Category Archives: Bryan Bulaga

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.

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11

June

Offensive Linemen Musical Chairs, 2014 Edition: who stays, who goes?

Outside of special teams, nothing is more confusing, more obfuscated or more esoteric than offensive line play; We all know that Joe Thomas is supposed to be one of the best offensive linemen in the NFL right now, but do you or I really know that?  I’ve never watched a game specifically focused on Thomas (which would of course require me to watch a Browns game…..so no thanks), and I suspect that even Browns fans probably haven’t really paid all that much attention to him.  The only real reason I know of Joe Thomas at all is 1) he went to Wisconsin and 2) I’ve been told he’s one of the best offensive linemen in the NFL today.  At least with other positions, there are splash plays or statistics we can fall back on whether it be sacks, yards after the catch, Dwight Freeney’s spin move, the back shoulder catch etc.  But for offensive linemen, none of that really exists; the “pancake” has never really gotten off the ground as a established metric of offensive linemen success nor does a great block ever make the Sportscenter highlight reel.  Add on top of that there are actually 5 positions on the offensive line, and we get a confusing mess of contradictory statements; offensive linemen must all work together, but each have different jobs.  Tackles are tackles and guards are guards, except some are left tackles but not right tackles and some are right guards but not left guards.  Center is a unique position, unless it isn’t and you put a guard in there.  There is a distinct difference between “interior” linemen and “bookend” offensive linemen, unless of course you kick your tackle to play guard.

In all of that, the Packers are faced with a conundrum; there are 5 positions and traditionally 2 backup positions, making 7 offensive linemen total.  What I’ve done is made a mental excercise of some combinations of offensive linemen that are likely to happen when the Packers roster is reduced to 53.  A couple rules: I’d highly doubt the Packers carry any more since offensive linemen aren’t all that useful on special teams meaning they’d almost always be on the inactive list.  Of course the Packers have had more than 7 offensive linemen in the middle of the season due to injuries and what not, but its obviously not their first choice.  Also there needs to be a backup for both tackle and guard; supposedly there is a significance between the two but Ted Thompson probably disagrees since the vast majority of offensive linemen that have been on the Packer’s roster were college left tackles.

6

May

Cory’s Corner: Ted Thompson averages a draft whiff a year

Packers general manager Ted Thompson selected future Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers with his first pick as the Green Bay GM.

Packers general manager Ted Thompson selected future Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers with his first pick as the Green Bay GM.

This will be Ted Thompson’s 10th NFL Draft as the Packers general manager. He has been arguably the biggest lightning rod for criticism over the years.

There is inherent value in every round of the draft, but the most consistent value lies in rounds 1-3, which is where I also focus my attention.

Thompson did a masterful job early on. When you land a guy like Aaron Rodgers as your first pick to begin your new job, things are looking pretty good. He added safety Nick Collins and wide receiver Terrence Murphy, who were both forced to leave pro football early after suffering neck injuries.

The next year, Thompson did another excellent job by adding fifth overall pick in linebacker A.J. Hawk, second rounders in guard Daryn Colledge and wide receiver Greg Jennings and third round guard Jason Spitz. The only guy that was a question mark was third round linebacker Abdul Hodge because injuries forced him to only start one game in four NFL seasons.

But after hitting so many home runs in his first two seasons, Thompson was due for some whiffs. And that’s exactly what happened in 2007. Justin Harrell, arguably the worst pick of Thompson’s career, started just two of 14 games in his three-year career. It was a little head scratching that the Packers even used a first round pick on Harrell, who entered the league hurt after tearing his biceps at Tennessee.

Brandon Jackson is another strikeout. The former Nebraska track star/football player was able to play bit roles but is now looking for a job. James Jones gave the Packers a good return on its third-round investment. He proved he could start but was never capable of winning the top receiver job. The final whiff of 2007 is Aaron Rouse. The safety played just three seasons before signing with the now-defunct United Football League.

The following year, there were two more whiffs sandwiched in between a couple of home runs. Obviously, second rounder Jordy Nelson has carved out a pretty nice career as one of Rodgers’ go-to targets. However, second rounder Brian Brohm, after not being able to get comfortable with the speed of the NFL game, is now playing quarterback for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the CFL. The other miss was second round cornerback Patrick Lee, who only started one game in his Green Bay career. The other great get that Thompson secured was third rounder Jermichael Finley. Although his mouth got in the way early on, Finley was one of the most athletic tight ends in the game when healthy.

14

March

Evan Dietrich-Smith Signs With The Buccaneers

Packers C Evan Dietrich-Smith

Packers C Evan Dietrich-Smith

Tom Silverstein has been a busy guy, first reporting on the resigning of defensive end/nose tackle BJ Raji and now reporting that center Evan Dietrich-Smith has signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

 

 

With that, the Packers now have a big question to answer this offseason, much like they did when they let Scott Wells sign with the St. Louis Rams.   JC Tretter becomes perhaps the de facto starter, which is a little scary considering he was a left tackle in college and broke his foot during rookie orientation last year, essentially giving him a redshirt rookie season.  Other options might include Don Barclay, who practiced at center during training camp last year with somewhat disastrous results or TJ Lang, who is rumored to be the emergency center (or at least Josh Sitton jokes that he is). Luckily, the Packers have some other options on the offensive line, with both Bryan Bulaga and Derek Sherrod likely being in the mix at tackle, either Don Barclay and/or David Bakhtiari could slide into the interior.

In terms of the draft, the Packers have never thought very highly of centers (Wells was a 6th round draft choice while EDS was a undrafted free agent), so it’s unlikely that they would draft a center high, rather they like to draft tackles who likely wouldn’t make it in the NFL and convert them to interior linemen.

The top free agent center is Alex Mack, who was designated the transition franchise tag for the Browns, likely meaning that the Packers will not try to pry Mack away from the Browns.  Again going back to Thompson’s history drafting and retaining centers, it appears as if the Packers front office views centers as largely fungible, meaning the Packers backup likely will be another low round draft pick or an undrafted free agent.  Another option might be to run the “Jeff Saturday” play, where the Packers sign a veteran center while they hope JC Tretter or Don Barclay gain enough experience at center to play next there next season.

23

February

Win a Johnny Jolly or Bryan Bulaga Autographed Photo w/ COA

Win a Johnny Jolly Autographed photo.

Win a Johnny Jolly autographed photo

Win a Bryan Bulaga autographed photo

Win a Bryan Bulaga autographed photo

 

 

 

<—– WIN ME  —–> 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In conjunction with Packers Talk Radio Network and Waukesha Sports Cards, we have quite an assortment of signed 8×10 pics of Packers players, past and present. We will be giving them away over the next few months in a variety of ways.

Right now we have two contests going on.

1) Johnny Jolly

To be eligible to win this prize, you need to follow both @NoHuddleRadioGB and @WaukSports on twitter and then tweet the following:

“I want the #SignedJollyPic #Packers”

Winner will be announced on the No Huddle Radio Tuesday night live broadcast and you will be notified.

2) Bryan Bulaga

To be eligible to win this prize, you need to follow both @FromTheBenches and @WaukSports on twitter and then tweet the following:

“I want the #SignedBulagaPic #Packers”

Winner will be announced on next week’s From the Benches podcast and you will be notified.

WHAT IF I’M NOT ON TWITTER?

First of all, congratulations for being smarter than the rest of us. If you insist on staying that way and don’t want to join Twitter, you can be eligible by signing up for the ALLGBP and Waukesha Sports newsletters. Just head over to the right side of any page on this site and you’ll find a box that says “Email Newsletter.” Just sign up and you’re automatically eligible for both of the above prizes. And of course, we will never share your email address with anyone, especially not Chinese hackers or the Russian mob.

 

Good Luck Everyone.

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Jersey Al Bracco is the founder and editor of AllGreenBayPackers.com, and the co-founder of Packers Talk Radio Network. He is a PFWA member who can be heard as one of the Co-Hosts on Cheesehead Radio and is the Green Bay Packers Draft Analyst for Drafttek.com.

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26

December

Cory’s Corner: Time is running out for Derek Sherrod

Offensive lineman Derek Sherrod has missed over a year-and-a-half since being selected as the 32nd player in the 2011 draft.

Offensive lineman Derek Sherrod has missed over a year-and-a-half since being selected as the 32nd player in the 2011 NFL Draft.

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.

18

October

What Happens If Evan Dietrich-Smith Gets Hurt?

Packers center Evan Dietrich-Smith

Packers center Evan Dietrich-Smith

The injury headlines mostly coming out of Green Bay right now have been dealing with Clay Matthews, Nick Perry, James Jones and of course Randall Cobb.  While all these injuries are serious to the success of the team, one injury that has slipped under the radar a little bit that could have even more disastrous ramifications is that backup interior linemen Greg Van Roten has been placed on injured reserve with a foot injury, ending his season.  The reason why this should be more concerning then most people are realizing is two fold 1) there is no official backup center at the moment (Ourlads still has Van Roten as the backup) and more importantly 2) knowing how the Packers offense, chances are good an injury to starter Evan Dietrich-Smith will result in a lot of linemen playing new positions.  While losing two outside linebackers or two wide receivers is obviously not great, young back up players have a good shot at hiding some of that loss; for instance Jamari Lattimore did a astounding job last week in his first start, Mike Neal and Nick Perry have also done a great job covering for the loss of Clay Matthews and Jarrett Boykin looked to finally get in sync with quarterback Aaron Rodgers near the end of the game. However, losing the starting center for the Packers is like losing the starting center, guard and probably tackle as the entire offensive line will be shuffled as a result.  Considering the fact that the backup center is currently unknown, below are some of the possible offensive line options.

 

Situation: Evan Dietrich-Smith is injured, the Packers offensive line will look like…

 

Option 1: Bakhtiari (LT), Sitton (LG), Barclay (C), Lang (LG), Newhouse (RT) – postion changes: 2

Under the “best man available” strategy that the Packers love to employ, they bring out their 5 best offensive linemen out but probably in the worst position.  Barclay was seriously considered for the center position during the offseason but was pretty much an abject failure with multiple botched snaps and a general uneasiness about the position according to reports.  Newhouse takes Barclay’s place at right tackle, a position he’s never played in the NFL and one where he didn’t look all that comfortable in during preseason games either.  Surprisingly, Barclay has been pretty decent in pass protection this year and is a sizable upgrade in terms of run blocking to Newhouse so overall, it’s a total loss at right tackle.  On the plus side, Newhouse does have the most experience of the backups and probably has the best rapport with Rodgers but he’s never been able to overcome his limited physical abilities to become a really dependable player.  Nevertheless, if Dietrich-Smith was injured this week, I’m guessing this is what the Packers do.