The Packer’s offensive line has had their issues protecting Aaron Rodgers over the years. In 2009 they gave up 51 sacks, the most in the NFL that season. In 2012, they gave up another 51 sacks, just 7 fewer than the Cardinals who led the league with 58.
Since 2008, Rodgers first year as a starter, the Packers have been in the bottom half of the league in sacks allowed every season.
Despite past performance, there is reason to be optimistic about the Packer’s line in 2014. The Packers have experienced guards, young tackles with loads of potential, and at center…well, we will see what happens at center.
In Josh Sitton and TJ Lang the Packers have one of the best guard tandems in the NFL. Sitton has been a starter since 2009, and was elected to a Pro Bowl in 2012 and was selected 2nd team All-Pro in 2013. His 2013 Pro Football Focus ranking of 34.7 was tops among all Packer players, and was the 2nd highest rating of any guard in the league, behind only Philadelphia’s Evan Mathis.
At right guard, TJ Lang hasn’t received the accolades that Sitton has, but he has been solid and reliable, missing only 1 game in the past 3 years. Lang has had a positive grade from PFF every year since becoming a starter in 2011.
The Packers starting tackles aren’t as proven and reliable as the guards, but both have shown promise.
Right tackle Bryan Bulaga’s rookie season was filled with the types of ups and downs you would expect from any young player, even a first round draft pick, but during his second season, Bulaga looked like the dominant tackle the Packers were hoping for. During his 3rd year, Bulaga had a notably poor game against the Seahawks, but bounced back his next few games before being placed on injured reserve due to a hip injury. After missing all of 2013 due to a knee injury, Bulaga will be looking to regain his 2011 form as he enters a contract year.
Like Bulaga, 2nd year tackle David Bakhtiari struggled some during his rookie year, but he showed enough promise that the Packers feel comfortable having him protect Aaron Rodgers’ blind side again this season. Bakhtiari has reportedly added some bulk this offseason, something that should help him improve his run blocking, the area he struggled the most his rookie season. The Packers will be counting on Bakhtiari to make a big leap from year one to year two.
The center position is where things get a little fuzzy.
With the departure of Evan Dietrich-Smith, JC Tretter will get the first crack at the starting center job. The Packers hope the 2nd year man out of Cornell has the size, smarts and athleticism to anchor the middle of the Packers’ offensive line, but his lack of experience at center could be a concern. While Tretter appears to be the front runner for the job, rookie Corey Linsley is a far more experienced center. Linsley started 26 games at center during his Ohio State career, and earned All Big 10 honors his senior seasons. With both players having their strengths and weaknesses, this should be one of the most interesting battles to watch during training camp.
The Packers depth along the offensive line is also the best it has been in years. Derek Sherrod, a 2011 1st round pick, is slated to be the backup left tackle. And Don Barclay, who is entering his 3rd season in the NFL, has started 18 games and can backup both right tackle, and either guard spot.
While there is still some uncertainty at the center position, this group has the potential to be the best offensive line the Packers have put on the field in many years.