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.”

40 Comments On “Could the Packers Start a Rookie on the Offensive Line?”

  1. The very fact that you wrote this ‘what if’ tale has me worried about the O-line. The scenario that you missed is that our O-line may start five guys who are playing a different position from last year. What does that tell you about the state of affairs. If we waste next season making excuses about 50 sacks, a defense that is on the field too long and an impotent running game, I am going to seek out a Bears fan treatment program.

    I’ll say this – at least we are trying something. But this roulette approach to re-training mid-round draftees doesn’t appear to be working. The program for training guys all over the line is a nice concept but we don’t seem to ever have a quality starting O-line. at some point the experimentation needs to stop or the Aaron Rodgers era will be gone. Maybe it is time to change some of these coaches and maybe buying a real left tackle.

    • “If we waste next season making excuses about 50 sacks, a defense that is on the field too long and an impotent running game, I am going to seek out a Bears fan treatment program.”

      That made my day… 🙂

    • “The program for training guys all over the line is a nice concept but we don’t seem to ever have a quality starting O-line.”

      This is for back-up players. It would be nice to have 5 back-ups for the 5 players on the line, but it’s not realistic. You need back-up guys who can play T/G or G/C so that you don’t have to reshuffle things in cases of injuries. When a player gets a starting job, then they focus his reps at that one position and stop moving him around.

    • Who wrote it and why? Its not a like a reporter in GB wrote it. A blogger did and basically to elicit the response you gave them.

      I say theres less than a 5% chance a rookie is starting on the OL. Not a big deal moving Bulaga to LT to see if he is the best alternative. I don’t like moving a Pro Bowl player to another position tho. It an over-reaction IMO. Keep Sitton where he excelled… At RG! Give Lang a little competition, in the form of Barclay, who is much better suited at OG than he is at OT. Have a completely open competition at LT w/ Bulaga, Sherrod, Newhouse, Datko et all. Winner is the LT, and the 2nd place starts at RT!

      IMO the best OL in the near future is still…
      Sherrod LT
      Lang/Barclay LG
      EDS Center (Tretter in a few years maybe)
      Sitton RG
      Bulaga RT

      IMO, This may be nothing but a motivational tactic by McCarthy, to let everyone know that jobs aren’t safe and everyone needs to play at their best! 50/50 that by training camp everyone is back at their old positions

    • Well said, I think some mistakes on O Line draft choices are rearing there ugly head, and when you sit in your hands as far as free agents are concerned, you can have problems that GB has been having as far as pass protection and run blocking. I really hope this new line up works, but we need a solid o line that can stay together become dominant

  2. One question Razer, which one of our really important players do you want to get rid of so we can sign a $12M/yr all-pro left tackle? The coming change is being implemented now so we don’t have a roulette match going during the season. I for one think it is going to work. GoPack!

    • Well, you get what you pay for. If, by chance, Bulaga actual holds up at LT, we will pay him big bucks. We will find the money by skimping on WR or LB or wherever TT can draft some cheap talent. Either way, we won’t save much money at the tackle position. If we do, in all likelihood, Rodgers will take a beating. It is called the Newhouse effect (and I actual applaud Newhouse’s effort).

  3. The shake up on the Oline alone, has me worried. Switching Sitton and Bulaga to the leftside is tantimount to an admission that the critcal leftside has been inadequate and needed to be improved. That’s fine and I applaud the move.

    However, BJ at right guard is probably an ok move. The chaos at RT is, however, disconcerning. That and EDS who is not a top grade Center and never has been. Yes, he was better than Saturday who was a complete failure last year. No he is not anything better than a below average starter.

    I cringe when you start throwing around 4th rounders as starter options. They could be good developmental projects, but not starters this soon.

    The Oline is and should be the focus of improvement. At this time they are depending solely on the old guys being better than they were in their previous positions. Possible? Sure but the O and U on that is maybe .20. Still not sure why Campen is coaching the line anymore.

    • If it were August or even late July when these changes were made, I would be just about ready to double my weekly therapy hours. Given that it’s May and we’re headed into the first set of OTAs, this is not a time to panic. If it looks like a train wreck, then we see last year’s starting line when mid-July rolls around.

      The RT slot doesn’t bother me too much, either. Given that’s ARod’s front side, he’ll see whatever’s coming at him. Playable RT are much easier to find than decent LT. If you were at least OK with Barclay holding down that spot last season, I don’t see why this is too concerning yet.

    • let us not forget that tauscher was a 7th rounder.

    • Wells was a below average starter when he took over at Center too. Yet he became an Pro Bowl Center. EDS will improve dramatically this year, w/ a full training camp of playing nothing but Center and over the next couple years will become a good Center. Will he become a Pro Bowler a la Wells? Maybe not, but he’ll be a quality starter. Larry McCarren himself said Centers develop over time, I’ll take his word over yours.

      • Stroh says: “Wells was a below average starter when he took over at Center too. Yet he became an Pro Bowl Center.”

        That sounds like an indictment of the recent quality (or lack thereof) of the centers in the NFC.

        • SCott Wells was an exceptional center.

          To attempt to take anything away from Wells’ talent level is dismissive at best.. and ignorant at worst.

    • Ron LC Says: “Still not sure why Campen is coaching the line anymore.”

      ^^^This!

      Ron, MM actually did say prior to the draft that the left side of the line has been inadequate.

    • Ron, personally I thought Barclay did OK at RT late last year, especially for a rookie. I don’t know enough about this year’s rookie class to make wagers, but if Barclay takes the “next step” from his rookie year I see (or maybe am hoping) for good things. I liked his scrappiness, if that’s a word, last year.

    • Who cares what round they were picked… If they can play, they can play.

      That Mark Tauscher fella did pretty okay, and he was drafted in the 7th round, got the chance to star his rookie seasons when Dotson went down with injury. Mark ended up on IR that year, had surgery(s), but came back his sophomore season and I’m pretty sure he started every game the rest of his career.

      Not bad for a 7th round pick.

      Again, if you can play, you can play.

      See also; Sitton, Josh

  4. Rookies starting first year has been done successfully so sky has not fallen (taucher and clifton easily come to mind)Also the 3 Oline moving around are vets not rookies, all have been practicing at mulitle positions and know the play book so again sky isnt falling.Will there be an adjustment period getting footwork-Sure–but being vets it should be alot easier than for a rookie. Also , the big question is, will the end justify the means.moving people around just to get same results isnt worth it, but , if the end result, is an improvement-then it is worth it.The oline has changed as much as some positions-You DO still want the best players protecting ur QB’s blind side.
    As far as draft picks and what round-we have dedicated 1st round picks to oline but, guess what ? We are successful team and we only get 1 1st rd pick. We dont get top 5 picks-we have to pick at end of rounds.All teams end up with 4th and 5 round and undrafted olineman.Again Taucher was 7th rounder and many others were too.
    Go Pack Go

    • Tauscher and Clifton started due to injury. Otherwise both were backups. By the end of the season both were better than their predecessors, but they weren’t week 1 starters. IMO, the only way a rookie is starting is if EDS suffers and injury and Tretter takes over. Otherwise a rookie won’t start on the OL!

  5. The revamping of the O-Line maybe doesn’t go far enough. EDS is probably best suited to be the backup for the interior positions. Based on his limited playing time last year Barclay seems to be a better run blocker than Lang and a developing pass blocker. Best line may actually be Bulaga, Sitton, Lang, Barclay and winner of competition between Newhouse, Sherrod, Datko, Bahktiari and Tretter.

    The forgotten man in this competition is Datko. If you go back to his junior year in college, before his shoulder problems, he was rated higher than Newhouse, Bahktiare and Tretter. If healthy, which recent articles suggest, he might be a good RT.

    • I like the idea of Barclay at RG, because it means the Packers will have all 5 positions improved over last year.

      But people, it is way too soon to be talking — not just because we haven’t seen the rookies in anything other than underwear, but because these minicamps are about seeing if the new guys can play at all.

      Is Tretter ever going to be a starting tackle in the NFL? Overwhelmingly the chances are no — but if you are going to give the kid a chance to show what he’s got, you do it in May — August is *way* too late.

    • The real forgotten man and the person that no one gives a chance at making the team Is Vanroten.Supposedly bulked up to 320 in the offseason. Worked out real hard and according to several O linemen, GVR is probably the strongest O lineman on the team. Don’t count this guy out. cabn play guard, and center

    • Why do I get this feeling that everyone keeps comparing our other HEALTHY linemen to last year’s INJURED TJ Lang?

      When not beat the heck up, TJ Lang is a brawler.

      • BTW, Add Lang into the “Rookies who played successfully on the OL” list..

        IIRC, he played at every position along the line his rookie year, with the exception of Center, and he played well!

        Was it that same rookie season, or the following year, that the Packers DL depth was depleted due to injury, and TJ Lang also played DT on a handful of occasions over a two or three week period?

        I don’t get how so many people want Lang replaced.. He’s no weak link.

  6. I think the change is going to work and that we are going to win the SuperBowl, but I’m kind of a homer. GoPack!

  7. I’ll take the over on the starting a rookie in week one.

    It appears TT and MM have agreed that a run game is needed and the previous OL isn’t capable of supplying the necessary components for it to work,especially if to aid and protect Rodgers with the offense and his back off the ground.

    I wouldn’t expect EDS to be subplanted early unless Rodgers and ? hook up faster than any MatingDotcom says they can offer.

    So if Barclay shows more of what many already like from him,the pressure mounts for Lang.Lang cannot afford to struggle as he had at previous camps.

    I know Lang is versatile and I have been a big supporter of him but,the fact is Lang is the only veteran at the moment who could be traded for a value return if the competition becomes real close.

  8. Doesn’t matter to me if there’s a rookie starting on the OL as long as it’s the best player at the position.

  9. I said here a few weeks ago that there would be a rookie, draftee or free agent that would start on the offensive line. I still think so but now I think there will be at least two.

    By announcing the shift of BB and JS to the left side of the line, MM is saying the offensive line is now completely open to competition.

    This is good not bad. I think we will be surprised by season end how improved the O-line is

    One caveat: injuries.

  10. A rookie can start in the OL.

    In last year’s draft, the Houston Texans selected in the 4th round, Georgia Center Ben Jones, a player I had hoped TT would have picked. Jones was considered the 2nd best Center in the draft and one of only 3 selected. He was expected to backup Pro Bowl Center Chris Myers while also seeing time at guard. Starting in Week 7, against the Baltimore Ravens, Jones became the starting right guard for the Texans. At the end of the season, his teammates honored him as the Texans’ rookie of the year.

    So, it can be done. The question is, “Are our 4th round picks, Bakhtiari and Tretter, or our undrafted free agents, as exceptional?” Time will tell.

    • I still don’t know why TT did not take center Barett Jones from Alabama with one of our 4th round picks. Seems to me he would have been an immediate upgrade over EDS. Was he injured?

  11. Line will be Bulaga-Sitton-EDS-Lang-Barclay to start the season, and eventually (when he’s fully healthy and conditioned) Sherrod will take Barclay’s spot.

  12. Of course a Packer rookie could start on the offensive line. From McCarthy’s comments it sure looks like 3 of the 5 OL positions are up for grabs. When training camp comes around, we’ll see if any of these guys can play. A number of rookies have started during their rookie seasons – Bulaga, Barclay, Lang, Sitton all started during their rookie seasons – all due to injuries. Had it not been for an injury suffered during the preseason, Sitton probably would have started for the opening game.

  13. My darkhorse pick to start sooner rather than later is Tretter at center. He is already bigger and way more athletic than EDS. Not too mention the Ivy League smarts. Secondly, Barclay at Lang’s spot. I’m just not a big believer in Lang either. Sure seemed like I saw him get blown up an awful lot last year. Plus, I really believe that at only 6-4, Barclay will end up at guard. A dogfight at RT with Bak, Newhouse, and hopefully, Sherrod. I think the shake-up was great. This was the weakest group on the team. Major changes are good.

  14. Bdhustle said: “The forgotten man in this competition is Datko.”

    I agree with this. Bear in mind Datko was talked about as a possible 1st-2nd round talent aside from his injury. Now that he is reportly finally healed, I think it’s very possible he comes “out of nowhere” and makes a real push for the starter job, particularly if Sherrod is never the same player again after his leg injury.

  15. I think the competition on the OL is better than it’s been in years. I’m worried about EDS at center though. Last year Rodgers said that EDS sweated too much. If we have some bad exchanges or the ball slips out of Rodgers hand in hot weather,I hope we have someone else capable of taking over. Will VanRoten or Tretter be ready?

    • This year, my guess is VanRoten at center as a back up. Up 15 lbs this season, real good pass blocker and has explosion for the run game. will be kept as a backup at guard and center. Tretter will train at center this year and challenge for position next year. The rookies have to get used to the speed and strength of the pro game. don’t think MM wants to chance losing rodgers by using a rookie. But, all of this is a moot point if there are injuries,and GB seems to suffer many injuries each year. My prediction, 8 ol on active roster 2 on practice squad.

  16. Sherrod, when 100% could not beat out Newhouse. Since then, Sherrod has essentially sat out two seasons, while Newhouse has started for nearly two seasons at LT. I would place the over / under that Sherrod suddenly gets better than Newhouse at somewhere around the year 2015 / 2016, especially at the RT position, which is substantially easier. Many bad LT’s become pretty decent RT’s … all opinion of course!

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