Cory’s Corner: It all starts and ends up front for the Packers

Mike McCarthy isn’t big on lists and comparing one generation to another.

Remember this: “This offensive line, in my opinion, in my time here, has the chance to be the best offensive line that we’ve had.”

That was a proud and boastful McCarthy on July 25, 2014 — one day before starting his ninth training camp.

After the Packers re-signed one of the game’s most expensive right tackles in Bryan Bulaga in the offseason, McCarthy may have been right.

Success and failure is made and lost at the quarterback position. But the framework for that success is built around a quality and cohesive offensive line.

In the final 16 games, Green Bay’s offensive line never changed. The 112 quarterback pressures were the lowest since 2007, which is why Aaron Rodgers was only sacked 28 times last year.

The biggest surprise was easily center Corey Linsley. It’s not easy for a rookie to step in and play the first game of the year in Seattle — home of the most rabid fan base in the NFL. But he quickly was able to not only play well, but he morphed into the leader the unit desperately needed.

Everyone talks about Rodgers, Eddie Lacy, Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson. But none of those guys do anything if the offensive line doesn’t hit its stride.

This is the same line that took the Packers within a whisper of a Super Bowl appearance last year. And now they’ve got a year to grow and get even better.

I’m not sure how much better Josh Sitton can be. He reminds me of the former Cowboys’ road grader Nate Newton. Newton didn’t earn a Pro Bowl invitation until 1992, when Dallas went on a string of winning three Super Bowls in four years. Sitton is a two-time Pro Bowler that has started every game since 2011. Sitton is three years younger than Newton was in 1992 and ready for a long run of consistency.

This team really does have all the tools. The defense got better with the news that Clay Matthews will be allowed to roam more often, and Seattle notwithstanding, the safety position could be the best in the NFC.

But none of those things matter without the benefit of a smart and functional offensive line. The Packers play Seattle, Kansas City and St. Louis in the first five games. It usually takes an NFL team four or five games to get going in order to really find out who they are. Those three teams averaged 41 sacks last year, which is why it’s even more important that the entire unit is coming back.

That means not just a lot more time for Rodgers — who can throw heat-seeking missiles anyway — but it also means that his confidence is going to skyrocket. His first two years as a starter he was sacked 84 times. The last two years Rodgers has been sacked 49 times.

That’s a Grand Canyon of disparity. That’s the difference between picking up a couple more 3rd-and-7s or locating a third receiver on 2nd-and-goal for a touchdown. And it’s the combination of all those little plays that may seem insignificant that are the difference between winning and losing.

Offensive linemen are easily the most unheralded group of guys in the NFL. Many of them barely get any media attention, and even when they do the majority of them ignore it.

But don’t ignore this Packers’ group. In the past, it’s always been a bunch of Misfit Toys, but not anymore. This line will lead an offense that will come close to breaking the efficiency barrier.

 

 

——————

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

——————

  • Since ’61

    It will be critical for the Packers to keep their OL healthy and it would be great if they can pick up where they left off last season, which was playing very strong and consistently. Our offense will go as for as our OL takes it. Thanks, Since ’61

  • Big T

    Every day we don’t have to hear the names Marshall Newhouse and Derrick Sherrod are great days.

    • dobber

      Then congratulations on ruining all of our days…

      • TedTomsin

        Exactly. Another day, another one of The Bash Brothers ripping on Ted.
        Ted

        • BRinMilwaukee

          Jeezus, TedTomsin you are becoming repetitive and just plain odd. Big T was ripping on Newhouse and Sherrod (quite humorously) not Ted Thompson. Take your mouth off TT’s love muscle for 2 seconds and get some air (and new material).

          • TedTomsin

            Think BR, think!! Why was he ripping on Newhouse and Sherrod? Hello McFLy? Actually you’re excused since you are buddies with Big I. Oh, and please leave the lame penis jokes to Caitlyn aka Tearin.
            Ted

            • BRinMilwaukee

              Okay, maybe Big T is the yin to your yang. Maybe his relentless negativity about TT has driven you mad, leaving you to babble on about living legends and stuff. I don’t have enough info to make that call. Truth: the Packers OL is great great great… and we can all thank God that Newhouse and Sherrod are gone gone gone. P.S. That was a GREAT penis joke. I cracked myself up.

    • Allen Barbe

      It’d be best to avoid NYG & KC. games then

  • Bakhtiari has room to improve in the run blocking game. Sitton and Lang both played through injuries, which had to detract a bit from their performances. Bulaga will be another year removed from his knee injury and a year removed from tweaking his MCL (IIRC). He could also improve in terms of general movement, handling speed rushers, and run blocking. Linsley played reasonably well in game one and improved over the season to play at something approaching an elite level. Since this is his 2nd year, he could easily improve. I see no reason to think he will have a sophomore slump. None of the players are getting old. There is no reason to think that anyone had a career year last year, and thus there is no reason to think that the line will regress, barring injury.

    I think there is cause for optimism along the d-line as well, but I’ll wait for an article focused more on the defense to comment. Suffice to say that Daniels, Raji, Datone, with Guion rotating behind each has some positives, plus whatever we get out of the other potential players. Um, I think I’d have to give the palm to Earl Thomas and Chancellor at safety; the only ways to include Burnett and Clinton-Dix in that equation is for a large improvement from one or both or considering the disparity in the cap hits at the safety positions between the two teams. .

  • Nick Perry

    Those 3 games mentioned, Seattle, St. Louis, and Kansas City are all played at home. That should make a huge difference considering Seattle and Kansas City are 2 of the loudest if not the loudest venues in the NFL. Then the 1st game after the bye is in Denver which IMO will be the toughest test for the O-Line the entire season. We keep reading posts about HHCD, Adams, and Rodgers II all making that jump from year 1 to year 2. One player you don’t hear talk about making the jump is Lindsey. Can you imagine the year 2 jump from him? All Pro my friends!!! David Bakhtiari will continue to get better and I think Bulaga could even be better. Throw in the best Guard tandem in the NFL and the Packers field a O-Line as good as any.

    • Good point about home and away, and in particular the noise. All three teams you mention have a really good front 7 too, so we should get some idea right away. Maybe the offensive line should play a few more snaps in preseason rather than Aaron Rodgers?

      • Nick Perry

        Completely agree with you there although I’d like to see Rodgers have a little more work.

  • Taryn Miller

    I agree the offensive line last year played to a level that offers inspiration to rank as the best for MM.However the use of this stat is misleading and proof of how stats are used to suit one’s view,

    ” His first two years as a starter he was sacked 84 times. The last two years Rodgers has been sacked49 times.”

    This dismisses entirely that Rodgers missed 7 games in 2013 making the total of the last two seasons 23 games played compared to the 32 of his first two seasons.

    Still a nice decrease in which our QB was pummeled but if we factor in what may have happened as sacks go for the missed games,17-20,it doesn’t look as picturesque as the total now grows to 66-69 for the last two seasons.Still a nice drop of 15-18 for average sake but the play of rookie Linsley cannot be denied.

    Again,I agree with the possible heights this OL can meet without the misuse of an incomplete stat comparison. 🙂

    • Since ’61

      Taryn – good point about the reduced number of games over 2013 – 14 seasons.
      Towards the end of last season the Packers OL had their best games against some of the best front 7s in the league. At Buffalo, one sack allowed late in the game. Against the Lions at Lambeau in the season finale for the division title, one sack allowed. In the playoffs, 2 sacks allowed against Dallas ( which is interesting since the Dallas defense is not very good) and against Seattle, on the road, only one sack allowed. With Rodgers playing on one leg for the last 3 of those games protecting him was more critical than ever and the OL stepped up big time. Hopefully, they will start 2015 the same way. Thanks, Since ’61

      • Taryn Miller

        Totally agree Since ’61 with how well the OL played last season and like you,I hope it starts off the same way this season.

        I likely came off as attacking the author by some,I’m not, but perhaps simply saying the 28 sacks allowed in 14′ was already far superior to the 21 allowed in the 9 games played by Rodgers in 13′ alone emphasizes a huge step forward in the OL play and deserved applause of the impact of rookie Linsley and erased any need to search archives for justification as the most recent play,year to year,is the most compelling. 🙂

        • Fair point Taryn. (And no need to worry. I have no qualms.)

        • TedTomsin

          “I likely came off as attacking the author by some”

          Likely? You did attack. It’s clear as day what your intentions were. You simply can’t help yourself can you Tearin. There’s still the bitterness over Cory’s article on Greg Hardy. You’ll of course deny it.
          Ted

        • Since ’61

          Taryn – hope to see you over at Cheesehead TV. Thanks, Since ’61

    • Dear Taryn,

      Please come over to Cheesehead, and bring your quill. There is no one who writes quite like you do. I might kid you about having to parse your prose, but quite often it is beautiful, and generally there is a salient point. You would be missed by many more than just me. (I was never sure if you’re already on there under a slightly different name.)

      I would extend that plea to everyone who commented on allgbp.com.

  • Rossonero

    Without the o-line last year, Rodgers wouldn’t have had an MVP year. It’s as simple as that. My hat is off to those guys in the trenches.

    • Since ’61

      Rossonero – Hope to see you over at Cheesehead TV. Thanks, Since ’61

  • TedTomsin

    The Packers absolutely destroyed the Seahawks in the NFC Championship game. It wasn’t even close if not for the stupid special teams under Slocum. GB’s offensive line was the reason why. They manhandled that vaunted Seattle defense and made them look average. You compare them in that last game to week one and it wasn’t even close. Because of the brilliance and leadership of the legendary Ted Thompson, Green Bay boasts the BEST offensive line in the NFL and could quite possibly be ranked up there with the all time best lines starting this season. Ted Thompson has built an impenetrable force around the best qb in the NFL to go along with the no. 1 ranked receiving force and a future hall of fame running back in Eddie Lacy. Yeah, he sucks and should be fired!!
    Ted

  • marpag

    I know it wasn’t really the point of your article, but I had to do a major double take when you said, “Seattle notwithstanding, the [GB] safety position could be the best in the NFC.” Unless we’re already penciling in some of our draft picks as all-pros, I’ll take Thomas and Chancellor by themselves over any and all safeties in Green Bay.

    • BRinMilwaukee

      marpag– “Seattle notwithstanding” means “except for Seattle”… the writer wasn’t suggesting our safeties were better than Seattle’s. Quite the opposite.

      • marpag

        I agree with your assessment of GB and SEA safeties, but I DON’T think that is what “notwithstanding” means. To paraphrase, it means “even though or despite the fact that some people might prefer Seattle’s safeties, GB’s safety position could be the best in the NFL.”

        It’s not worth making a big point about. We agree on the important part.

        • BRinMilwaukee

          A minor point, agreed. But in the context of the article, I think the writer mentioned Seattle’s safeties specifically to EXCLUDE them from the statement that GB might have the best safeties in the NFC. You are suggesting that the writer– Cory J– feels that Burnett and Clinton-Dix are better than Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas. That’s crazy talk, my friend. It’s a question of 2nd best in the NFC, and I’m pretty sure that’s what the writer meant.

          • TedTomsin

            Why not ask Cory. The hell with it, I’ll do it myself to settle this petty disagreement. Hey Cory, what did you mean?
            Ted

            • That Green Bay could have the 2nd best safety unit behind Seattle in the NFC.

        • I made the same comment about the safety comparison. My reading comprehension skills also tell me that notwithstanding does not mean exclude. As to what the author meant, well Cory writes some good articles, but he has been prone to some hyperbole in the past.

          • TedTomsin

            Well, this one appears it will go unsolved forever as Cory apparently plead the 5th. I personally thought he was excluding Seattle altogether ranking them the clear no. 1 so I side with PBR on this one.
            Ted

          • BRinMilwaukee

            I hope Cory chimes in, but let’s read the sentence again: “The defense got better with the news that Clay Matthews will be allowed to roam more often, and Seattle notwithstanding, the safety position could be the best in the NFC.” Clearly he means “apart from Seattle” otherwise, why would Cory even bring Seattle up? Do you believe that Cory disagrees with you, me, TedTomsin, and the rest of the planet, about Seattle’s safeties being the best in the NFC? He only mentioned Seattle specifically to EXCLUDE them from talk about the Packers having the best safeties in the NFC. Cory may be prone to hyperbole, but he’s not insane. It’s time to concede, great one.

            • LOL. No, I cannot concede. Notwithstanding does not mean exclude or except for. Don’t know what Cory’s intent was, and I will not guess at it.

              • BRinMilwaukee

                A great man would have conceded, especially a smart guy like yourself. You are now demoted, and shall be known as “Thegoodreynoldo”. If I weren’t in the grip of off-season madness, I would cackle on some more. All hail Ted Thompson! la la la…..

              • Since ’61

                Reynoldo – Hope to see you over at Cheesehead TV. Thanks, Since ’61

              • You are very kind. Yes, of course I will follow Al and the troops over to Cheesehead, which had some good authors. I have been occasionally posting at Cheesehead for the last few years, just not like I do at allgbp, really for reasons of style and tone there, and the comment section is bad in technical terms and ease of use. More people talking AT each other and less listening to the opinions of others, and gasp, changing one’s opinions. I expect Al and troops will make it better.

        • Steve Cheez

          If each part of our defense were 2nd-best in the league, I think we’d do OK.

  • mark

    If you want to know how much of the OL is hype, how much is based on having ARod as QB and how much is having a RB like Lacy (recall sitton and I think Lang acknowledging they were not sustaining blocks and giving the high effort and physical play Lacy was last season)

    Look at crunch time in Seattle. How did the OL do in goal lines situations? Did they make blocks (no)? did they sustain blocks? (no) when the game was on the line and MM and Arod went brain dead to run the clock out (literally) how did the OL do? The answer is they did not do well at all. With bad play calling taking Arod and the WRs out of the game the OL was humiliated, to a man.

    This OL is the best MM had because TT destroyed the OL his first year. This is an “great” OL because of QB, coach and brillaint approach to the game, Lacy and then playing as a unit. The talent level is consistently way overrated. LIke the team in general. Without Arod this is a 5-6 game winner in large part thanks to the halas/mccaskey family

    • Steve Cheez

      Refresh my memory, please, what did Wahle and Rivera do after we let them go?

    • TedTomsin

      mark, we haven’t met yet or if we did I must have forgot but which brother are you again? Archie’s or Big T’s?
      Ted