The seemingly endless game of musical chairs across the offensive line continues for the Green Bay Packers. WBAY’s Chris Roth reprted this morning that Coach Mike McCarthy has informed Packers offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga that he will be returning to his original NFL position of right tackle. This ends an experiment that never really got off the ground when McCarthy and his staff decided to flip the offensive line completely, sending Bulaga to left tackle, All Pro Josh Sitton to left guard, TJ Lang to right guard and created an open competition between Derek Sherrod, Marshall Newhouse and the eventual winner Don Barclay at right tackle.
Roth quotes McCarthy as saying that despite the loss of starting center Evan Dietrich-Smith, the Packers are currently blessed with more depth and talent on the offensive line than in years past. I could not agree more. I’ve always had the same opinion of Bryan Bulaga. He’s a very good player, and while he has the ability of making a Pro Bowl or 2 on the left side and being a slightly above average option at the position, he projects as a possible perennial all pro at right tackle. I really do believe that he has a chance to be a top 5 RT in the league for the next 6-7 years.
More importanlty, moving Bulaga to RT has solidified the offensive line with 3 players that do not have competition for their jobs and are above average at their positions. Left guard, right guard, and right tackle are no longer positions up for debate. Josh Sitton and TJ Lang rank 2nd and 15th, respectively among offensive guards according to Pro Football Focus. Considering that there are 64 starting guard positions available in the NFL that’s pretty outstanding.
By solidifying three spots on the line the Packers have opened up competition for players that they have a high opinion (admittedly conjecture on my part according to their draft position) or have accrued significant playing time. Center has become a competition between Don Barclay and last year’s 4th round selection JC Tretter. Barclay has started big games for the Packers at right tackle and Tretter’s athleticism and Ivy League background has the Packers staff believing and the fans hoping that he’s an upgrade at the position. Tretter and Barclay both stand 2 inches taller than Dietrich-Smith, leading me to believe they fit the “bigger, stronger, tougher” mold that the Packers are striving for.
The competition at left tackle has also opened up. Most fans believe, and I do as well, that David Bakhtiari will get an opportunity to return to the position that he played last season. His contributions to the team were very impressive considering that he was immediately thrown into the fire as a 4th round pick protecting the blind side of the NFL’s best (and most highly compensated) QB. In this article from last season I described his competition, Derek Sherrod, as a “police sketch artists rendition of a perfect left tackle”. I still stand by that now. He stands 6’6″ and weighs in at 308 pounds with 35 3/8 inch arms. Bakhtiari has an NFL season under his belt of being at least passable as an NFL left tackle. However, he will never have the elite physical traits that Sherrod possesses. I don’t know if Derek Sherrod will ever make it back, but if he does no matter how you look at it he’s more talented than Bakhtiari.
Any way you slice it this is good news for the Packers offensive line, and for the first time in a very long time the any of the top 7 players (Bakhtiari, Sitton, Tretter, Lang, Bulaga, Barclay, Sherrod) on the line shouldn’t make Packers fans nervous.