What the Heck is Wrong with Bryan Bulaga?

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Bryan Bulaga
Packers right tackle Bryan Bulaga has struggled this season.

According to Pro Football Focus, Packers right tackle Bryan Bulaga has allowed 18 quarterback hurries, three sacks and three hits through the first five games.

In 12 games last season, Bulaga allowed 21 hurries, one sack and two hits.

I’m no math whiz, but after crunching those numbers, Bulaga has already allowed the same number of hurries, sacks and hits through five games in 2012 that he allowed in 12 games in 2011.

So what the heck is going on? Bulaga was one of the buzz players entering training camp. He was pegged as a player with the chance at going from good to great.

Injury report
Could he be hurt? Bulaga popped up on the injury report with knee trouble, and perhaps the injury is more serious than the Packers are letting on. That’s pure speculation, but given the way he’s played so far, it’s a definite possibility.

At this point, I almost hope he’s playing hurt. I don’t want to believe that the Packers once promising first-round draft pick at tackle has taken a turn for the worst and is going from good to not-so-good. If he’s playing hurt, there’s hope that he’ll get healthy and get back to playing at a high level again.

If he’s just regressing, well, that’s scary. That gives the Packers two first-round draft picks at tackle who are shaky at best (Derek Sherrod being the other). First-round draft picks are precious commodities. It’s tough to be a successful team if you whiff on your first pick in consecutive drafts.

More numbers
The other Pro Football Focus numbers aren’t much better for Bulaga.

His overall grade for the season is -8, -7.4 on pass blocks and -1.1 on run blocks. Bulaga’s overall grade was 22.3 in 2011, 12.8 on pass blocking and 9.1 on run blocks. Penalties are also popping up. Bulaga already has been flagged three times this season after only drawing six flags in 2011.

Roll the tape
If numbers aren’t your thing, check out this video evidence:

 

God gave us two hands. Offensive lineman need to use both of them.

Bruce Irvin gets into Bulaga’s body and makes his move because Bulaga is way late on getting his hands up. If Bulaga, who outweighs Irvin by at least 75 pounds, gets his hands on Irvin, he’ll win the battle much more often than he won’t.

Getting your hands up and using them is part of good technique. If a player is playing hurt, technique often suffers. Is Bulaga’s knee causing his technique to falter? Who knows…

Final thoughts
I’m not trying to be an alarmist here. Well, maybe a little. Bulaga is causing an alarm to go off, but it’s more like an alarm clock instead of a major fire alarm.

When your alarm clock goes off in the morning, you’re a little annoyed. When you smell smoke and your fire alarm goes off, you panic.

Don’t panic about Bulaga yet. But it’s ok if you’re a little annoyed.

The Packers need Bulaga to return to his 2011 form. This needs to happen so the Packers can turn this season around, and be confident that their 2010 first-round draft pick wasn’t a waste.

 

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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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  • Rick Racic

    You are right on with your observations. By year 3, he should be asserting himself as a premier RT. Perhaps the tape has shown his weakness(es). It sure would be a different picture if all we were worried about was one side of the line. He needs to step up or we need to start planning for an upgrade. Arrrgh!

  • FireMMNow

    I as well hope he is playing with an injury. He was one of the best RTs in the league last year. This year he has been pathetic. Sitton has not been very good either. The right side should be this teams bread and butter. So far this season it has been a complete weakness.

    JJ Watt is going to kill these guys unless they can straighten some things out.

  • Tarynfor12

    If Bulagas’ had a bad knee since the seasons start and they allowed him to keep playing and traveling,which the plane rides affect the swelling,why was Lang not moved over for a game or two to get him healthy..that would have been better than what we have gotten by a long shot from an injured Bulaga and a fall off by Sitton attempting to compensate.

  • Chad Lundberg

    um… the video is saying it’s “private”.

    • Adam Czech

      I’m getting that for some reason, too. Videos and me just don’t mix……

      I forwarded to Al. Hopefully he can fix it.

    • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

      My fault – should be fixed now…

      • Chad Lundberg

        Thank you. It Bein a workin now.

  • Ron LC

    Before training camp, I had high hopes for an Oline that would have an average to, maybe, a slightly above average performance grade. All it would take is Jeff Saturday to maintain his level at Indy last year and Newhouse to make some progress to meet the level of competence of the other 4 guys.

    Well Newhouse accomplished that goal. Not by improving but by the fact the rest of the line fell to his level of competence. This situation is unacceptable. Is something wrong that we don’t know about? Why did two guys, Sitton and TJ, feel the need to send accusatory “tweets” after the embarassing loss to Indy? If something isn’t done before the Houston game, I’d not want to be the insurance carrier on AR.

    Dealing specificaly with Bulaga, the rumors around the insider sites and radio are saying Bulaga is forced to play with a very badly swollen knee every game because he has no adequate back up that will allow him to rest the injury, He doesn’t practice all week and plays on Subday. After a few plays his knee swells and he is restricted in lateral movement. Lateral movement being one of the most important skills an Otackle poccesses.

    I’m afraid the time to upgrade the Oline has past us by this year. To quote a saying I hate as much as run it up the flag pole, it is what it is.

    • Spiderpack

      This makes a whole lotta sense. Thompson f’ed up with the oline depth and they don’t want anyone to notice.

  • aaronqb

    I think Bulaga is injured and he is playing through it.

  • JeffN

    This year’s version of Bulaga looks injured to me. Bulaga has no back up currently that’s understood by all. Does anyone know when Sherrod is off the PUP list? Or will he be? There is a chance Sherrod would be an adequate backup this year.

    • jay

      He can come off this Monday, after week 6.

  • Vic.

    Why wasn’t Irvin called for hands to the face?

  • Oppy

    I am happy the situation with Bulaga’s poor play is being addressed, but I’m also frustrated that it took this long for the media and fans in general to acknowledge the problem.

    Bulaga has been struggling since pre-season game 3, and it has has been readily apparent. I’ve mentioned it since then and have been summarily poo-pooed for doing so..

    Turns out, he’s got tendonitis in his knee.

    • Turophile

      poo poo (just in case you were missing that)

    • Adam Czech

      Why would anyone poo-poo you, Oppy?

      • Oppy

        its fun to say, isn’t it?