Handicapping the Right Side of the Offensive Line:
With the left side of the Green Bay Packers offensive line firmly intact for years to come, they have set themselves up through the draft and player development to have ample options to effectively fill in the right side of the offensive line for the duration of Brian Bulaga’s absence.
Bulaga is said to be ahead of schedule in his rehabilitation from ACL surgery but the Packers will still be planning for him to rehab and return in time for a postseason push. In the meantime, the Packers will be forced to put together a makeshift offense line, which has some worried that the offensive line will struggle again in 2018.
It is clear that the Packers want to give the young members of the right side of their offensive line every chance to win a starting job out of training camp. Right now Justin McCray, Lucas Patrick, Kofi Amichia, Cole Madison, and Jason Spriggs will be competing for the right guard and right tackle positions.
Ideally, this should have been Jason Spriggs time to win the right tackle position and replace Brian Bulaga but subpar play the last couple of seasons has Spriggs’s Packers career hanging by a thread. Justin McCray and Lucas Patrick saw consistent reps last season with Brian Bulaga and David Bahktiari missing a combined 15 games, so they will have a slight leg up on the rest of the competition because of their experience in the system.
However, despite the experience that McCray and Patrick received last season, I believe that Cole Madison could be a potential dark horse to win either the right tackle or right guard position out of training camp. Pro football focus rated Cole Madison as the best offensive tackle in college football in 2016.
Madison provided coverage for Luke Falk’s passing pocket at Washington State, allowing just 2 sacks out of 648 pass block attempts while allowing Falk to pass for 4,449 yards, and 39 touchdowns in 2016. In addition to his stellar track record in the passing game, Madison was the pillar of the Cougars rushing attack that rushed for it’s most yards (1,522) and touchdowns (23) since the 2006 season.
The Packers have a few viable options on the right side of their line:
1. They could start out with Justin McCray at Right Guard and Lucas Patrick at Right tackle
2. They could start the season with Cole Madison at Right Guard and have Justin McCray/Lucas Patrick at Right Tackle.
3. If Cole Madison can Athletically adjust to the right tackle position, the Packers could resign Jahri Evans to play right guard and have Cole Madison start at right tackle. If this solution pans out the Packers could put themselves in a situation to make a decision on Brian Bulaga prior to coming off of PUP or going into next offseason.
4. Best case scenario: Cole Madison starts the season at right guard and a healthy Brian Bulaga starts the season at right tackle.However, the situation on the right side of the offensive line unfolds during this offseason the Packers will have a competent group assembled to protect Aaron Rodgers. They have constructed their offensive line with many interchangeable pieces to provide depth at multiple positions and have drafted a player in Cole Madison who is a diamond in the rough, high ceiling prospect who could potentially be the long-term solution at either right guard or right tackle.