Packers Training Camp Report: Protecting Aaron Rodgers’ Blind Side a Major Concern

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Packers LT Herb Taylor
Herb Taylor: Packers’ starting left tackle

Offensive tackle was a position of strength for the Green Bay Packers at this time last year. Chad Clifton was coming off a resurgent 2010 season, Derek Sherrod was the Packers’ first-round selection, and Marshall Newhouse was perhaps the most pleasant surprise of training camp.

But now, a concussion is keeping Newhouse out of practice, Sherrod still has yet to practice all summer, and Chad Clifton is out of football entirely.

In comes 27-year-old journeyman Herb Taylor.

Although he hasn’t played in a regular season game since 2008, Taylor has been far more consistent than rookie Andrew Datko in practice, thus giving him the nod alongside T.J. Lang on the left side of the line in Newhouse’s absence.

Taylor was selected by the Kansas City Chiefs in the sixth round of the 2007 NFL Draft out of Texas Christian, making one start and appearing in 18 games with the team. After a relatively promising first two seasons in Kansas City, Taylor bounced around between Denver, New York, and even spent some time in the UFL with the Las Vegas Locomotives.

Still, despite Taylor’s tenacity and refusal to give up on his NFL dreams, he simply isn’t ready to be relied upon to protect Aaron Rodgers’s blindside at this point.

At Monday night’s practice at Ray Nitschke field, Taylor faced the daunting task of blocking three-time Pro Bowl outside linebacker Clay Matthews. On one occasion during a red-zone period, Matthews played Taylor like a puppet, sliding the 305-pound tackle into the Packers backfield and disrupting Rodgers’s throw.

Fortunately for the Packers, Taylor isn’t the regular starter at left tackle, nor will he be the top backup when Derek Sherrod is at full strength. But as things currently stand, the left tackle position is somewhat of a revolving door for pass rushers to blow through–something quite troubling for a team trying to protect the NFL MVP from blindside hits.

Taylor will need to be ready if he’s called upon in game action, but even at full strength, the Packers face question marks at left tackle with Newhouse entering his first full season as a starter.

The Packers seem adamant in keeping Bryan Bulaga at his normal right tackle position, where he’s one of the best in the league. However, the team may need to rethink its strategy if both Newhouse and Sherrod are out of the lineup in the regular season–as Bulaga is surely a safer bet to protect Rodgers’s blindside than the inexperienced Taylor.

Keeping Rodgers upright is the Packers’ single most important task, and their depth–or lack thereof–at left tackle is most certainly being tested this summer.

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Marques is a Journalism student, serving as the Sports Editor of UW-Green Bay\'s campus newspaper The Fourth Estate and a Packers writer at Jersey Al\'s AllGBP.com. Follow Marques on Twitter @MJEversoll.

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  • http://None Bearmeat

    Newhouse will probably be back in a week, and barring a huge injury early, Sherrod should be ready to go by week 8. They’re better at LT than at least 20 other teams in the league when the games count, who cares what it looks like in August?

    Unless both get hurt in the regular season, and there is a ready made RT somewhere out there, leave Bulaga at RT.

    • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

      Bulaga should stay put – agreed on that. But the depth is paper-thin, unless they would consider doing the O-line shuffle again in case of emergency and moving Lang to tackle and EDS or whomever in at guard.

      • JimR_in_DC

        I hope that’s the plan, Al. Lang can probably hold down the left side as well as Bulaga, and then our right side would still be intact.

        • http://None Bearmeat

          How is GB’s line depth any worse than all but 5 teams in the league? There’s only 53 spots. And you need plenty of DB’s LB’s, WR’s too.

          No one carries 10+ offensive linemen, unless they have absolutely no talent at WR and in the secondary.

          IMO they are just fine. IF they get a bunch of injuries during the season all at one time, they’ll struggle for a few games. But who doesn’t go through that funk? It’s a long season.

          Back off the cliff Al.

  • Sven

    Just a thought on Taylor getting schooled by Mathews, and on Datko’s early struggles. Lots of fantastic OTs have been turned into a puppet by CM3, and getting beat in practice is a good way to learn. Also in a game, scheme, RB, and TE help also help keep the blindside safe.

    Camp is often one on one for evaluation and learning purposes. So let’s hope that these guys are improving each day. Thompson and Mcarthy know there stuff,Right!!???

  • Mr. Bacon

    Taylor probably has experience, he just isn’t that good though. If he is our solution for now at tackle, then so be it.

    I rather see Aaron upright and healthy, then on the ground with a blown rotator cuff. Torn ACL’s are nothing, it’s the rotator cuff that I fear the most for Aaron’s sake.

  • Ron LC

    The weakness of the Oline has been fully exposed now. With the new concussion standards it’s a guess whether Newhouse will recover adequately or not. Even if he does that still leaves them with a poor quality backup line. Unless there was some characteristic that can be corrected in Datko, I’d not assign any confidence in his future.

    I’m beginning to think that the last cut waver wire will produce the Oline backup. That, or the possiblity of trading one of the high quality WR’s for a “Good” Oline prospect. That would be my preference. I don’t think you can rely on someone elses castoffs to fill the critical role of Oline backup.

    • PackersRS

      I wouldn’t count on the latter, not with a 1st rounder already on the roster for that position.

  • Chad Toporski

    In reality, the depth was no better now than it was last year when Clifton and Sherrod were both injured. The only comforting (?) fact then was that Clifton would eventually return.

    That said, I’m more concerned about the O-line depth than any other position right now.

  • Mark

    I would much rather keep Bulaga at RT where he can keep pass rushers out of the QB’s face than move him to a new position and then try to fill the void at RT.

    Everyone needs to take a breath, let the depth players develop a bit, and let get Newhouse and Sherrod get healthy.

    Good luck on trading a WR for an OL prospect. This ain’t baseball, folks.

    • Mojo

      “Good luck on trading a WR for an OL prospect.” Totally agree. Unless you’re willing to give up Jennings, Nelson or a potential talent like Cobb you’re not going to get an o-lineman of any quality – much less a starting left tackle. You’re going to have to give up a *hit-load of draft choices or talent before another team with a quality LT gives you the time of day. And unless you get someone better than what you have, why bother?

  • JimR_in_DC

    Until Newhouse or Sherrod are ready to go, we need to minimize A Rodgers’ exposure to big guys with bad intentions.

  • Tarynfor12
  • sbear

    Draheim played tackle…I wonder if he would possibly get a look??