Packers’ Chad Clifton Must Once Again Channel Major League’s Jake Taylor in 2011

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If the crafty Chad Clifton can avoid scenes like this in 2011, it should be another good run for the Packers.

With Chad Clifton hobbling through the first couple of games, it looked like the Green Bay Packers were going to endure another season of uncertainity at left tackle in 2010. Then — like Jake Taylor helping the Indians win the pennant in Major League — Clifton showed that he wasn’t a past-his-prime washout and played a significant role in the Packers run to the Super Bowl.

I love watching Clifton. I love how he lumbers up to the line of scrimage, never appearing to be in too much of a hurry to get into his stance. I love how speed rushers think they can beat him around the edge, then are stopped cold once Clifton get his hands on them. I love how he maximizes his time on the field, refusing to dive wildly into the pile at the end of a play or do something silly that could add additional stress to his aging body.

Clifton is my favorite kind of player: A crafty veteran. There’s a misconception about crafty veterans. Many people think crafty veterans are just old guys past their prime that are only on the field because of career achievements or some intangible leadership skill they bring to the locker room. Sometimes that’s true, but not in Clifton’s case.

Clifton, when healthy, is still a damn good left tackle. He proved it last season by getting selected to the pro bowl. Pro Football Focus ranked Clifton 11th in pass blocking efficiency in 2010. Acme Packing Company points out that 11th is good, but probably not entirely fair since Clifton really came on in the season’s second half after he got healthy. Are there really 10 other left tackles in the NFL you would want on your team ahead of a healthy Clifton?

Clifton is the second most important player to the Packers offense. If he gets hurt or if age finally catches up with him next season, he’s going to be the hardest player to replace next to Aaron Rodgers.

If the regular season starts on time, the Packers are in good shape. Their coaching staff has been in place for a while, their offensive and defensive schemes are entrenched and their mixture of veteran and young talent is as good as any team in the league.

The one thing that could mess all of that up is subpar pass protection, especially from the left tackle position. The Packers need Clifton to stay healthy and productive in 2011-12.

Yes, Ted Thompson has drafted a tackle in the first round of the last two drafts, but that doesn’t mean the Packers can afford to lose Clifton. The last thing the Packers want to do is throw Derek Sherrod at left tackle after no offseason minicamps and (maybe) limited preseason work. Bulaga could probably fill in, but that leaves a hole on the right side.

There’s nothing more frustrtating than watching a good offense implode because of struggles in pass blocking. The NFC North is filled with talented defensive lineman and Clifton has proven that he can still handle all of them when healthy. If he can do it again this season, the Packers chances of repeating are good, and Clifton will further establish himself as the Jake Taylor of Green Bay.

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Adam Czech is a freelance reporter and a Packers fan living in the Twin Cities. Follow Adam on Twitter. Read more of Adam's writing on the Packers here.

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  • FireMMNow

    if he can make it through the first 8 games i would call that pretty good. anything after that and the packers are playing with house money. give sherrod time on the scout team blocking CM3 and the rest of the defense for a couple months. I would be absolutely amazed if cliffy is still playing in week 16.

  • PackersRS

    I understand, but I don’t agree with you completely discarding Sherrod. If we lose Clifton early in the season, it’ll be much thougher, but this team can still go 10-6 without him.

    And, if it’s reasonably late in the season, Sherrod will already be up to speed with the playbook and everything, so you could expect him to produce similarly to what Bulaga did early on, which is, struggle, but ultimately get the job done.

    Not to mention the development of guys like Newhouse, Lang (if Colledge isn’t re-signed)…

  • Mojo

    Glad to see Clifton get some respect. I think he’s been one of the top LT’s (at least pass blocking wise) for more than a decade.

    Not much of a chest-thumper either. As good as he’s been, I think with both Sherrod and Bulaga (and maybe Lang or Newhouse), the Pack would still adjust if CC went down. The tackle positions don’t worry me as much as they did just a year ago.

    • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

      You mention a key point – Packers are in a much better position than two years ago. The two 1st round OT picks were needed and I’m thrilled with them both.

      • Ron LC

        I agree Al, the Oline is in a mcuh better position than they were going into last year. Still, no one has really stepped up and shown the ability to take over. That’s why GB is one of the teams that needs a full pre-season. They need to pick the #2 LT and work hard at getting him (whoever that may be)ready to step in. Clifton is high risk. He may be gone in the first game or he may be there for the whole season. An old Boy Scout saying says it all, “Be Prepared”.

  • Tarynfor 12

    Like I said,Lang needs to really step up to secure the LG spot but he also would increase his stability by aiding Clifton as the LT a little during games.
    Many expect Sherrod to learn quick but the LT spot is much different than the RT.
    I will expect Lang and Newhouse to be attached at the hip to be LT-LG when Chad needs the rest.