2011 Draft Prep: Green Bay Packers Needs by Position – Offensive Line

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In this next installment of our 2011 Draft Prep series looking at the Green Bay Packers’ needs by position, we are going to analyze how the offensive line positions currently stand. Strengths, weaknesses, depth, and uncertainties will all be examined to determine the urgency of need in regards to next season.

This series is meant to help us figure out the needs of the team and how the draft could be used to improve the weaker areas. While Ted Thompson largely uses the “best player available” (BPA) approach, his decision to trade up or down the board is affected by what position players he would prefer to have. Additionally, the picking up of players in the later rounds and in undrafted free agency is often based on need, since the talent is less defined.


#63 Scott Wells [C]
30 yrs. old / 7 yrs. exp.
Signed through 2011

#62 Evan Dietrich-Smith [C/G]
24 yrs. old / 2 yrs. exp.
Signed through 2012

#67 Nick McDonald [C/G]
23 yrs. old / 1 yr. exp.
Signed through 2012

#72 Jason Spitz [C/G]
28 yrs. old / 5 yrs. exp.
Free Agent (no tender offered)

#71 Josh Sitton [G]
24 yrs. old / 3 yrs. exp.
Signed through 2011

#64 Adrian Battles [G]
24 yrs. old / 1 yr. exp.
Signed to reserve/future contract

#73 Daryn Colledge [G]
29 yrs. old / 5 yrs. exp.
Free Agent (tender offered)

#74 Marshall Newhouse [G/T]
22 yrs. old / 1 yr. exp.
Signed through 2013

#70 T.J. Lang [T/G]
23 yrs. old / 2 yrs. exp.
Signed through 2012

#76 Chad Clifton [T]
34 yrs. old / 11 yrs. exp.
Signed through 2012

#65 Mark Tauscher [T]
33 yrs. old / 11 yrs. exp.
Signed through 2011

#75 Bryan Bulaga [T]
22 yrs. old / 1 yrs. exp.
Signed through 2014

#69 Chris Campbell [T]
24 yrs. old / 1 yr. exp.
Signed to reserve/future contract

* Contract information acquired from RotoWorld.com


The offensive line as a unit has come a long way from its dismal 2009 performance. It still has its weak points, but overall the unit does a good job in pass protection.

Scott Wells, physically speaking, is a solid center who provides the necessary foundation of the line. But more importantly, his communication skills and abilities in setting the protection have really made a difference. If they had to choose, this pass-heavy offense would probably prefer the superior mental aptitude over superior athleticism.

To Well’s immediate right is Josh Sitton, the NFL Alumni Association’s 2010 Offensive Lineman of the Year. In Mike McCarthy-speak, he has been both “available and accountable” the past two seasons with Green Bay.  Sitton is arguably the best lineman of the unit, and it showed against opponents like the Detroit Lions’ Ndamukong Suh.

Seasoned veteran Chad Clifton held down the left tackle position for most of the season, limiting the impact of players like Jared Allen, Julius Peppers, and James Harrison. Though not a road grinder in the running game, his pass protection skills are invaluable.

Finally, tackle Bryan Bulaga showed great potential and growth in his rookie season. He learned from each of his mistakes and improved steadily after taking over for Mark Tauscher. Additionally, Bulaga has the dexterity, strength, and mental sharpness that are needed in a tackle, which bodes well for the future of the offensive line.


As it stands, the biggest flaw in the offensive line is the run blocking. There are, however, some clarifications with this statement.

First, the Green Bay Packers are primarily concerned with pass blocking, as Aaron Rodgers and the receiving corps is their biggest weapon. Second, some people might attribute this problem to the zone blocking scheme (ZBS) more than the players. However, Chad Clifton is a prime example of a player who does outstanding in protection but doesn’t really add anything to the running game. It would be nice to have some more well-rounded players, especially with the emergence of the Ryan Grant / James Starks show.

Another weakness, dare I say it, is Daryn Colledge. Though he is not at all horrible, Colledge does leave a bit to be desired. His “availability” might have saved his job at the beginning of the season, but his average play has kept him from signing a longer contract with the Packers. Whether or not he returns for next season, a solution at left guard is needed.

Finally, the concern for injury has grown when it comes to older lineman like Mark Tauscher, Chad Clifton, and even Scott Wells. Tauscher may not return, but Clifton has every intention of playing another season. He missed some significant time with a lingering injury during the beginning of the season, and he even had to sit out a couple series against the Chicago Bears in the NFC Championship game.

The depth of this unit could certainly be tested next year, and the Packers will need some answers.


In talking about the uncertainties along the offensive line, we may as well start where we just left off: tackles Mark Tauscher and Chad Clifton. These two veterans each have 11 years of NFL experience and will not be around much longer.

Of the two, Mark Tauscher is the least likely to return. After dealing with various injuries since his starting streak ended in 2008, his latest “shoulder sprain” knocked him out for almost the entire 2010 season. Tauscher is signed through the rest of next season, but the rise of Bryan Bulaga in conjunction with his age, injury, and performance concerns will probably force him into retirement. The other option would be to keep him as a veteran backup, though that means one less roster spot to use in training the newer linemen.

Chad Clifton, on the other hand, has said he is prepared to keep going and feels better than he has in a long time. The concern for him being able to finish the year, however, is a big one. And the doubts about him playing into the 2012 season are even bigger.

Bryan Bulaga has proven to be a “tackle of the future,” yet Ted Thompson and the Packers still need to decide on his complementary bookend.

The really big question that underwrites all of this, meanwhile, is how the younger players will perform next season. T.J. Lang and Evan Dietrich-Smith both now have two years in the NFL and will be expected to prove their worth next season.

Last year’s rookies will also have to show that they have made that “second year jump.” As draft picks, Bryan Bulaga and Marshall Newhouse will be the most scrutinized, with Nick McDonald right up there with them. Bulaga has proven himself for the most part; unfortunately, the lockout could impede the development of Newhouse and McDonald.

Chris Campbell and Adrian Battles, meanwhile, are still early in their training and have farther to go than the others before they see field time.

How all of these younger players progress is a major part of the puzzle. They will essentially determine how dire the Packers needs are on the offensive line.

(A side concern is the contract situation of Scott Wells and Josh Sitton, who are both entering their last year with the Packers. In spite of this, I expect both to be resigned or extended based on their value to the unit and the team.)


“You never have enough big guys,” professes Ted Thompson. And he’s right. They are the foundations of both the offense and defense.

The way I see it, the Green Bay Packers needs for offensive linemen fall into the medium to high range this draft. Now, before you start lashing me for not making this the highest priority, hear me out.

Right now there are three unquestioned players for next season’s line: Scott Wells, Josh Sitton, and Bryan Bulaga. These guys are all very dependable and very capable. So the main thing Ted Thompson needs to do is make sure the Packers have the depth to back up these players in the event of injury.

The least worrisome position after those is left tackle. Chad Clifton showed he still has it in him, even if it wasn’t for the whole season. Nevertheless, he will definitely need a “field ready” back-up. Bulaga could certainly switch sides if necessary, but that would still leave a void at right tackle. Whether it’s T.J. Lang, Marshall Newhouse, or a drafted rookie, someone will need to be available. Ideally, this player would also need to be projected as the long-term replacement whenever Clifton leaves for good.

And last, but certainly not least, the left guard position must be filled this year, and preferably not by Daryn Colledge. Again, Lang, Newhouse, McDonald, or a rookie could end up with at this position. I see this as the most urgent and immediate need.

Thompson has drafted at least two offensive linemen each of the last three years, and I don’t expect much to change for the 2011 NFL Draft. He will be adding depth to already-secure positions, looking for possible long-term replacements, and trying to fill the hole at left guard. So while the offensive line is a top priority, the concern is not quite as high as you might initially think, especially compared to other years.

*** For further reading, check out “According to Hobbes: Packers Offseason Primer on the NFL Combine: Offensive Tackles” and “Offensive Interior Lineman” by Thomas Hobbes. ***


Chad Toporski, a Wisconsin native and current Pittsburgh resident, is a writer for AllGreenBayPackers.com. You can follow Chad on twitter at @ChadToporski


16 thoughts on “2011 Draft Prep: Green Bay Packers Needs by Position – Offensive Line

  1. I really thought that last year was do or die for a tackle, and for a tackle in the first round. Both Clifton and Tauscher were on their last knees, and we had only Lang in there to fill that void, and even he was a question mark.
    Lucky for us, Bulaga fell, TT snatched him, and he was able to fill in for Tauscher and save our season, so to speak.

    After watching Clifton play the best football in his career in the final stretch of the season, I don’t feel the NEED for another tackle this year, though, as you said it, there is some doubt that we have the sucessor in place.

    I completely agree with all your points, Chad. I believe a LG is imperative. We have a future all-pro in Sitton. Wells is one of the best pass blocking C in the league, so he’s set, but we need another complete interior linemen if we want to dominate the LOS.

    But it doesn’t mean necessarily that he’s not already on our roster. I like a lot what I see and hear from Lang, McDonald, Newhouse and EDS. I believe at least one of them will pan out to be a future starter, either at RT (I believe Bulaga jumps to LT as soon as Clifton retires) or at LG..

    If I had to bet, I’d say no later than midseason T.J. Lang will be the LG, and Newhouse will be a very capable backup if/when Clifton misses time, showing promise to be the tackle of the future.

    (But if Pouncey falls to us, he’s gonna be that LG)

  2. They have some very good competition on the interior spots with Lang, McDonald and Newhouse.
    I would like to see Lang worked at center, McDonald has been worked there and did well against Raji all year.

    There are some good OG prospects in the middle rounds.
    But looking at TT’s history of drafting offensive linemen look for those college left tackles that are not a fit at that position in the NFL.
    Or a center guard prospect and or a prospect that has started both guard spots.

    1. Without forecasting into whom the Packers may acquire in the coming months, It’s my feeling that either McDonald or EDS is the heir-apparent to Scott Wells at Center, with the other ,oving into competition for LG with Lang.

      I’ve seen many talk about Marshall Newhouse projecting as an interior lineman, and I don’t get it. This kid has the makings of a OT from what I’ve seen of him. Might be a bit rough around the edges, but he’s got the feet and the frame.

        1. Where is he going to get the technique work from? Campen is terrible and hasn’t developed a lineman since he has been here. We drafted TJ Lang with the idea that he could be developed and we are still waiting. Allen Barbre was being praise by the coaches going into the 2009 season and we know what kind of disaster he was. The list goes on and on. I like Newhouse and definitely saw his potential, but I have zero faith in Campen to develop him.

          1. Unfortunately, I have to agree with you. You can see the strides the defensive linemen made with a top-notch coach in Trgovac guiding their development. You don’t see that with the OL. We don’t get to see practices, but the results speak for themselves. I was hoping in MM’s coaching shuffle that maybe Campen would have been moved somewhere else, but alas, he remains…

    2. I think it’s high time that Thompson drafts a left tackle prospect in round one or two. there’s nothing more important than protecting Aaron Rodgers.

    3. Good day! This post could not be written any better! Reading this post reminds me of my good old room mate! He always kept talking about this. I will forward this post to him. Pretty sure he will have a good read. Thank you for sharing!

  3. My question as to drafting a LT is based on this question,”If Bulaga was drafted as the LT for Clifton and if TT & MM feel secure with Clifton this year and possibly next,how much disadvantage is it for Bulaga to stay at RT and not be able to jump over to LT…2-3 years at RT,makes him a rookie at LT,yes-no”?
    If yes,then a need to get a LT is apparent or if no,then one must buy into that the vast distinction between RT-LT is/has faded and are more easily interchangeable like lego’s.

    IMO,the”I GOT YOUR BACK” at LT no matter how else the positions mirror(suppose to)each other,that is the most separating factor and the confidence to “supply”it and the confidence for the QB to “feel/know”it,isn’t as easy as using a different piece of lego in this game.

    I don’t think TT will move up for a LT but a startable Tackle will be the 1st pick,as was Bulaga.

  4. I’ve been reading the comments on the draft with great interest. Now we come to an area that is of most intrest to me and I think most important to the team.

    Spitz – no tender – is gone. College -tender – is back. Behind the first five there is nothing but question marks. I had high hopes for TJ and I still can’t figure out what’s happening with him. Playing DL backup? Just what the hell was that all about?

    EDS cut and then resigned. No takers while he was available. Don’t look to the future with him.

    Newhouse no info available on him except coach talk. Issues from training last year – upper body strength and lateral movement.

    Mc Donald, Battles and Campbell???

    Yes there is a need to put some top college talent on the roster this year. Rounds 1 and 2 should be reserved to fill this need. Bulaga was a success last year, Newhouse a big ???. this is kind of standard for TT’s Oline success rate. That’s probably as good as anyone else. So play the odds once more and put the Oline picks at the top of the heap.

    John Moffet would be on my list. And if they are willing to trade some frontline player, go for Carimi.

  5. I would be doing dance moves if GB took Danny Watkins at pick 32, he is day one ready to start from what I saw of him. My 3 man wishlist is Brooks Reed, Danny Watkins, or Cameron Heyward. Be very happy with any of those 3 guys, especially with the last pick of round 1.

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