23

June

The Anticipated Return of Tackle Bryan Bulaga

Right tackle Bryan Bulaga. Photo credit: Amy Anderson (Wikimedia Commons).

Right tackle Bryan Bulaga. Photo credit: Amy Anderson (Wikimedia Commons).

Green Bay Packers offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga last played a live down on November 4, 2012. Now, as we enter the 2014-15 season, his return is highly anticipated and immensely needed.

Bulaga’s career up to this point has been a bit of an enigma through a combination of unfortunate injuries, missed opportunities, and unfulfilled promises. When he’s on the field, he shows a lot of ability and tenacity. Keeping him on the field, however, has been a little bit of a problem over the last two seasons.

The Packers drafted Bulaga with their first-round selection in the 2010 draft with the idea that he’d be the left tackle successor to aging Chad Clifton. In a show of true professionalism, Clifton embraced the idea of mentoring his eventual replacement.

Perhaps as a sign of unexpected things to come, Bulaga was counted upon during his 2010 rookie season to solidify the right tackle position after Mark Tauscher suffered a season-ending shoulder injury. Bulaga played admirably, and the Packers went on to win Super Bowl XLV.

Entering the 2011 season, the defending champion Packers appeared set with the bookend tackle combination of Clifton on the left and Bulaga on the right. They even drafted left tackle Derrick Sherrod as another option to succeed Clifton.

However, Clifton was hampered by injuries all season. In a somewhat curious move, the Packers elected to keep Bulaga on the right and try youngster Marshall Newhouse on the left. Sherrod proved to not be a viable option.

That 2011 offensive line was a bit of a motley crew en route to allowing 41 sacks and generating a measly 3.9 yards per rushing attempt.

Things got worse for the Packers in 2012. They still had a pedestrian 3.9 yards per carry, but they yielded an astronomical 51 sacks of Aaron Rodgers.

To make matters worse, when the Packers needed their running game the most during the cold months, Bulaga’s season ended on November 4, 2012, when he suffered a hip injury against the Arizona Cardinals.

During the following off-season, head coach Mike McCarthy didn’t mince words. By announcing he was swapping the left and right sides of his offensive line, he was boldly proclaiming the Marshall Newhouse experiment at left tackle was over and Bryan Bulaga was finally going to get his shot at the money position of left tackle.

As was par for the course in Bulaga’s career up this point, that plan never came to fruition. He tore his ACL during the August 4, 2013 family night scrimmage and was lost for the season. The offensive line of the future would once again not be anchored by Bulaga.

In Bulaga’s absence, rookie David Bakhtiari emerged as a legitimate left tackle. In fact, McCarthy has already announced that he enters the 2014-15 season as the starter protecting Aaron Rodgers’ blind side. Bulaga will compete with Don Barclay for the starting nod at right tackle.

So, he we are again with unsettled business with Bryan Bulaga. All indications are he should win the starting right tackle position during training camp.

While sort of showing his hand, McCarthy said, “Bryan Bulaga looks good…He’s stronger. He weighs a little more than he has in the past. So he’s having a heck of a spring.”

If Bulaga can stay healthy and win the starting right tackle position, the Packers are poised to have their best offensive line in years. Bakhtiari is improving, as is guard T.J. Lang. Fellow guard Josh Sitton is arguably the best in football. The major question mark is the center position.

The offensive line must improve in 2014-15. Last season, they yielded 45 quarterback sacks, including the one that broke Aaron Rodgers’ collarbone.

Having Bulaga solidify the right side will certainly help. Barclay is an accomplished run blocker, but he lacks considerably in pass protection when compared to Bulaga.

This season is the highly anticipated, and perhaps last chance, return of Bulaga. This is the final year of his rookie contract, which will be telling for both sides of the business equation.

Bulaga will be playing for a new contract, whether it’s with the Packers or elsewhere, so he should have motivation to play at a very high level. He must also prove he can stay healthy to warrant a new contract.

From the Packers’ perspective, Bulaga must show them he’s the answer at right tackle. Up to this point, he has not been able to emerge as the central piece that a first-round pick would warrant. He’s bounced around the offensive line and hasn’t been able to take ownership of any of the plans the Packers had for him.

We’ll soon find out what the future holds for Bulaga, the offensive line, and the Packers’ offense. If things go to plan, which has been a major problem in the past, they certainly look bright.

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Jay Hodgson is an independent sports blogger writing for AllGreenBayPackers.com and WIsports.com.

Follow Jay on twitter at @jys_h.

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36 Responses to “The Anticipated Return of Tackle Bryan Bulaga”

  1. duhawks says:

    He hasn’t nailed down what side he will play for sure. That is true but in his defense he hasn’t been able to show his stuff because of his past. Let set him at the right and go from there. The talk is that his job is up in the air because of injuries but Clay hasn’t been playing up to sniff the past the last few years also. And not much is said about him switching sides. What we need is everyone come in healthy and that strats with training. Maybe the trainners need to look at their tract record too. Anywhy lets hope these players know what lies at the end if we make it to title game by coming to camp smarter and healthier by working on their own and trainers knowing their jobs also.

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    • John Zoul says:

      Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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      • Jay Hodgson Jay Hodgson says:

        Sitton is arguably the best guard in football. AP All Pro is a subjective popularity contest. When you look at objective grading, such as the type PFF does, Sitton was the #2 overall guard in 2013 and the #1 pass protecting guard in 2013.

        http://www.acmepackingcompany.com/2014/5/19/5731216/packers-josh-sitton-jordy-nelson-eddie-lacy-nfl-top-101-2013

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        • dobber says:

          “When you look at objective grading, such as the type PFF does…”

          Outside of filling in bubbles, multiple-choice style, there is no such thing as objective grading. The generation of any evaluative rubric always carries inherent bias.

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          • Jay Hodgson Jay Hodgson says:

            https://www.profootballfocus.com/about/grading/

            This is a heck of a lot more objective than Peter King, John Clayton, or Chris Berman voting on someone they think is good.

            Yes, there is some opinion involved in grading. But, if you read the grading rules, if there is any doubt or dispute, the play is not graded.

            However, All Pro voting can simply be “He looks good, has a bloody nose, and he is who others think is popular.” I would seriously doubt that AP writers break down film. They are too busy making their deadlines and don’t have time to painstakingly digest every snap.

            Another rant for another time is how severely flawed the sports voting system is.

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            • Stroh says:

              I would take Clayton’s word over the guys at PFF who act like they know the game. They base their grades w/o knowing what a players assignment is. So that every bit as subjective as the better Football writers. PFF isn’t all that… I don’t see how they can cast a reliable grade on a player when they are guessing as to what a players assignment is on a play.

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  2. Nick Perry says:

    I for one am excited about the potential of the OL this year. As long as Bulaga’s healthy, it’s a big upgrade at RT. Bakhtiari now has 17 games under his belt, a NFL offseason, and a second TC. Tretter has been at the Packers facility the entire offseason working out, getting stronger. No doubt he’s smart enough, and to be between the 2 best O linemen the Packers have will be a help. I had read that the Packers O-Line was responsible for 29 sacks last year. The other 16 were on the QB for holding the ball too long, or any other reason they use to decide these stats. Rodgers is always going to hold on to the ball or try to buy time with his legs, he makes so many plays by doing so. If Tretter can hold his own and I think he can, and Bulaga stays on the field, this team will win a lot of games.

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    • Bearmeat Bearmeat says:

      ARod’s biggest fault is also one of his biggest assets. He holds on to the ball too often and brings punishment on himself BUT he also drops 50 yard bombs on teams on a regular basis because of this same impulse.

      Then when ARod went out last year, the QB situation was a dumpster fire.

      The OL was good last year – and it will be better this year (assuming health). Bulaga will be a key part of that. Glad to have him this year and into the future at a RT price. :D

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    • Kevin says:

      I just remember Sitton shooting off his mouth before the Detroit game and then getting pushed around the entire 60 minutes.

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      • Nick Perry says:

        So your example is a game where they played without several starters including Rodgers, and lost 40-10. Hmmmm, how’d that work out for Detroit in the end? See I just remember where they finish for the season. Everybody has a bad games but Detroit? Theres a reason why only 3 teams never played in a SB and Detroit is one.

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  3. Big T says:

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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  4. Bedrock says:

    I had the thought TT should sign Newhouse as a big TE, but we need a TE that can block. :)

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  5. since '61 says:

    The OL will be improved if they stay healthy this season. I hope that Sherrod can also make it back in addition to Bulaga. I realize that Sherrod probably will not be ready to start early in the season, but maybe, if he’s recovered he can get some playing time as the season progresses. Having both Bulaga and Sherrod healthy would really solidify our depth on the OL. As for AROD holding the ball too long, he sees Bart Starr as a role model and mentor and like Starr, AR has the philosophy that it is better to take a sack, then to throw a pick.
    The difference between the 2 is that Starr had a defense that could get the ball back for him after he took a 3rd down sack, while the current Packer’s defense has not been very successful at getting the ball back for Rodgers without allowing a score first. Hopefully that will change for the 2014 season. Go Pack Go! Thanks, Since ’61

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    • Jay Hodgson Jay Hodgson says:

      Indeed, sacks are much better than INTs. Fully agree with you there. Live to play another down. However, throwing the ball out of bounds over the receiver is a better option yet.

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  6. Nopainnogain says:

    I think it’s a bit ignorant to blame Rodgers’ collar bone on the Oline. if you watch the play, the protection was fine. the problem was Rodgers scrambling out of the pocket. it’s also lazy and misleading to just look at sack numbers when not all teams pass the same number of times to begin with, and not all sacks are the fault of the oline. sacks can be the fault of te’s, rb’s, and the qb’s, themselves too. heck, if you trust PFF’s ratings, they often attribute about 20-40% of a team’s sacks to players that aren’t on the Oline. They’ve also graded Green Bay’s team pass blocking in the top-10 each of the last 4 years.

    yet the complaints persist and I think it’s mostly because fans do not usually watch other teams very much aside from their favorite one so they do not have any sort of baseline too judge oline play. they probably think other lines are only giving up single-digit sacks and all they know is that they wish their own line was better than it is.

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    • Jay Hodgson Jay Hodgson says:

      I watched the play where Rodgers broke his collarbone at least a dozen times. Every time, I put a lot of blame on Barclay. He failed to set the edge. He only got his hands on McClellin twice, and both times were definitely not a punch. Barclay did nothing to disrupt or impede the pass rush. When Rodgers stepped up into the pocket, McClellin was there with an easy take down.

      While it’s true that a lot of bets are off once the quarterback steps up into the pocket, the fact that Barclay never even punched or chipped McClellin is why he would grade out negatively on that play. Would Bulaga have done any better on that play? We’ll never know.

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      • Nopainnogain says:

        Rodgers was not in the pocket when he was hit. He had already left it and there was nothing that Barclay could have done once Rodgers passed him. he does not have eyes in the back of his head. linemen protect a spot that the qb is supposed to be in. they can’t do much else than that. if you are dead-set on blaming an olineman, blame Bakhtiari for being put on rollerskates and causing the left side to collapse and forcing Rodgers to run. btw, olinemen do not ‘set the edge’.

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        • Jay Hodgson Jay Hodgson says:

          Yes, Rodgers was not in the pocket when he got hit. But, some of the blame is still on Barclay for that sack.

          Barclay barely got his hands on McClellin. He should have at least punched him or gotten under his shoulder pads. His slide step was good while getting into pass pro, but he did nothing once there. Look at the picture at the top of this article. Rodgers is out of the pocket, but Bulaga has his hands under the shoulder pads of the rusher and getting him off balance. When pass blocking, you need to either block your man, get him off balance, or drive him out of the play way behind the pocket. Barclay did none of these. At bare minimum, if McClellin was off balance, he wouldn’t have been able to turn so fluidly and run down Rodgers.

          Offensive tackles most certainly do set the edge in pass pro. It’s the edge of the pocket. That’s why it’s so crucial tackles have a quick slide step in pass pro. Also, you often see the entire line slide when they want to slide protection in one direction because they want the edge somewhere else.

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          • Stroh says:

            The sack of Rodgers that caused the injury was nearly entirely on Barclay. Barclay never engaged McClellin, he played patty cake w/ him. If Barclay had bothered to actually engage McClellin, Rodgers would have easily escaped underneath and McClellin wouldn’t have laid a hand on him. Barclay played WAY to soft on that play. He has to at least engage the DL to make him disengage giving Rodgers the .5 second he needed to slip away cleanly.

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          • Nopainnogain says:

            you’re comparing apples and oranges. of course, if the defender fires into you, you anchor and extend, as bulaga did. but you don’t lunge after a defender that is keeping his distance from you when you’re in pass pro and gaining your own depth. priority #1 is to stay between the defender and the spot where the qb is supposed to be in his drop (this is why consistent qb drop mechanics are important). again, OL do not have eyes behind their head. #2 is to hold your ground. Barclay did both. once Rodgers leaves the spot where the play called for him to be, there isn’t much Barclay can do unless he’s illegally latched onto the defender. Bak was more responsible for things breaking down a bit early, being driven back and allowing the defender to get inside of him. Lacy didn’t do much of anything either in the way of chipping or providing a checkdown. Rodgers still had time to make his drop and get through his reads. Bears had a good D called and nobody was open so he scrambled.

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  7. Archie says:

    OL talent is best we’ve seen in GB since TT got the GM job and promptly blew up our All-Pro OL. Ditto our RBs. All portends well for a monster offensive year. If defensive takes a step forward, we will be looking at a really good team. If defense continues to falter, we will be passed by many. It’s all about the defense this year. With names like Burnett, Hawk, Jones, Raji, Worthy, Perry, Neal, I am worried.

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    • Big T says:

      Thanks for keeping it real Archie. Too many folks on this site get drunk on the TT malt liquor and can no longer think for themselves. Sheeple.

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  8. Barclay being accomplished at run blocking and lacking in pass blocking screams of a move inside. After he go used to the position, I liked Lang at center.

    An offense with more ball control will make the defense better….

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  9. Stroh says:

    Bulaga’s career has been anything but an enigma. Its been largely a disappointment and unfulfilled expectations due to injury.

    An enigma is a puzzling or inexplicable occurrence or situation. Bulaga’s career is anything BUT inexplicable.

    Now if for some reason Bulaga was unable to fulfill expectations and there was no sound reason for it, you could call it an enigma. But its extremely obvious why Bulaga hasn’t produced.

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    • Jay Hodgson Jay Hodgson says:

      I chose the word enigma intentionally because it was exactly what I meant it to mean.

      For example, when Bulaga tore his ACL, he didn’t know he tore it. No one can identify the exact play or incident in which it tore, and he continued to practice well after he tore it.

      If that’s not an enigma, I don’t know what is. It’s just another example of the curious case of Bryan Bulaga.

      I appreciate that you read my column and visit the ALLGBP site. However, you insist on debating everything. You want to debate defensive alignments. You want to debate NFL grading schemes. Now, you want to debate my knowledge of the English language.

      What exactly are you trying to accomplish?

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      • Stroh says:

        What I meant to mean? Yeah good writing… Go back to remedial English. Nothing about Bulaga’s career has been an enigma. Its been a bit of a disappointment only due to injuries, nothing more. I remember reading that Bulaga twisted his knee in an awkward manner, which isn’t all that uncommon for ACL injuries. Even the Injury isn’t much of an enigma.

        Just pointing out the facts for you, its unfortunate you can’t take a little criticism or admit when your wrong and insist on arguing an indefensible position. Kinda like your cover 3 article, which was Clearly man coverage w/ a single high safety.

        All I did in this is point out that Bulaga’s career hasn’t been an enigma and you came after me. I didn’t say a thing about you, the author. But You took it personal!

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        • Jay Hodgson Jay Hodgson says:

          Remedial English:

          You said, “Its been a bit of a disappointment” when you clearly meant “It’s been a bit…”

          You said, “when your wrong and insist” when you clearly meant “when you’re wrong…”

          You said, “You took it personal” when you clearly meant “You took it personally.”

          “Its” is possessive. “It’s” means “it is.”

          “Your” is possessive. “You’re” means “you are.”

          “Personal” is an adjective. “Personally” is an adverb.

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        • Jason Perone Jason Perone says:

          Wrong again Stroh, it doesn’t read “what I meant to mean” it said “what I meant it to mean”. Totally different with “it” in there. You want to criticize others’ English when your reading comprehension is lacking.

          You telling someone they can’t take criticism or admit when “your” (wrong tense of the ENGLISH word “you’re”) wrong is the best example of the pot calling the kettle black I can think of!

          I’ll say it again, your points get lost in your constant badgering of other posters and how they word things. Instead of focusing on the topic at hand, you insist on correcting everyone and trying to showcase how “smart” you are. You use personal attacks to try and make people second guess and feel bad about themselves. Your approach is an ENIGMA. It’s a “puzzling or inexplicable occurrence” how anyone can live with themselves the way you consistently interact with others. That’s what’s “truky pathetic” (sure, blame the cell phone and not the user’s lack of attention to detail, aka being WRONG).

          If you’re going to criticize the work around here, stop reading and commenting. Otherwise any little bit of credibility you have around here is lost!

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  10. marpag says:

    I’ve been a bit higher on Bulaga than some other people. Obviously, he needs to be on the field, but when he’s been healthy I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to say that he MIGHT have cracked the top 5 at RT, and certainly would have been among the top 10 RTs. That’s more than can be said for Barclay, and Barclay at least held his own. Based solely on his play while healthy, I think that Bulaga was a nice pick for a late D1.

    I agree with those who say that the OL looks to be improved. I also agree with those who say that Sitton has been a flat out stud. TJ Lang is also a bit underrated.

    As for the debate about the ARod collarbone sack, it doesn’t have to be ALL on Barclay or ALL on Rodgers. Barclay certainly can and should have done better getting after an entirely average DE like McClellin, but it’s tough when a QB takes off out of the pocket to your side, which puts the DE between the tackle and the QB.

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    • Stroh says:

      I agree… With Bulaga at RT the Packers have a very good RT, easily top 10. I’m really excited about the OL to be honest. I’ve read some articles recently that suggested that Tretter had he been healthy last year would have become the starting Center in pretty short order. If true the Packers have an unknown star at Center. RT is very strong, the starting OG’s are among the best combo’s in the NFL. Then we’re just down to Bahktiari who should be improved at LT and Sherrod a 1st rd pick.

      This OL has the makings of one of the best OL’s in the NFL and its still pretty young!

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      • Big T says:

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        • Slim11 says:

          As has been said before, it’s too early to call Sherrod a bust.

          There are several reasons. First, his injury was not just a broken leg, but a badly broken leg. Breaking both bones in the lower leg can’t be ignored.

          Second, his rookie training camp didn’t start out well. He lined up as a starting G following the owners’ lockout which eliminated OTAs. He was drafted as a LT, then tried as a starter out of position…as a rookie! That was a coaching decision and clearly not Sherrod’s responsibility.

          This season, Sherrod must make a big leap forward. If he doesn’t produce this season, then the bust label might be a fair consideration.

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          • Big T says:

            I agree with what you are saying, but I don’t think he will mentally take that leap forward.

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        • Stroh says:

          He’s hardly played due to injury that’s NOT a bust, its bad luck!

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