While the rest of the nation seems affixed to the Aaron Rodgers watch, there is another injury concern that needs more attention.
Enter Derek Sherrod.
The 6-foot-6, 321-pound offensive lineman came to the Packers with a mountain of promise as the 32nd selection in the 2011 NFL Draft. He was supposed to be the next offensive line anchor that would protect franchise quarterback Aaron Rodgers as long as he wore that G on the side of his helmet.
But then he broke his right leg in December 2011 causing him to miss the entire 2012 season. He began this season on the physically unable to play list and wasn’t added to the 53-man roster until Nov. 5.
He has gotten scant playing time the last four weeks but hasn’t been able to really do anything of note. The Packers have a club option for 2015 before he becomes a free agent the following season.
So that puts the Packers in a precarious situation. Over a year-and-a-half has been lost already and if he cannot crack the starting lineup against guys like T.J. Lang or Don Barclay, then the Packers should be concerned.
Bryan Bulaga will come back next season and should quickly become the best lineman that has allowed jailbreak pressure for all four quarterbacks the Packers have started this year.
I doubt it’s time to give up on Sherrod just yet, but if he continues to struggle next August and into next season, how many more chances can the Packers give and afford? Ted Thompson got lucky with David Bakhtiari as a fourth round pick this past spring. Right after Bulaga went down with an ACL tear in the Family Night scrimmage, Bakhtiari has been inserted into the starting lineup and has protected the Packers’ quarterback’s blind side each week.
Even if Sherrod cannot get back to the college player that started 35 games at tackle for Mississippi State, including all 25 his junior and seasons, the Packers must try and forecast the future. Obviously, the Packers cannot continue to pay him first round money when his time in the trainer’s room outnumbers his time on the field. But if they can come to a compromise and rework his deal that suits both parties, Sherrod could find new life in Green Bay.
This whole season has been one of what ifs. The most glaring one has been what if Rodgers had never been injured. Most likely, the Packers wouldn’t have to scratch and claw for a road win against the Bears in Week 17 just to punch their playoff berth. But here’s a spinoff to that scenario: What if Sherrod and Bulaga played this entire season and spearheaded an offense to roll through the NFC with at least the No. 2 seed?
The most important time for Sherrod isn’t right now because this season has been pretty much lost anyway. He didn’t get the precious reps in summer two-a-days where young guys really learn how to play the pro game. The most important time for Sherrod is this summer. He needs to not only get better but pole vault the expectations that Mike McCarthy has of him.
Right now, he’s nothing more than an injury risk worthy of breather minutes and anything more than that is dangerous.
Even if Rodgers doesn’t play in the season finale, which I think will happen, Sherrod’s nomadic journey through the medical wilderness is a much bigger problem because he represents all that has gone wrong on the offensive line.
And in today’s NFL, if you cannot protect your biggest asset, you are dead in the water. The only reason the Packers have a beating playoff heartbeat this year is because the Lions continued to prove their bungling ways by losing five of their last six.
The Packers really need Sherrod but moving forward how much can Sherrod give the Packers?——————
Cory Jennerjohn is from Wisconsin and has been in sports media for over 10 years. To contact Cory e-mail him at jeobs -at- yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter: Cory Jennerjohn