Injuries to Chad Clifton, Josh Sitton and Bryan Bulaga meant that the Packers offensive line never really gelled last season. Guys like Marshall Newhouse and Evan Dietrich-Smith did a decent enough job filling in, but the line never got rolling like I thought it would.
This might be a little tricky to attempt before the draft, but let’s take a look at several offensive line scenarios for the 2012 season. If/when injuries hit, what are the Packers options and potential lineups up front?
LT Chad Clifton, LG T.J. Lang, C Jeff Saturday, RG Josh Sitton, RT Bryan Bulaga.
This is the ideal scenario. In a perfect world, Clifton comes back, he’s healthy and productive, and the Packers trot out the same five guys every week. We can dream, right?
LT Derek Sherrod, LG Lang, C Saturday, RG Sitton, RT Bulaga
Maybe Clifton gets cut or goes down early in the season and the Packers have to once again fill a hole at left tackle. If that happens, the ideal situation is for Sherrod to come back from his broken leg and step right in, showing improvement from his rookie season and becoming the left tackle of the future. Bulaga would stay at right tackle and the future would bright. If only it was that easy…
LT Bulaga, LG Lang, C Saturday, RG Sitton, RT Newhouse
Clifton is cut or hurt and Sherrod isn’t ready to start. That makes Bulaga the major chess piece in this scenario. Do you move him from the right side over to Aaron Rodgers’ blind side on the left? I would. Newhouse was adequate on the left side in 2011, but I’m confident that Bulaga would have no trouble adjusting and would be much better than adequate. On a team with Super Bowl aspirations, adequate just isn’t good enough.
LT Newhouse/Sherrod, LG Lang, C Saturday, RG Sitton, RT Bulaga
If Clifton makes the team, but gets hurt during the season, I’d be fine with keeping Bulaga on the right side. There’s no need to start playing musical chairs during the season unless absolutely necessary. But what if it is absolutely necessary?
LT Lang LG Evan Dietrich-Smith/Ray Dominguez/??? C Saturday RG Sitton RT Bulaga
So if Clifton gets hurt or cut and Sherrod/Newhouse get hurt or flop at left tackle, Lang becomes the major chess piece. If it’s midseason and Mike McCarthy would rather keep Bulaga on the right, Lang would probably slide to left tackle. Who takes Lang’s spot is the question mark. Maybe it’s Dietrich-Smith, maybe Dominguez, or maybe a draftee.
LT Clifton/Sherrod/Newhouse, LG Lang, C Evan Dietrich-Smith, RG Sitton, RT Bulaga
The Packers signed Saturday to replace Scott Wells, but Saturday is old. He’s been durable, but you never know when an old guy’s body will tell him enough is enough. With so many needs on defense, will Ted Thompson draft a center high enough that has the talent to step in immediately if Saturday gets hurt? Depends on his draft board, but I’m guessing no. A more likely scenario is he drafts a center in the later rounds that can be developed over the next two or three years, but might not be ready to play right away. Side note: Any chance for C Genus Sampson to make the team?
LT Clifton/Sherrod/Newhouse LG Dietrich-Smith/Ray Dominguez/??? C Saturday RG Dietrich-Smith/Dominguez/??? RT Bulaga
If either Lang or Sitton goes down, things get complicated. Right now, Dietrich-Smith is probably next on the depth chart at both guard positions. I suppose Ray Dominguez is in the mix too, and any interior lineman that the Packers draft or sign after the draft. Guard depth is kind of an under-the-radar need for the Packers. I suppose Newhouse might also be considered for a backup guard slot.
Is your head spinning yet? Mine is.
This is an important season for Sherrod. If he comes back healthy and improves during training camp, it’s huge for the Packers. Getting a book-end tackle in consecutive drafts would be a major haul for Thompson.
The problem is we’re not going to know much about Sherrod until a couple weeks into training camp at the earliest. He had a serious leg injury, and didn’t exactly light it up before getting hurt. It’s going to take some time to gauge where he’s at.
Meantime, we’ll see how the Packers draft goes and revisit these scenarios at a later date.——————