — Travis Bond, OG North Carolina
7 — Everett Dawkins, DT Floriday State

The Breakdown:

Just when it looked like the Vikings might be on the right track, they draft a punter in the fifth round. A punter! In the fifth round!

Ok, a fifth-round pick isn’t going to make or break a draft, but c’mon. A punter! In the fifth round!

Until that happened, the Vikings were doing some good things. At first glance, the trade to get a third first-round pick seemed like a horrible idea. Minnesota gave up a lot to move up and pick a receiver, a position you can usually fill later in the draft.

But the more I thought about it, the more I liked it. How often do you have a chance to pick three players in the first round? Rarely. General manager Rick Spielman had some extra picks to work with so he was able to make the deal. When the draft was over, the Vikings still ended up with nine players, even after the trade. That’s a fair balance of using several picks to build depth and making a move that is risky, but could pay off.

Despite making the playoffs last season, the Vikings still need to be thinking long-term. I don’t think the trade altered that long-term mindset at all.

Sharrif Floyd is a tremendous value late in the first round. He was the best player on the board at that point in the night and will fill in nicely when Kevin Williams is likely gone after this season.

Xavier Rhodes and Cordarelle Patterson address immediate needs. The Vikings need all the help they can get in the secondary to try and contain the Packers and Lions passing attacks, especially with Antoine Winfield off the team. We all know how bad the Vikings receivers were last season. Any help in that area would be more than welcome.

Middle linebacker is probably the Vikings biggest remaining hole. They’re a little weak at guard as well (but with Adrian Peterson carrying the ball, who cares?). I also think safety leaves a lot to be desired despite Harrison Smith’s impressive rookie year.

The Vikings ran their 2013 draft the same way they run their organization: Make a big splash that may or may not work (trade) and do something really dumb that leaves people scratching their heads (punter in fifth round). Business as usual for the folks who like to wear golden braids and blow their own horns.

But if two of the Vikings three first-rounders develop into good players, watch out. Minnesota is stashing some interesting young players that could develop into blue-chippers.

Detroit Lions

The Picks:

1 — Ziggy Ansah, DE BYU
2 — Darius Slay, CB Mississippi State
3 — Larry Warford, G, Kentucky
4 — Devin Taylor, DE South Carolina
5 — Sam Martin, P Appalachian State
6 — Corey Fuller, WR Virginia Tech
6 — Theo Riddick, RB Notre Dame
7 — Michael Williams, TE Alabama
7 — Brandon Hepburn, LB Florida A&M

The Breakdown

Because when you have an opportunity to draft a punter from Appalachian State in the fifth round, you have to do it…

I’ve been hearing for the last three years about how scary the Lions defensive line is. As soon as Ansah was picked, everyone once again started talking about how scary the Lions defensive line is.

Sure the Lions defensive line is good, but good enough to contain Aaron Rodgers and Adrian Peterson and make up for other deficiencies on the team? Nah.

Will the addition of Ansah change that answer from nay to yay? I don’t think so, but if he’s used right, he’ll have an impact. I don’t see Ansah as an every-down player, at least not right now. Put him out there as a pass-rusher in sub-packages for about 30 snaps per game and I think he’ll do some damage.

Thanks to the addition of Jason Jones and fourth-round pick Devin Taylor, the Lions defensive line may indeed become scary if managed correctly. Is Jim Schwartz capable of managing anything correctly?

Darius Slay has a knee injury that will probably linger into training camp. The Lions always need help in the secondary so you’d think they would avoid defensive backs with potential injury issues. Being 6-feet and possessing speed to run the 40 in 4.36 seconds goes a long way in helping teams get past injury concerns.

We know Jim Schwartz does a pretty good job of developing defensive linemen. Now it’s time to find out if he can develop anything else. With the right rotations on the defensive front, the line could go from good to great and maybe finally become as scary as everyone thinks they are.


Chicago Bears

The Picks

1 — Kyle Long, G Oregon
2 — Jonathan Bostic, LB Florida
4 — Khaseem Greene, LB Rutgers
5 — Jordan Mills, T Louisiana Tech
6 — Cornelius Washington, DE Georgia
7 — Marquess Wilson, WR Washington State

The Breakdown

All I’ve been hearing is how Kyle Long wasn’t a good “value” at 20th overall. I’ve got news for you: Coaches don’t care about value as it relates to draft position. They want guys who can play.

I think Long can play, and play right away. If you see a guy that you think can play and will be a good player, then pick him. Value be damned. I suppose you could try and trade down, but it takes two teams to trade. Perhaps the Bears didn’t like what was being offered.

I see Long playing guard right away, then one day moving to tackle or center because of his athleticism.

The Bears could always use help on the offensive line, but they’re biggest need is at linebacker after Brian Urlacher was shown the door. Jon Bostic should fill in nicely inside. In a perfect world, Khaseem Greene or Cornellius Washington will one day take over for Lance Briggs, but we’ll see if that actually pans out.

I’m surprised the Bears didn’t take a quarterback in the mid to late rounds. New coach Marc Trestman would have probably welcomed a development project and the Bears could use some insurance in case contract negotiations with Jay Cutler take a turn for the worst.

Are the Bears close to returning to the playoffs or are they in some type of rebuilding mode? The answer to that question depends on how Trestman and Cutler click, not so much on this draft class.

My gut tells me the Bears are rebuilding, but we’ll see.