As we progress through the offseason, the Packer have a lot of players on the roster, and others who are facing free agency. And so we will continue our look at the Packers roster with the offensive line.
Going into the 2015 season, the offensive line was praised as the best of the McCarthy tenure by no lesser authority than the head man himself. Safe to say they didn’t live up to expectations as injuries hit every starter as well as some of the backups. So let’s just dive in.
It wasn’t until Bakh was out with injury that we all realized how lucky we were to have him in the lineup. He is solid in pass protection and getting stronger every single year. He also gels really well with Josh Sitton on the left side of the line. His only real knock has been penalties. Since stepping into the lineup as a rookie he has been one of the most underrated players on the team and a good locker room guy. But with his contract nearing expiration after this season, the teams needs to look toward locking him up. Without the name recognition, hopefully he won’t demand too much.
Sitton is the best lineman in Green Bay and arguable the best in the NFC North. Consistently ranked among the Top 5 guards, Sitton excels in pass protection and moves the pile well in the run game. But he did fight injuries this year and is the longest tenured lineman now on the team. His contract goes for another year and we will see if he gets an extension to finish his career in Green Bay.
Linsley didn’t live up to the high expectations set after his great rookie year, but he was a solid player who brought continuity to the most underrated position in football. His snaps were almost always on target and he didn’t miss many of the line calls. His exceptional strength was again a major boost in the run game and against bull rushes, but he took a small step back pass protection. He goes into Year 3 as the unquestioned starter again and should return to his Pro Bowl form of two years ago. He did battle injuries, missing a game during the season.
Lang was arguably the best lineman for the Packers last year, dominating at times in both pass pro and run blocking. And he played with an edge that gave the Packers some much needed grit on offense. He was a monster at opening holes for Lacy and Starks, and has built up a rapport with his linemates. The only knock was the occasional dumb penalty and injuries. He missed time last year and had surgery in the offseason. With his contract approaching expiration with Sitton and Bakhtiari, it’s up to Ted Thompson to see if he can find a way to balance the cap to keep three keys to the team.
The name of the game yet again for the former first round pick has been injuries. Whenever he missed time, the team suffered, especially after he signed the big extension before last season. But when he played, he showed exactly why he is rated as one of the best right tackles in the game. He holds the point of attack really well in pass protection and shows a strength in the run game to open holes. He was a key piece of the successful stretch plays be James Starks. The one guy who is locked into the future on this line, Bulaga needs to stay healthy and be more dependable.
After missing most of the past two seasons with injuries, we finally got to see what Tretter had, and it was a treat to have a backup lineman who can play everywhere. He stepped into the center position and didn’t miss a beat, and was solid at right tackle. But he made his money as the backup left tackle against Washington, holding his own after a shaky start to negate the potent Redskin pass rush for the rest of the game. He is undersized to play inside but is extremely valuable as a swing tackle and the backup center. But this might be the last season. His contract also expires after this season and he just might get a starter’s contract from someone else.
What else can be said about Barclay’s return from a torn ACL that hasn’t been said already? He struggled, he was a disaster, and he looked like a power run blocker who lost his edge after the injury. He got chance after chance despite his lackluster play and it wasn’t until the Week 16 game against Arizona where he finally lost his job. He gave one of the worst performance I have ever seen by a lineman, let alone a left tackle, and he likely signed his ticket out of Green Bay. He is a good guy, and that makes it hard to say goodbye, but he just couldn’t get it done anymore.
Taylor is a pure power blocker who finally made a jump into a serviceable player. He wasn’t noticeable when he was out there, and that is a vast improvement from years past. He is a free agent though and it depends on whether he will get a contract on the open market. If he doesn’t he may get a minimum deal to remain here and be the main backup guard.
The new Lane Taylor, Walker is another massive road grader who can drive the pile with the best of packer linemen. Listed at 6’5” and 328 pounds, he is the biggest lineman on the team. And he has the strength to match. Entertaining to watch drive guys off the ball, he needs to stay inside at guard. His experiment at tackle didn’t go well. But he is a prospect to watch.
Another massive lineman, Rotheram was a highly touted UDFA last year and was expected to make the team but Walker just beat him out. He immediately got placed on the practice squad and the team thought highly enough of him to give him a raise at the end of the season to match the bottom roster players. Look for him to make a jump as he approaches Year 2.
An athletic tackle in the mold of Bakhtiari, Vujnovich wasn’t as polished coming out of college but has shown potential to be a swing tackle, potentially after Tretter leaves. He is also worth keeping an eye on.
The Packers are looking for depth lineman and there aren’t too many guys worth looking at in free agency. Guys to look at are LaAdrian Waddle (T), Kraig Urbik (G), Ronald Leary (G), Vladimir Ducasse (G), and Tyler Polumbus (T)
The draft is pretty deep with depth lineman that the Packers could look at. Some tackles are out there that could be available would be Shon Coleman (Auburn) or Jason Spriggs (Indiana) in Round 2, Germain Ifredi (Texas A&M) and Le’Raven Clark (Texas Tech) in Round 3, and Joe Haeg (North Dakota State) and Tyler Marz (Wisconsin) on Day 3. For guards, they could look at someone like Landon Turner (North Carolina) in Round 3-4, or a guy like Connor McGovern (Missouri) in Round 5. In the middle, center depth is a luxury but they could look at someone like Matt Skura (Duke) in the late rounds.
PROJECTIONS FOR 2016
Bakhtiari (LT), Sitton (LG), Linsley (C), Lang (RG), Bulaga (RT), Tretter (T/C), Walker (G), Rotheram (G), Vujnovich (T), Ifedi* (T), Haeg (T/G)*——————
Mike Wendlandt is originally from Iola, Wisconsin and graduated from Drake University in 2015 with a degree in History. With a significant journalism background both in writing and broadcasting, Mike can be heard as the play-by-play voice of Central Wisconsin High School sports on WDUX FM 92.7 and on Twitter @MikeWendlandt.
Mike Wendlandt is a writer covering the Green Bay Packers for PackersTalk.com.