When a team has a Quarterback who is sacked 51 times during a season in which he is the team’s second-leading rusher, that team definitely has a blocking problem. That before-mentioned team was the 2012 Green Bay Packers. Despite the fact that Aaron Rodgers was forced to get rid of the ball quickly when he wasn’t on his back, the Packers won 11 games and the NFC North.
Even though a whopping 464 yards rushed by a guy no longer around was good enough to lead the team, the Packers won a playoff game. That won’t be the case this season. If the Bryan Bulaga-less offensive line consistently gets over-matched by defensive front sevens like it did last season and in their last two preseason games, the 2013 Green Bay Packers will fall quite short of matching it’s 2012 success. A fifth-consecutive playoff berth might be in jeopardy as well.
Ted Thompson noticed the blocking and rushing problems his team had this past April. During the annual draft, he selected Eddie Lacy in the second round. Lacy, the six-foot, 230-pound bruiser of a back out of Alabama, slid out of the first round due to injury concerns. Trusting his scouting department, Thompson paid little attention to Lacy’s critics and quite possibly got the steal of the whole weekend. The next day, Thompson also drafted the athletic Johnathan Franklin, an underrated runner out of UCLA.
After several trades earlier in the draft, the Packers also had two additional fourth round picks. Thompson chose two offensive lineman with those selections, J.C. Tretter from Cornell and David Bakhtiari out of Colorado, respectively. Tretter unfortunately suffered a leg injury during OTA’s that will likely keep him out until 2014, but Bakhtiari has looked promising so far while filling in at left tackle for the injured Bulaga. Meanwhile, Lacy has looked impressive in training camp and preseason games. While Franklin has underwhelmed so far, his potential and explosiveness is unquestioned.
Just drafting lineman and running backs will not improve your team’s protection and rushing fortunes, however. With dominant front-sevens such as San Francisco, Cincinnati, Baltimore, Chicago, and the New York Giants, among others, on the schedule, Bakhtiari will face the best-of-the-best week in and week out. While Lacy, John Kuhn, and James Starks can help ease Bakhtiari’s job with chip blocks and long runs, the rest of the offensive line needs to step up.
Even though Josh Sitton produced a pro bowl season last year, and Evan Dietrich-Smith is an upgrade at center over Jeff Saturday, T.J. Lang and Don Barclay will need to elevate their play for the rookie runners to be able to make an impact, along with Rodgers being able to stay upright and healthy. Lang and Barclay especially have an added responsibility, as 64% of the Packers runs were towards the right side last season.
If the Packers offensive line can open up holes for runners and keep their quarterback on his feet, this team’s success will be limitless. Lacy is talented enough to be a difference-maker, and any team with Aaron Rodgers throwing passes for them has a chance to win every Sunday. But if Bakhtiari has too many rookie hiccups, and the rest of the offensive line struggle as a whole, the Packers will lose more than five games. They may even lose enough games to miss the postseason for the first time since 2008. Not even the reigning-MVP Adrian Peterson could be successful with the Packers 2012 offensive line. In 2013, this team’s offensive success truly starts and ends with the line.
Note: This guest post was submitted by twitter follower Joe Cardinali