Packers Keeping up with Changing NFL by Leaving Bulaga at Right Tackle

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Bryan Bulaga
Packers should keep Bulaga at right tackle.

Mike McCarthy said this week that Bryan Bulaga will not move to left tackle and replace Chad Clifton. The coach said that Bulaga is “on the verge of becoming a pro bowler at right tackle” and will stay right where he is.

I’m fine with keeping Bulaga on the right side. Until recently, I’ve been in the “move Bulaga to left tackle” camp, but I folded up my tent and left that camp a couple months ago. To the faithful readers who argued with me in the comments section to keep Bulaga at right tackle: Congratulations. You helped convince me.

But mostly my change of heart can be attributed to Aaron Rodgers. I always contended that the Packers should have someone proven to protect the All-World QB’s blind side. Bulaga fit that description much more than Marshall Newhouse or Derek Sherrod. After all, those in the know have been telling us for years that left tackle is arguably the second most important position on offense. They even made a movie about it.

The game changes, though. Now, the best person to protect Aaron Rodgers’ blind side might be, well, Aaron Rodgers. 

An MVP quarterback who knows the offense and reads a defense better than most coaches does a lot to protect himself. Rodgers’ ability to read where pressure is coming from — whether it’s from his blind side or somewhere else — and quickly progress through his options to identify mismatches and/or hot reads goes a long way in mitigating any shortcomings in pass protection.

The prevalence of three-step drops and passing out of the shotgun also reduces the importance of the left tackle position. Ditto for having a mobile QB that can run away from pressure or wriggle out of a jam if needed.

I’m not arguing that the left tackle position has become irrelevant. It’s still very important. Obviously, it’d be nice to have a shutdown left tackle, but if that’s not the case, the quarterback can make up for it. It’s not worth disrupting the the development of your right tackle when he might be on a path to the pro bowl. 

Yes, the game is changing. McCarthy and the Packers realize that. I’m glad they realized it before me and didn’t move Bulaga to left tackle.

(For a compelling argument on moving Bulaga to left tackle, check out Brian Carriveau’s post on the subject at CheeseheadTV.)

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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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  • Mojo

    I’m OK with leaving him on the right side although a move to the left side wouldn’t have bothered me too much. Another thing favoring keeping him where he is is the advent of dual stud pass-rushers. The gap in quality between the right vs. left pass-rushers has closed over the years.

    • Adam Czech

      And D-lineman, LBs and pass rush specialists that move around different formations based on a coordinator’s scheme. The days of lining up your best rusher over the left tackle over and over again are over.

  • Ron LC

    Not sure of our influence, Adam, but thanks. No way would MM move Bulaga which would require a move of as many as 3 others to accomplich that move. The responsibility to fix LT is now in MM and Campens’ hands. That’s exactly where it belongs.

    The job is two-fold. Fix Newhouses’ abiltiy to deal with speed rushers. He wasn’t able to get it done last season. Next, get Sherrod ready to play LT as fast as they can. He may be needed if Newhouse doesn’t respond.

    I’m conserned about the quality of depth they will carry into the season. Sherrod or Newhouse should be adequate. EDS is ok as a short-term filler in the guard spot and Center as a last resort. I hope they can get somebody off the practice squad or the draftee, or UDFA to do that.

    Assuming Newhouse comes through the Packers will have one of the best Olines they’ve put on the field in years. Depth is in need of help, however.

    • Adam Czech

      I always worry about the Packes depth, and nine times out of 10, whomever fills in for an injured starter does an average to above average job.

      I’m going to try and find something else to worry about this year besides depth at a certain position(s).

      • Pat Mc

        For the first time in several years, the GB OL is solid. Looking at the FA’s already signed, TT has a few guards that will be stepping up during the year or next year. The 7th rnd Tackle looks to be as good a backup as a guy could hope for.

        I’m moving on to be concerned about how many sacks the D is going to produce.

        • Pat Mc

          I meant to add, an ALL PRO RIGHT Tackle. If Bulaga is even close that will be awesome. The Line will consistent going into the year. Not a weakness at all.

      • Ron LC

        Did the Oline need their depth last year? The answer?

        Of course, the 3 possibly 4 guys they carry behind the starting 5 will need to be competent replacements.

  • Tarynfor 12

    Greg Cosell had an article about position priority and where the LT ranks in this NFL.I commented and here it is somewhat.Been awhile.

    With the passing game as dominant and mandatory to win,the LTs strength is decided by the talent or lack of talent in your QB.
    A great QB needs only an average LT and can make him look great,an average QB needs a great LT,who now will never be as the average QB hinders the LT.

    Point of proof will be more apparent this season in Denver.Will the LT make Manning or will Manning make the LT.We seen what was with
    Orton,Quinn,Tebow..neither made the LT great nor did the LT make them better than average.

    Rodgers will help Newhouse be/look/play better as he would for Bulaga if moved over.Would there be such an outlandish improvement between Newhouse or Bulaga at LT…no,but a dimishished play at RT if a change is made.

    Other than a great QB,there is only one thing that can make a LT look great in this NFL…the lack of pass rush from the DL such as ours last year.We made average QBs and their LTs look like HOFers.And we all know the vast majority of both positions weren’t/aren’t/won’t be.

  • PackersRS

    “The prevalence of three-step drops and passing out of the shotgun also reduces the importance of the left tackle position. Ditto for having a mobile QB that can run away from pressure or wriggle out of a jam if needed.”

    This. Been saying for a while, blind side in today’s NFL is relative.

    When the QB is on the shotgun, unless it’s a rollout to his strong side, there isn’t a blind side. How many times does the Packers line up in shotgun?

    If it’s a running play, there’s no blind side. How many times do the Packers run per game?

    If it’s a 3 step drop, there’s not enough time for the QB to be blind sided. And if it’s a rollout to his weak side the blind side changes.

    The only instance that there’s a difference between the LT and RT in terms of blind side, is when it’s a passing play, from under center, when it’s more than a 3 step drop, and it’s not a rollout to his weak side.

    You can’t even say that the LT faces the best pass rusher, because DCs nowadays move their rushers around.

    In the end, the question is whether you change 3 players’ positions (Sherrod, Newhouse, Bulaga), when they’re getting comfortable with playing in their side, and developing chemistry with their Olinemen (Bulaga+Sitton, etc…), because of those instances, which would ammount to no more than 15 plays a game.

    • wim

      but if you have a weak LT then you would put your best rusher over him. you won’t line him up over Bulaga

      • PackersRS

        Here are the respective tackles for the last 5 SB winners:
        2012 – David Diehl, a left guard
        2011 – A 34 years old Chad Clifton (true, one of his best games, but still, not an elite tackle)
        2010 – Jermon Bushrod
        2009 – Max Starks
        2008 – Diehl again

        See any elite left tackles in there? I don’t. It’s just not that important to have an elite left tackle anymore.

  • FireMMNow

    I also think there has been a change in defensive schemes. There has been a push to bring the pressure in the face of the QB. That is the MO of how to slow down brees and brady. Let them see the pressure coming, it affects them much more than the blind side pressure.

    Also, the LT is still important, but more important when you have a young QB with no pocket presence. Packer fans have been blessed to have back to back QBs that have amazing pocket presence.

    • Adam Czech

      ^^^^^This 1,000 times.^^^^^^

      It seems like a lot of QBs these days don’t care if they get drilled. Maybe they’re really brave, or maybe they know the modern-day rules protect them much better than the old days.

      But when you get pressure up the middle, they can’t step into their throws, they can’t follow through and their vision is impaired.

      This is another reason why you’re seeing teams try to sign versatile pass rushers, guys that can move around and bring pressure from anywhere.

      • Tarynfor12

        As in Hugh Green all over Big Ben in the SB.

      • Jy

        THis is why I think the next development will be increased valuation of guards and centers. The Saints were ahead of this curve…

  • Savage57

    Watching Rodgers over the last few years, you’ll notice that his “security blanket” escape route from pressure is the gap and seal between the RT and RG.

    Having Bulaga and Sitton on that side able to control and move the rush and secure that rollout lane for Rodgers has provided more big plays for the Packers O than any other scenario.

    Think about all the times you’ve heard this on your radio on Sunday afternoon:

    “Rodgers under pressure, rolls right, he has a man downfield, touchdown (insert one – Jordy Nelson/Greg Jennings/Donald Driver/Jermichael Finley/James Jones). There is your dagger”!

    Keep Buluga on the right? Not only yes but hell yes!

    • Oppy

      Savage,

      I think you might be overlooking the fact that the reason why his “security blanket escape route” is between RT and RG…. is because that’s the route that’s opposite his blind side.

      I’d wager you find most right-handed QB’s flush to the right- it’s the direction they are facing. If you’re feeling the pressure comin in on you, you’re less likely to waste the time to turn to your left and run the in direction that is either in your peripheral or completely out of your line of sight.. Unless you don’t have a choice because a rusher has broken free from the right side.

  • Chad Lundberg

    I could NOT DISAGREE MORE!

    Look, I GET that Bulaga is becoming virtually the best right tackle in the league, but that’s exactly why I wanted him moved to the left so desperately. I just KNEW that this was going to happen! Now that Bulaga is establishing himself as a potential pro-bowl right tackle, people are giving up on the idea of him moving towards the left.

    Aaron Rodgers is sacked an average of 1 on every 13 passing attempts. Drew Brees is sacked about every 26 passing attempts, and Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are similar cases.

    Moving Bulaga to the left would be a great step in getting Rodgers to stay on his feet like the rest of the top quarterbacks in the league deserve. It is very, i repeat, VERY UNLIKELY that we will get another tackle prospect like Bulaga again anytime soon.

    We can move Newhouse or Sherrod at right tackle over time, but neither of those two will come close to the kind of player Bulaga could be at the left.

  • Oppy

    I’m all for Bulaga staying put at RT.

    But I’m not buying into any of this hoopla that LT isn’t as big of a premium as it once was.

    I guarantee you, every QB in the league is more concerned about who’s playing at the blind side tackle position than their throwing side tackle.

    It’s not about where the defense’s best rusher lines up.. It’s about a rusher that may not be seen by the QB. Shotgun helps, but it does not make the QB’s back side 100% equal in terms of visibility to his throwing side- he’s STILL standing with his left foot forward, right foot back. He’s still got to crane his head past his shoulder to get a full view.

    LT is just as much a premium position as it has ever been, and that will not change until they make QB sacks illegal or the NFL reverts to a running game..