Monday, May 20, 2013

Position Review: Offensive Line Guards and Tackles

When the OTAs (organized team activities) start this week for the Green Bay Packers, who's playing where on the offensive line will be a topic of conversation because Mike McCarthy said that Bryan Bulaga and Josh Sitton are moving to the left side of the line and the Packers drafted two rookie lineman in April. It's clear Bulaga and Sitton will be the starters, along with T.J. Lang at right guard, but the position (guard or tackle) and future of every other lineman on the roster is an open question.

Position Review: Offensive Line-Center. Though I wrote earlier about Evan Dietrich-Smith and Greg Van Roten, they're both listed as G/C so it wouldn't be a surprise to see either of them playing guard in the future. But right now, they're the top two centers.

Marshall Newhouse and Derek Sherrod. While their situations are different, Newhouse was displaced by Bulaga on the left side and Sherrod hasn't been able to get his career back on track after a major leg injury, they're probably options 1A and 1B at right tackle. Newhouse can certainly play there but they'd rather see Sherrod show the promise they saw when selected him in the 1st round in 2011. This is a big offseason for both players. The loser will probably wind up on another team's roster in 2014.

David Bakhtiari and J.C. Tretter. The problem for the winner of the Newhouse/Sherrod battle is that they might only win the starting job for one season before Bakhtiari and Tretter are ready. GM Ted Thompson has had success finding offensive lineman in the 4th round (Sitton, Lang) and he found two more in 2013. Both players look more talented then their draft selection would indicate. They might have been available in the 4th round only because it was a strong draft for offensive lineman and they played at two little watched schools (Bakhtiari at Colorado, Tretter at Cornell). Their futures might be at guard, so they should play both guard and tackle this preseason as the coaches get a better look at them. I wouldn't be surprised to see both of them become long-term answers on the offensive line.

Don Barclay, Andrew Datko, Kevin Hughes, Lane Taylor. Barclay beat out Datko last year to become their emergency starter at right tackle, but Datko might look better this year if the shoulder he injured during his senior season is stronger. The problem for all four players is that the Packers have more depth now then they've had over the past few seasons. There might not be any room for undrafted or former practice squad players this year. I count nine lineman ahead of these four players, and the Packers have only kept seven to eight lineman at the start of the last two seasons. Even if they kept nine, these players probably wouldn't make the cut.

The starting five aren't settled like they were a year ago, but there's more depth then ever and it could lead to a surprising mix on the offensive line in 2013.

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