Mike McCarthy has said it, and I firmly believe it – this is the best offensive line of McCarthy’s tenure with the Packers.
With the return from injury of a bigger and stronger Bryan Bulaga and with David Baktiari now having a season under his belt (which has also grown a few sizes this offseason), the Packers are sporting the most solid offensive tackle combo since Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher in their primes.
With TJ Lang and Josh Sitton already being recognized as the one of the best guard tandems in the NFL, the only real question mark was at the center position. While it’s an admittedly small sample size, after what I’ve seen of JC Tretter, there is no reason to worry.
I tracked Tretter on every snap of the last two preseason games and came away with two main observations.
1) He doesn’t for a minute look like a guy playing the position for the first time. The Ivy League smarts are evident on the field and he has been 100% ball secure. Not a single bad snap or miscue.
2) This guy is a FOOTBALL PLAYER. He’s got some nasty in him and he’s a finisher. When he gets the upper hand in a one-on-one battle, he’s not satisfied to just execute his block. He has a NEED to continue with his block until the whistle blows. If he gets you off balance, you’re going to the ground. He did that several times against 6’6″ 313 lb Kendall Langford. Tretter appears much stronger than I realized.
So, assuming this line can stay _______ (I don’t believe in jinxes but I’m willing to play along here so I won’t say it) let’s get to the real point of this article.
What I observed during Rodger’s two drives against the Rams, was almost no need for Eddie Lacy or James Starks to pass protect. Against an aggressive and fast Rams defensive line (ask Derek Sherrod and Aaron Adams about that), the Packers’ starting offensive line had everything under control.
During the Packers’ first drive, Rodgers dropped back to pass seven times. He ran once and threw six passes. On five of those plays, Lacy went straight to an open spot in the soft underbelly of the Rams zone. Rodgers dumped off to him twice for a total of 22 yards gained.
During the Packers’ second drive, Rodgers dropped back to pass eight times. On five of those plays, Starks looked for a dump off pass and was targeted twice. On one play (the first play of the drive), the Rams brought six rushers and that was the only time pass blocking help from a running back was needed – simply a matter of numbers. Starks correctly identified the unaccounted for blitzing linebacker and met him head on.
Compare how I described Lacy’s backfield release actions to Starks’. When Lacy releases from the backfield, he does it quickly and has a plan. He heads right for wherever the open space is. Starks. on the other hand, kind of jogs past the line of scrimmage and just turns around and jumps in place a few times. But that’s a whole other article.
The real point here is that if what we’ve seen from the offensive line is real and continues, Eddie Lacy will go from a top-level running back to all-around two-headed monster. Last season, Lacy caught 35 passes in 15 games with an average gain of 7.3 yds. One third of those catches produced a first down.
In previous seasons, when Rodgers was one of the most sacked quarterbacks in the NFL, the Packers running backs’ main responsibility on pass plays was helping out the shaky offensive line. Picture Aaron Rodgers with good protection and a consistent safety valve option when he needs one. And it doesn’t hurt at all that the safety valve is Eddie Lacy, who can run a bit after the catch.
Good luck getting off the field, defenses…
Jersey Al Bracco is the founder and editor of AllGreenBayPackers.com, and the co-founder of Packers Talk Radio Network. He can be heard as one of the Co-Hosts on Cheesehead Radio and is the Green Bay Packers Draft Analyst for Drafttek.com.