Ten Packers Training Camp Topics: #9 — Battle at Right Tackle

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The Packers felt strongly about Sherrod in 2011 when they spent their first-round pick on the tackle. But is he now healthy and ready to play?
The Packers felt strongly about Sherrod in 2011 when they spent their first-round pick on the tackle. But is he now healthy and ready to play?

The Green Bay Packers offensive line has underwent a significant shift this offseason. Bryan Bulaga and Josh Sitton moved from the right side of the line to Aaron Rodgers’ blindside, while T.J. Lang kicked over to Sitton’s old spot at right guard.

Evan Dietrich-Smith will begin the season as the starting center, leaving right tackle as the lone unclaimed spot on the front line.

Last year’s starting left tackle, Marshall Newhouse, will begin training camp perhaps as the favorite to win the job. Newhouse has started 29 games the past two seasons for the Packers, but according to Pro Football Focus, he hasn’t performed overly well.

PFF’s grades have Newhouse ranked No. 54 among 80 offensive tackles in 2012. Newhouse came in dead-last at No. 76 during the 2011 season.

The Packers view Bulaga as their best pass protector, and they hope that by moving him to the left side, they’ve better protected their biggest asset in Rodgers. Newhouse will compete with Don Barclay, who started the last five games of the season, and 2011 first-round pick Derek Sherrod for the right tackle job.

Sherrod didn’t play a snap last season after appearing in five games as a rookie in 2011. The team will give the former No. 32 overall pick every opportunity to win the starting job, but Sherrod has yet to practice this spring, still recovering from a devastating leg injury suffered in 2011.

Barclay, in some ways, was the unsung hero of the Packers offense last season. With Sherrod on the sideline and Bulaga ending up on the injured reserve with a hip injury, Barclay was called upon to take over as the starting right tackle as an undrafted rookie.

The offense didn’t miss a beat without Barclay, as they averaged 32 points per game in the six games he started.

In April’s NFL Draft, the Packers used their third pick on Colorado tackle David Bakhtiari. The rookie played all along the offensive line in college, and he’ll enter training camp as the probable backup to Bryan Bulaga on the left side.

Question: Who wins the starting right tackle job?

A case can be made for all three players in the competition–Barclay ended the season as the starter, Sherrod is a former first-round pick, and Newhouse has been the starting left tackle for one of the league’s top offenses.

Best guess: Don Barclay

Whereas Newhouse has played left tackle and Sherrod was drafted as a left tackle, Barclay will likely never be asked to protect the quarterback’s blindside. That’s not his game, and it never will be.

But specifically as a right tackle, Barclay may be the best of the bunch. He’s likely the best run blocker of the trio, and he held his own against some talented pass rushers through the stretch run of last season.

This will be another interesting battle to watch, but I think Barclay will emerge as the stater.

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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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  • Razer

    The O-line and the D-line have been the achilles heals of this team the past few seasons. We have invested draft picks to shore up both these situations. In both cases, injuries to the young talent has stunted the growth of the lines. I am hoping that Sherrod can make it back and give us the talent and depth that we desperately need on the O-line. He will be a difference maker.

    At this point, we have a flipped O-line with question marks at both right tackle , right guard and left tackle. Bulaga has yet to prove himself at this key position. All in all, there should be a fair amount of fan angst through November. Let’s hope that these guys are quick studies.

  • Savage57

    What I think I like most about the dilemna the Packers are facing at RT and RG is that as the article title implies, there is going to be a ‘battle’ for the position.

    Think about all the areas where the Packers are going to have competition for starting spots – RT, CB, S, OLB, ILB, RB, WR, Backup TE, KR, K. If TT has drafted ‘dogs’, then camp should be intense as these guys fight for what they perceive to be theirs.

    If Darwin was right, this might just turn out to be one hell of a team.

  • Brian Carris

    “The offense didn’t miss a beat without Barclay,”

  • http://cheesestradamus.com BobBrews

    The stats that I looked at showed that Aaron had his highest QB rating when he had someone harassing him from the right side. He had a higher QB rating than when he was NOT pressured?

    So put Marshall Newhouse on the right side and it will raise Aaron’s completion rating over all!

  • Stroh

    Sorry I Just don’t see Barclay beating out a veteran that has played LT. Barclay isn’t nearly as good as some make him out to be IMO. I don’t see how he is gonna beat out a more veteran and experience player that has played LT. RT will be easy for Newhouse as compared to LT. Newhouse wins that battle, Barclay moves inside as a backup and Sherrod is the backup OT for this year and then he and Bulaga or he and Newhouse battle for a starting job. I like Bulaga at RT, but I’m afraid he’ll be about the same as Newhouse at LT. Just don’t know if he can handle LT.

    Ideally Sherrod takes the RT job from Newhouse at some point this season then challenges Bulaga for the LT job next year. Hoping Datko takes a big step this year at either OT or OG, preferably at OT.

  • jim

    somebody mentioned in a blog that barclay returned this year much bigger than last year, and suggested that, perhaps, a move to guard is a possibility for him. that would open up some more competition on the offensive line…. lang and e.d.s. at center, barclay and lang at guard, newhouse, sherrod, and datko at tackle. if competition yields better performance, then this team looks like it has a lot of potential for growth. the season needs to start tomorrow. the wait is long.

  • http://jerseyal Iowapackfan

    I, like most fans, would like nothing more than Sherrod to get on the practice field and make plays. I think we are a better team if he takes the RT spot and runs away with it in camp. As optimistic as I am, I can’t see that happening and I see Barclay winning the spot.

    • Dobber

      I would like to see ANY of these three guys clearly outplay the competition in camp. A clear-cut winner at the position (and thus avoiding second-guessing and platooning) is the best result.

  • PatMc

    PFF’s grades have Newhouse ranked No. 54 among 80 offensive tackles in 2012. Newhouse came in dead-last at No. 76 during the 2011 season.

    Newhouse will grade in top 40% of RT this year. If he gets hurt than Sherrod will get his chance. Stroh is right (above).

    – the noise will be a big change for other teams on the south end…This probably means the “D” improves just from FAN Participation. GB will have an improved home field advantage.

  • BradHTX

    There are two things that are not mentioned in this analysis. First, Newhouse graded out below average overall, but he scored quite well in pass blocking last season, while not so well in run blocking. Barclay, on the other hand, was a better run blocker, but was so bad in pass protection that he received assistance on nearly every play. I agree with those who have Newhouse will win the job, not Barclay, and Barclay will shift primarily to guard. I also predict we see a significantly improved Newhouse this year between the position shift and another year of experience. He will never be great, but I think he can be a solid long-term right tackle if Sherrod is never able to make it back from his injury (and I still hope he will).

  • Oppy

    I just have a strange feeling someone -completely- unexpected is going to end up snatching a starting job on the right side of the offensive line this year…

    • Oppy

      ..Like perhaps Van Roten.

    • Stroh

      RG isn’t really open to competition. Lang is basically written in as the RG unless he completely falls apart, which is unlikely. That being the case, only RT might see a change, and while I fully expect Newhouse to win that job, its not like it would be an upset if Barclay takes it. Sherrod has more than enough talent to claim RT if healthy. Besides them the only remaining possibility is Datko that I can think of.