Bulaga to Left Tackle Highlights Changes on Packers Offensive Line

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Green Bay Packer Offensive Tackle Bryan Bulaga
The Packers will move Bryan Bulaga from right tackle to left tackle for the 2013 NFL season.

The Green Bay Packers aren’t waiting until training camp to shuffle their offensive line.

Details of the Packers new-look line can be found in this excellent Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel story by Tom Silverstein. To summarize:

  • Bryan Bulaga moves from right tackle to left tackle
  • Josh Sitton moves from right guard to left guard
  • T.J. Lang moves from left guard to right guard
  • Marshall Newhouse (last season’s starting left tackle), Don Barclay (who got a few starts in 2012) and Derek Sherrod (coming off a major leg injury that forced him to sit out last season) will compete to start at right tackle.
  • Evan Dietrich-Smith is the starting center

Essentially, Packers coach Mike McCarthy is moving his two most talented and experienced offensive lineman from the right side to the left, which is Aaron Rodgers’ blind side, the Packers franchise quarterback who just signed a five-year contract extension worth $110 million.

Having a shutdown left tackle isn’t as important as it used to be in the today’s NFL. If you have a quarterback like Rodgers — someone who is mobile, smart and reads the opposing defense like a coach — you can get away with having an average left tackle.

But why take that risk? Why not combine your all-world quarterback with a reliable left tackle? If I climbed inside McCarthy’s head, I’m guessing that’s what his thinking behind the move would be.

On the surface, I like the move. But let’s not fool ourselves into thinking the Packers offensive line woes are magically cured by moving a few players around.

Bulaga is coming off a bad injury and has missed 11 games in his three seasons in the league. He also looked completely lost at the beginning of last season. Lang played hurt most of last season and isn’t the most physically dominant guy to begin with. Who knows what the Packers will get out of the Newhouse/Barclay/Sherrod three-headed monster on the right side?

Evan Dietrich-Smith is a new starter center and is a smallish guy. Josh Sitton, if healthy, will be fine no matter where you line him up.

The Packers want to be more physical in 2013 and the offensive line will play a big role in making that happen. Eddie Lacy and the continued development of DuJuan Harris should also help.

Does shifting players on the offensive line automatically make the Packers more physical? Not necessarily, but it doesn’t hurt, either.

Staying healthy up front, no matter where players line up, should automatically help the Packers play more physical. I also think moving away from zone blocking will lead to more physicality, but that’s a different topic.

It will be interesting to see how the Packers will operate with a few new toys in the backfield and a shuffled offensive line. Bulaga, Sitton and Lang have been around a while. With them, health is more of a concern than learning new positions.

If those three remain healthy, and Dietrich-Smith, Newhouse/Barclay/Sherrod make progress, good things could (finally!) happen for the Packers on the offensive line.

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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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  • Dobber

    This is the time to experiment with it and determine whether there’s anything to be gained. We’ve been talking about it for awhile here.

    Bulaga was drafted with the expectation that he could compete on the left side. Given that he’s had his trouble with speed rushers, this is something to keep an eye on. I’m not sure Newhouse or Sherrod is an ORT type, which makes it sound almost like they’re setting up a competition they want Barclay to win.

    • KW

      Totally agree Dobber. We said before how Bulaga at LT and Barclay at RT would probably be a better match.

  • Savage57

    I think whoever winds up on the right side is going to be just as important as the LT. In the Packers pass attack the RT is the one who has to drive the rusher outside and clear that escape lane between the DE and the DT that AR loves to use to get outside the pocket. That escape avenue alone is probably the Packers most feared pass play evolution as it is from that rollout into space that AR buys the time that really taxes defenses and from which he’s uniquely effective throwing the ball in motion.

  • PatMc

    The simple fact there is change is going to be motivation for all the OL to get really focused going into camp. Then in camp they will get focused on SF.

    I like it! Plus the rookie might be good enough to work his way onto the right side this year.

    • Dobber

      I see these moves as the Packers trying to get their best 5 linemen on the field. ORT is typically not as athletic and allows for a “brawler” and not so much a finesse player to make a spot on the line. ORT is more forgiving…which is why I’m a little concerned about Bulaga on the left side. He’s more physical than Newhouse (and, likely, Sherrod) but is going to have to raise his game on the left side.

  • Razer

    Sorry, Bryan Bulaga is too slow and too stiff to play the left side. I seem to remember us trying him there with horrible results. I am not even sure that he is all that good on the right side – average at best. This move smells of desperation

    • Dobber

      I would argue desperation if this change happened mid-season or during training camp. This is the time to see whether this can happen.

    • Chad Lundberg

      You obviously don’t do your homework.

    • SchenySchen

      Razer, Bulaga has never been played on the left side in the pro’s. He played LT in college at Iowa. Always been on the right side for GB. Came in to relieve Tauscher and never let go. GoPack!

  • Slim11

    There are some good things about this…and some bad.

    Good…Bulaga goes back to LT where he was drafted. He should be able to handle this presuming he’s healthy. Newhouse goes to RT where his ability is a better fit. Barclay stays where he gained experice and some respect.

    Bad…Bulaga moves from RT where he enjoyed success when healthy. Sherrod goes to RT and has to learn a new position. Don’t forget he was tried immediately at LG as a rookie after being drafted as a LT.

    What does this say about Andrew Datko? He was the 7th round steal last year and I don’t hear his name in the conversation as a startsr or backup. This shuffling along the o-line has been done before and I am skeptical. The only significant change I see is these changes are tking place before OTAs and not during the season. I do like the timing.

    • Chad Toporski

      This says more about Don Barclay, who is much better on the right side. I think they’re trying to get him in a competitive spot after what he accomplished last year.

      • http://TalkinPackers Yoop

        Barclay did little last year, Got the job by default when Lang fell on his face at RT, HAD to have help in pass protection, showed good run blocking.
        I don’t care that he started 4 games last year, he has proven nothing and if Barclay can’t vastly improve his pass protection he will not be at RT.

      • Scott1956

        Chad, Barclay is so good that they changed 80% of the O-Line just for him! This sounds like desperation. And Bulaga isn’t a LT. He suffers against speed, and most of the speed rushers line up over the LT.

        • Dobber

          It’s not desperation in May, when there is time to try to address needs if this doesn’t look like it’s going to work out and the personnel isn’t there.

          It’s desperation in August when you’re moving and replacing players at the 11th hour when they should be trying to get in sync.

          • Slim11

            If this was August or in the regular season, this would be considered desperation.

            I think Newhouse will do better on the right side. Opposing teams usually have their best pass rusher coming from the QB’s blind side. This is why LTs are usually better than RTs…one team’s best pass blocker goes against the other team’s best pass rusher. Newhouse won’t be going up against the Jared Allens as frequently.

      • Stroh

        I think Barclay might be the best LG on the team. I would much rather see him at LG than at RT. I wouldn’t be surprised if Barclay got exposed if he had to play RT for an entire year. I don’t think he has the size, length or feet to be a quality OT. But he could be an excellent LG.

    • Oppy

      Newhouse is a lousy fit as a right tackle.

      Newhouse’s best quality is his great footwork and mobility- that’s a LT trait.

      His weaknesses are upper body strength and, in turn, run blocking. Generally speaking, right tackle traits.

      Newhouse will either likely remain a LT backup or will fail to stay with the Packers much longer. I don’t see him winning out the RT position. I have been (very) wrong in the past, but I’m pretty convinced of this.

      • Adam Czech

        I also don’t see Newhouse as a RT. Ideally, I think the Packers would like to see Sherrod show enough to win the job, but he seems like a similar player to Newhouse, only bigger. Of course, we really don’t know anything for sure about Newhouse.

        Barclay seems like more of a guard to me, but I guess somebody needs to play right tackle. My money is on Newhouse winning the job out of camp and the position being an annoyance all season long.

        • Dobber

          “Of course, we really don’t know anything for sure about Newhouse.”

          Did you mean Sherrod? I think we have a pretty good feel for Newhouse.

          • Adam Czech

            Whoops. Yes. *Sherrod.

      • Chad Toporski

        Well, Newhouse will be a FA in 2014, so there’s a good chance it’s do-or-die for him this year.

      • Thomas Hobbes

        I think that’s a more traditional approach that is probably falling by the wayside. Historically, your better run blockers were on the right while your better pass blockers were on the left because the best pass rusher was coming from the left (i.e. the blind side). But now with teams having multiple pass rushers coming from all over the place, you actually need a RT who can also pass block, and at least for the Packers who haven’t really committed to the run (that might change a little this year), having two pass blockers is definitely the way to go.

        • Dobber

          I’ll admit to being guilty of this line of thought (as you can read above). With right-handed QBs, having the blind-side protected and allowing him to see the rush means that natural adaptation at ORT.

          The one thing we don’t know is whether Sherrod has had a chance to get stronger, particularly in the upper body. After 18 months of injury, he had the chance to be training in that way.

      • Barutan Seijin

        Another scenario: They try this, discover Bulaga is not an LT. Newhouse goes back to LT, Bulaga back to the right.

    • Stroh

      Bulaga is a better fit at RT than LT. Even when he was entering his draft year, the scouts almost unanimously thought Bulaga would be a better RT. He lacks the long arms and his movement aren’t what you would want for a LT. Newhouse is a better fit at LT than RT. He has quick feet and longer arms for LT, he just isn’t a physical player, and will lose any competition at RT.

      The wild cards are Sherrod and Datko. Sherrod is a natural LT. Good feet and really long arms and has more potential as a LT than anyone on the team if healthy. Datko is a complete unknown to fans. Only the coaches know how good he could be. Only played 2 games last pre-season, so we simply have no idea if he can be an answer.

      Barclay is a RT or LG, and IMO he might be the best LG on the team.

      I would just open the competition at LT and LG, leave EDS and Sitton where they are and take the #2 in the LT competition and slide him to RT.

      I don’t like moving a pro bowl RG to LG and making him learn a new position, even if its mostly just opposite.

      • DWhitehurst

        Actually, I’d argue that in terms of Bulaga’s strengths and weaknesses his best fit is Left Guard. Actually, I remember Jon Gruden stating the same thing on ESPN’s draft coverage right after Bulaga was the pick. He is good, but not great at both pass and run blocking. A lot of times a player is good-if-not-great at either pass or run blocking, and weak at the other. I think Bulaga would be an All-Pro at that LG position, where you ideally need a lineman who is exactly that: At least above-average at BOTH pass and run blocking. Having said that, I realize the Packer’s don’t have the luxury of placing every OLine player at their ideal position, needing to compensate for lesser players. If you really think that TT/MM see Left Tackle as Bulaga’s ideal position, then they wouldn’t have drafted Sherrod let alone tried to develop Newhouse there for the last two seasons. As things stand though, given Sherrod may be a bust and Newhouse may have peaked at his potential, I can see why they made this move now. It’s not ideal, and it might not really make a difference, but it can’t hurt to give it a try now.

  • Ron LC

    First, I hope that really means that Bulaga is completely healed. At LT, he will have to increase his speed and agility substantially. More importantly, it appears the best run blockers are now both on the left side. MM likes to run to the left.

    On the right side TJ should do ok in the guard spot. I believe Newhouse might be ok and if Barclay has added some weight and strenth he could be the starter there. Sherrod is a giant question mark. MM let slip that he underwent another surgery after the season. Two surgeries on a broken bone is troubling.

    Finally, in contrast to most of you, I have very little confidence that EDS will be adequate as the starting center. I have not seen any evidence to increase my confidence in that position. I hope sincerely I am wrong and I can say “you told me so” and admit my short-comings in the field of talent assessment.

    Overall, I see a plan to run more and better in the making here.

    Go Pack!

    • Dobber

      I suspect EDS to be at least adequate…he was that much a year ago.

    • Thomas Hobbes

      I guess the question is how important is the center position really? Sure Scott Wells was one of the better centers in the league, but would they have done a lot worse with a lesser center? Outside of Dallas, who are they’re own special type of crazy, teams didn’t really seem to be all that high on centers this year

      • Barutan Seijin

        How important is a center?

        You saw what happened when Saturday came: the o-line went to hell.

        It’s not like you can just throw anyone out there.

  • Savage57

    I wonder if any of this has to do with Lacy and/or Franklin having a preference to run to the left side, or if the switch is all driven by protecting the franchise.

    Anyone know if either guy has a preference or is better on one side or the other?

    • jim

      i am thinking that if teams continue to have their right defensive end rushing hell-bent on rogers, then runs to that side.. our left side.. may slow the rush down or leave defensive players out of position to make a play. there may be more to this stratagem than what we see.

  • FireMMNow

    just one more reason that i cannot believe campen is still the OL coach. he has had most of these guys for 4 years and he still cannot figure out where they should play.

    dick vermiel said the first person he always wanted to hire was the OL coach. there are very few good ones and it is the worst coached position in the league in his opinion.

    • Thomas Hobbes

      lol you should change your name to FireJCNow

    • Lucas

      I’m not sure this is entirely his call at all. A major decision like this would likely have his input, but ultimately would be MMs call.

      • Stroh

        Totally agree… I think Campen knows where players fit best, but MM is overriding him on this. Also I tend to think this is mostly just an experiment and to light a fire under everyone than it is a permanent move. Time will tell, but I think by training camp they’ll be largely back to where they were.

  • Big T

    It’s hard to hide average athletes on the line when you only have one above average guy in Sitton…

    • Lucas

      Bulaga is above average.

  • Mojo

    Newhouse might end up having to buy a new house elsewhere. Too bad, he seems like a quiet, intelligent respectful gentleman. Don’t know if he’ll stick around and beat someone out for either the RT position or backup roll, but man is there a log-jam at tackle on this team right now.

    • Dobber

      If Sherrod makes it back, he and Newhouse are (based on what Sherrod was prior to injury) redundant players. They won’t both stick. It could be that Newhouse might have value in trade if Sherrod wins the job (and can backup on the left side).

      • Barutan Seijin

        I kinda think that Sherrod would be the one to do the walkin’…

        • Dobber

          I think you may be right if Newhouse wins the competition or it’s a dead heat. They might shop both.

  • Adam Czech

    Sherrod is 6-foot-5, 321 pounds, with 35 3/8″ arm length and 11″ hands.

    Newhouse is 6-4, 319, with 34″ arm length and 10 1/4″ hands.

    Sherrod has the slight edge in physical traits and showed signs of being able to get to the second level while run blocking before the injury.

    Other than that, Sherrod suffered from the same weak upper body, inability to drive block and lack of nastiness that plagues Newhouse.

    Sherrod’s ceiling is higher, at least it was before the injury. I’m not sure that’s the case now.

  • http://TalkinPackers Yoop

    Flanagan had 6 surgeries to get his leg right and went on to be a very good center filling in at LT when needed. From all reports Sherrod has improved greatly and has been in Green Bay all off season working out after the second surgery.

  • Brian

    We all have to remember that Sherrod was robbed of his first off season because of the strike and then the coaches tried him at left guard. I’m on the get-rid-of-Campen bandwagon!

  • Wagszilla

    Someone want to pull up stats on AR’s rollouts/scrambles?

    I’d put money on them being to the right side more often than not.

    #Quarless2013

  • Alex Parkhurst

    Prediction:

    Before the end of the year, one of the new FA’s, one of the new draft choices or someone else not mentioned in the article will be a starter – perhaps more than one.

    There is a feeling among this entire group that our offensive line is weak. I agree and that is why there will be some new faces.

    • Batavia Greg

      FA Jeremy Vujnovich as LOT? Sell all of your stock in Aaron Rodgers’ life insurance co.

    • Dobber

      I don’t see a situation where a draft pick wins the job…maybe due to injury, though. I’m guessing that those guys are going to hold sway over the reserve slots.

  • Scott1956

    This team continues to have O-Line problems! Part of it is TT. He will not draft a Guard or a Center. He thinks that anyone can play those positions. He’s drafted how many Tackles? And of all those he’s drafted, Sitton is the only great player. Bulaga is average, and the rest are just sorry! TT was trying to get rid of Clifton and Tauscher for years. And the first time he did that, he almost got Rodgers killed! What he should do is find a scout that has great success with drafting O-Linemen, and hire him. Because if this line doesn’t get better, this team will not get better.

    • Lucas

      Tried to get rid of Clifton and Tauscher? What, he Nancy Kerrigan’d them?

    • Oppy

      The PAckers draft OT and convert to OG’s for several reasons.

      Tackles are typically better athletes than guards. They are typically better pass protectors than guards. They are typically more agile and move better in space than guards.

      The Packers have Aaron Rodgers at QB. You want to protect Aaron Rodgers. The Packers have (attempted) to utilize a Zone blocking scheme as the basis of their run game- that requires linemen who are light on their feet and move well in space.

      Here’s where value plays in: A kid who plays tackle in college may not project well as a tackle in the pros. Many teams may not consider converting them to play along the interior of the line. This often results in a collegiate OT with football talent to lose stock in the draft and slip down quite a ways. A player may not be worth a second round grade as a tackle, so the Packers can pick him up in the 3rd or 4th round (or later) and convert him into a solid guard, one whose talent might be greater than a true guard who went in the second round of the draft.

      Let’s stop with the idea that TT was artificially trying to push guys out of Green Bay for the sake of pushing them out. Clifton’s body was a mess for years and Tauscher finally hit the wall as well. The drafting of Tackles by the Packers had little to do with just trying to replace Cliffy and Tausch (although it did need to be done sooner than later)- It’s just a philosophy the Packers have about their linemen. They like what Tackles bring to the table, they like that skill set they can bring to the guard position and the value they can get out of the position in the draft.

      • Dobber

        …and, a guy who has played OT in college still has some of the skills, residually, that will allow him to back up or fill in on an emergency basis at an OT position. Rarely can a guy who played OG or C in college do that.

  • BubbaOne

    I’ve been advocating for a while Bulaga moving back to the left side but at LG, where he played before moving to RT and where I think he would be a pro bowler. My scenario is Newhouse/Sherrod/Datko at LT where they are best suited. Bulaga at LG, Lang at OC, Sitton at RG, and Barclay…who I think can be Tauscher-like…at RT. The scheme has moved away from the ZBS, this lineup is bigger and more powerful esp in the run game.

  • SchenySchen

    Where does the notion of Lang at Center come from. Has he ever played it? I think the changes will be great. We don’t have a shutdown LT. Anyone we put over there will need some help with the best pass rushers in the league. — I think the change allows them to run at those pass rushers much more effectively with Bulaga/Sitton over there. (think Jared Allen, getting crushed by Sitton, it makes me happy). — EDS was a much better center than guard. He got to double team more often which he was pretty good at. Lang is average at RG and I think Barclay will be good enough on the right. Certainly, he will bring more running effectiveness into our game as he did last year. Newhouse will have to be a backup as I also don’t think he is cut out to play the rig side. GoPack!

    • BubbaOne

      I remember Lang took snaps at OC last year. I don’t know if it was for emergency purposes or if he could play it full time.

      This is the time of year to make changes and also speculate…who woulda thunk that Sitton would move to LG. I’m with you on Newhouse not being a RT, that’s why I want to leave him on the left competing w/ Sherrod and Datko.

      Whether Lang or EDS starts at OC the line would be improved if Sitton and Bulaga are the pro bowl guards I envision.

  • PackEyedOptimist

    I have a suspicion that MM sees the answer to defending AR as “effectively run left.” Right DEs can’t t-off if every other play kicks them out and runs Franklin et al. past them for 10 yards. Last year the Pack started the season with a potentially “great” right side on the offensive line, but a potentially “poor” left side. This move will hopefully create a balanced “good” entire line. With some good RBs adding a yard or two to the rushing average, defenses will have to play less aggressively. My own hope for the RBs this year is that DJ Harris starts, Franklin becomes a top passinf formation back, and Lacey becomes a short yardage back and late game grinder.