Bryan Bulaga vs. Derek Sherrod: Battle for Left Tackle!

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With the 32nd pick, the Super Bowl Champions selected Derek Sherrod, offensive tackle from Mississippi State and raised one big question, where is he going to play?  The question stems from the 2010 NFL draft, where the Packers used their 1st round selection to nab offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga from Iowa.

Bulaga and Sherrod seem to have a lot in common; both players were predicted to be drafted far ahead of where they actually ended up and both were technically sound and athletic offensive linemen who weren’t as highly touted as some of the other offensive linemen in their respective drafts (such as Russel Okung and Trent Williams in 2010 and Gabe Carimi and Tyron Smith in 2011).  Both are considered more technicians than maulers and were considered left tackle prospects.

The Packers have claimed after drafting Sherrod that both will get a chance to battle it out in training camp, but lets see how they compare to each other and who fits the mold of a left tackle.  Below is a side by side comparison of Bulaga and Sherrod.  I don’t claim to be a evaluator of talent, so I’ve used analysis from CBSports.com (most likely written by Rob Rang), Doug Farrar (of Yahoo’s Shutdown Corner and Football Outsiders) and Kevin Seifert (of ESPN).

 

Name Bryan Bulaga Derek Sherrod
Pass Blocking Takes a strong angle on kick slide, keeps knees bent, head up, and arm extended to keep defenders at bay. Very difficult to get off his blocks if he’s mirroring. Has a strong punch. Tends to lunge against inside moves, lacks great recovery speed and can be beaten by secondary rush. Slow to recoil once extended. Hesitates when defenders let up. Gets bull rushed into the pocket by strong ends because he allows their hands into his chest, but typically anchors before reaching the quarterback. Must improve his arm-bar to keep rusher out of the pocket. Inconsistent quickness after the first step in his kick slide makes him susceptible to giving up the edge to quicker pass rushers.-NFLDraftScout.com 

 

Good initial quickness. Eases out of his stance and has the lateral agility and balance to mirror the defender. Good hand strength and has long arms that he uses to latch onto and control his opponent. Generally plays with good knee-bend and leverage, but can lose his anchor when he tires. Can become fundamentally lazy and lean into the defender; gets knocked off-balance and gives up the inside lane. Should improve in this area with greater focus on his technique, but has an upside-down triangle build due to broad shoulders and relatively narrow hips, making him top-heavy and susceptible to being overpowered. Among his better attributes is his recognition. Recognizes the blitz coming and gets a good initial pop on his primary target (defensive end) before passing him off to the guard and working his way outside to catch the rushing linebacker or stunting defensive tackle.-NFLDraftScout.com
Run Blocking Good positional blocker, well coached on how to get correct angles. Capable in zone scheme, has a strong combination of agility and strength. Turns his man out of the hole and seals the edge. Attacks defenders in short yardage situations, strong enough to lock on and sustain, even against large ends. Gets low to drive near the goal line.-NFLDraftScout.com Comes off the ball too high and lacks the pad level and power to consistently knock defenders off the line. Good quickness and hand strength to turn and seal off defenders from the play. Good recognition to release from double-team and get out to the second level. Scouts would like to see him finish blocks with more authority before releasing.-NFLDraftScout.com
Pulling/ Trapping Isn’t asked to pull or trap a lot in Iowa’s zone system, but has the quick feet needed to work behind the line and burst through the hole. Usually hits a target on the move and sustains.-NFLDraftScout.com Good initial quickness to release to the second level, but has only average agility to re-direct in the open field. Locates his target, but has to do a better job of anticipating where the defender is going. Isn’t fluid enough to change direction and hit the moving target. Too often extends his arms, “catching” the linebacker, which could result in penalty flags when playing against NFL-caliber athletes. Good trap blocker due to his initial quickness, big frame and recognition.-NFLDraftScout.com
Initial Quickness Brings a very strong punch and pop to his opponent when run blocking, especially for a left tackle. Adequate quickness to pass set from two-point stance.-NFLDraftScout.com Good, though not elite, initial quickness off the snap. Has the agility and long arms to handle most right defensive ends (and thus remain at left tackle), but due to the fact that he is a bit top-heavy and lacks elite balance, is susceptible to quick jab-steps outside and spin or counter moves back to the inside. Is quick enough in the running game to turn and seal off the defender, creating a wall from which the running back can bounce off from.-NFLDraftScout.com
Downfield Excellent mobility to get to the second level and beyond. Keeps feet moving and hands strong after initial contact, sustains well against linebackers and safeties. Mirrors quicker players in space. Adjusts to players coming from any angle. Gives effort downfield to block on runs and pass plays.-NFLDraftScout.com Gives good effort to block downfield. Above-average straight-line speed, though his average balance keeps him from being as effective at the second level as his speed and size would indicate. Gets in the way of defenders and has the wingspan to alter their path, but struggles re-directing his charge.-NFLDraftScout.com
Intangibles Considered a very competitive, smart and hard-working leader up front. Fought to return from thyroid condition during 2009. Cleans up piles and defends teammates on the field.-NFLDraftScout.com Was one of 16 players to win the storied National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame (NFF) Award, which includes a post-graduate $18,000 scholarship. Earned his degree in business with a 3.54 GPA. Is the third Bulldog to win the award and the first since 1989. Team leader voted a captain in 2010. A four-year member of the M-Club, MSU’s student-athlete community service organization, he has spent considerable time with the youth of Mississippi. He has served breakfast at Sudduth Elementary School, participated in Sudduth’s Kids Fair and read to local students to promote literacy. He has also organized a Thanksgiving food drive.-NFLDraftScout.com
Pros Works from the snap until the whistle and gives same effort when Iowa runs to the opposite side as he does when Iowa runs behind him. Short-term memory and doesn’t appear to dwell on mistakes. Gets set quickly, locks out arms and can ride explosive edge rushers past the pocket. Shows excellent body control and footwork when forced to redirect. Active and strong hands.-Kevin Seifert Does all the little things well in pass protection — rises up off the snap quickly, keeps a wide base to his kick step, exhibits startling quickness outside, and blocks out edge rushers especially well on the back half of the rush. Gets a good hand-punch on running plays, though he doesn’t always strike with ideal power (bulling ends back). However, when he locks in, he’s great at pushing defenders out of the way and wrangling them to the ground without holding. Chips quickly and gets to the second level in a hurry — once he gets there, he has great footwork and targets defenders consistently. You’ll see a lot of college tackles skate and lurch around in space, but Sherrod doesn’t have that problem.- Doug Farrar
Cons Can be a step late sliding off combo block and covering up linebacker. Doesn’t always show great spatial awareness as a zone blocker or take sound angles to downfield blocks. Vulnerable to some spin moves and needs to do a better job of handling power-to-speed moves. Must continue to improve lower-body strength in order to anchor better versus bull rush.-Kevin Seifert Technique makes him look stronger in the lower body than he actually is — Sherrod could fill out in the lower body a bit and it would help with his base and strength at the NFL level. Pulls and traps decently, but this is where he seems to lose his feet a bit — while Sherrod is tremendously agile north and south, side-to-side is a different story.-Doug Farrar

 

So what do you think?  In my opinion, it doesn’t really look like one player is more of a left tackle than the other and I think that makes a lot of sense considering the Packers modus operandi.  The Packers have claimed that they prefer having two traditional left tackles at bookends due to the fact that defenses are often now targeting the weakest link on the offensive line, not just the blindside protector.

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Thomas Hobbes is a staff writer for Jersey Al’s AllGreenBayPackers.com.

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  • Taryn

    I have recently said”Never try to backstep into a previous footprint”,and it was in part to this very thought and question here.
    Tauscher coming back or hoped by many is not the answer nor is having Sherrod battle Bulaga for the LT spot.
    Clifton will start and very likely play a good part of the season and Sherrod should get the unused reps in lieu of Clifton when able.
    Bulaga needs to stay at RT and not backstep to the LT(since removed) as he is and should be the half of the long term bookend we want and need.
    Sherrod hasn’t been removed from that spot and should be allowed to walk in the footprints of Clifton when the time comes.
    There is one thing IMO that the Packers cannot do with the new OL and that is to place a “Doubting Thomas”complex in them at the OT positions.
    Again IMO,if Bulaga was still being considered(on any level) as the LT,TT would/could have had his pick for RT’s in other rounds.When the DL guys were gone that TT would/may have taken at 32,the trigger for Sherrod was forced and installed Bulaga to RT for good.

  • FireMMNow

    Clifton should start the season at LT, if/and when he misses time Sherrod should be allowed to step in at LT for the rest of that game just like they did with Lang. Please Campen, if Clifton goes down do not shift every player on the line to compensate. Let sherrod play and see what he can do. He looks like a more natural fit at LT than Bulaga due to the arm length. Like Taryn said, let Bulaga stay where he is at. Campen has retarded the development of numerous players because he cannot figure out where to put them. That is the coach’s fault and not the player’s. The only two players that have developed under campen are wells and sitton, and surprise surprise, they were not asked to play 4 positions as a rookie. Do not screw these guys up Campen. Sherrod and Bulaga will have more to do with the long term success of rodgers than any WR ever will.

    • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

      Campen. Campen. Campen. Do I smell a name change coming?

    • Thomas Hobbes

      Well my feeling is that the directive to be “versatile” comes from above mainly Ted Thompson. I have no idea if Campen is the one who tries to get the players to play multiple positions or if its an order from Thompson. Either way, I think it became apparent to the Packers that offensive linemen are so specialized now that you can’t just plug them in like you could in the 50’s

      • FireMMNow

        It appears that TT tends to stay away from influencing the coaching staff other than giving them the players to work with. I would imagine that before TT has to cut a guy he might ask a coach to try that player at a different position, but even MM has made comments that the shuffling in the O-line has been a problem and he does not want it to happen anymore. MM and TT are very careful to not contradict each other. Campen is a joke in my opinion and his wife must be friends with MM’s wife, or maybe he watches TTs cats when he is out of town.

  • Oppy

    Interestingly, your notes taken from CBS on Sherrod mentions more than once that he has some issues with being knocked off balance by defenders.

    When James Campen took the podium to talk about the draft class, he stated repeatedly that one of the things they really liked about Sherrod was he’s seemingly always on his feet due to his exceptional balance and positioning.

    Makes me wonder if CBS’s scouting is a little off or if the Packers were intentionally clouding a potential weakness.

    • PackersRS

      They said it happens in pass blcoking when he tires.

      Personally, from what I’ve seen, I’d rather have Sherrod in the LT.

      Not that it matters too much. With the number of times we line up in the shotgun, it isn’t often that Rodgers has a blind-side to the defender…

      But Sherrod’s feet. Man oh man. It reminds me of Cliton’s. Bulaga doesn’t have that IMHO. Bulaga bends better in the knees, but Sherrod’s feet are incredible, it allows him to position himself if he’s beaten.

      Carimi, on the other hand. Awful. http://www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-combine/09000d5d81ed2744/2011-combine-workout-Gabe-Carimi

    • Thomas Hobbes

      Well I would tend to believe the Packers more than CBS, for one CBS probably only watches a game or two and maybe not even focusing in on Sherrod in particular. The Packers on the other hand have about ten million reasons and then some to make sure that he stays on his feet.

      And the combine vid of Carimi is a classic :D

  • JeffN

    Hey FireMMNow I hate your name but love your analysis on the O-Line, couldn’t agree more on that. Now we just need address the LG position. Maybe once TJ Lang plays LG consistently he will be a top notch player there. What this offense needs more than anything for their long term success is for these 2 young bookends to develop into elite players and also the development of an elite LG. The WR TE and RB situation will take care of itself for as long #12 is protected and throwing the ball.

    • FireMMNow

      the username is a bit of a running joke. it was created after the lions game and i decided to stick with it. and agree completely about Lang, I think he can be a GREAT LG and he will have to be after the lions drafted fairley. the Lions front 4 dominated the last game vs. the packers and it only got stronger with the draft. i would like to eventually replace wells with a little bigger body, but getting the protections correct is obviously more important. apparently they coaches are high on McDonald but they were also said to be VERY high on Newhouse and drafting sherrod tells me they were being more hopeful than realistic.

      • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

        Coaches will always tend to be optimistic about what they have. Doesn’t mean they wouldn’t like something better.

        I’ve been screaming for 2 years how the Packers need a pair of bookend tackles to protect the franchise. Hopefully, that will become a reality.

      • Thomas Hobbes

        Coaches were high on Newhouse, but I don’t really recall them saying that he was a tackle or a guard prospect in particular.

    • Pete Kliman

      Lang is the wild card for the line this year .If he does a good job we could be set for a long time.One would think that he should be able to handle the guard position since it’s easier than LT,and he did do an adequate job there.

      • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

        lang was a disappointment in that he didn’t progress, but McCarthy blamed the fact that lang couldn’t participate in any of the off-season activities due to the wrist injury. And now this year, there are no offseason activities (at least so far). Hopefully his development isn’t impeded again. I’m with you Pete, I’d love for him to be the answer at left tackle.

  • FireMMNow

    Does anyone that writes for ESPN know less about football than Kevin Siefert or whoever it is that writes the BBAO blog about the NFC North. About 1 out of every 10 articles is remotely interesting or informative. and he is such a vikings homer it is a joke.

    • PackersRS

      I tend to think that they’re all equally incompetent. Have you seen their votings? One guy voted Nick Collins as the 7th(!) best safety, behind the likes of Michael Griffin, Brandon Merriweather and Donte Whitner…

    • Thomas Hobbes

      I would have liked to have used the 2010 shutdown 40 from Doug Farrar for Bulaga as well, but I can’t seem to find it anywhere. If anyone does have it, I’ll update since it will be a direct comparison then (I’ll do the same thing if someone has a Sherrod comparison from Seifert)

  • Ron LC

    Hope you’ve go the inside dope Al. ZBS and multi-position should be used sparingly. The Oline is begining to have the raw material to make the players position experts. The lone exception would be backup Center.

  • dHoward

    LG will be an open competition between Lang, Newhouse, and Sherrod. (assuming that Spitz or Colledge are not resigned) You put your best five on the field and if Sherrod is the best option at LG then that is who will start at LG. You worry about injuries when they occur. All these guys, even Sherrod who played a bunch in college against good competition, will have enough experience to move mid-season to a new position. It’d be nice to have starter caliber Tackles and starter caliber back-up Tackles but that ain’t going to happen. If a player is starter caliber at tackle then they will find a way to get him on the field especially if you have a need at another spot.

    My best guess, and it is a guess because quite frankly we all know squat compared to the coaches we are second guessing, is that Lang will be a better option at LG this year then Sherrod. Sherrod and Newhouse will be the primary back-ups at Tackle and McDonald will be the primary back-up at Guard. Evan Dietrick-Smith at back-up center and guard if all goes to crap. Assuming they keep 10 that leaves two spots open. They drafted SCHLAUDERAF in the sixth and it is possible that Spitz or Colledge are also back.

    Good problem to have for the Packers. They seem to have a deep group to mix and match. Compare that to the Bears that filled one need with a rookie LT that will have to perform day 1 and assuming Carimi is up to the task at LT they still only have three starter caliber players on their o-line and one is ancient at C. I would guess they will have a lot of interest in Colledge.

  • Yoop

    MM is who DECIDES who plays where. And MM ALWAYS wants the 5 best Olinemen on the field.
    Campen’s job is to have them ready to fill in where needed.

    Safford will start out behind Clifton and when and if he KNOWS the assignments he will be looked at for other places.
    IMO Lang has a LONG way to go, He was terrible at LG and very questionable at LT, he is NOT a LT.
    His only place may well be at RT. For me I’d like to see him at tried at Center.

    Bulaga can play LT and it would not be any problem for him to move there if needed.

    I think we will see McDonald fight Wells for the Center spot this season.
    IMO McDonald is the best inside Oline prospect they have.

    The player not mentioned is Chris Campbell I think he is the RT of the future or even the LG and possibly the Back up LT.
    Campbell is one of the more talented physically prospects on the team. Just needs NFL training and coaching.

    Schlauderaff is a bigger more athletic Spitz he will be in on the fight for the LG spot.

    The BIGGEST reasons these young players are moved around so much is the team only dresses 7 Olinemen for the games.
    So the back ups HAVE to be able to play multiple positions, and they will have to move guys around.

  • Thomas Hobbes

    Safford=Sherrod? Unless we traded with St. Louis at some point.

  • Yoop

    Yes that would be it lol. I have good memory I just forget where I put it.

    • SnapperMac

      For the Record it is Saffold not Safford and no there has not been a trade there nor anywhere else in football since the lockout is still in place!